Parsons Photography Program — Is It Right For You?

Parsons Photography Program — Is It Right For You?
Zach Miles

Located in one of the world’s leading cities in art and creativity, Parsons School of Design in New York City brings a whole different love and appreciation to photography. With the specialized photography degree (BFA), students are introduced to expansive curriculum, creative projects, and eye-opening internships; all funneled through the Parsons photography program. With all the accolades of the New School in Manhattan’s Greenwich and East Village, students are able to not only thrive from the opportunities presented by the college, but the surrounding community events as well. So, with all that being said – is Parsons photography program a fit for you or your loved one? Between the hustle and bustle of the city, the grueling admissions standards, and the concentrated arts degree, there are many factors that can attribute to attending. But not to fear, below we’ve broken down everything there is to possibly know about The New School’s accredited program. Read on to see what makes Parsons photography one of the top ranked programs in the country.

Application Process

Luckily for those applying to a wide variety of Universities, The New School takes the Common Application. This serves as an overall application for a good majority of schools in North America. This system was put into place to help save student’s time from filling out dozens of different applications – this also provides potential applicants plenty of time to thoroughly fill out the application and submit a quality representation of themselves

Supplemental Information – Along with the Common Application, Parsons photography program requires the completion of a material’s cover sheet. This is a mailed in supplemental application that requires several additional application pieces to be submitted to even be considered an applicant. This material’s cover sheet includes: application fee, transcripts, letters of recommendation and the school’s essay. The information to send material to Parsons is: Parsons School of Design – Office of Admission (PS 100), 79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor New York, NY 10003.

Portfolio – Each interested applicant must submitted a portfolio in order to be considered for Parsons photography program. A student should have a total of eight to twelve pieces in their portfolio to apply. These photos can range from all various forms of media (in addition to photography) including: drawings, painting, sculpture, fashion design, animation, performance, graphic design, and sketchbook pages. Although, these pieces are not to be submitted by mail – instead they’re uploaded through Parson’s program SlideRoom. Even if applying to be considered for the photography program, Parsons recommends showcasing your diversity and creative spirit by dabbling in a few more concentrations.

Essay – Unlike some Universities that require several list of abstract prompts for their application essay, The New School (in particular Parsons) just wants to hear what you hope to gain from their design school. An essay that capitalizes what being admitted to Parsons photography program, and how you plan to integrate yourself within the community as well as what you hope to make of your degree, are all vital questions they want to have the answers to. Don’t get us wrong, they’re also looking for writing skills and critically thinking, so still focus on writing an incredible essay.

Parsons Challenge – Included in the portfolio section, is the Parsons challenge. The University is asking any student who is applying to their design school to complete a special creative (visual) piece that is inspired by the particular theme for the applicant’s year/semester. The visual representation should also be accompanied by a five hundred word essay that describes the creative process of your piece, and a breakdown of how you developed the piece. Along with the one visual creative work, applicants may include two additional representations that help evolve or develop the said piece (or document the process). Like the portfolio, the challenge can be in any visual categories (including: photography, drawing, videography, sculpture, CGI, 3D work, etc); it also must be submitted through Parsons SlideRoom platform.

Letter of Recommendations – The Common Application, requires each applicant to have a letter of recommendation from both the student’s guidance counselor and a teacher. For those students transferring from another university, Parsons requires one letter of recommendation from a professor. According to the Parsons website, “recommendation forms can be sent by mail in a signed, sealed envelope.”

Interviews – Students interested in attending Parsons do not have to go through rounds of interviews. However, they do recommend for those students who have questions about the University or their programs to attend informational sessions. Their admissions center has a roundup of locations and dates, for those around the country.

Application Status – Around two weeks after a student has submitted their application, they’ll be able to review their status on the New School’s admissions hub. Every so often, the admissions board will send out emails to let potential applicants know if they’re missing any necessary information.

Admission Statistics

Overall the admissions rate into Parsons design school is roughly fifty percent and quite competitive for applicants. Not only do interested students have to worry about test scores and grades, they also have the additional layer of putting together their portfolio and sample work. While the bases off of judging the potential applicant’s work comes down to interpretation and view of talent. Below, we review two of the objective must haves to be admitted – test scores and GPA.

Test Scores – For those entering their freshman year and out of high school, Parsons photography program takes both the SAT and ACT. On average, Parsons scores for the SAT (NEW) rank in the 75th percentile anywhere between 1100 and 1350. In regard for the ACT scores, the average score of those who are accepted is 24 on the test. *Want to advise, these are average statistics taken from polling sites and not Parsons itself.

GPA – Students should high a B average grade point average if looking to be admitted. As the current median GPA is a 3.32. If wanting to secure your spot at Parsons as it pertains to grades, students should have higher than a 3.5 average. *Want to advise, these are average statistics taken from polling sites and not Parsons itself.

The New School

A reputable and well known university in New York City, the New School is the place to be seen when it comes to art and design, as well as a myriad of other prestigious majors. In fact, both Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid, were students at New School before their career in model took off. Although, the celebrity faces are the reason to attend this phenomenal school. The school has over ten thousand students (Parsons photography students amongst them), with a graduation rate of sixty four percent. While the school is an accredited university, it is most known for its world renown school of design, Parsons.  

A Campus Guide

The university being in the millennial heart of Manhattan, it’s tricky to see the definitive campus of both Parsons and the New School. Instead the campus is made up of building scattered throughout both Greenwich and East Village. One of the most vital buildings on campus for students in Parsons photography program to utilize is the Making Center. Known as a space that includes photography studios, imaging labs, and print shops, it’s an ideal place to perfect a photographer’s shooting and editing skills (all in one).  

The Surrounding City

Everything There is to Know About Housing – It’s no secret that housing prices in New York City are insanely expensive, one of the top ranked in the United States (the world for that matter). Since the New School and Parsons offer housing opportunities to students, it’s recommended to take them. Not only does it avoid you bargaining with local realtors or leasing agents (and paying a heavy fee and security deposit), but you’re securing a spot in two of the hottest neighborhoods in Manhattan – Greenwich village and Chelsea. Now, before you go off saying you’re not interested in living in a dorm or having a roommate, unless you’re making six figures and don’t want to have to commute over an hour to class – you’re going to be experiencing small quarters and a roommate. At least with Parsons and New school you have an additional layer of security with a doorman and/or safety guard.

Dining – Those who attend Parsons in New York City are in the food hub of the world. Any dish, any cuisine, any culinary experience you could imagine is outside your door. In addition, Parsons does have a meal plan for most residence. But if not included in your housing or tution – we wouldn’t recommend paying the additional fee unless looking for convenience. Food around the campus’ neighborhood can be cheap and delicious if you know where to look. For those nights you feel like being fancy and enjoying a gourmet experience, try booking a michelin star meal during New York City’s biannual restaurant week.

Engage in the Events – Parsons offers a wide variety of fully immersive learning experience. They believe it’s a true way for their students to experience the city – and engage in the urban design of the structures around them. According to Parsons, “students study New York’s urban architecture and design, analyze the city’s dazzling array of retail environments, and participate in showings at cutting-edge venues like The Kitchen, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), and Design Within Reach.”

Join Extracurriculars – Being enrolled at one of the leading design and art schools in the world, you’re benefiting from the wide variety of offerings given to the students. An example of events include: activism, dance, film, art, museums, music, theater, design, and industry.

A Breakdown on Courses

Like many university majors, Parsons photography program breaks down their curriculum to freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year. Freshman year photography students will focus on a mixture of greater concepting design courses (such as sustainability and design tools in integrated studios). In sophomore year students will start to hone in on their photography courses, including: basic photo practices, history of photography, and photo topic lectures and seminars. Junior year, students will continue with their photography studios and lectures, with the addition of elective and liberal arts curriculum outside of both photography (and Parsons). Senior year, the coursework minimizes and the concentration on the senior research and core lab time take up a majority of the curriculum.

Career Services

Parsons photography program offers a wide variety of career services for their students. Some of these services include: mock-style interviews, resume and cover letter writing courses, information about graduate programs and internships, as well as networking events, job fairs, and workshops. While these are amazing tools, one of the most beneficial offerings from the school, is The Village—Careers. As stated by their website, The Village “is the New School’s online job and internship portal that lets you access and manage your job and internship applications; view the calendar of workshops, fairs, and other events; and view employers coming to campus.”

The Faculty

Some of the greatest professional photographers in the industry, call Parsons home. Below, we’ve listed five of the most notable teachers who guide students professionally along their training, developing, and teachings.

Arthur Ou – Is the current program director of Parsons photography, he works with different elements of photography as it relates to perception and diverse material. His work can be seen in  exhibitions all over the world (including: LA, NYC, Chicago, London, Vancouver, Paris, Berlin, and Beijing). He has also been quotes and featured in many prestigious publications like: The New York Times, Aperture, Blind Spot, Art in America, the Brooklyn Rail, Camera Austria, and The Photograph As Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson).

Michelle Bogre – An associate professor in photography, professor Bogre along with being a documentary photographer is also a intellectual property lawyer. Her expert citings can be seen published in Newsweek, US News and World Report, as well as American Photo. Two of professor Bogre’s pieces can actually be seen hung in the US National Archives in Washington DC.

Colin Stearns – An assistant professor at Parsons photography program. A truly one of a kind professor as he believes in developing art and design in a non-linear narrative way. He encourages his students to look at photography as a way to tell history, display physical objects, or even explain a metaphor. His work can be seen in the New York Public Library, and the Yale University Library amongst many others.

Thomas Werner – Professor Werner, is also an assistant professor, teaching at Parsons photography program. Currently, he is also recognized as the author of the upcoming book, The Fashion Image for Bloomberg Press. According to Parsons’ website, “Thomas currently lectures internationally on topics of photography, fashion, education, and contemporary professional practices. He is also the former owner of Thomas Werner Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea Art District, and recently lead a team developing a media and literacy web site and resource center in five languages, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and English for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations/UNESCO.”

Katherine Wolkoff – Is an assistant professor of commercial photography at Parsons School of Design. Professor Wolkoff’s work can be seen at Sasha Wolf Gallery, Trunk Archive, and Hello Artist. After receiving an MFA in photography from Yale University, Wolkoff began teaching at some of the most prestigious Universities before making her way over to Parsons, some of these schools include: Pratt Institute, Montclair State University, School of Visual Arts, and Tulane University. In addition to teaching, Wolkoff has a long list of clients she has contributed editorial work for such as: Travel & Leisure and New York Times. Wolkoff’s commercial clients include: Samsung and Kate Spade.

Diversity at Parsons

A special and stand out fact about Parsons photography program is their number of students from across the world. Roughly forty percent of students attending Parsons school of design are international students and come from countries across various continents. Some of the countries that students come from include: China, India, South Korea, Canada, and Brazil.

Study Abroad

Fortunately for those students looking to travel and gain a new and unique cultural perspectives from across the world, Parsons does offer a great study abroad program. From art to photography, Parsons study abroad opportunities are open for all majors. Some locations Parsons students can study include: Parsons Paris, or take the opportunity to study at one of their exchange partners. If either of these options doesn’t suit you, Parsons is also up for working with suggest programs referred by the students – just bring into their academic offices for approval. All this information and more, can be found on Parson’s study abroad website.

Receiving Credits From High School Classes

If you were a student who worked your butt off in high school, and took a good amount of both advanced placement (AP) classes or IB courses, Parsons will likely give you college credit for these classes pending your grades and/or test scores. For those looking to receive credit from advanced placement curriculum, a minimum score of a four must have been achieved on the official test. Each passed test, will translate into anywhere from three to four credits at Parsons. For IB, students with scores of at least a five on their associated test can receive anywhere from six to eight credits (which is equivalent to over a two semester course). Students from abroad or who are transferring from other University programs, can also take advantage of Parsons credit-transfer policies.

Including Other University Curriculum Into Your Schedule

Believe it or not, Parsons not only allows you to take curriculum from other programs at The New School but can attend courses at Eugene Lang College as well. Parsons photography program, feels it’s in the students best interest to experience other academic concentrations and classes outside their major. Students are exposed to both liberal arts courses as well as electives while attending Parsons.

Double Majoring & Minoring At Parsons Photography Program

Given the demanding workload, and the planned out semester schedule, Parsons photography program recommends pursuing only one major (as opposed to two). Although, they do state that students who are interested in adding another area of study (along with their major) are encouraged to get a minor. Students can choose between over fifty options of provided by the university’s curriculum. Additionally, Parsons has a program called the BA/FA pathway. If choosing this direction, students can combine a complete liberal arts education with a design major over a five year period. These courses would be supplied by both the New School and Eugene Lang College.

Cost of Attending Parsons

Being a specialized program at a renowned university, Parsons School of Design does not come cheap. An undergraduate degree at Parsons photography cost $24,300 as a flat rate tuition fee. This price covers up to eighteen credits, per additional credit over eighteen cost an additional $1,640. As these numbers are purely the base, this does not cover the university fees, as well as housing and dining cost.

Looking Into Financial Aid

Students who will be attending Parsons photography program, may be eligible for both financial aid and scholarships. Both the New School and Parsons recommend filing for the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if currently a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If you decide to file,  The New School/Parsons official school code is 002780. According to Parsons website, “students who file the FAFSA are automatically considered for all New School and Parsons scholarships, as well as federal and state government financial assistance. Merit-based scholarships are granted based on the strength of a student’s application materials. If you are an international undergraduate student applying for an AAS program, you should download and return the International Student Scholarship Application found on the Student Financial Services website by the deadline stated on the application form.”

Masters In Photography

Parsons School of Design not only offers an undergraduate BA program, but a Graduate MFA (Masters in Fine Arts) photography program as well. The graduate program is a part of Parsons school of Art, Media and Technology. Those in the program that complete sixty credits and a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average will receive their master’s degree. Parsons photography Masters of Fine Arts program takes a total of seven semesters to complete with a mixture curriculum of both lectures and independent study. The overall Masters program is led by Director James Ramer and Janine Olesen. Additionally, interested students should know that students pay for their masters per credit – which is currently at $1,567.