Parent FAQs Answered by SAIC Students

Parents often ask us for advice and answers to their most pressing questions about supporting their student and helping him/her achieve success at SAIC. We decided to go to the experts. In this section, SAIC students answer some commonly asked questions.

1. Are their certain times of the year that students may need more support from family and friends?

There are definitely several times of the year that students need extra support from family and friends. The first time this happens is a few weeks after school starts. Orientation is over and they can begin to miss family and friends. They may need you for advice but they may just need someone to talk to about their classes. Another time that can be very stressful is near the end of the semester when final projects will be due soon. They may be very busy but they will need a way to vent and de-stress.—Belinda

Projects really kick into gear towards the end of October through Finals and the end of March through Finals. This is about the time schedules get too busy to keep up with all the friends and family; however, getting a good old fashioned piece of snail-mail is a delightful reminder that you’re going to make it to the end of the semester.—Christina

2. What is the most stressful part of being a student at SAIC?

Knowing what the ideal balance is between school, work, and personal life. All three of these areas take up time, but there are points throughout the semester when more focus is given to one over the others so balance is constantly fluctuating. This fluctuation makes it hard to identify proper balance.—Kyle

The most stressful part of being an SAIC student is managing your time well enough to get your projects and assignments done well and on time. This can be hard to do because you can’t always anticipate what problems you might run into when you’re working on an art piece. Sometimes you get a little competitive with other students, and trying to measure up can be really stressful.—Emily

3. What can students do while attending SAIC to prepare themselves for a career when they graduate?

This school has formed a nest for its students within the art community-at-large—but specifically in Chicago. The school employs alumni and working artists for us to interact with on a daily basis, which also connects us to the professionals outside of the school, including the plethora of alumni that have made their art their career in Chicago (and abroad). The school can best help students achieve goals if they are openly speaking about their desires and questions. —Ingrid

Be sure to encourage your student to take advantage of the helpful resources that are available. The Career + Co-op Center as well as Academic Advising are good resources where your student can find help and seek advice. —Beth

4. How will my student eat at SAIC and how can I help ensure that they maintain healthful eating habits?

I think just offering your own advice helps. A lot of times people assume that grocery shopping is intuitive but it’s something that I had to learn. I didn’t know how to cook my meat or buy produce my first year, but it helped talking to my mother and hearing her solutions to food budgeting and shopping. —Zack

I think that I’ve really enjoyed the variety of options available to me both on-campus and throughout the city. As a student with food allergies, it’s important for me to have a variety of healthy options to choose from. I enjoy knowing that I have many different choices: know that I can grab a fresh and quick lunch in between classes, or I can run to a number of the grocery stores throughout the city. Whatever I want or need, I know I have options and I know that I can personalize my food choices to my individual needs. —Olivia

5. If there are no letter grades, how will I know if my student is successful at SAIC?

While it is important for every student to somehow measure and strive for their success, that doesn’t always mean that a letter grade is the best way to do that. A traditional grading system is set up in such a way that it rewards good/expected outcomes and punishes error/mistakes. But, since creating art should be just as focused on the process as well as the result, a student shouldn’t be “punished” with a bad grade if they take the time to experiment and create a new work that didn’t turn out as expected. A student’s main focus at this school should be about exploring and enriching their artistic practice and their life—not doing something by rote to simply get an “A.” —Cheri

6. How can I assist my student in getting connected to other students and resources at SAIC?

We are given opportunities to explore school facilities and resources as well as get to know fellow students through a combination of educational and social activities provided by the school staff. You can best assist your student by encouraging him/her to attend these activities and to be involved in the community in his/her classes as well as the residence hall. —Caitlin

Encouraging your student to get out and meet others is the best way to support them in becoming part of the SAIC community. During the first few weeks of the semester, everyone will be a little out of their element, and putting in a little extra effort to introduce yourself to others can go a long way. Encourage your students to attend programs within the Residence Halls and at the LeRoy Neiman Center, check out student groups, and connect with RA, who can further connect students with other students and other resources within the school. —Maureen

7. I have heard that my student's critiques are very stressful. How can I assist them in managing their stress?

Critiques may be a new experience to many students coming in to SAIC, and some may have never really talked about their work in a formal setting before. Critiques may be intimidating, but as with most things in life, practice and experience will help students to feel more comfortable speaking about their work and accepting feedback, as well as beginning to articulate their ideas to give feedback to other students in their critiques. If students continue to struggle with critiques, encourage them to reach out to some available resources: their Academic Advisor, Faculty Members, and Resident Advisors can help structure this conversation. — Maureen

Critiques can be a very stressful thing for many reasons. During a critique, students put their art forward for comments and feedback from a larger group—one that may not fully understand what the work is supposed to be about, or may have questions about the content and process of a work. Perhaps the biggest way to help your student is by reminding them that participating in a critique is not standing in front of a firing squad, but is instead an experience that can allow students to engage with other artists, peers, and friends in an in-depth conversation about their art that can help guide their artistic practice as they move forward. —Cheri

8. Chicago is very large city and I am worried about my student's safety. How can I assist them in learning to navigate Chicago safely?

I recommend encouraging your student to hook up with their RA (Resident Advisors in the residence halls) and ask if there are any opportunities to visit various places in the city together. The RAs are more than happy to have new students tag along in order to get to know the city—whether during a prearranged activity or “program” or a quick trip to the grocery store after class. Make sure your student has the basics, such as a map, a phone (or phone card), and a buddy to walk with. —Amanda

Talk to students about being aware of their surroundings and encourage them to always travel in groups. If they find themselves traveling alone make sure they know not to talk on their cell phone or do anything that puts them in a position of vulnerability. Also you may want to ride the train with them a couple times so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. —Sam

9. I understand that SAIC does not have majors—how do students know what classes to take or when they have completed their degree?

If your student is seeking a BFA, SAIC offers great opportunities to work with a variety of professors and students from different departments, taking unfamiliar classes to try new techniques out, or to develop an interdisciplinary practice. If your student wishes to complete a BFA with an emphasis in Art History or a dual degree in Visual and Critical Studies there are more specific requirements for graduation. I would encourage students to meet with academic advisers throughout their semesters to help make sure they are on track with all their graduation requirements.—Gabriella

Your student doesn’t have to take anything or choose a specific route. It is very open but can be very intimidating. Academic Advising is the department geared towards helping students with this aspect of SAIC.—Madeline