First Impressions: Pratt Institute (NY)
Ever take a college visit where your observations exceeded your expectations? That happened to me when I visited Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. At first I thought: “It’s in Brooklyn, probably a few buildings, but no campus.” I could not have been more wrong.
There are only two schools in New York with a true residential campus: Columbia University (including Barnard College) and Pratt Institute. I think Pratt has the nicer campus and surrounding area, including the restaurants and retail along Myrtle Avenue right near the campus. While I walked by some pricy (by college student budgets) dining options, Pratt’s surrounding neighborhood felt more collegial than Columbia’s.
The Pratt Institute campus dates back to 1887. But buildings that were used in the past for one purpose—engineering labs as one example—have been adapted to be used for another. The campus grounds are quite well maintained with green space and various sculptures. Aside from a high-rise apartment complex, this campus could have been host to a pure liberal arts college. Pratt has a modern student center and administration building, but the academic buildings and the library are among the best examples of historic presentation that I have seen on a college campus. If you have an opportunity to tour this campus, pay close attention to your brief visit to the library. With the help of your guide, you will notice many interesting architectural details. I found a few to share on a Pratt Institute Pinterest page.
Pratt Institute was founded mainly as an engineering school, but decided to end engineering instruction in 1993. Aside from a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, all of Pratt’s majors are focused around Art History and Criticism, Architecture, Construction Management, Visual Arts and Design. Pratt Institute lists an impressive number of high rankings as a premier art and design school, the most relevant coming through DesignIntelligence, a monthly architecture and design journal.
It’s getting harder to get into Pratt. This is one of the few art and design schools that requires the ACT or the SAT as well as a portfolio for all potential majors (excluding Construction Management). For those who want to enter the workforce earlier, Pratt offers Associates degrees in Art and Design as well as Construction Management. These do not require standardized test scores. Prospective Architecture and Construction Management majors are expected to score over 600 on the Math sections of the standardized tests. Pratt accepted less than a third of the applicants it received for the last cycle. Their average high school GPA was a 3.5; the average SAT score 1280.
Pratt does not require prospective students to commit to a major when they apply, unless they are interested in Fashion Design, which has its own foundations courses for the first two years. The last two years can be devoted to an emphasis within a major, such as the Transportation Design within the Industrial Design major or an Advertising Art Direction within Communication Design. The four foundations courses, two over a semester, two over a year, help guide students to their decision.
It’s relatively easy to find internships for credit after sophomore year. There are 1, 2 and 3 credit internship options that vary in terms of hours and academic obligations, or you can take a paid position without seeking credits. There are Business Practices courses within the majors to help students to understand business basics and think entrepreneurially as well as computer ethics courses, especially relevant for digital art.
Unlike most colleges, the majority of Pratt faculty are adjuncts practicing their art. They also become an important part of a student’s network for internships and jobs. Nearly 26,000 of the Pratt alumni registered in LinkedIn.com are based in or around New York City, a huge group close to campus. As a result over 90 percent of Pratt graduates are working in their major, or a related field within a few months after they graduate.
Over half of Pratt’s 3,300 full-time undergraduates, including more than 90 percent of the freshmen, live on campus in apartments or residence halls. The rest commute or live close by in Brooklyn. The Institute reports that 80 percent of undergraduates are on campus during the weekends. That’s amazing, considering what you can find when you venture off campus.
Pratt is accessible to virtually any major entertainment or recreational opportunity in the borough, including the Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. There is more for college students to do in Brooklyn than they could find time to do over four years. It’s relatively easy to get to mid-town Manhattan, where Pratt has another campus, as long as you remember to change trains when you take the ‘A’ or the ‘C’ subway. I did the trip from Penn Station in about a half hour. But I was also lucky. I timed the connection just right, and it was just a walk across the platform to change trains.
The Pratt Institute experience is quite expensive, with an estimated cost of attendance over $70,000. But the institute awards merit and need based scholarships to 75 percent of entering freshmen, including international students. Awards are based on a point system that considers grades, test scores and the portfolio. Forty percent of the freshmen who arrived in 2017 received merit awards, but these averaged less than half of tuition and fees. A Pratt applicant who can be admitted to the Fashion Institute of Technology for a similar major will likely pay less to go there. So would an architecture student who can get into Cooper Union or City College of New York. Pratt gets shopped against these schools as well as the fine arts schools at other US and foreign universities.
Private art and design schools like Pratt have their own cultures, programs and teaching styles. Its wise to visit the schools that have the programs that you might like, and maybe take advantage of a high school summer program to see which one is right for you. These schools are quite expensive. Families have every right to consider the possible return on the experience.
I really like Pratt Institute as a school. Prospective students might, too, if they want the urban setting and they can cover the costs.
Report Card: Pratt Institute:
- Four-Year/Five Year (Architecture and Bachelors-Masters)/Six-Year Graduation Rates: C/A/A
- Freshman Retention: B+
- Costs: C+
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
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