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So Your Kid Wants to be a Mad Man – Here are the Best Schools for Design and Marketing

By September 13, 2016August 12th, 2019Blog, Creative Thoughts

Back to school season has arrived and your high school student just announced he/she wants to pursue a career in the world of marketing or graphic design. Immediately, you explain that unlike what Mad Men depicted, there is more to succeeding at an agency than chain smoking, getting hammered before noon, and hitting on secretaries. While the rewards can be great, successful creative directors and marketing executives work really hard, sometimes 24/7. But since your teen is dead set on following this career path, and truly does not believe anything you say anyway, you might as well help set him or her up for success.

While creative talent came with the DNA you provided, even the most talented need to hone their skills. The first step in getting to Madison Avenue is going to a great school, and despite what your kid seems to think, you know that sort of thing does not just happen. You’ve been hounding them about that GPA since “real grades” came into the picture, but as the end is nearing, GPA is only the first of it. With all of the options out there, the earlier you get the ball rolling, the better— even if the only college research you can get your kid to do is about the nightlife.

Before you jump in to scheduling campus tours, it’s a good thing to know which programs are notorious for generating the Don Drapers of this generation—but with a moral compass. Look no further; here are the top 10 ranked schools for marketing, the top 10 schools for design in the U.S., and the top 5 portfolio and advertising schools, plus some fun facts just for kicks.

Top 10 Schools for Marketing

University of Pennsylvania

  • Private – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Fun fact: During the school’s fight song, the lyric “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn” is the cue for UPenn fans to throw actual pieces of toast on to the field during home games; one of the many school traditions.
  • Famous alumni: John Legend, Tory Burch, Donald Trump
  • Acceptance rate: 10.4%
  • Tuition and fees: $49,536
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 9,746 

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

  • Public – Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Fun fact: It has been said (according to lore) that any couple who kisses under the Engineering Arch on the University of Michigan campus at midnight is destined to be married.
  • Famous alumni: Gerald Ford, Tom Brady, Madonna, Michael Phelps
  • Acceptance rate: 32.2%
  • Tuition and fees: $43,377 (In-state: $14,336)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 28,395

New York University

  • Private – New York, New York
  • Fun fact: NYU has a Quidditch team… yes, you read that correctly. Not only do they have a Quidditch team, they have a GOOD Quidditch team.
  • Famous alumni: Lady Gaga, Anne Hathaway, Adam Sandler (and so many more)
  • Acceptance rate: 35.5%
  • Tuition and fees: $46,170 (In-state: $13,432)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 24,985

University of California—Berkeley

  • Public – Berkeley, California
  • Fun fact: A series of underground tunnels, built in the 1900s to generate power for the campus were used by the school’s Chancellor to escape after students chained his door shut in protest of certain policies surrounding the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
  • Famous alumni: Aaron Rodgers, Mona Simpson, Jason Kidd
  • Acceptance rate: 16.0%
  • Tuition and fees: $38,140 (In-state: $13,432)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 27,126

University of Texas—Austin

  • Public – Austin, Texas
  • Fun fact: Students at UT Austin hope to see one of the famous albino squirrels on campus on the way to their exams. Legend has it that spotting one is a sure way to ace them!
  • Famous alumni: Matthew McConaughey, Owen Wilson, Kevin Durant
  • Acceptance rate: 39.7%
  • Tuition and fees: $34,836 (In-state: $9,830)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 39,523

University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

  • Public – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Fun fact: Because of its incredible beauty, many people have referred to the college town of Chapel Hill as the “Southern Part of Heaven,” after the title of a book by William Meade Prince.
  • Famous alumni: Michael Jordan, Andy Griffith, John Edwards
  • Acceptance rate: 28.5%
  • Tuition and fees: $33,644 (In-state: $8,562)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 18,350

Indiana University—Bloomington

  • Public – Bloomington, Indiana
  • Fun fact: Bloomington is home to the largest collegiate bike race, The Little 500, which Lance Armstrong referred to as “the coolest event I ever attended.” As for the students? They have named it the “World’s Greatest College Weekend.”
  • Famous alumni: Mark Cuban, Isiah Thomas, Laverne Cox
  • Acceptance rate: 76.1%
  • Tuition and fees: $33,741 (In-state: $10,388)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 36,419

University of Virginia

  • Public – Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Fun fact: The one and only Dr. Seuss was denied admittance to the University of Virginia. Rumors have circulated that his fictional town of “Whoville” was a play on words for the University nickname, “Hoo’s.”
  • Famous alumni: Tina Fey, Woodrow Wilson, Edgar Allan Poe
  • Acceptance rate: 29.0%
  • Tuition and fees: $43,822 (In-state: $14,526)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 16,483 

University of Wisconsin – Madison

  • Public – Madison, Wisconsin
  • Fun fact: With snow comes snowball fights! Every winter, Southeast and Lakeshore dorms at the University of Wisconsin have an epic snowball fight on Bascom Hill.  Hundreds of students attend each year, bringing trays, buckets, etc. to give them a leg up in the fight.
  • Famous alumni: Joan Cusack, Frank Lloyd Wright, Dale Chihuly
  • Acceptance rate: 49.8%
  • Tuition and fees: $29,665 (In-state: $10,415)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 31,289

St. Joseph’s University

  • Private – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Fun fact: In the past few years, the University has built a movie theater, updated the computer lab twice, renovated the gym, and added satellite gyms in some of the dormitories. Gyms inside the dorms?! Who said anything about the Freshman 15?
  • Famous alumni: Lil’ Jon, Delonte West, Jack Whitaker
  • Acceptance rate: 84.6%
  • Tuition and fees: $42,180
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 5,512

Top 10 Schools for Design

Rhode Island School of Design

  • Private – Providence, Rhode Island
  • Fun fact: Students at Rhode Island School of Design can cross register for classes at neighboring Brown University at no extra cost. That means more education opportunities and more friendship opportunities!
  • Famous alumni: Seth MacFarlane, James Franco, David Byrne
  • Acceptance rate: 43.1%
  • Tuition and fees: $45,840
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,014

Parsons School of Design at the New School

  • Private – New York, New York
  • Fun fact: Parsons School of Design at the New School has a higher percentage of international students studying in the U.S. than any other university in this country. People travel from all over the globe to get the Parsons experience.
  • Famous alumni: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karran
  • Acceptance rate: 65.9%
  • Tuition and fees: $49,059
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 6,695

Maryland Institute College of Art

  • Private – Baltimore, Maryland
  • Fun fact: The student retention rate at Maryland Institute College of Art is high at 85% (well above Maryland average). Taking this statistic into consideration, apparently students love their stay at this school.
  • Famous alumni: Jeff Koons, David Byme, Abbi Jacobson
  • Acceptance rate: 54.2%
  • Tuition and fees: $43,870
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,846

Yale University

  • Private – New Haven, Connecticut
  • Fun fact: Yale has one of the most exclusive and obscure college clubs, the secret society— Skull & Bones. Each spring, only 15 male and female juniors are chosen for admission to Skull & Bones. Students tapped for membership tend to be campus leaders, such as team captains, newspaper editors and members of the political union. Both George Bush senior and junior, William Howard Taft, and John Kerry are a few of the past members of this society.
  • Famous alumni: Basically every president, Anderson Cooper, Meryl Streep
  • Acceptance rate: 6.3%
  • Tuition and fees: $47,600
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 5,477

School of Visual Arts

  • Proprietary – New York, New York
  • Fun fact: There is a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, a sign that students there receive a great deal of one-on-one attention.
  • Famous alumni: Jared Leto, David LaChapelle, Bryan Singer
  • Acceptance rate: 76.8%
  • Tuition and fees: $33,678
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 3,678

Cranbook Academy of Art

  • Graduate School – Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
  • Fun fact: Cranbrook Academy of Art doesn’t have set curricula, required classes, or prerequisites.
  • Famous alumni: Harry Bertoia, Nick Cave, Peter Bohlin
  • Acceptance rate: N/A
  • Tuition and fees: $37,000
  • Undergraduate enrollment: Graduate school only

Pratt Institute of Art

  • Private – Brooklyn, New York
  • Fun fact: College Magazine recently recognized Pratt’s campus, ranking it number eight on its list of “Top 100 Most Beautiful College Campuses.”
  • Famous alumni: Robert Redford, Harvey Fierstein, Terrence Howard
  • Acceptance rate: 63.4%
  • Tuition and fees: $46,586
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 3,143

California Institute of the Arts

  • Private – Valencia, California
  • Fun fact: California Institute of the Arts was founded by Walt Disney in 1961.
  • Famous alumni: Dustin Hoffman, Tim Burton, David Hasselhoff
  • Acceptance rate: 27.7%
  • Tuition and fees: $42,276
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 970

Ringling College of Art and Design

  • Private – Sarasota, Florida
  • Fun fact: The school is nearly walking distance from Sarasota Beach, one of the top rated beaches in the United States.
  • Famous alumni: David Bromstad, Michelle Phan, John Hambrock
  • Acceptance rate: 69.5%
  • Tuition and fees: $41,480
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,219

Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Private – Savannah, Georgia
  • Fun fact: SCAD hosts two unique arts festivals in Savannah, including the Sidewalk Arts Festival, which consists of chalk drawing competitions, and the Sand Arts Festival, which features sand sculptures on Tybee Island.
  • Famous alumni: India.Arie, Danny!, Bevin Prince
  • Acceptance rate: 65.7%
  • Tuition and fees: $34,970
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 9,695

Design can be pretty broad. The above list provided the Top 10 schools for design as a whole, which can include but architecture, fashion design, etc. There are, however, additional options for design schools that deal specifically with design with respect to advertising, typically referred to as advertising schools or portfolio schools. While many of these schools have adopted unique formats, that do not constitute undergraduate program, they can be hugely beneficial to somebody who is certain that they are interest in design for advertising. Below is the list of the top rated portfolio schools and ad schools.

Top Advertising and Portfolio Schools

Miami Ad School

  • Locations in Miami, Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco
  • Fun fact: Three Miami Ad School grads were named “The Most Creative People in Advertising Under 30” by Business Insider in 2015.
  • Famous alumni: Sam Shepard, Jenna Livingston, Felix Richter
  • Acceptance rate: 93%
  • Tuition: $38,800 (total program cost for two years)

The Creative Circus

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Fun fact:  Creative Circus places 98 percent of its students in paying jobs in their first year after graduation
  • Famous alumni: Rick Williams, Jesse Juriga, Elizabeth Cauvel
  • Tuition and fees: $45,012 (total program cost for two years)

VCU Brandcenter

  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Fun fact: VCU Brandcenter is just an easy day trip away from Virginia Beach, Colonial Williamsburg, the Blue Ridge Mountains or Washington, D.C.
  • Acceptance rate: 45-48%
  • Famous alumni: David Baldacci, Stephen Furst, Gerald Henderson
  • Tuition and fees: $45,316 (total program cost for two years)

Savannah College of Art and Design

  • (see above in Top 10 Design Schools list)

San Diego Portfolio School

  • San Diego, California
  • Fun fact: Despite being a remotely young ad school, San Diego Portfolio School helped its students earn 32 Addy awards.
  • Famous (notable) alumni: Sarah Allen, Vincent Barretto, Josh Naughton
  • Tuition and fees: $10,050 (14 month certificate program) – $1,995 (6th month workshop)

Application season is rapidly approaching, and has no plans of slowing down. So hold on tight! There are tours to be scheduled, admissions essays to be edited, and memories to be made.


Tuitions based off of listed tuitions for 2015-2016

US News & World Report’s College Rankings List for Marketing

Animation Career Review’s list of Top 50 Graphic Design School Programs in the US – 2015

Promotion LA’s list of The Best Advertising Schools and Portfolio Schools – 2014

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