- Determine your interests and goals
Knowing what truly excites you will guide your educational and career choices. Start by reflecting on your interests within the field of design. Are you more inclined towards graphic design, interior design, fashion design, or something else entirely? Knowing your specific interests can help you plan your transition more effectively.
- Develop a portfolio
Building a compelling design portfolio is a key asset for your future. Start assembling your portfolio early and always be actively looking for opportunities to expand your portfolio, even before you start design school. Whether you choose to have a physical or digital portfolio, start pulling together relevant pieces of work and make sure you have high-quality imagery of any work you want to show off to future employers.
- Enhance your skills
It’s always a good idea to enhance your design skills. Brushing up on skills relevant to your chosen field can help you to put your best foot forward so you can extend yourself and innovate, rather than be catching up on the basics. Consider enrolling in online courses, attending workshops or embarking on personal projects. This continuous skill development will set you up for success by the time you start your course.
- Enter competitions and awards
Look for opportunities to get your name out there and receive some recognition for your skills. Search online for design awards and explore which ones you’re eligible to enter. If you’re still in high school, consider entering a competition such as the Bright Awards where you can win money “for you and your school”? You can’t win a scholarship.
- Seek internships and work experience
Look out for internships and part-time jobs related to design. This is a great way to get real-world experience in the field, add to your portfolio and build on your resume to impress future employers. Work experience can also help you pathway into a design course in the future.
- Build your network
They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. While that’s not entirely true, it certainly helps to build a network of peers and mentors within the design community. Your network will help you develop your skills, find work opportunities and support your career. You can connect with other professionals by attending design events, joining relevant online communities and taking on internship opportunities.
- Prepare financially
Managing your own finances during design school may come as a bit of shock, especially if you’ve been at high school up until now. To prepare, find out exactly how much your tuition will cost you and have a think about how best to handle your finances. You might want to apply for a scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition, create a budget and find a part-time job (preferably in the design field).
- Explore design trends and new innovations
Stay up-to-date with the latest design trends and innovations in your chosen field. You can stay informed by subscribing to newsletters, reading magazines, attending design events and engaging with online communities. Being at the forefront of the industry can help you adapt quickly and easily to changing industry demands and stand out to potential employers.
- Seek mentorship and guidance
Even before you begin design school you can seek mentorship from experienced designers or professors. Mentors can provide valuable insights and advice that will help give you an edge in your studies and future career. Speak to university staff, attend networking events and take on internship or part-time work opportunities to meet professionals who can support you.
- Learn to adapt to change
The transition from high school to design school can be challenging. It’s important that you remain flexible and resilient during this time – and this may require some help. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, seek support from friends, family, university staff and experts. This is supposed to be a fun and exciting time, so don’t let the stress get you down.