Fashion Industries High School Portfolio Essays

Q: Is preregistration required for an audition?

A: No.  Our auditions run according to last name.  As long as the middle school guidance counselor enters the student’s application and program choices into the Student Enrollment Management System (SEMS), their name will appear on a list for our auditions. While it is not necessary to preregister for an audition date, if the student’s application and program choice is not entered into SEMS, we cannot consider the student for placement.

Q: What is SEMS?

A: SEMS is the Student Enrollment Management System that guidance counselors use to enter high school applications and program choices.  These choices are private for families, and only you and your student(s) know what you enter.  Once guidance counselors complete the information, we receive a list of potential candidates that we can anticipate for auditions.

Q: How do I know when to show up for my audition?

A: All auditions are scheduled according to last name and program choice.  For example, if my name is Joe Smith and I would like to audition for Commercial Art, I would show up with my portfolio at 9:30 am on Saturday, December 9. 

Q: My student is really strong in film, but doesn’t want to audition for Commercial Art.  When should he/she audition?

A: There are specific auditions for our film program.  November  12th, 19th and December 17th are the designated film dates.  Additional make-up dates for film are January 7th and 14th.

Q: My student wants to audition for Commercial Art, but has no observational drawings.  What should we do?

A: Drawing from life/observation is a critical skill necessary for a rigorous arts education.  It is highly suggested that the students include at least two drawings from observation in their portfolio.

Q: Do you conduct workshops for middle school students to help develop their portfolios?

A: Yes. We hold workshops specifically designed to help students who need observational drawing time and portfolio development.  The workshop times and dates are posted on our website here:

Q: What happens the day of the audition?

A: Students arrive on the date and time of their audition.  All auditions start at 9:30 am. Parents can either wait in the auditorium or return after the audition is complete, usually around 2 hours.  Students complete their audition, portfolio review and interview, then parents can pick up their students.

Q: Can I accompany my child to the audition room?

A: We completely understand wanting to be with your student while they audition.  However, in order to keep the experience student-centered and focused, we provide the auditorium for you to wait until the audition is complete.

Q: We are out of town on our scheduled audition date and time.  Is there a make-up date?

A: Yes.  January 7 and 14 are the two make-up dates for all programs.

Q: What happens after the audition?

A: The auditions are scored and portfolio reviews are complete.  We send our information to the Office of High School Enrollment, who generate offers based on family choices and student performance.  Please keep in mind this process is specific to audition schools.

Q: Does the school keep my child’s portfolio?

A: No.  The portfolio review occurs during the audition.  All students retain their portfolios at the end of the audition.

The High School for Fashion Industries prepares students from all over New York for fashion careers ranging from business to design. It's a great fit for hands-on learners who want opportunities that extend beyond the classroom.

Founded in 1926, Fashion Industries is older and larger than many other CTE (Career and Technical Education) schools. Principal Daryl Blank, who has led the school since 2010, says the school is a perfect size; not so big that students get lost, but not too small to offer a range of electives and activities to keep them engaged.

Students we talked to on our visit said they have great relationships with their teachers, and enjoy internships, the fashion show and networking opportunities. The ratio of girls to boys at the school is 10 to one. Girls say they like this because it's less of a distraction from their studies. There is a boy's club to support the males at the school.

For the CTE diploma, students major in fashion design, graphic design and illustration, marketing or visual merchandising. An advisory board of fashion industry representatives is tasked with ensuring these majors align with industry standards. Classes in these majors include digital patternmaking, foundations of art, photography, business law, entrepreneurship and window design. Students start with one CTE class each semester in freshman year, and increase to three per semester for junior and senior year.

Most academic classes we saw had a traditional feel, with teachers leading classes from the front of the room. In recent years Fashion Industries has expanded academic offerings, and students take four years of math and science, with the option to take AP (Advanced Placement) calculus and biology. ELA (English language arts) follows the EngageNY Common Core curriculum. This curriculum focuses on short and nonfiction texts, but teachers at Fashion Industries try to supplement with novels and full texts. For example, juniors read "Macbeth" and seniors read Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

The school has consistently graduated more than 90 percent of students, but this number hasn't always translated into success in college. To address this, Fashion students now take a college access class starting in junior year. Trained peer mentors and a college counselor are available to assist with applications. Alumni are hired to work with students between graduation and starting college. "I've learned that you can't rely on students getting preparation for college done at home," said Principal Blank.

Another initiative designed to boost academic achievement is the VTOD ("Vocabulary Term of the Day"). Blank uses the VTOD (it was the word "reciprocal" on the day of our visit) as he greets students every morning, and reads its formal definition during morning announcements. Students affectionately call Blank the "VTOD Master" and created a graphic with it written on his forehead. "It gives me a lot of street cred I think," he said.

Around one-third of Fashion Industries' students continue a fashion major at schools such as Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons and SCAD in Georgia. Others go to CUNY and SUNY schools, and a few have been accepted to private schools such as Bucknell, Ithaca, Brandeis or Columbia.

A downside: It's hectic in the morning getting upstairs in the 10-story building but the school has made sure the elevators are working well in response to student feedback so teens are less stressed in the morning, said assistant principal Danielle Silva by phone.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: For students with IEPs (individualized education programs), Fashion Industries offers ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes and SETSS (special education teacher support services). Special education teachers work closely with each academic department to ensure that their knowledge of a subject is strong.

ADMISSIONS: Students must submit a portfolio and take an entrance exam. Each year Fashion Industries admits approximately 300 students into the fashion major, and 100 into both the graphic design and business programs. For questions, contact Assistant Principal/parent coordinator Danielle Silva. (Ella Colley, October 2015; update via interview, February 2018)

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