October 2nd, 2023
What you need to know about applying for makeup and hair courses at university
by guest contributor Benjamin Minchell, Lecturer, Makeup & Hair Design Degree Course, University for the Creative Arts
If you’re reading this, you are probably thinking about applying for university in the coming academic year or maybe next. Maybe you have started. You’re probably just finishing or have just finished your Level 3 in makeup and hair education and are ready to move on to Level 4. Congratulations if this is so! What a great opportunity you are about to embark on. Coming to university.
University is a big step to take and should be taken with caution and you should seek as much knowledge as possible. Makeup and hair degrees are few and far between and each university will require certain criteria from their applicants.
The following is written to help you as much as possible with your portfolio and application. Many of the lecturers that you will be taught by in university have been through the same process and have had the same questions you may have.
“I’ve enjoyed being able to properly elevate my skills as a makeup artist by learning at degree level.” – Nicola Millen
Coming to university
Expectation of a Degree
You should be aware that a degree in makeup and hair is not just practical lessons in a studio. They are a big part of your studies but are not the only thing you will learn. You will spend limited time in the studios and more time in lectures learning how to become professional researchers and concept builders. If your degree has ‘design’ in the title, expect to learn how to be a makeup and hair designer. You will learn skills beyond application of makeup and the styling and cutting hair. You are learning how to be academic. You will need to write and read and learn to use the library. It’s not for everyone, but if you think you can do it, nothing will stop you. You will be expected to work in teams throughout your degree, as you will rarely be working solo in an industry context. Therefore, part of your professional practice is to get over any fears of teamwork – and of public speaking. It’s part of what you do at university level and what you will do in the industry.
It’s my job as a lecturer to interview the applicants for the makeup and hair degree. It’s the chance for me to see the talent that is out there and see what is inspiring you as an up-and-coming artist. You will usually apply through UCAS and then be invited to an interview where you will show your portfolio. UCAS is where you will fill out all the standard and necessary information about yourself including your education history and a personal statement.
“I applied for a makeup and hair degree to network with both peers and in the industry itself. I have found studying makeup and hair at degree level has allowed me to push myself in my art and given me confidence to go out and network and immerse myself in new experiences.” – Millie Phillips
Your Personal Statement
The Personal Statement is the first scary part of the application process. It can quite be difficult to write about yourself and why you want to apply for university. But it is a great opportunity for you to establish who you are right now and your future plans as a professional in the makeup and hair industry.
- Be honest. It’s lovely to read a poetically written personal statement, but these well-written, 500-word pieces are not always honest. It’s better for you to write the truth and write how you like to write. Sometimes that means writing how you speak. Don’t try to be someone or something you are not.
- Inspiration and knowledge. If you want to be a makeup artist, a hair stylist, a makeup designer, work on film and television or in fashion, whatever you would like to do, put your aspirations in your personal statement. This helps the person interviewing to understand what you would like to do with your degree, but they can also see what inspired you to follow this path.
- Educate yourself outside of social media. We are looking for individuals who are ready to study at degree level. You should be inspired by more than just Instagram and Tik Tok. It is boring to see pictures of makeup that already exists. It is also boring to see that your one and only inspiration is Drag makeup. We want to know how you research and who and what inspires you. Are you inspired by fashion? Are you inspired by film? Whatever that may be, you should say in your statement.
- What you can bring to the classroom. Include some of your personality traits. What makes you special? What can you bring to a creative team? What type of worker are you? What do you struggle with and what are you planning to learn whilst studying a degree?
“I applied to study the makeup & hair degree at UCA as I wanted to expand on my learning of both new techniques & how to be creative in different ways. But I was nervous that I didn’t have enough skills to present in my portfolio.” – Sophia Hamilton-Green
You will be required to bring a portfolio to your interview. The more professional your portfolio, the better but this is not always necessary. When I am interviewing new members of a cohort, I am looking for skills in research, design, drawing and development of ideas as well as (the most important) application skills. If there are no pictures of your makeup skills and hair skills in the portfolio, you should question why you are applying for a makeup and hair degree.
- Digital or Physical? You can choose to present your portfolio however you wish. It can be physical or digital: just make sure if it is digital, you have it open on your device. It is difficult to see a portfolio on a phone screen so avoid this.
- Makeup and Hair Skills. Whilst it is great to see skills in drawing and painting, these are not always relevant to the degree you are planning to study. It may be difficult for you to find models for your looks and therefore you may opt to do makeup and hair looks on yourself. This is ok to do, but it says a lot about your lack of skill to the tutor interviewing you. And this is not always a good thing. If you can find models to practice on, use them.
- Editing. Show the work you are most proud of. Showing work that is ‘unprofessional’ is undesirable to a tutor. You should be able to talk about your work with pride.
- Other Skills That Should Feature in Your Portfolio. You should aim to portray your skills in project building. This is great to see. It’s great to see skills in creating mood boards and design development skills. Your portfolio should show how you moved from research to development to designs, as this is something you will be expected to do during your degree.
“I found my portfolio easy as I had just collected my portfolio from my 2nd year from college, I had also put together a portfolio that showcases more work I did in my free time […] it was a good blend of what I had learnt and what I was capable of for my interview.” – Nicola Millen
Your interview is your chance to show off and show your personality to your future tutors. It’s also a chance for you to ask any questions you may have about university. It is great to come to the interview with any questions you may have prepared. We want to have a conversation with you; questions are a great place to start. Usually, the questions you are asked in the interview will be based around your personal statement, your own learning needs and process, and your portfolio.
- Come prepared. Make sure you have a copy of your portfolio ready. This may be physical or digital.
- Be Positive. It is your job to sell yourself and be positive about your work and yourself.
- Stay Calm. There is no need to be scared or worried. Take your time, answer questions at your speed.
- Dress to impress. Dress professionally. Dress for the job you want. As the interviewer, I am not interested in your own makeup and hair. Whilst you are encouraged to take pride in how you look, consider how professional you look. Sometimes the most ‘Instaglam’ look tells us more about the skills you don’t have than the ones you do.
- Be you and only you. To put it simply, we want to get to know you and how you will work in the classroom. Be honest.
- Feedback. Be open to feedback. You will receive feedback on your portfolio. This may not be what you want to hear, but the tutor knows where you need to build skill based on what you show.
“The first year studying at makeup at university I very much enjoyed learning new skills and collaborating with different courses. The Fashion Shows at University and working at London Fashion Week was such an amazing opportunity to learn and experience.” – Sophia Hamilton-Green
“We’ve been taught a lot about the fashion industry, as well as the role makeup and hair artists play in that world, this has helped me understand what direction I’d like to take my career down. I’ve greatly enjoyed being able to collaborate with other creatives, this has helped me make a few close connections that have aided me during first year of university.” – Nicola Millen
About Benjamin Minchell
Benjamin Minchell is an academic and researcher within the field of makeup and hair design. A working makeup artist for over a decade, Benjamin walks the line between practice and theory due to achieving his MA in Fashion Cultures. Currently teaching across campuses at UAL & UCA, Benjamin contributes to new academic delivery of makeup and hair within the context of fashion image. His reserach is rooted in the study of masculinities and men’s relationship with beauty.
Coming to university
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Coming to university