P3.O Q&A for practitioners transitioning from P3 to P3.0.

Find here a list of questions from our practitioners, and answers, as we transit from live studio to online operations. 

May 2020 Q&A

 “What should I do if I may not have the right materials or enough to do a project?” 

At the AAHP, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted your Session IV,  school year 2019-2020. If you were registered for that Session, your matriculation covers your in-studio use of media, tools and assorted materials. We will honor that fact. I will guide you in developing projects needing tools, gear, and materials that we do have in the locked-down studio. It is rather easy for us to do so. We’ll pack them for you, and make arrangements for you to pick up and use at home. You will only need to return tools and instruments to us once you finish using them, as others may need them. 

 Many of our projects always called for odd gadgetry often found in households, such as wire clothes hangers, to pick a random sample. While home-bound, you should be able to dig around for other materials you need.

 Clearly, we must be careful to not design projects needing commercial delivery of items to your home, as they may not arrive on time, return policies may be complicated, and some products are tough to find these days. As always, you have the last word on how to proceed. 

“Will the class be with others during the hour im available or a 1 on 1 call?”

The live, weekly class will be a small group class, as it was in live studio. It will take place for one-hour each time,  as we are all finding it difficult to stay critically engaged on-screen for more than one hour. Because P3 tuition covers at least two hours/week, we will have to stretch out our live classes for the 7 classes we did not fulfill in Session IV. That’s 14 weeks through August 2020 for most of you.

For obvious reasons, we cannot use the live class to actually work for one hour on your project. You will have to build at home on your own.  Many of you who were taking AP Art Studio at your high school were working at home already. Many of you P3ers were also having to work on your AAHP projects at home for assorted reasons. So, working at home is not all that new. What we do need to do now is to systematize this matter, to ensure that your home-work is effective and efficient and of course, inspiring and worthwhile. 

 I will need to deliver to you—online and by phone—the key instructions and guidelines you will need in order to work at home at enhanced levels. 

My next email to you, which you need to read before we meet this Sunday, May 10, will provide guidelines in more detail, and we will flesh them out live on-screen. It’ll be new. It’ll be strange. But it will work!

“How should I go about my the different projects that the notes suggest?” 

You and I will need to prioritize which projects to build in which order, as we did in live studio. More details on Sunday May 10. 

“What am I missing from my portfolio?”

The Easy Answer: If you and I had already photo-documented you work-to-date sometime in the 12 months before March 2020, this will be easy to do. In the next two Sundays, I will give you, in writing, my specific recommendations on the “holes” you need to fill. My recommendations have a default baseline. I work with the default approach unless we see that we have to do otherwise, given your colleges requirements. 

Under my default approach, I recommend pieces that will show breadth and depth in studio craft, as well as a majority of pieces that pertain very specifically to the field of study you may pursue. Sure, we know you may not really know which field interests you most, and that if you do it might change the first day you arrive to your college, etc. But we will make as close an approximation as possible.

The More Time-Consuming but Still Manageable Answer: If we didn’t photo-document your works in the last year, we will have to proceed in a bit of a convoluted way. But it’ll work. You will need to photograph your top works, edit them (using the basic edit functions of any laptop computer, for example), and  send those photos to me via email. I will then place them in the temporary portfolio file I keep for each student on the AAHP laptop. Once that is done, I can assess the series and determine the “holes” in your work. We can then get you to fill those holes under your time frames. 

“How long does it take to write a recommendation letter? 

My letters of recommendation (LoR) for P3ers are like little works of art in their own right. Each one takes me a solid 5 hours each, at a minimum. That’s already most of an 8-hour workday. It is not an easy job. My letters are very well-crafted; they both detail and certify many things about you as a creative problem-solver, as member of our community, and as a potential asset to the school you desire. I actually use over 10 metrics in my assessment of your demonstrable strengths and potential strengths, while stressing your unique individuality. I also have to be fair and honest in presenting any of your weakness—I am often asked to portray those. 

 To gather all the information I need to write my legendary LoRs, I first read over the questionnaire that I ask you to send me when requesting that LoR. Sometimes I have to review or clarify your answers live on the phone with you. I also consult Aaron as teacher; if any Coaches worked with you closely on any given project, or course, I consult them too; Aaron also needs to feed me hard data we have for you on file, and concerning your tenure at the AAHP, your attendance, your courses, and even your contributions and performance as volunteer and/or employee. I must also review your portfolio selection photos. I must often follow specific instructions from the third party needing my letter on your behalf….  

 I hope you now understand why we ask you for as advanced notice as possible. At this time, grant me at least three weeks, minimum. Of course, I have to relearn how to do it now away from studio….

“What is process to request a letter of recommendation from Anna?”

There are two new steps to the process:

  1. Please text me at 732-789.4309. No voicemail, please. State your full name in the text, so that I can formally enter your name into my phone’s contact log. In your message, inform  me that you are wanting to request an LOR from me. 
  2. Get ready to hear me scream if you tell me it’s due in three days. (see previous question to understand why I might scream). Give me three weeks. Now, in all seriousness…. if you have a tight deadline looming over you now, text me anyway. I need to know!
  3. Go to the AAHP website, aahpnj.com. At the nav bar, select “Forms”. Scroll down and select “Letters of Recommendation” . Please follow the easy instructions. Complete the form as best as you can (you may need answers from your parents), and then submit it back to me. 
  4. Text again to flag me that you submitted the questionnaire.
  5. Await my text to you, where I’ll note that I have received your request. At that time, we will also negotiate, on a live phone call,  how to work together to meet the deadline. Yes, all LORS have hard deadlines….


“When is Ana more available to help with essays?”

 In live studio, I regularly sat with a P3er after closing studio on weekdays, and early and late on Sundays. I could even be called upon on short notice. That no longer applies. 

I will drop what I’m doing and help you with essays that may be due soon. But that’s not the best way to work! All in all, we will simply have to arrange for mutual convenient times on a case by case basis. Again, you can never give it too much lead time. If you are a Junior, the time to start on essays was yesterday. Though COVID-19 disrupted that, let’s not drop the ball on our court as we move ahead. I will also need to know whether your school counselor or any other advisor is also working with you….

We will need to work on essays via email. Unfortunately, we will lose 99% of the beauty of sitting together shoulder-to-shoulder to explore this very important essay writing experience. I know that it is a chore, and working under deadlines can be a drag. But, in the end, we had wonderful encounters with each other as the P3er began engaging in an important act of self-reflection. I will miss this experience sorely. I’m sorry that you may not undergo this amazing part of growing up into the young adult you wish to be. But between email and phone conversations, we will hash it out and make it work for both of us. 

We also need to recognize that colleges were in a deep admissions crisis prior to the pandemic, and that it only got worse with the COVID-19 threat. We now must pay attention to what different schools will do with the essay component, and for any other components, for that matter, including portfolios. Admissions Office staff will surely shrink down, thanks to the economic crisis now unfolding. Each college or university will need to come up with smart solutions—and fast—for assessing candidates, and wisely choosing the best ones. 

If you are still needing to write and submit essays for your college applications this year, AND if you wish me to work with you, strap yourself in. I have very high standards for the process and the outcome. Thanks to those standards, we keep helping young applicants like you get into the better schools across the country.

“How many more pieces do I need in my portfolio?”

Below I give you a general breakdown. I will answer you about your numbers specifically, in another phone/email combination.


Art/design/architecture/fashion schools: these schools generally requested 10-20 pcs, and often 15-20, prior to COVID-19. Works that pertain to your subfield of interest should make for more than 50% of all items in your portfolio.


Prior to COVID-19, portfolios tended to be optional in the admission tracks I list below. They always proved helpful to those who built a portfolio and knew how to use it. That will now change and go in either direction—some colleges will rely on them more, and some less. 

The recommended number of works (listed below) are MY suggestion, and they have worked for all our applicants. Works that pertain to your field of interest should make for more than 50% of all items in your portfolio. You can always say you want more or less pieces in your portfolio; it will be my job to tell you the benefits and the risks of doing so. The decision is yours.

Technology (engineering, mostly): 8-10

Science (all sciences): 6-8

Business: 6-8, if the school accepts supplementary materials

“Where is the level my portfolio is at currently?”

I will contact you with a private assessment asap. Those calls start after we speak on Sunday.

“How heavily do art schools weigh essays/standardized test scores?”

Ah. Whatever the answer was, it’s gone with the wind. In any case, and in the pre-COVID-19 world, the weight given to essays and standardized test scores—and don’t forget portfolios, LoRs, grade point averages, interviews, etc.—varied highly from one art school to another, as was the case with liberal arts and other college formats. And each school also had the prerogative of changing their dynamic as needed. Now they are all scrambling to figure out how it’ll work in a world defined so heavily by COVID-19. 

In my experience in the last 12 years or so, the vast majority of the art schools chosen by our students have required essays. Remember, the essay is a quick means of assessing you in many ways. Having said that, note that they don’t judge you as a person—they judge and assess how good the fit is between you and the institution.  Keep this very important distinction in mind to both enhance your application strategies, and to also keep your mental health! 

Know this: a poorly written essay/set of essays will doom an application. That is certain. I have seen it. 

As for standardized testing, and specifically in the world of American art schools, the question of taking the test and submitting scores is now a toss-up.  Many colleges are going “test-optional.” But think about tit. The better art/design/architecture/schools—large or tiny—are highly competitive and highly coveted by young applicants everywhere. As with any college-level training in any field, getting into the college of your choice is tough, staying in is tough, and getting out with your diploma in hand is tough. It’s one of the greatest commitments you will ever make to yourself, and one of your greatest challenges. The college experience also makes for one of your most critical and possibly wonderful life experiences.  You will need to have, or to quickly develop, a strong learning ethic and strong study skills. Standardized testing serves as one measure of that potential in you. Again, the schools use the testing to explore the level of “good fit” between you and the school. That’s why such tests still matter, in spite of their other serious shortcomings. 

 Anticipating Higher Scores

So…..if your school goes test-optional, but you KNOW you can prepare well, and do better than average, no matter how slightly, AND if you have time and resources given the pandemic, I suggest you do take tests and report scores. The colleges will welcome anything that helps reduce their uncertainty about you. However, this is not a quick-n-dirty decision; you need to consult with your parents as to the best strategy for you.

 Anticipating Lower Scores

If you presume or actually know that your standardized test scores rank average or below average, and if your college chooses to go “test-optional,” then this may be your big lucky break. Whew. But don’t let the hidden opportunity pass you by: exploit the moment by identifying the top three-to-five forms of intelligence that are in you, and that you most cherish. You can use me as a sounding board. Then, set out to work a little more on the learning skills and sensibilities that will enhance those unique and sensitive ways of being and knowing that only you can bring to the world.  

Advanced (AP) tests

The AAHP does not follow the College Board’s (CB) AP Studio Art program, and then as a matter of principle. With all due respect to the hard-working, committed, sincere and highly-trained professionals at the CB, I, as a classically trained artist, retain serious objections to the type of standardization I’m seeing in programs that often fail to support deep, craft-centered studio training.  

In case you do not know about it, the AP Studio Art component is offered through select high schools across the land. 

Some of our P3ers attend high schools that have those program; some do not. Those P3ers who do, and who also continue with us at the AAHP, so as to supplement and accelerate their AP Studio Art projects, receive my total support despite my misgivings about the standardization at hand. 

Those P3ers who do not have AP Studio Art at school, and who work with us, are getting into the top colleges in all fields, as our forthcoming report of current admission for fall 2020 will demonstrate. And, I will argue that you are learning more deeply, too.  

The 2020 AP tests have gone online and will take place this month. We can only work now with the prospects for 2021. 

You and I will have to keep our eyes peeled to see what the College Board decides to do for the 2021 AP Test year. Moving forwards, I seriously doubt that the College Board will eliminate online testing now that COVID-19 has forced them to go virtual. I suspect they will refine the online format throughout this year, in preparation for the 2021test season, and maybe even go online fully. The world as we knew it is changing fast. 

For this reason, second and junior year high schoolers should check whether your prospective  college—art or otherwise–will demand or consider scores from AP tests in Studio Art and/or Art History. 

For the time being, I strongly suggest that you prepare to take the AP Studio Art and/or Art History in your later high school years, if you have sufficient mental, emotional, and financial resources, and the support of your high school. But first, consult your parents. If it’s “all systems go” with them, then start planning to take the tests as soon as possible, given your grade level.

“Is it important to keep working on portfolio pieces when I can even without proper guidance?”

Let me unpack your question carefully. I fully agree with your unstated premise; that losing our live studio experience, as well as some of the experiences some of you had at better art programs in high school, amount to great loss. You are absolutely correct. But this too shall pass. In the meantime, it’s up to you and me to be the creative thinkers and problem solvers we all claim to be.

I am totally confident that, in principle, we can design interactions and engagements that will provide you with a deep learning experience. Yes, the practical matters as to how we will do this may be a bit bumpy now and then, but we will iron them out as we go. It’s the new modus operandi for everyone around the world. In addition, Aaron and I have also started to uncover hidden opportunities for student enrichment that, frankly, could not have been realized without the use of computers. I’m not saying this new way will be a better approach;  I am saying we can do well, and in some areas, do even better. 

To help you submit as strong a college application as possible this year, and in upcoming years, we the P3 Senior Staff we will continue to do our very best.

I now you may, at times, feel discouraged and discombobulated. The whole world is feeling it. But yes, if you can muster a little courage, then let’s get on with the program. If you wish to secure a college admission of choice, chances are that you will need a portfolio to either satisfy application requirements, or to enhance your optional supplementary materials. No need to go solo. And solo is not good in this case. We are here to support you.

Will schools be more understanding of students’ circumstances when it comes to the ability to create more portfolio pieces in the midst of the pandemic?”

I sure hope so. I can’t see how they wouldn’t. Many schools all across the board—art and other–are already relaxing standardized testing requirements at least for the upcoming round of college applications. The College Board had also extended AP Studio Art Portfolio submissions deadline for later in May. 

And yet schools need robust ways of assessing the degree of fit between you and their mission and vision. They can’t do away with portfolios. If they ask for smaller portfolios, those portfolios will have to be stronger yet. 

Please look at each school of interest to you in turn. It’s not as tiresome as it sounds. With a few clicks of your computer or phone keyboard, you can know the answer provided by any school in seconds flat, or a few minutes at most. 

In the meantime, know that in any LOR for any of you now in high school, I will certify your courage and commitment while suffering both (1) the surprise loss of your studio experience, and (2) the sudden transition to online learning experience with us. This alone will prove your mettle, if you stick with it. I would think any college would love to have you after going through that grind, and coming out successfully with your portfolio in hand.

“What’s the best way to stay connected with the studio and my art despite not being able to be there physically?”

You are already doing it. You are already partaking and making contributions through your presence and questioning. We are all-systems-go again to keep you in the running. Having noted the great loss we all feel, let me point out that we can make this work. 


Aaron’s phone: 732-850-2110

My phone: 732.789.4309

Best email for P3.O: aahpp3@gmail.com

Attitudes and Gestures that Matter

Show up online with us, Sundays 3-4pm

Work steady and meet the benchmarks we set up for you

Contact me anytime, any day

Stay organized. This is imperative.

Collect the pieces you want in your portfolio now. Keep them in one safe and dry place. And never store art materials or artworks in attics, basements, garages or backyard sheds.

Know that one of our students kept works in the finished and furnished home basement, on lower shelves. She lost over 2 years of studio work when the basement flooded. She was still 9 years old, not yet a college-bound high-schooler, thank heavens. However, casualties like this now that you are in high school will be true set-backs. Like the Scouts of America say, “Be prepared!” 

“Is there a way for me to continue the portfolio while at home?”

YES! Let’s do this! P3.O is just that, a means of helping you do so. We launch this Sunday, May 10!

“What scholarships are available for me to apply for?”

As of March, 2020, we all live on another Earth. An economic crisis is looming. Your generation of high schoolers may be the last to vie for many scholarships that may dry up in the coming months and next two to three years. So, go for it. 

Scholarships often require assessments and additional LoRs, which I am happy to provide on your behalf. Please, just get the materials to me as soon as possible. Here are two major online info sources:

candid.org…..click on “grants to individuals” 

Also seek info on scholarships at the khanacademy.org

One Additional Question You Didn’t Ask Yet….

“What now that my portfolio project in in the locked-down studio?

If you have a work-in-progress at the AAHP, you can retrieve it to work on it at home. Text me your name, the weekdays/s you were attending, and a brief description of the piece, to help me locate your work. Once I do, we can make arrangements for you to pick it up.

More coming soon….