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How Anderson Won a Shillington Scholarship to Become a Designer

By Liz Eggleston
Last Updated June 15, 2020

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Shillington offers a scholarship at each of their campuses to fund part of their fall program every year. We caught up with Anderson Ashbaugh, a graduate of Shillington and recipient of their September 2019 Scholarship, to find out how she won the scholarship, the design skills and tools she learned in the curriculum, and how Shillington helped Anderson take design from hobby to career.

Pro-Tip: Shillington’s 2020 scholarship application is now open. Submit your own creative project by July 13, 2020 at 5pm to receive 50% off tuition! 

What were you up to before Shillington School?

I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Journalism. I didn’t study graphic design in college but I did take an InDesign course and learn some video design for my journalism degree. Right after graduation, I started a job in corporate retail. I made that my career before going to Shillington

What inspired you to make a career change into design?

Every aspect of my life outside of my career was about design – from what I wore to what I read about. I had a plethora of creative ideas that I wanted to create – little things like sticker packs for my friends or designing cards for the holidays. I spent hours on Youtube learning the basics of Adobe Illustrator. There was a point where the "should be," became a "must” and that’s where Shillington came in. 

Did you research any other design bootcamps? What stood out about Shillington?

I did hours of research. Most design programs required me to enroll in a university for an undergraduate program or needed me to submit a portfolio. But I didn't have a portfolio to submit – the whole reason I was doing the program was for the portfolio! Most of those undergrad programs were super expensive too. 

When I found Shillington, I remember the advertisement said something like, "All you need is passion and willingness to learn." Those were the only two things I had, so I knew it was the program for me. 

How did you apply to and get the Shillington scholarship?

I submitted my answers to a simple questionnaire along with the video I made for the Shillington scholarship. I also needed to submit two personal recommendations. 

I had to make a creative submission with no limitations or requirements, so I made a stop motion animation video to introduce myself. I had never done stop motion before, but I like to make a lot of funny paper crafts so I thought that it would be the perfect representation of me. I spent a whole four-day weekend working on it. It was the most fun weekend I'd ever had. I put my heart and soul into it. 

I applied for the scholarship in July 2019 and I started at Shillington in September 2019. 

What did the Shillington scholarship mean to you? 

Getting the Shillington scholarship was proof that I should be pursuing design. I applied to the scholarship mostly to justify to myself that I could actually do Shillington. 

The scholarship is for 50% off of Shillington tuition. I don't know if I would have done the course if I didn't get the scholarship. It was a good chunk of money and I'm still paying off student loans, so it would have been a big financial move for me without the scholarship. 

What were your classmates like at Shillington? Was it a diverse cohort? 

There were three classrooms in the New York campus, with about 20-25 students in each class. It was a large group of people from all over the world, which was cool. I had graduated from college four years earlier and I was predicting that I'd be on the older side of the group, but it was actually all walks of life and ages! Everyone had different levels of experience in design as well. Truly, I had very little design experience before, but there were people who had studied design in college. It was a wide range. 

There were more women than men in my class (probably ~70% women). I was coming from the corporate retail industry, which was about 90% women. 

Tell us about a typical day learning design at Shillington!

The day usually started out with a lecture teaching a new design topic. After that we were assigned design briefs, which we used to delve into the lesson we had learned. We learned mostly by doing in a 'real-life' scenario. Throughout the course, we worked on about 35 briefs for theoretical clients. We'd spend one to two days per brief with strict deadlines. It was super fast-paced in the best way. Showing up to learn and do the design skills that we were learning was motivating. 

Which design tools and skills did you learn at Shillington?

I learned everything from ideation to technical skills to improving my technique. Branding, layout design, shortcuts, design thinking, and design theory. I loved ideation, learning how to brainstorm and ideate topics of creativity. I was particularly drawn to Design Thinking which is more of a concept of how to creatively problem-solve. It's a five-step process that helps you approach a problem differently and can really be applied to any problem.

Part of the curriculum was learning Adobe programs, UX/UI, app design, and web design. It all went hand-in-hand to understand the whole design process. We didn't learn HTML or CSS, but we learned how to design websites and apps in Sketch. 

Do you feel like you graduated from Shillington with a solid design portfolio? 

I graduated with a great portfolio. We spent the last three weeks of the course refining all of the briefs that we submitted throughout Shillington. Then we selected eight of them for our portfolio. On our graduation night, we displayed our portfolios. On the last day of class, recruiters came in and we each had an interview with a recruiter to tell them about ourselves and our portfolios. Throughout the last few weeks of the program, we got interviewing advice, how to present yourself, and portfolio prep. It was amazing to have a tangible portfolio to start submitting to jobs! 

What’s your favorite project in your portfolio?

I liked the branding projects. We came up with a concept brand and then decided everything from the logo to keywords. One project was coming up with a brand identity for a low-budget airline. We were all given different countries – I had Kazakhstan. I knew nothing about Kazakhstan so I did a bunch of research for this project. I found out that it's a nomadic culture so my concept was “Nomad, no problem.” That was the project that I was most proud of. 

How did the teaching style at a bootcamp compare to your undergrad degree?

I went to a huge school for undergrad, where most of my classes were hundreds of people and the instructors weren't that engaging. 

I was also in a much different mindset. Because I got a chance to go to Shillington on a scholarship, I was hungry to learn. The teachers were engaging and the course was collaborative. Our instructors were super-passionate design creatives. It was an awesome environment but very different from my undergrad experience. 

What was the biggest challenge in your journey to become a designer?

The biggest challenge in my design journey was leaving Shillington! I loved it there. 

My biggest personal challenge is that I would often bite off more than I could chew. I had a lot of great ideas but I couldn't execute them yet. Sticking to the process has been a challenge for me. Once I did that and understood the formula, I could add in my own flare later. When I overcame that, I became a more efficient designer. I also had to learn that the design process is subjective. That's a challenging thing to get over.

You graduated about five months ago – what are you up to now?

I’m still working in corporate fashion but I'm keeping design in play! I went to Shillington to be able to create my own big project. I want to be the creative director of a business that I create. 

I actually got some offers before the pandemic for a graphic design position based on my portfolio, but I wasn't sure if that was right for me. But I didn't want to leave the career that I'd built for myself yet. I'm building a blog called Superbloom right now and I'm investing in my design and business skills that I learned to make a business out of it. 

I've freelanced with a few different clients since Shillington as well. I did take on a design project – building a social media kit for a singer and actor.

Have you been able to apply your new design skills to your job in corporate retail?

I definitely have – more than I even thought. I use things we learned at Shillington in business conversations a lot. Things like how to sell your ideas and how to communicate them. We utilize design every day even more than we might think. Even in a PowerPoint presentation, I'm noticing that I'm making the hierarchy look a certain way and applying what I've learned.

Was Shillington worth it for you?

Oh yeah – I still cannot believe how much I learned in 3-months. It's incredible. The fact that I was able to do a design project for a client after Shillington on my own without anyone's help was unbelievable!

Do you have any tips for someone applying to the Shillington Scholarship in 2020?

I truly put my heart and soul into the scholarship application and made it as “me” as I possibly could. I think that's why I got the scholarship. In design, it is a process and there is a formula that you can learn, but having your own perspective and input is what makes a project amazing and unique. Put as much of yourself into your scholarship application as you can. 

Find out more and read Shillington reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Shillington. Find out more about the Shillington scholarship and apply by 5pm, Monday 13 July 2020. Good luck!

About The Author

Liz pic

Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!

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