7 Things You Should Know Before Starting Advertising School



Written by Jocelyn Mendez
& Katherine Pendrill
Photos by Andrew Pieroni

Advertising school accepts all kinds—from kids with economics degrees to former fashion designers. But the one thing that everyone in advertising school has in common is that they had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they started.

Sure, glossy brochures will tell you all about the classes you’ll take and the admissions director will gush about how talented each instructor is. But when it comes to the day-to-day experience of attending ad school, it can be tough to know what to expect.

The best way to get this information is to talk to those who are living it right now—the students. And that’s exactly what we did. We sat down with four of Miami Ad School Toronto’s best and brightest to learn more about their experience so far. They told us what surprised them about advertising school and what they think other students should know before that first day of class.

1: No Hand-Holding Here

While most academic programs are tough, universities often take extra steps to help undergraduate students succeed—advertising school is a little bit different. 

As second quarter Art Direction student Beth realized early on, “Miami Ad School Toronto is not like university at all.” In her experience, it’s up to the students to be self-starters and take an active role in their education—there’s no hand-holding here. As Beth explains, professors are always happy to help, but “if you don’t say that you are confused, everyone will think that means that you understand. Everything really depends on you.”

2: Your Resume is Irrelevant

While advertising school definitely requires you to be a self-starter, that doesn’t mean that everyone coming into the program knows how to manipulate images in Photoshop or craft witty copy on the spot. In fact, most people who attend advertising school have no experience in advertising at all.

For third quarter Art Direction student Ryan, this was the number one worry coming into the program. As he explains, “I was really nervous about starting at Miami Ad School Toronto because I didn’t have any background experience or needed skills. I thought I was going to be way behind everyone.” But once class actually started, Ryan realized that his peers knew more about psychology, accounting, and what was trending on Twitter than they knew about advertising. For Ryan, this was the best-case scenario “because everyone brought different skills and unique perspectives. I never felt like I was behind.”

3: Prepare to Compete

Most of the students going into advertising school daydream about one day taking home a sparkling Cannes Lion, but few think about the awards they can rack up before they even graduate. While it may not be a Lion, competitions like The Young Ones Student Awards, the Clio Student Awards, and The Advertising & Design Club of Canada (ADCC) Student Competition provide ample opportunities to add a few trophies to your collection early on.

Though second quarter Art Direction student David knew about these competitions, he wasn’t exactly raring to compete. But now, just two quarters into advertising school, he’s got his eyes on those shinny student prizes and he’s looking to add some award-winning pieces to his portfolio. As he puts it, “now that I see how important it is, all I want to do is compete in as many competitions as possible!”

everyone brought different skills and unique perspectives.

everyone brought different skills and unique perspectives.

4: Caffeine is Non-Negotiable

Unlike your average university program, there are no 8 a.m. classes in advertising school. While this may conjure up images of lazy mornings and sleeping until noon, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

As Beth quickly found out, advertising school requires a lot of work outside of class time—work that’s best fuelled by a venti coffee.“I didn’t really indulge in coffee before, but now I am a regular at the cafe next door,” she jokes. For Beth, coffee has become her fuel of choice to get through early mornings and many late nights. Of course, coffee may not be every student’s drink of choice, but most Miami Ad School Toronto students find themselves becoming pretty well acquainted with the baristas over at Strange Love Coffee.

5: You’ll Find Inspiration Everywhere

When you work a 9-to-5 job, all your creativity is concentrated in the middle of the day. But in advertising school, your creative brain is going to be working a little bit harder. 

As third and fourth quarter students Art Direction students Ryan and Ted put it, advertising school will send your creativity into overdrive and that means ideas will start creeping up at even the most inconvenient times. “You are going to use the hell out of the Notes function on your phone, and messaging yourself to remember all of these cool ideas that pop into your head,” they explain. This means that whether you’re on the subway, in the shower, or in line at Urban Outfitters, you’ll have to be ready to capture your brilliant (and sometimes not-so-brilliant) ideas.

There’s no place for Arrogance in Advertising School

There’s no place for Arrogance in Advertising School

6: Shed Your Ego

While there are big egos in every business, there’s no place for arrogance in advertising school. Even if you start with a couple of years of experience under your belt, it’s only a matter of time before you find out just how little you really know.

As every student eventually finds out, advertising school involves checking your ego at the door and taking feedback like a champ. Beth learned early on to not take feedback personally and to be prepared to “kill your darlings.” Her advice: “Don’t take it personally, and remember that each instructor thinks differently. Always ask a few different people, and trust your gut”.”

7: Throwbacks Will Make You Cringe

At the end of the day, everyone who comes to advertising school expects to gain new skills and produce better work. What most students don’t expect is just how much better they get—even in the first few quarters.

For David, looking back at his old creative work now makes him cringe a little. He says “Looking back at some of my old creative work, and even the creative submissions I used to apply for this school, I am just… wow, it’s so embarrassing.” But as David points out, the upside is “it keeps you humble.” And in the advertising industry, staying humble opens doors.

If you’re ready to shed your ego and start using the hell out of your Notes app, apply to one of Miami Ad School Toronto’s hands-on programs in Art Direction, Copywriting, Strategy, or Design.
The Application deadline has been extended past December 1st so You can still Apply!

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