Preview: mature student's guide to CSM Fashion

This is the post I've been thinking of since I started this blog.

The one piece of writing that could be useful to many people, and I keep postponing because I don't know where to start.

After all, Central Saint Martins has a very unique way of running their courses, to say the least, and each person will have their own learning curve, filled with many a-ha moments but also many low points of excruciating self-doubt, depression and angst.

It's very hard for any of us to describe this experience to someone looking from the outside, someone that just wants us to cut to the chase and answer YES or NO to one question: is it worth it?

And, in my case, I've been haunted for way too long by people asking “Why you didn't do the MA?” or “Why don't you apply for a job at such-and-such famous brand?”.

Those annoying questions add another reason for me to be crystal clear about what I want to say and to whom, so I don't sound…well, like a little b*tch.

So this is the structure I'm planning for this guide:

A mature student's guide to CSM: Fashion Folio and Graduate Diploma

That title already covers two things: who this is for, and what it's about.

Who: mature students, as in students over 24 years old, whose first uni wasn't Central Saint Martins.

These can be people who were in a different course, a different career or even people who already have their own clothing line and decided to go back to school to take their brand to a whole new level.

This will be a guide for people who can't afford to waste time, or at least feel they can't waste time because their grownup life will be put on hold by going back to studying full time.

What: Graduate Diploma, a one-year course for people who already have a degree or some work experience in Fashion or a related industry;

Fashion Folio, a full-time portfolio course meant for both BA applicants and graduates applying for the Graduate Diploma (very rare to get accepted straight into the MA from Fashion Folio these days).

It's also possible to do only one or two terms of the course, or only for self-development, which gives a mature student some flexibility to decide if going back to uni is really the best choice for them.

What you'll learn in these courses

As for any full-time CSM course, what you learn and what they teach you are very different things.

You won't have proper subjects or proper classes, like a Fashion Sketch 1 class where a teacher will stand in front of the classroom and teach you step-by-step on a blackboard how to draw a 9-head Fashion figure.

(p.s.: you shouldn't draw 9-head models, that'd be a gigantic freaking woman. Make your life easier and design for real humans with the tips on my ebook.)

You'll have projects to make, and after you received a briefing, all the work will be self-directed apart from a couple of 10 to 20-minute tutorials with either the course director, tutor or guest tutor.


Work load

Don't you dare show up to a tutorial with more talk than work.

Your time with a tutor is precious, so it's better to have a lot of full-on terrible work and let them point you to another direction (spoiler alert: they won't do this gently with graduates. Snarky is the norm at CSM).

Every tutor will say time and again, in many interviews: hard work > talent.

And hard work at CSM Fashion means 10-12h per day.


Let's start with the fixed costs: tuition fees.

Fashion Folio: each term = £4,999; no scholarships available, as of my knowledge.

Full year of Fashion Folio = £14,997;

Graduate diploma: Home/EU = £10,890; International students = £19,930.


I'm aware higher education's just getting more and more expensive, but I didn't know how bad it was: back in 2016, I think Home/EU fees were around £7,000.

Then add accommodation in London, food, transportation…that could easily add up to over £30,000/year.

Can you make that much money? Can you make that much money working part-time while you're studying full-time?

Exposure/ visibility

Fashion Folio is a great course but its official status is kinda funny: it's in a grey area where it's still considered a short course, and you won't get any diploma from it.

Graduate Diploma is the most brutal course in CSM, and still gets casually described as a stepping stone to the MA.

You mustn't rely on them to propel you into Fashion stardom. Most likely you'll remain a nobody - with a very good portfolio, but a nobody, nonetheless.

Future prospects (jobs etc)

You will absolutely become a much better designer by taking any of these courses.

Now a job guarantee is something else.

Are you allowed to work in the EU? Do you have good connections in place that can help you get a job, plus a visa, if necessary?

And can you find a job that will pay the student debt, interest included?

Click to read part 1 - Fashion Folio and part 2 - Graduate Diploma.


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