Tips on Finding the Right College

By Zachariah Friesen

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The time is drawing near for students to start applying for fall admission to college. If you’re applying right now,  this article is just for you! While it may seem like a daunting task at first,  there are several things that you can do to make the process easier and find the school that is right school for you. Here are some things I found useful when making my decisions:

Research:

- The Internet

  • Every college has a website. Search their website, get a cyber feel for the school. If their website isn’t terribly user friendly and the information is hard to find, that can be a good indication.
  • Here you will find contact info for the administration offices and professors. They are there to help, use them wisely.
  • Read as much documentation as you can find. Know everything there feasibly is to know about the school of which you are applying.
  • Your goal is to know exactly what you are getting into and avoid surprises upon attending the school.

- Alumni

  • Contact the offices of the school about speaking to Alumni. It’s important to know how going to that school contributed towards their success. Alumni information and experiences are invaluable but understand that embellishment and positive outlook on their experience is a given, keep that in mind.

- Professors

  • Contact professors via email and ask them questions. Be aware of the embellishment. Their job is to get you to come to the school, so don’t be surprised if the picture they paint isn’t 100% accurate. But don’t fault them either; it’s their job and there is truth in what they say.

Location:

- Find schools in cities that interest you.

  • A city that interests you makes for a more positive experience.

- Find a way to visit the school before you decide. Often schools will let you sit in on a class or two. Again it’s about knowing what you are getting into. You’re going to be there for a while.

- There should be distractions, but not too many distractions.

  • Fun is important. A clear mind will do wonders for productivity.
  • 3 words: Positive Learning Environment; find one!
  • Atmosphere is infectious, both good and bad. Be aware of it and be ready to surround yourself with things that make you happy. You’ll enjoy learning more and then you’ll learn more.

-  As a performer, I want to be in Los Angeles or New York. Be where the opportunities are, where the jobs are. While you’re at school learning, remember that it’s all about what you know, whom you know, and putting yourself in an opportunity to succeed.

- Go where the jobs are, the professionals are, and where your craft is appreciated

- Find schools that have a reputation for producing people in your profession. A degree from Harvard Law School speaks for itself. It can immediately legitimize you in the eyes of potential employers even before they meet you.

- Look for schools that bring in big name speakers and events, especially if they are in your profession. If nothing else, you can learn about how others achieve success, and apply it to your strive for success.

Teachers:

- Find a teacher who has experience in the profession. Make sure they are a good teacher though. Not all performers are good teachers, not all writers are good teachers, researchers etc… Find someone who is good at teaching, and also happens to be successful in your area of study.

- A friendly teacher is not necessarily a good teacher, and a mean teacher is not necessarily a bad teacher. Look for an honest teacher.

- Meet the teacher before you decide, if you are a performer; schedule a lesson with the teacher before you audition or sit in on a class. You’re going to be working with them a lot and your career is in their hands at a crucial period.

Students:

- Visiting the campus is imperative. Get a feel for the students; ask them questions, they were once in your position. A good teacher will recommend some students for you to talk to via email/phone, if they don’t, ask them to.  Ask everything you can think of, no matter how big or small; from “Do you enjoy going to school here?” to “Is there a good pizza place nearby?”

- Your colleagues are whom you learn from most. Surround yourself with people who are better than you and you’ll be inspired and motivated to rise to the occasion and push yourself beyond what you think is possible.

- Community plays a big part in enjoyment and success in college. In many cases the community established in college follows you throughout life.

Cost:

- A large portion of Financial Aid never gets used. It also rarely falls into your lap. Like most things in life you get out what you put in.

- Grants, Loans, Essay writing, Competitions, Scholarships, Speeches… the truth is out there: go get it.  The Internet is your friend.

- If you get an offer from a school don’t be afraid to ask for more. If they want you and they think you are close to deciding, they will ask their department to squeeze out more. The worst they can say is “That’s all we have I’m sorry. “

- When it comes down to it, you can’t put a price on education (although my student loans say otherwise), if you’re pursuing a dream or passion, don’t let money get in the way.  It is only money, and money doesn’t make you happy.

 

Be Smart:

- Have balanced choices.

  • Have one school that’s far away from home
  • Have one school that’s close to home
  • Have a Dream School
  • Have a Safety School

- Budget for application fees and the trips to visit the schools.

- Make sure you can still keep up with your studies. Keep one foot in the future and one in the present. A senior year of high school or college with a fallen off GPA does not put off a good vibe.

Comfort:

- I cannot stress this enough, comfort is so important, but not in the way that you might think. Strive to be uncomfortable and expand your comfort zone. Unfamiliar territory and being uncomfortable means there is a need and opportunity to learn. We grow and progress by continuously making the uncomfortable, comfortable.

Zachariah Friesen is the online merchandiser at Sheet Music Plus. He is also a freelance trombone player and private lessons teacher in the bay area. 

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