February 2018

College 18

In this bonus feature from In Tune’s February 2018 Best Music Schools feature, undergraduates tell us how they adjusted to their first year of college—both academically and socially. You can find advice from administrators and instructors here.

“What was hardest for me was figuring out how to give myself structure since I was suddenly in control of all my time. I did that by building a schedule outside of class, getting a job, and finding productive ways to stay busy.”

Sarah Smith , Catawba College

“My challenge was to stay organized with assignments. All the classes I first took were classes that I was interested in and I’d be so invested that I would forget to write down the assignment or the date that it is due. Each class explored different things about music, vocals, songwriting, and, on top of that, theory.  So my best friend for my first semester at DIME Denver was a planner.”

— Devyn Gussenbauer,
DIME Denver

“Coming from a traditional high school where music class was just another elective, adjusting to a schedule where the school day consists solely of music was a definite eye-opener for me. The way I overcame this was simply to approach the overload of music classes head-on by learning new materials outside of class so that I was truly immersed in my field. I figured that this would be a good idea for me during my first year —and it was!—because I wanted to get into the habit  [in order to handle] the heavier workload that would come later. I wrote a weekly schedule in thirty-minute increments to indicate the activities that I would perform at those times—studying, eating, homework, free time, even sleeping. It helped because it let me interpret my school schedule and my schedule outside of classes on one cohesive sheet of paper. By putting a limit on the abundance of things I could do in one day forced me to be productive—and most importantly, it gave me a good night’s sleep. Socially, the greatest challenge that I faced as a new college student was trying to understand the diversity [there]. I was no longer with the old friends and faculty [from home] and so it became a blank canvas for me. I began to slowly process the fact that I was no longer home and began to treat the college as my new home.”

— Alton Sato, San Francisco
Conservatory of Music

“I was most worried about making friends and lasting relationships as a new college student because I didn’t know many people coming into college. Being a music major at UMass made it so easy to make friends because it’s a small, tight-knit, friendly community that openly welcomes new students. Getting meals with fellow classmates and spending time in the hangout spaces provided by the department and the university was the best way to create those long-lasting relationships.”

— Jessica Toupin, UMass Amherst

“My greatest challenge academically was taking the time to do an assignment slowly and correctly. In high school, I got into a habit of simply finishing my work as fast as I could without really caring whether or not I learned anything from it. Once all of my work was actually relevant to my career and worth my time, it was new for me. I had to take things slow and make sure I learned them correctly.  Socially, everyone has their own personal schedule. So it takes more effort to meet people and hang out. I’ve had to be a little more outgoing than I used to be and make time to meet up with new people. Stretching one’s comfort zone is always a challenge, but it’s good for you!

— Ivan Ferguson, San Francisco Conservatory of Music

“The hardest part for me when starting college was leaving all of my friends and family behind. I have really strong ties to people back home, so it was really difficult having to say goodbye to the people I love most in the world. The amazing thing about music, though, is it bonds and brings people together. The School of Music is like a family. We all speak the same language of music, and we all connect with and inspire each other to achieve our goals. I was able to find new friends and colleagues that shared in my love of the arts by involving myself in all of the activities and concerts the school has to offer.”

— Lindsay Dills , Western Michigan University

“My very first semester, I had 11 classes, each with large amounts of homework, tests, and projects. I truly was not prepared for the adjustment it would take to budget my time and resources. After a few months of trying new methods to produce my best work, I learned that it is best  for me to take it day by day and to maintain a positive mindset. I also developed a more positive attitude and told myself I could do what I needed to. As long as you keep in mind that you are capable of anything, all the challenges you face academically can be overcome.”

— Dannielle Remek , Belmont University

“Probably the biggest skills I had to learn as a new college student was how to efficiently use my time in the practice room. Even when I spent enough time there, I wasn’t making as much progress as I wanted to. I’ve learned that I need to be disciplined and persistent with whatever time I have to practice. It’s easy to ignore a problem and just keep playing the piece or the étude, but that’s just not how you will improve. Slowing down technical passages that are too difficult, sticking to a practice schedule, formulating and working towards specific goals, and being persistent with whatever needs improvement—these habits have led to considerable progress in my playing.”

— Charlotte Ouellette ,
UMass Amherst

“The greatest challenge so far has definitely been adapting to the increased rigor of work, especially now that it’s all music-focused. Coming from a traditional high school, the arts were always secondary to one’s core education—math, sciences, etc. In music school,  you’re doing the intense of work of, say,  a calculus class—but now it’s about music theory.

— Raheem Frederick, San Francisco Conservatory of Music

“The greatest challenge as a new college student was properly learning my music, while managing my honors English course. Coming to college, the bar is raised a lot higher than what was expected in high school in terms of musicianship and musicality. Singing in Collegiate Singers, the vocal jazz group GC2, and being in the voice studio meant that there was a lot more music at a higher level to study, I also had to learn how to take care of my vocal health, while keeping up with this large amount of music.  — JP Dizon
Choral Music Education Western Michigan University

“I was most worried about making friends and lasting relationships as a new college student because I didn’t know many people coming into college. Being a music major at UMass made it so easy to make friends because it’s a small, tight-knit, friendly community that openly welcomes new students. Getting meals with fellow classmates and spending time in the hangout spaces provided by the department and the university was the best way to create those long-lasting relationships.”

— Jessica Toupin , UMass Amherst

“Making sure I don’t overwork myself. I had to learn how to say no and give myself breaks from extracurricular involvement to have fun with my friends.

— Destiny Stone , Catawba College

“After being so comfortable in the music department back in high school, literally everyone here in college was new to me. Not only that, I chose to dorm in a non–fine arts building, which separated me from living with the students that I would be with every day. The thing that helped me the most was being in ensembles. Being in a large choir was kind of limiting in the people that I was able to talk to, but sharing the experience of learning the music in my voice section helped me make friendships with the people around me, Over time, you get to know people.”

— JP Dizon , Western Michigan University