“ Flash forward almost four years and we feel entirely confident that we made the right choice.”
As stressful parenting situations go, I’d have to put the college selection process somewhere near the top of the list.
Sure, unlike the early years, there are no messy diapers or playdate disasters, but there are still lots of hard decisions to make, and there’s still that irrational feeling that whatever you do is about to ruin your kid’s life. Oh, and crying – there’s still lots of crying.
At least for us, there was. When my oldest daughter started the college application process I felt like I’d been transported back seventeen years to when she was an infant, and every decision was fraught with uncertainty. Everyone – from counselors to other parents to family members – was trying to tell me what was best for my kid. (Remember the mom who always tried to push her potty training method on you? Yeah, like that. )
Making our situation even more of a hurdle: Our daughter had decided to pursue music. She’s a singer/songwriter and plays piano and guitar, and she felt certain that performing was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. And in case you were wondering how the conversation goes when you tell someone your kid is going to be a musician, it’s like this: First you get the raised eyebrow, then the consolatory pat on the back, and it always ends with, “That’s too bad she’ll be living in your basement forever.”
Photo by João Silas
To the shock of some of our friends, my husband and I had absolutely no reservations about helping her follow her dream. We are both in creative fields, and we knew the rewards of being able to make a living at something we loved doing. We were also familiar with the stigma that comes with pursuing a non-traditional career, and how most people would judge us for not encouraging her to relegate music to “just a hobby.”
But this was a girl who’d been singing since she was 12, who was already seeking out and playing gigs on her own, and practiced her music every single day. We knew it wasn’t just a passing phase.
So we were determined to support her one hundred percent, and to that end, we started looking for schools that fit with her ultimate goal – to be a working musician. We soon discovered that smaller colleges or conservatories might be a better fit. From business to science to visual or performing arts, they can offer curriculums that are more focused on one’s specific interests, and we had a hunch it might be more useful in the long run for our daughter’s career.
She did apply – and get accepted – to a number of schools, but we ultimately decided on a small music conservatory with just a few hundred students. And while it didn’t exactly sync with her college counselor’s Ivy League vision for one of her star pupils, it just made more sense; that prestigious college might sound good to everyone else, but when it came to music, their stiff curriculum and emphasis on baroque music meant nothing to our girl who had plans to join Lady Gaga on the top 40 charts.
Flash forward almost four years and we feel entirely confident that we made the right choice. The school ended up being a perfect fit for my daughter, and gave her the tools she needed to pursue music as a career. For example, in addition to the traditional music classes she was taking, they offered classes in music business and management, producing, and recording – all courses she wouldn’t have access to at most traditional colleges.
Another big plus: They offered us more aid – half of her tuition – than any of the other larger music schools and universities. And with less competition for jobs she was able to find a position on campus that paid much better than most schools’ work-study programs, and avoided having to find an off-campus job.
My daughter will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in a few months, and not only has she loved her time at the school, it’s led to numerous professional opportunities, and allowed her to meet and be mentored by people in her industry. Best of all, to prove those naysayers wrong, she’s currently fronting two bands, and already has a job lined up in the music business post-graduation.
I don’t think she’ll be needing that room in the basement after all.
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