Berklee is a music college that is unparalleled in the world. In fact it IS the biggest music college worldwide and one of the most culturally diverse colleges as well. At Berklee it’s not all just ponies and butterflies though so here are some of the things that I think everybody should know before applying.
You should start looking for housing EARLY
If you’re like me and don’t want to pay $2,000+ for a shared bedroom on campus you might want to start your hunting for housing early on. Boston isn’t exactly huge and students make up almost 40% of its population… Easy to see that finding a place to stay can be a hassle… and it is, especially when you’re looking for an apartment from overseas. General off campus housing prices can range from $600 – $1500 per bedroom – the earlier you start looking the better are your chances to saving some money!
It’s a LOT of work
Unlike in many European music colleges at Berklee ALMOST EVERY CLASS is being graded based on how well you do with your homework, your projects and your exams… And you’ll be getting a LOT of homework almost all the time. This might seem tedious to some but with a college education this expensive you might understand that they are trying to give you your money’s worth in terms of learning progress. Despite it being overwhelming sometimes the homework and project assignments really helped me to move forward in many subjects and have greatly improved me speed in tasks like harmonic analysis and even essay-writing.
For all this work to not become too overwhelming I’d definitely recommend saving specific time slots every week specifically for homework and learning. I usually went to the historic part of Boston’s Public Library because it’s a very serene and distraction-free learning and working environment where getting stuff done is much more fun.
Speaking of essays…
Don’t underestimate liberal arts classes!
No matter if you’re a degree or diploma student you will have to take some of the liberal arts classes that Berklee is offering. Those range from writing and literature classes to sciences, art history, cultural studies and much, much more. Most of you will start off with “Writing and Communication” or, depending on your TOEFL/IELTS scores, “English as a Second Language” as well as a class called “Artistry, Creativity and Inquiry”.
I started with the former and strangely enough it turned out to be one of my favorite classes during the first semester (which was mainly because I had a fantastic and really engaging professor). It was, however, a lot of work – reading, researching and writing essays where the tasks we were asked to do at least once a week -the class also happens 3 times a week! It really helped me to develop my writing skills I met a bunch of great people in that class that I certainly wouldn’t have met otherwise!
The latter explores the general concepts of the artists role in society and different approaches to nurturing creativity. This class involves some light essay writing and several in-class presentations or performances (depending on the teacher) and it is made up out of all the people in your assigned peer group.
The thing about the amount of work that you have to do is that you might have way less time to spend with your instrument than you would’ve initially hoped for (which is not necessarily a bad thing because you’ll still learn A LOT).
You should do well in class
We get it, many people just want to be incredible performers and don’t care too much about anything that college teaches them… But remember what you and your family are paying for and how all the resources you need are right at your fingertips here at Berklee. Maintaining a good academic standing can go a long way from you yourself learning a lot more from your classes to you having a better relationship with your professors who might actually end up hiring you one day. Many of the college’s rewards and awards are also tied to a good academic standing so if you’re doing well your efforts can come around be rewarded.
Almost all classes have midterm and final exams
Did you ever wonder what all that “finals week” madness on social media around the holiday season is all about… Brace yourself because you’ll know once you’re here. During midterm and finals week literally all classes are requiring you to take some form of a test, write a paper, play a prepared piece and so on… THIS is why you want to make sure to stay in time with your homework assignments because these two phases are when things get intense!
Not all opportunities are obvious
With the ridiculous amount of things that are happening at Berklee ALL THE TIME is is easy to miss some really informative and often inspiring events like clinics, readings, seminars and Q&A sessions with incredible performers, speakers and experts from all areas of the music business. It is important that you check the “Berklee-Hub” and the other event schedules to not miss an opportunity that won’t be coming again any time soon.
Nobody is networking for you
Let’s face it, the music business is pretty much the most relationship-driven industry in the world. People will hire you because they know you as a great person (who also happens to be a great player) and virtues such as being on time, always having the music prepared for rehearsals, friendliness and exhibiting an overall professional attitude can go a long way. Get to know people right away! Especially during orientation week meeting new people is as easy at it gets… Just go by this mantra: “Hey, I’m <name>, what’s your instrument?” – and immediately you’ll have something to talk about… Just make sure that this isn’t the only thing you have to ask them 🙂
With so many killing musicians from all over the world you really don’t wanna let the chance of an incredible collaboration go by because you didn’t want to introduce yourself to the guy sitting at the other side of the table in the cafeteria.