I Squandered My Time In College – Part 1 (Attitude/Strategy Going In)

Monday, July 29th, 2013
flag outside of Berklee College of Music

Photo credit: New England Magazine


As I was putting together my application for the BMI Musical Theater Workshop, I couldn’t help but be frustrated with myself that I don’t know as much as I could; I’m certainly not as fast as I could be at writing out/fleshing out music.

I’m pretty okay with Logic and Pro Tools… until it came to preparing my sheet music. I got faster throughout the weekend, but I should really be more proficient in composing music in software programs.

Warning: You’re about to be introduced to the mindset of a spoiled young lady.

When I was graduating high school – and especially toward the end of that summer, after I’d been working with real life professional theater people – I did not want to go to college.

I wanted to start working right away. And I knew that to work in the arts you definitely did not need a degree. (I stand by that opinion to this day, ’cause really, none of us care. Granted, if you go to a spectacular school, you can get some mileage out of networking and name recognition of your school.)

For me, as someone coming out of high school with no money of my own, I would’ve needed help from my parents – at least a security deposit on an apartment, and first month’s rent. I might have even needed more depending on how many jobs I could get and what they’d pay.

Yes, that would’ve been asking a lot… but far less than asking for a who-even-knows how many thousands of dollars education.

I begged and pleaded to just let me work and see what happens. My parents weren’t having it. They said I could do whatever I wanted with my life, but if I didn’t go to college they weren’t going to help me out with one cent. If I did go to college, they’d foot the bill.

Unlike many parents, they didn’t care where I went! I could move to whatever state I wanted, and study whatever I wanted. As long as I was going to an accredited school, things were copacetic.

The fact that someone metaphorically handed me a silver platter saying, “Here’s a free college education to the school of your choice, go nuts,” and I said “uuuuugggghhhh. I can’t believe you’re making me go to college” – that’s the really spoiled part of me coming through.

When I got to college I viewed it as basically a waste of time that I wanted to blast through as quickly as possible. I tested out of things, started passing all the CLEP tests the school allowed, took the few “real” (aka academic) classes that couldn’t be CLEP-ped out of online at a community college. I looked for every shortcut possible.

I will say, I really had a knack for reading all the school materials and finding out every shortcut that was possible for me to get more credits. This was actually something people always pointed out in high school too – my ability to get out of every single class that wasn’t needed to graduate.

If it wasn’t theater or music, I didn’t want to do it. And most of the time, I figured out how to avoid it. (Don’t know what that skill says about me, but *dusts off shoulders* nonetheless.)

Exterior of Berklee building at Boylston street

Photo credit: mmone.org

So, I was blasting(-ish) through college. And yes, I was working all the time, which helped a lot with my future.

I knew that most people in the entertainment industry – with or without degrees – start in internships or in those jobs where you work a whole lot of hours for a whole little money.

I figured if I’d have to do that anyway, I might as well get that part done in college.

I don’t actually think that was a necessarily bad strategy. It did help. And it did make it so that when I left school I somehow made it on my own.

(Of course, you could argue whether the nights I spent sleeping on a New York street or in a little homeless shelter count as “making it,” but I never had to move back in with my parents and I didn’t die. So, yeah, I’m gonna say I made it on my own*.)

(*Note: On my own should come with an asterisk because I slept on friends’ couches, people treated me to dinner, and so forth. I had helpful people in my life. I’m not an island, and I get that.)

But can I please stop with the clarifications, qualifications, and side notes, and just say that working through college definitely helped my post-college life immensely?

But how did it affect my in-college life? Let’s talk about that tomorrow.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?