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Reasons to Attend a Specialty School

Posted By Leah Kaminsky


Have you known since age four that you wanted to make mixed media installations and show your art in a famous SoHo gallery?  Or maybe you are a violin virtuoso...Carnegie Hall here you come!  (If this is you, congratulations on your steadfast commitment! When *I* was four, I wanted someday to be the parking lot attendant at MIT who ushered me and my Dad into the parking lot each morning, him for work and me for preschool.)
Many students who are certain that they want to be an artist/musician/actress/etc., are faced with a choice: majoring in these disciplines at a more general college or attending a school like Berklee College of Music  or the Rhode Island School of Design, where they will be able to specialize early and be surrounded by other students who share their interests.  So what should you do if you find yourself in this boat? 


Tour schools. Yes, we advise all of our applicants to do this, but it’s especially important for you. Why? Because you might be all about music all the time right up until you arrive on campus and discover this is all anyone talks about. Or, you might think music is a hobby of yours but that you need a more diverse environment right up until you set foot on that huge university campus and realize you want to talk about music, all the time. You can’t know until you go.

Talk to alumni. No one knows better than an alumnus what a specialty school is really like. Some will tell you that their experience in a specialty school was the best thing they could have done - that the faculty were supportive, nurturing and understanding, and the environment was one in which they could really grow and thrive. Others will tell you that the students were so competitive and the criticism so pointed that they became so paralyzed they could no longer perform, or they had to take a break from their passion for several years afterward. Looking beyond the rankings (which are pretty arbitrary anyway) to what the school is actually like to attend is crucial.

Our best advice to you is this: your choice needs to be all about fit. You can be an artist coming from a liberal arts or large public institution.  Similarly, you can go to music school and end up being an accountant later in life because, let’s face it, life is mysterious and unpredictable. As always we advocate applying to a range of schools where you can be happy and successful.  Our unofficial mantra at Just Start is “There is more than one way to be happy and there is not just one perfect school for you.”  (Seriously, if we ever open a yoga studio, this will be written in flowery letters on our mirrors and on all the awesome gear we’ll sell.)

So, you rising seniors, as you get ready to select your outfits for the first day of your last year of high school, chant with us:  “There is more than one way to be happy and there is not just one perfect school for you.” And get out there and start making your wide and varied lists!  We’re here to help you every step of the way.  Om.....

Jamie Oldham is a college admissions coach for Just Start Applications, and a pretty great gal, too. While her interests are varied (she does have a higher degree in Liberal Arts, after all), one of her great life's passions is helping students and parents through the admissions process, doling out great college and graduate school admissions tips along the way. Check out her full bio here and contact us today to get her on your team.

Reasons to Attend a Specialty School

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Reasons to Attend a Specialty School You're an artist. You love what you do. But does that mean you should attend a specialty school? Just Start Applications' Jamie Oldham looks into the pros and cons.

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