The question of whether or not to go to college, or to go back to college, is one that many musicians ask themselves at some point during their career. Going to college is challenging for musicians, and the truth is, a college degree isn’t a requirement to have a successful music career. But a degree can help, and if you major in a field like business, sound engineering, or marketing, that degree can both enhance your music career and provide another source of income if you ever decide to change your role in or get out of the music business.
But going to school as a touring musician presents its own unique set of challenges. Not only will you have to divide your time between school and your career, your decision could generate some unsettled feelings between you and your bandmates. When you’re on the road, the last thing you want to do is make a mistake that creates a bad atmosphere in your band, but going to school could be an important investment in your future. Luckily, there are ways that you can manage school while you’re on tour. You’ll just have to plan ahead.
Consider Online Degrees
When you’re on the road, the flexibility of an online degree can help you to keep up with your studies. Thanks to technology like online learning platforms and webinars, many colleges offer accredited online degrees in a large variety of majors. While some of these degree programs will require you to be on-campus on occasion, others can be completed completely online without you even having to be in the same part of the country that the school is located in.
Earning an online degree isn’t an easier option than in-person programs are, though there are some definite advantages to an online degree. Online programs often offer scheduling flexibility, allowing you to log in and complete coursework at times when it works for you. Some programs do require you to be online at certain pre-scheduled times, though, so make sure that you understand the details of how a program is delivered before signing up.
When earning a degree online, you’ll have to be self-motivated. Some programs incorporate regular deadlines, while others rely on you to pace your own progress. A self-paced program may be ideal since you can accommodate unusually busy tour dates, but make sure that you’re ready for the demands of holding yourself accountable for getting your schoolwork done, too.
You will definitely need reliable internet access if you choose to pursue an online degree, but there are plenty of ways to access the internet on the road. Public wi-fi is one option, though your phone can double as a mobile hotspot when wi-fi isn’t available. If you plan to regularly use your phone as a hotspot, you may want to invest in an unlimited data plan so that you don’t rack up charges for the extra data you use.
Transfer Into a College Program
If you’re thinking of earning a degree, you may not have to start all the way at the beginning of a program. Many schools allow you to transfer credits that you’ve previously earned at other qualifying institutions. If you’ve taken some courses or even earned an associate’s degree, you may be able to apply some or all of those credits toward your new degree. Some schools will even offer credits for military service. Receiving credit for previous school or real-life experience can also help to keep the cost of your school more manageable, since you’ll have to take fewer courses and can graduate sooner.
Before you assume that all of your credits will transfer to a new school, verify this with the school first. Your new school will review your transcript and let you know how many of your credits will be applied toward the new program. Some schools have limits on the number of credits you can transfer, and some schools won’t accept credits you’ve received for courses that aren’t seen as being compatible with their courses. If you’re considering a few different schools, their credit transfer policies may help you to decide which school would be the best and most affordable option for you.
How to Pay for College
When you’re on tour, you may not have thousands and thousands of dollars stored away to pay for college - and that’s okay. There are many types of financial assistance available to help you pay for college.
Two of the most common types of aid are subsidized and unsubsidized loans. If you take out a subsidized loan, the Department of Education will cover the interest on the loan while you’re in school, leaving you with less to pay off once you graduate. Unsubsidized loans are fixed-rate loans that accrue interest while you’re in school. If you’re interested in these or other types of financial aid, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form when you apply to a school.
Balancing school and touring will be a challenge, but if you can manage both, then you won’t have to worry about breaking into the music scene after graduating, since you’ll already be an established musician. A college degree can help to boost your music career, as well as giving you other employment options in the future. It will take some determination, but you can absolutely earn a degree while on the road.