Planning Your Classes
Last week, we talked about exams and certifications you need to know about to be a successful music education major. In this post, we explain how to plan your classes and other strategies to reduce your credit hours.
How to Balance Your Classes
When you see the word "practicum," you may think of student teaching during your last semester. However, you will need to do observation and teaching in schools as early as your sophomore year. The time you spend in schools will gradually increase until you student teach, and it can take up to half your schedule. That’s why you need to plan ahead.
You will come across several classes in your major that are only offered in the fall or spring. If you’re an instrumentalist at a small school, some of your methods classes may not even be offered every year. In addition, you need to know whether you will be student teaching in the fall or spring. If you are student teaching, you cannot take any other classes. You may need to sign a contract that you won’t work too many hours or have too many extracurricular activities. You don’t want to end up in a scenario where you take an extra semester to take that one fall class you missed. Many schools have a four-year plan to help you strategically sign up for classes depending on your year of entry.
Reduce Your Time at School
If the idea of finishing school in four and a half years is unbearable, there are some options, but it will take a lot of work. First, see if your university offers an MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) degree in five years. You wouldn’t be graduating any sooner. On the other hand, you would be walking out with both an undergraduate and a master’s degree, which would usually take at least six years. This is a great option if you are already planning on going to graduate school for an Education degree.
To reduce the number of hours to complete your undergraduate degree, start in high school. Take AP classes and CLEP classes to reduce the number of general education and music theory courses you could be required to take in college. Next, you can take a few classes in the summer. Many are offered online, so you could still work a summer job or live in another state. Combining tests and summer classes could shave off an entire semester, and you could graduate in just four years.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Not concerned about graduating late? You should still try to limit the number of non-required electives and take music requirements for noncredit if that is an option at your institution. Why? Financial aid and scholarships will cover a portion of your tuition. However, there is usually a maximum number of credit hours this will cover. Unfortunately, music education degrees can take up to 150 hours to complete, while most universities only require 126 hours to graduate. In most cases, financial aid will be extended to cover your degree, but this may not be honored if you take too many extra classes or change your major too many times.
Music education can be complicated, but you’ll come out successful if you plan your classes well. Don’t be discouraged! Keep in mind that in just a few years, you could be inspiring kids of all ages to fall in love with music.
Dr. Randall Bayne, CEO of ScholarshipAuditions.com