Choosing the Right School

Every month, the editors receive dozens of phone calls from prospective students (and their parents) asking how to find a suitable program. As we've told
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Every month, the editors receive dozens of phone calls from
prospective students (and their parents) asking how to find a suitable
program. As we've told many of you on the telephone, Mix can not
recommend specific education programs. This is partly because in order
to choose a school, the applicant must research the programs in-depth.
That means visiting schools, checking out their facilities and finding
out all you can about what the program offers. And the main reason we
can't tell you where to apply is simply that we're not you. The school
that's right for you will be the one that fulfills your needs, teaches
what you want to learn, costs what you can pay, etc.

We offer an audio education directory (
www.mixonline.com/ar/audio_audio_education_programs/index.htm
) to
provide a starting point for doing that research, so that you can find
the school that suits you. After you review the directory, we strongly
suggest that you then request brochures and course catalogs from the
schools that interest you, and visit the ones you're seriously
considering. Schools may also be able to get you in touch with former
students who can give you a first-hand account of their experience.

As you wade through all of this material, keep in mind the following
15 points; these have appeared in Mix before, but we find that,
like our directory, they warrant repeating.

1. Length and purpose of program. Will you be in
school for seven weeks, three months or four years? Are you committed
to earning a degree, or will a certificate do?

2. Accreditation. You most likely can trust a
school that's accredited by a reputable body - a state or federal
Department of Education, the National Association of Schools of Music
(NASM), the National Association of Trade & Technical Schools
(NATTS) or the National Trade School Congress (NATC). But just because
a school isn't accredited doesn't mean it's a "fly-by-night"
operation.

3. Prerequisites. Entry to in-depth electronics
courses often requires a solid, formal background in math and physics.
A short program may require some recording experience.

4. Program philosophy. Does the educator first
teach the academic, theoretical side of recording, or head right for
the faders? Does the school offer a balance of book/lecture teaching
and hands-on training? What's the ratio of studio time to class time,
and how often does the school let you use the equipment? Does the
school expose students to audio's past, present and future? Does the
school teach equipment maintenance and troubleshooting techniques?

5. Interdisciplinary opportunities. Does the school
delve more into music composition and production, or music recording?
Audio for video? Radio production? Soundtracks for film? Multimedia?
Live sound and location recording? Corporate and industrial uses of
audio? How much time is devoted to each area? The more facets of audio
covered, the better your chance of finding a job in this age of studio
diversification.

6. Job placement opportunities. Does the school
assist the student in the agonizing weeks following graduation -
offering help with resume writing or providing real job leads or the
names of facilities that have hired other graduates?

7. Track record. What percentage of graduates have
found work in recording, production or a related field? Will the school
provide names so you can call them to discuss the program?

8. Real-world exposure. Does the school provide
students with the chance to record live sessions, for instance, where
you meet with local musicians, set up in the studio, record basics, do
overdubs, mix and premaster?

9. Teaching devices. Do educators use "the real
thing," textbooks, technical audio journals and/or audio-visual aids?
Do they teach theory using a book or using a book and equipment? Does
the school have its own multitrack studio, or do students travel to
professional facilities where the school buys session time?

10. Internship program. Does the school require
students to work in a studio as an intern (great experience, no pay)?
Few studio managers will hire graduates who haven't enjoyed the
real-life experiences offered by an internship. If the school requires
an internship, must you find your own internship - which gives you
job-hunting chops - or does the school set it up?

11. Financial considerations. Will paying for your
education leave you bankrupt? Does the school grant scholarships, offer
loans or otherwise help students secure financial aid?

12. Business and management courses. Does the
school expose students to the business of recording or economics of
studio management?

13. Private or public institution? State-owned
schools are sometimes better funded than private ones, but it takes
longer for them to acquire new equipment: Red tape and magnetic tape
don't always mix very well.

14. Location. If the school or program is close to
a thriving audio/music or video/film production marketplace, the
employment potential will be relatively high if you choose to stay in
the area.

15. Reputation. A well-known, well-connected school
tends to attract the attention of equipment manufacturers who are
willing to set up mutually beneficial relationships with the school,
thereby allowing students to learn the ropes on specific (and usually
popular) types of systems and gear.

Hopefully these tips will help you get started. Good luck!
—the editors