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Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search

While the college search can be difficult enough for those looking into popular fields like business and nursing, for those pursuing a career in the music industry, the college search can seem like a daunting task. Martin Atkins, Department Chair at SAE Chicago, offers some tips on how to make the college search a bit easier. SAE Chicago's music business program at the River North campus in Chicago offers an intensive course of study that prepares students for careers in the music business and entertainment industry. Globally, SAE has been one of the leading institutions for Creative Media Education.

Martin Atkins
SAE Chicago
820 N. Orleans St., Suite 125
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 300-5685

Prior to working with SAE Chicago's music program, Martin Atkins had three decades of experience in the music business. As a published author of three books, one of which became a music business bestseller on Amazon, Atkins has been called upon to speak at over 100 schools and prestigious events around the world. As a performer, writer, entrepreneur and speaker, Atkins can also back up his real-world experience with an educational background. Having obtained an Associate's degree in Applied Science in Recording & Music Technology and in pursuit of a Bachelor's degree in the Entertainment & Media Business Program at Madison, Atkins offers a unique perception of what the college search should be like.

Research, Verify, Question (Repeat)

"Spend as much time researching your new school, as you would researching a new car. Ask people about their experiences, look at reports online and scratch below the surface. Research the faculty and find out if it is active in the field. Find out how long the program is, how affordable it is, whether or not it has career placement assistance and if there is a large global alumni that you can tap into. Also, think about your preference of learning, whether it's sitting at a desk or a more hands-on type of learning. Figure out your learning style, and find a school that accommodates it."

S.W.O.T. Yourself - What Are You?

"It is well worth pausing for a minute, turning off Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr, to really think about who you are and what's important to you. Sit quietly for a few minutes and take the time to S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) yourself. Write a bunch of stuff down on a piece of paper including what you want to do and what excites you. It is not a world where we can all do what we want all of the time, but what you choose to go to school for needs to drive you and excite you."

Think Your Time Commitments Through

"School is a commitment. At its best, you'll want to stay after scheduled hours to network, hang, create, listen and attend workshops. If you are traveling from a distance, working a full-time job and are easily distracted, you should make sure whatever school you choose accommodates that. However, even if your program is accommodating, it is never going to be easy. Some crazy juggling and long hours are normal in just about every business these days - don't be afraid of that. The challenge will put you in a great place to be relentless and unstoppable, but again, take a little time to think your time commitments through."

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Don't Fear 'For-Profit' Schools 

"Many people are unfamiliar with 'for-profit' schools and how they operate. Schools, such as SAE, require instructors to meet rigorous qualifications to teach courses, and are subject to visits from accrediting bodies at least once per year. Our faculty must have at least a qualification above the class they are teaching. For example, to teach an associate's degree, a faculty member should have a bachelor's degree. Some schools only require professional experience – that's cool, but I definitely became a better teacher once I had been a student."

Go To The School And Ask If You Can Sit In On A Class

"Hang out, check out the learning resource center – is there a mind-boggling selection of books, software, DVDs? Are there students in it? What is the atmosphere like? Are people happy? If the school doesn't have a good vibe for you, whether it's SAE Chicago or not, then get up and leave!"

Related: Ask An Expert: Dressing For Work During The Summer Heat

Sara Lugardo is a professional writer out of Chicago, Illinois. She has a Bachelor's in Communication and is currently working on her Master's. Her work can be found on

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