Has your student studied music, dance, art, or some other art form throughout their school career? Are they considering continuing to study in college — perhaps not as a major, but just for pleasure? As they enter college, many students, and their families, are focused on academic subjects, choosing a major, and aiming for a career. It is a good thing to be focused, but your student should also keep in mind that college is a time of exploration and expanding horizons. While it is important that your student have goals and keep their eye on those goals, it is also important to balance life with the things that your student enjoys.
The importance of studying the arts, however, goes well beyond the simple enjoyment and fulfillment that your student may gain. There are some very specific benefits that your student will gain from studying the arts. If they have already spent years studying some form of the arts, your student has already gained some of these benefits. Encourage them to continue, if they are interested, and the benefits can only be greater.
There are certain qualities that successful students have, and certain qualities that less successful students lack. Studying any form of the arts may help students reinforce some of the qualities that will help your student succeed. Of course, studying the arts is not the only way to gain these qualities, but it can certainly help. Consider the following:
- Time Management — This may be the single most important quality necessary for success in college. Once away at school, students are responsible for planning and ordering their lives. Students who know how to plan ahead, organize, and balance their commitments are the students who succeed. While it may seem contradictory that adding something like music or dance lessons to an already full schedule will help, students who have fit these activities into their busy high school schedules have already practiced the art of time management. They have learned to balance, to prioritize, to multitask and to make necessary choices and sacrifices.
- Discipline — Students who study any form of art know that it takes discipline to succeed. It requires discipline to show up for lessons, to control your technique, to focus, to practice. It requires discipline to give up other things to make room in your life for what is important to you. Students learn, and are able to practice, the discipline of making and following through with choices. When faced with choices in college, these students will be prepared.
- Passion — Students involved in the arts have the opportunity to pursue something that they love. In following their passion, they experience the benefits and the satisfaction that comes from following your heart. They learn to commit to something simply because they love it — not necessarily because of a class, or a grade, or a career move. Loving something that you do is important in keeping balance in your life.
- Commitment — Learning to do something well requires commitment. That commitment takes time, energy, sacrifice, and follow-through. Students of the arts recognize that some things take time to develop and require a commitment of time, energy, and sacrifice. In this often commitment-phobic age, students who know the value of commitment will make a difference — for themselves and for others.
- Hard work — It takes hard work to become good at something. As much fun as it may be, as fulfilling and satisfying as it may be, as good as it is for the soul, it is hard work to become a good musician, dancer, or artist. Students who study these subjects learn the relationship between hard work and achievement. They are not afraid of doing something difficult. Many college students worry about hard — hard courses, hard instructors, hard majors. Students who are willing, and able, and unafraid, to take on challenges achieve more.
- Technique — Artists of any sort spend time learning to perfect, or at least improve, their technique. They learn that doing something well happens because of the attention paid to the small details. They learn that creating something beautiful is the result of the mastery of technique. Details matter. Details add up. Details require attention and work.
- Skill-building — Artists, musicians, dancers understand that there is always room for improvement. No matter how good you are, no matter how clearly you understand what you need to do, there is always room for improvement. Artists learn that you never stop growing in your ability, that feedback and critique are necessary tools, and that there is always somewhere to grow. The attitude of valuing the need to continue to strive for something more will help with college success.
- Criticism — Artists know that criticism is not a bad word; it is a tool for improvement. They understand that true criticism means helping someone find the best in themselves by giving them feedback. They understand that criticism is what helps them to grow. They understand, as well, how to give good criticism and feedback to others. College students who are able to receive — and use — criticism will gain more from others. College students who know how to constructively give feedback to others — positively, specifically, non-judgmentally, will be able to help those around them.
- Creativity — Art is more than technique, skill, discipline, and hard work. Although all of these qualities are required, art is ultimately creative — more than the sum of the parts. Students who study the arts begin to understand that there is something greater than they are and that requires that they bring something within themselves to their endeavors. It is the ultimate unity of the art form and the soul of the artist that creates the performance or work of art. Artists learn to tap that creative energy within themselves. They learn to be in touch with themselves in a profound and unique way.
- Self Investment — Ultimately, artists learn the importance of investing themselves completely in whatever they do. They blend the physical act, the mental focus, the emotional and the spiritual into a greater whole. Students who experience this totality of themselves will be better able to seek and maintain balance, focus, and ultimately, their dream of the future.
Help your college student find ways to feed, explore, and reinforce these qualities as they pursue their college education. Whether it is through the arts or some other medium, in addition to academics, social life and career preparation, encourage your student to prepare themselves for success and fulfillment.