Emerson College (visited 9/15/17)
“We take a lot of joy and pride in our work,” said one of the students. “If you’re applying, we hope you’ll want to bring that here.”
There’s a unique vibe about the place, the students, and the faculty. “Folks are dedicated, but in a collaborative way that’s atypical of some of the industries they go into. These fields can be very competitive. The focus here is learning the skills needed to be successful but it’s about collaboration, pulling in the people to be successful: they need to work together. Filmmakers need writers and actors and tech people,” said the rep. “Students have to be proactive,” said a student running one of their Roundtables – an info session for Performing Arts applicants. “It’s up to us to take advantage of things. Sometimes opportunities fall into your hands, but you have to recognize them and surround yourself with the right people.”
Out of this collaboration comes a great deal of trust in the students. Students manage many things on campus such as staffing the visitor center, including supervising other students. “They let us run with things,” said one student. “We get to plan orientation, for example. It’s our task to communicate the values and expectations of the place. We have help, but it’s our job.”
Students get involved in a lot outside of the classroom, as well. About 8% of the students go Greek; timing of Rush depends on the organization. They have 14 DIII teams, “but nothing involving water, ice, horses, or a sword,” said the rep. They have the only subterranean gym in the city. Lots of freshmen came in who want to play hockey, but “we need enough people to pay for ice time. Right now, we don’t really have a critical mass,” said the rep. Students interested in particular activities not currently offered do try to fill gaps in activities when they see the need.
Students who come here must really want the big city feel. This is very much an urban campus right in the heart of Boston. There is no central campus; most of the campus buildings sit right on Boylston and Tremont Streets along Boston Common with 90% of buildings within about two blocks. Buildings have good security, and students need IDs to get in. A couple alleyways bisect the campus; there’s a res hall and the dining hall on one of the alleyways. “I’ve heard good things about the new dining,” said the rep. Many local vendors also work with the EC cash system: students can load money and use it like a debit card. Campus is walkable to the North End, the financial district, Boston Public Library, and downtown. A green line T stop is right across the street on Boston Common. There are other lines within a few blocks.
Freshmen and Sophomores must live on campus, and when renovations at 80 Boylston (buildings are usually referred to by their address) are complete, juniors will also be required. Finding off-campus housing “is a process and takes some looking around. The housing office will help them, do roommate speed-dating, provide tips on realtors and rentals, etc. They’re responsible, but we’ll help teach them. Housing they find isn’t necessarily downtown, but definitely in the nearby neighborhoods. It can be an adventure, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gotten housing,” said the admissions representative. Sometimes they can accommodate older students under a lottery.
However, students are not “stuck” in Boston … Emerson runs 2 other campuses as well!
- Kasteel Well in the Netherlands can hold 85 students at a time who are chosen at random, and applications are due a year in advance. This program is meant for sophomores since much of the coursework fulfills the GenEd requirements, but others can attend if their schedules permit. BFA Acting and Musical Theater students may only go in the summer.
- Los Angeles: juniors and seniors can spend a semester in LA interning and taking classes.
The curriculum is highly experiential, and the degrees are oriented towards Communications and Arts. Because the academics are relatively unique, they’re worth spending some time looking into. Majors are always evolving and new majors are created because they recognize a need. Their newest programs include:
- Comedic Arts BFA, a truly unique program (the only one in the country!) which draws from performing arts, creative writing, and visual media arts and then adds the comedy. There is an internship semester option in LA, typically for seniors. They have a partnership with Citizens Upright Brigade, but they’re allowed to do internships with anything.!
- Business of Creative Enterprises BA, a mash-up of communication classes with the arts. This is meant for students who want to do business but in a creative environment. This is the only type of business degree Emerson offers.
- Writing, Literature, and Publishing
- Sports Communication: PR, journalism, sports diplomacy (engaging through sports with organizations, community, etc).
Other noteworthy programs include:
- Political Communication, marketing,
- Media Art Production BFA: film, sound, animation, photo, tv, writing for film and tv, etc.
- Visual Arts: they can start right away as freshmen.
- Stage and Scene Design/Technology, Stage and Production Management, and Theater Design/Technology.
- Communication Sciences and Disorders
- Theater: “We’re pretty multifaceted. We’re actors but we’re a lot more.”
- Students must audition: Early Admission applicants audition in November. “Don’t try to confuse your auditioner! Do what YOU love, even if it’s overdone. You do it differently than anyone else.”
- Musical Theater applicants perform 2 contrasting monologues, 2 contrasting 32-bar cuts, and dance. Because the acting portion is the same as the acting audition, they can express interest in either if they don’t make it into Musical Theater.
- Theater and Performance
- There are productions organized by the school and directed by professionals/ professors but are designed, stage managed, and acted by students. This provides and Artistic Training Lab. Freshmen can’t audition because they all do stage crew assignments that first year. Everyone gets the experience and interacts in a professional environment to get a feel for how things run.
- The other productions are through the Student Theater organizations: there are 5 main ones and others that pop up occasionally. There are 7 comedy groups, 2 dance companies, 5 a capella groups, etc. “Everything is student run and we get our hands dirty. We fail sometimes and have spectacular comebacks. You’re really doing it,” said one of the students.
Students must fulfill liberal arts components, and classes involve a lot of writing/communication components regardless of what major students are in. Students can complete a BFA in some areas, but these are not considered Conservatory Style with the exception of Musical Theater and Acting (in Theater & Performance): these are only conservatory style for the 3rd and 4th years after completing the liberal arts requirements. They have learning support for students who need it.
There is an Honors College which allows students to substitute LA classes. Instead of history or science, for example, they have interdisciplinary classes that will fulfill these. This is highly writing focused and students must complete a thesis at the end as part of their program! A merit scholarship is attached to being in the program; this is the largest merit opportunity. It is a “very small and very competitive program,” said the rep. From the 900 incoming freshmen, the Honors program takes a maximum of 50 students; they only consider academics in deciding who is selected, including grades and a specific honors recommendation if not submitting test scores.
After submitting the Common App (including the Honors Supplement should they choose to do this), applicants get access to their Portal, and they absolutely have to log into this. The writing supplements get submitted separately. This is where they’ll upload their Test Optional Supplements and Financial Aid documents.
Some majors are a little more competitive. Performing Arts is “super rigid.” Students can opt to go test-optional buy submitting a portfolio piece or essay if that represents them better. The Performing Arts have to audition, Design Tech/Management submits a portfolio review/interview, and Comedic Arts submits a writing or performance piece.