Emerson College - Comments and Student Experiences|
Although I can't cover all bases of my experience at Emerson, I will comment on the things that I feel are important and that come to mind:
- Food -
You need to know this now: the food at Emerson is not of good quality. I at first didn't understand people's eye-rolling and loathing of the dining hall when I arrived as a freshman, because the food, for the most part, seemed okay. Then, over time, I saw what people are talking about. It's as though the dining hall tries to be impressive at two specific times-- the beginning of the year and whenever it's an accepted student's day. The most obvious illustration of this is that the dining hall typically serves the same meals every day, but on accepted student's day, they served calamari and lemon-zest baked cod. It is very obvious when the dining hall is trying to kick up its efforts to look good, and when it is performing with apathy (which, unfortunately, is most of the time). Emerson dining has failed 6 out of 12 health inspections recently. The fruits and salad bar are left out to sit too long without being covered, and this significantly affects its freshness (look at the tomatoes, you will see). Their idea of fruit salad is canned fruit. Their idea of vegan meals are dishes which use ladles of oil and have the disclaimer, "Warning: Contains Dairy." I will tell you this now-- the place will make you sick, or you will get sick of it. It does get worse. The staff also ranges from incredibly nice to incredibly rude, depending on who the person is and when you catch them. Better on-campus dining, such as The Max (150 Cafe) or Emerson Cafe are better, but only accept board bucks (dining dollars) and have few healthy options. Also, if you have celiac's disease, please do yourself a favor and argue to opt out of the meal plan-- that is, unless you want to live on gluten-free corn chex mix your entire life.
- Academics -
I will be honest: the academics are not challenging at all. Although Emerson is considered at the top for film and television, as a member of the Visual Media Arts department, I did not feel challenged. I had no prior experience in film or television and as a result was very enlightened by my major requirements such as Foundations, History of Media Arts I and II, etc. I enjoyed them a lot and yes, I would do these classes over if given the chance. However, if you were one of those kids with AP classes in high school and graduated with a GPA equivalent to 90% or above, I will tell you this now-- you are not going to be very challenged.
In terms of general education classes, I still was not challenged. It was easy to cruise by with As. For exams, I would study the night before and ace (granted, I took good notes during the entire semester). The only class that I felt was challenging was SO 208 (Visual Society) with Professor Binkley. If you have a chance to take that class and you are interested in sociology, I highly recommend that you do. It was extremely refreshing-- to feel as though a professor was demanding me to struggle. Even then, I cruised by with A's on all assignments until the final exam. I did a 30 page thesis paper on panopticism and even that, I felt, was an expected amount of effort for a college class. In other words, even that was too easy.
Many students whine about their academics being too hard, but if you ask me, this is largely due to idle effort. Many Emerson students I know genuinely do not try that hard, but like to convince themselves that they do. In other cases, however, I am sure students have faced unfair grading or too many demands from professors. It happens everywhere. Here, however, I would think that most students that are complaining are doing so 'just to complain.' I make this judgment from my overall experience of the Emerson student body.
- Career Services and Abroad Programs -
The quality of career services (this includes internship offices) is a double-edged sword, if you ask me. I have had very positive and very negative experiences with this. If you are a prospective Emersonian, you should definitely consider what I am about to say strongly, as Emerson's career-oriented nature is generally a huge pull for incoming students.
The positive: Anna Umbreight is unbelievably helpful and should be utilized as a resource more. She is a career services counselor for the VMA department. Anna will be completely candid and honest with you in your endeavors, and will be thorough with her responses. She is literally the best resource I have experienced at Emerson, and I am the type of person that makes a point to seek every resource possible (as I am paying for them).
Career services also coordinates trips to places like New York where you can go to different TV studios. This is helpful when you want a sneak preview of what it's like on a real job setting, but isn't exactly the best for attaining an internship (which is what they typically advertise it for).
The negative: Emerson boasts about its internship and employment connections. Although they do have the connections, there are many restrictions to your abroad and internship experience:
- You must be a junior or senior to register internship credit. This means, if your prospective internship requires college credit (which most of them do), you cannot intern until your junior or your senior year.
- Your chances of going to LA (one of our most-advertised, strongest programs and Emerson investments), as said to me straight by Anna Umbreight, is essentially non-extistent if you have gone abroad or registered internship credit prior. This means that you basically are penalized if you have interned or traveled abroad before your trip to LA, and will thus not be able to go.
- The abroad programs that are most common are LA and Kasteel Well. Most Emerson abroad programs (although they do accept external programs, though these cost more money) involve general education classes in a place with all other Emerson students. For instance, if you go to Kasteel Well, you are going to live in a castle of Emerson students and take gen-ed (not major) classes for the most part. For some people, they prefer this. For people like me, going abroad is all about experiencing the world naked, with no previous ties. It's an experience that changes you. This is not something I see in the way that the abroad programs work at Emerson-- and, to be quite honest, it seems to serve our generally insecure/socially immature student body very well.
- Residence Life, On-Campus Life, Personal Resources-
The Emerson Health & Wellness Center is both good and bad. If you're coming in with the flu or a cold, they are probably going to give you minimal treatment and boot you out of there-- and, to be honest, that's because it's not a big deal and there's not much you can do. The primary complaint I hear from the Health & Wellness Center is that they don't do enough, which is probably true, but you're not exactly an urgent case if you sneeze too much in the winter. There's not much care to be had. Needless to say, if you are experiencing more serious issues, this is a good place to start. Blood tests can be administered here, as well as a variety of other tests, and the staff is generally very nice.
Emerson hours: very bad. Don't get used to late-night hours at the library and gym, because they don't exist. If you are sick or get hurt past 5 PM on a weekday, or between 12 and 1 PM, expect to go to Tufts Medical Center instead of Emerson's health center. I find this particularly frustrating because we are not really a campus at Emerson, and therefore it's difficult to find many places that you can be other than your room or lobbies. There are quiet rooms in Piano Row and Little Building, but they are hardly ever utilized for that purpose (you will find someone's film production in there instead).
Residence Life at Emerson is just about as good as it gets, or, rather, as bad as it gets depending on who you are. For me, personally, I think that Emerson's residence life resources are ideal for the type of student body that goes to Emerson. Many (not all) Emersonians come from privileged backgrounds where they did not have to struggle too much (not to say that money automatically makes an easy life). Many Emersonians have difficulty managing their own lives responsibly. I don't know if it is just the floor I lived on, but mental illness was also a huge problem in my living community. There are people who seriously need guidance all the time, whether its on how to deal with x or y situation or something more serious.
Coincidentally, Emerson's RA system is possibly one of the most ridiculous ones I have ever seen. This is not coming from the standpoint of a heavy smoker or drinker or someone who has gotten caught and is now sour about Emerson RAs. I just feel that the system is excessive, but after seeing the needy, slightly clueless student body, it may just have to be. Emerson RAs make "rounds" (meaning they literally walk up and down every floor in groups of three to make sure nothing is happening) at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM. On weekends, they also do this at 1:00 AM. Emerson RAs are expected to act as therapists as well. This system is flawed to me because they have far too many responsibilities and are treated like parents when they are actually fellow students who are just as much of young fools as the rest of us. I personally hated this. I felt like I was in summer camp and someone was always watching me, when there was no reason to be watched. I was also irritated at the neediness of my fellow residents-- people who are much better off getting therapists and life coaches.
- Co-Curricular/Extracurricular Activities -
These are amazing and terrible at the same time, as many things in life can be. This review is written by a person that was extremely involved, had many friends, and great grades. I really did do it all. I was probably one of the most involved and active people on campus that I knew.
The good part about co-curricular activities at Emerson: There are so many, and they really are professionally-oriented. If you want some good experience, especially in comparison to what other schools provide, you will definitely get it here.
The bad part about co-curricular activities at Emerson: Everyone takes them (and themselves) far too seriously, many of them require auditioning/interviewing, and they foster a social environment where it is difficult to make true friends. There are two breeds of Emerson students: the motivated and the unmotivated. Because of their career-oriented nature, you will find mostly motivated students in extracurricular activities. With that said, there is also an underlying tension and competitiveness in the extracurricular environment. People act as though they are seriously being employed, and as a result will do anything to a) not slay their reputation (even if it means twisting truths to slay yours-- this never happened to me, but I have seen it happen) b) create social alliances. One thing is true about Emerson AND the industry: who you know is almost everything. If you're not on the "in" crowd with a TV production at Emerson Channel, per say, you may not get that part. It isn't always this case, but it often is.
Also, people take themselves too seriously. An "executive producer" of a $100 budget TV show on Emerson Channel which no one watches suddenly thinks they're the new Quentin Tarantino of Hollywood. Likewise, a reporter on a low-budget TV news show (one of the 8-million) on campus thinks that they are the new Matt Lauer. There are divides and misunderstandings for this reason, and people feel as though it is okay to act superior to others.
Best illustration of this: We are all paying the same tuition (ideally) to go to Emerson. Yet there are students who pledge 20 hours a week being "assistants" to other students-- shadowing them, getting their coffee, etc. when these students themselves are not even in the professional world and have not yet proved themselves to be worthy of this kind of attention on a professional level. The social hierarchy and inequalities are obvious. I knew one thing for sure: I was not about to run out of the TV studio get some junior their coffee or answer their e-mails for them. I have better things to do. Unfortunately, this also means you may miss out on other opportunities. At Emerson, many fake it until they make it, and that means turning campus into a fake system of castes and social hierarchies, too.
I am using TV as an example, but I have also been involved in Marketing, PR, Writing, etc. on campus. It's all about the same-- you have to interview or audition for positions (or fill out applications), and they don't choose everyone. The only positive I have to say about this is that, MOST OF THE TIME, your enthusiasm DOES matter more than your experience. However, again, who is casting you or choosing you? Other students, who are playing their own power-hungry game.
I remember going on a tour at Emerson and being amazed at their extracurriculars. Reality: To make that $3,000 budget film for their film organization, you have to be the ONE freshman whose script is picked. To be involved in this show, an older clique of students have to decide that they want you. You fall out of the graces of someone "powerful", or they simply have no opinion of you, and you may have no luck getting experience in these organizations later. The ultimate flaw of this is that many Emerson students are secretly insecure, and they, like anyone else, can choose to not like you for arbitrary reasons. Suddenly, this affects everything from your "work reputation" on campus to what you can immediately participate in.
There was a girl I knew who really, really wanted to be involved with a TV show. So they put her as camera girl. At a crew party one time (which she was conveniently not invited to), the entire party made fun of her eagerness, her appearance, and spent a good twenty or so minutes laughing at her and deciding that they hated her. Meanwhile, yes, she was a little socially awkward, but totally nice and deserving of respect. She was happy to be there. I can't say this type of experience was atypical for me to witness.
- Student Body -
I touched upon this before, but this is the primary reason I left. I am very friendly, and I did not have issues with many people on campus. With that said, I secretly didn't like most for their behavior. Emerson students are typically very immature. I am talking so immature that most other Emerson students agree with me.
They also can be arrogant, lazy, privileged, insecure, and socially inept. I read somewhere that someone said, "When I leave Emerson, the one thing I will have as a skill for sure is to spot Aspberger's." Although this statement is extremely insensitive to those with social disorders, I understand what it is trying to convey. Many Emerson students simply do not know how to communicate. They are socially inept, and make simple interactions painful. Those that are not typically can be very judgmental.
I have to tell you the type of person I am: I am very socially-conscious, and a humanitarian at heart. I love reading the news, volunteering, getting involved with causes, and I do not stand for words like "retards", "niggers", or "faggots" to be uttered in my presence. I think that this world needs to become more tolerant, and I have a high standard for what open-mindedness should be.
With that said, I was extremely happy to go to Emerson because I heard it was the #1 Gay Friendly School by another one of those arbitrary "best colleges at x and y" lists. Emerson is very gay friendly-- fantastic for that! But everything else? No...
"Retards" and "retarded" are common words used on campus. Someone wrote "niggers" on the elevator doors this year. I have heard Emerson students openly say that they are uncomfortable around black people, that they think ALL homeless people are there because they are drug addict losers, etc. There is a serious lack of awareness on campus-- serious! I cannot express to you how frustrating some class discussions were, because some (not all) people literally have no idea what is out there.
I also thought Emerson was a very politically active school-- not really. Many are not aware of Obama's policies, but love him blindly because he is the democrat. I once surveyed students about politics and it was difficult to find anyone with an opinion, much else anyone with an opinion they could validate with one simple fact.
I just felt I was really struggling to find people that were mature, could take care of themselves (and thus didn't need me to take care of them), genuine, and hardworking. More importantly, happy people can be difficult to find on campus. Sometimes, it seems like everyone is depressed or experiencing some sort of struggle mentally. It is really draining.
Also, diversity on campus is not very prevalent. Not in terms of interests, majors, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, anything.
With that said, some people make really golden friendships at Emerson. I made one or two. There are exceptions to everything I said, and I acknowledge that. I feel that Emerson is a very specific place for a very specific type of person-- and for those people, it's heaven. That might be you! But it wasn't me, and I made the appropriate changes in reaction to that (transferring).
One last thing-- you think greek life is nonexistent on campus, but that's not true. Like much of Emerson, social circles are a big deal. You will find it significantly easier to flourish on campus if you are in Kappa Gamma Chi (the female's 'professional' sorority) or the male-equivalent fraternity. Frats/Sororities do not live together. The rest is mostly for drinking.
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