Personal Management

Personal Skills for a Life in the Arts

What key survival skills do I need for a life in the arts?  Where do I go for help?  How do I develop good habits now that will serve me later?  How do I make the leap from high school to college?  What happens if I have academic or personal challenges?

Most students need some help at one time or another in college.  Many students expect the same kind of academic and social life they had in high school.  Instead, students find that they need to put in much more time and effort to be successful in college.  College of the Arts students are passionate about what they do.  Learn to use your passion to explore the vast number of opportunities open to you in your life in the arts.   The personal skills and habits developed in college will serve you for the rest of your life.

Survival Skills for a Life in the Arts

Develop a life career plan that includes financial success.  See the sections for Career Planning and Financial Resources for additional information.

Research what it takes to develop a sustainable life in the arts.  There are many resources out there.  This link is a free download of a book called, “Making Your Life as an Artist.”

Develop skills as an artist that will help you sustain your life in the arts.  Everything you do at Kent State will contribute to your career plan in some way. Skills such as time management, planning, budgeting, self discipline, negotiation, learning from your failures, taking care of your mind, body and spirit are all skills you can learn while you are in college.  Read about “10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success.”

Learn to be flexible.  This New York Times article examines looks at education from a long-term perspective and suggests that, “A major isn’t a lifelong sentence; it’s a jumping-off point. You’ll still stumble and have to recalibrate. But if you live life by connecting each successive dot, you open yourself up to possibilities you never could have planned.”

Student Studying, Learning, and Time-Management Tips

Here are some links to valuable resources:

Study Skills Tutoring at Kent State. Study skills tutors are trained to help students in time management, active learning, course and test preparation, stress management and test anxiety and goal setting and motivation.  Available at the KSU Academic Success Center.

TEDx Talk: “Learning Styles and the Importance of Critical Self-Reflection” by Tesia Marshik.  This talk debunks the myth of learning styles and instead discusses the importance of making meaningful connections to create learning.

“Top 12 Time-Management Tips” from US News and World Report

“8 Steps for Strong Time Management for College Students” by About Education.

Understanding the Syllabus and Getting Organized from KSU

Note-Taking, Study Skills, and Test-Taking Tips from Kent State University

Advice on How to Study in College

Library ServicesThe KSU Library has many services for students.  In addition to great study spaces, they offer workshops, offer support for college writing, and are home to the Writing Commons and Math Emporium.

Need Academic Help?  You are not alone!

Almost every student seeks assistance at one time or another.  It can be a big step to admit to yourself and others that you need help with a subject, especially if it is in your major area.  Don’t be embarrassed to ask for assistance. There are many places you can get help.  Here are some.

Ask your professors. Even though they have an indication of your understanding of the material through your assignments and tests, they may or may not approach you.  They are caring and willing to help.  If they can’t help you, they know where on campus you can go to get the help you need.

Here are some additional sources for the following:

Make sure you establish a strong relationship with your academic advisor.  Every school in the College of the Arts has an academic advisor located in your school.  To schedule an appointment, click on Advising on the College of the Arts website. Your academic advisor will help you to stay on track, work on goals, apply for graduation and help you with transfer credit.

If you need help negotiating Kent State University the Student Ombuds is here for you. The primary goal of the Office of the Student Ombuds is to provide students confidential consultation in assisting with the possible resolution of any university-related concern, grievance or appeal. Students work closely with the Student Ombuds in developing both informal and formal strategies that will assist them in resolving their university-related concerns. The Office of the Student Ombuds is located on the second floor of the Kent Student Center, Room 250. Dr. Jennifer Kulics, Student Ombuds, can be reached at or by calling 330-672-9494. 

Stressed Out?

You are not alone.  Every student experiences anxiety at some level.  Most coping strategies are learned.  Don’t be embarrassed to admit you need help learning them.  Talk your concerns through with someone who can help you.  Here are some places to visit.

Tips on Staying Healthy

The Kent State University Health Services offers the following tips for staying healthy and safe:

Use time wisely.  Avoid procrastination.  Use a planner.

Select healthy snacks and meals.

Drink plenty of water.

Do not smoke.

Avoid high risk drinking.

“Date-Rape” drugs do exist.  Be aware of your surroundings.

Exercise 3-4 times a week.

Protect your skin with SPF 15+.

Wash your hands frequently, especially during “flu season.”

Get a reasonable amount of sleep.

Why is Collaboration an Important Skill to Learn?

“Collaborators aren’t born, they’re made. Or, to be more precise, built, a day at a time, through practice, through attention, through discipline, through passion and commitment—and most of all, through habit.”

—Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit

Not all creative processes are collaborative but you can argue that humans, by nature, are collaborative.  Most of us will undertake collaborative projects during our life.  Employers look for people who can be self-directed yet work well together in a project-oriented creative environment.  Here is some information on developing collaborative skills from The Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge:

Humans are social creatures and being a member of a group is a good description of the human experience. And because working with others is an essential skill to learn, collaboration has been identified as a 21st century workplace ability. Given that the performing arts are primarily group experiences, the arts become a prime tool for building skills in collaboration.

Drawing on the work of Roger Johnson and David Johnson, two educators (and brothers) from the University of Minnesota, here are six tips to start creating successful collaborations.

  • We are all in this together. When collaborating, students are interdependent; they depend on each other to succeed. Every student in a collaborative group needs an understanding of their group’s goal and how they contribute to it. When learning collaboratively, students benefit from time spent planning and identifying roles or jobs, such as set designer, performer, conductor, or composer. Seeing the connections between jobs helps build reliance on each other.
  • Lend a helping hand. It’s no wonder that music, dance, and theater all use the word “ensemble” to refer to a group working together. Students must learn that they need to help each other to meet the ensemble's goals and that competition within a collaborative group doesn't work. Students working collaboratively often end up teaching others something they have mastered. Helping someone else learn a choreographed sequence or the blocking for a scene reinforces one’s own knowledge and skills.
  • Do your part. When collaborating, students take responsibility for, and are personally accountable to, the ensemble. And no doubt, members of an ensemble all have responsibility for the group’s success. Every member has something unique to accomplish. In addition, each member is obliged to get the work done. This is seen most clearly in performance—which is the ultimate accountability for an ensemble.
  • Play well with others. Effective collaborators are respectful and listen to each other. They may not always agree, but they recognize that listening is the first step to working out a difference. Students develop listening skills that help engage them artistically with other students. For example, student actors come to realize that acting is as much (and maybe more) about listening as it is about speaking. Musicians are also actively listening to each other as they play together. Becoming active listeners also sharpens students in their role as audience members and viewers of art. When students reflect on and assess their collaborative work, respect for and listening to others are important criteria.
  • Think it over. With their collaborators, students can reflect on the successes and challenges their ensemble encountered, as well as changes they wish to make in the future. Collaboration inherently involves feedback and reflection, so students develop skills to give, receive, and use peer feedback. Working collaboratively means that part of the learning process is to create a safe space for mistakes and even failure.

Collaboration is a foundational element of the performing arts. “People in a good collaboration accomplish more than the group’s most talented members can achieve on their own,” wrote choreographer Twyla Tharp. Collaboration is a powerful instructional tool to help students think beyond themselves and learn in deep and meaningful ways.