Berklee Students Weigh in On Scholarship Renewal

by Lily Lyons

Since the publication of my opinion piece on scholarship renewal, I’ve been excited to see the Berklee community thoroughly discussing their ideas on the renewal process. It’s always our goal at the Groove to have our articles go beyond the page and into the 150 lobbyand onto students’ facebook walls. The Office of Student Financial Services has also been taking part in the conversation about revising and improving the renewal process, and they encourage students to share their experiences and input. During this process I thought it would be illuminating to collect the opinions of my friends and colleagues who have gone through scholarship renewal to share through the Groove. Here are their powerful, varying, and insightful takes on the issue: 

“As an undergraduate student doing his best to earn a dual degree – all while being a cellist at Berklee (aka hard to find, yet always needed) – scholarship renewals often hit me like a slap in the face: to work so hard in a community – only to be asked to prove how hard I worked – as if I had done it with money on my mind. It stings. I understand that they like to checkup on students to make sure that we are making the most out of the tremendous opportunity that we have received, but what I don’t understand is why a student with a 3.6 GPA like myself should even have to go through the entire process. I think a revision to the scholarship renewal process is due, and I think that Berklee should stray from the method of threatening the students – they themselves deemed exceptional and worthy of assistance – with the notion that they may lose the assistance that they have earned/need…I also want to clarify that I thoroughly enjoy seeing the final product – all of my achievements in the past year in one place. That shit makes me feel great, but it shouldn’t be such a stress inducing thing, you know?” -Cristobal Cruz-Garcia

“Personally, I feel there are two sides of this. The good side is it pushes students to recap their accomplishments and achievements they have got so far throughout their journey at Berklee by making a resume, a cover letter, and a professional website for themselves. I think it’s really beneficial to keep track of those things since it prepares them for the unforgiving and competitive real life of the music industry and to be able to “sell” their creative products. The bad side, however, is Berklee has a policy regarding submitting the renewal annually that sounds pretty threatening, since they have authority to not renew scholarships for those who do not submit their renewal process on time or meet their criteria. And the process itself takes a lot of time and money. Even though the scholarship renewal workshop is pretty helpful, the period between that and the deadline is too short, which makes for a lot of frustration among the students who are not aware to prepare it. If anything, I would remove the scholarship renewal policy and have a new policy for Berklee to instruct students to take advantage of going to CDC to help keep track of their performances and resumes at Berklee since the first day they enter the college.” -Ghanaru Traggono

Since I entered Berklee I’ve really enjoyed being part of the sessions, shows and special events. I never complained about that: I am here because this is what I love to do. I think that scholarship renewal was helpful to see what I did in the past 4 semesters, but as an international student I felt way too stressed about it. Besides writing a cover letter and application letter, doing a website and portfolio by myself was really hard. I collected all the documents and photographs for the portfolio but I didn’t even know how to make a website by myself. I thought it had to be a professional design and I missed couple of classes because of working on that. After submitting the portfolio, I felt relieved but then I started to think “what am I going to do if they won’t renew my scholarship?” Then I read Lily’s article and it was so relatable to how I feel. I never think of saying what I am going through while in this struggle. Even though I am good at my classes and active at school as an instrumentalist, I’ve worried that I would lose my scholarship because of the competition at Berklee.”  Cansu Ozyurek

“I honestly feel like the whole process is unreasonable. On other college campuses, if you get a scholarship it’s yours till graduation unless you get on academic probation. Doing the application repeatedly year after year is unfair cause it’s like you have to continuously prove that you’re something special in order to stay. It’s unfair, it’s demeaning, and it’s very unreasonable. And then to make matters worse they ask you to do all these things during the busiest part of the semester right before midterms…” -Safiya Leslie 

“I think Berklee’s scholarship renewal is helpful and effective to see what we’ve been doing since we started Berklee, and how we can put our work together in an organized/professional/promotional way. I know it looks like too much work but I also know that with a good time management, it’s definitely possible.” -Bengisu Gokce 

“I liked the idea of scholarship renewal but when I went to do the process it was a lot of work. Not that that work was dumb, but the fact that I doubt someone sits down and goes through all of your website and reads all the teacher recommendations bothered me. Perhaps it would be better if I had a meeting where I saw this person in real life and presented what I’ve done. I’ve known a lot of scholarship students who haven’t done extra things outside of their classes or for the community and they get their scholarship next year. To me this reflects that the process doesn’t matter or determine anything unless that student failed a class.” -Anonymous student 

It is meaningless and a waste of energy and valuable time especially when you are trying to work on school projects and extra curricular projects at the same time” -Anonymous student

“I can guarantee you that Berklee administrators consider this process carefully.  The renewal requirements build portfolio and skills that we believe will be helpful for scholarship students in their post-Berklee lives. It makes me sad that students feel that they’re being punished for requiring financial assistance, but that only works as an argument if we accept the premise that assessing one’s achievements, writing them up formally, performing service to the college and the profession, and requesting and attaining the recommendations of your mentors and teachers are punishments. For me, some of the things that felt the most onerous when I was required to do them helped me the most in the end” -Anonymous administration

It is an unnecessary stress for students. Instead of having us renew it every year, why not create other requirements, like a higher GPA threshold, to track students’ progress?” -Anonymous student 

“I think the system of how they determine to renew scholarships should be changed. I think the format and requirements need to be diminished. It needs to include an interview format instead, along with overview of grades, letter of rec etc. That way it is more genuine with the process, considering the fact of the anonymity of the board who determines the decision.” -Anonymous student

“The scholarship renewal process to me illustrates all of the worst aspects of the Berklee experience. For a few weeks every spring, the vibrancy of Berklee’s community is completely muted; all of the creative energy and sense of community that brought me to Berklee in the first place is replaced with with fear, exhaustion, and, worst of all, profound self-doubt. These things are antithetical to what a sophomore at Berklee needs to grow and nurture their artistry. A far more useful deployment of whatever funds are currently spent on scholarship adjudication would be the creation of something like a month-long portfolio creation seminar; it would accomplish the same stated goals of the current scholarship reapplication process, but it would do so with a spirit of learning and self-improvement, instead of the Kafkaesque desperate struggle for adequacy that the current system represents,” -Anonymous student