Southeast Asian woman joyfully playing violin for an audition in black blazer

6 Quick Expert Tips to Remember for Music School Admission

If you want to apply to a music college, consider these six tips to make admission as easy as possible from an expert who understands the whole process.

Many teens don't know where to start when they decide they want to major in music. Many parents don’t know how to respond when their teen says, “I want to major in Music!” When this happens, the most common questions I get from either are: Where do I start finding out about music colleges? Can people actually make a living off music? Do they need a backup plan or a double major? First, don't panic. Music can be viable with some intentional planning. Here are some tips for any student or parent no matter where they are in the college search and admission process.

1. Expand your knowledge of music-related majors

Majoring in Music can lead to many careers. My absolute favorite thing to tell students and parents is to use the word “music” as an adjective in front of different career paths. There are suddenly hundreds of options: music education, music performance, music business, music law, music medicine, music therapy—and on and on. Majoring in Music is the best way to enter a variety of fields, which really means the student's pursuit of a career is more likely to be successful.

2. Attend summer music festivals and camps

One of the best ways to confirm that music is the path for you is to participate in a summer festival or camp. Music festivals and camps take place all over the world. They’re intensive programs that may last anywhere from a few days to 10 weeks. Students play in ensembles, take lessons, and are surrounded by young people with the same passion. GRAMMY Camp is a great seven-day intensive program for students interested in the fields of audio engineering, electronic music production, songwriting, music journalism, music business, etc. And there are tons of music festivals every summer for everything from jazz to classical music. Students just need to start digging for the right opportunities!

Related: How Extracurriculars Benefit Your College Applications

3. Meet the instrument professors

I think of instrument professors at a music college like a four-year coach. A Division I football player would never sign with a school without first meeting the coach and touring the facilities. Musicians should do the same. When looking at schools, visiting campus to meet the instrument professor and take a trial lesson is one of the most important things you can do. Start learning about the successful teachers in your field by reading their bios on each school’s website. Then make it a priority to have a lesson with a professor on each campus you visit.

4. Don't plan to fail with a backup major

If you want to major in Music, choose Music. I don’t recommend anyone add a second degree just to have a backup plan or to spend too much energy worrying about what they'll do instead if they fail. As someone who was enrolled in a dual-degree program (Music and Math), I can tell you it’s extremely time-consuming and challenging. Think of practicing music like a Medical degree: If you don’t put in thousands of hours studying in the lab—or in your case, the practice room—you won’t equip yourself for the professional world. In the end, students will sacrifice something because their time is split. Only enroll in two degrees or two majors if you truly want to use both.

Related: Music Students: Is a Double Degree Right for You?

5. Don’t avoid a school because of the cost

I learned this lesson from Dr. Kathleen Tesar, Associate Dean of Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School, who coauthored College Prep for Musicians with me: No matter what price is listed on a website, you won’t know the true cost of a school until you’ve applied and received your financial aid package. With your aid and scholarships factored in, one college with a sticker price of $50,000 a year could be ultimately cheaper to attend than one that costs $10,000 per year. I’ve witnessed many students attend schools they never thought they could afford. 

6. Treat your audition like an interview

The audition at a music school is often around 10 minutes long and usually in front of either one professor or a panel of professors. Think of the audition the way you might think of a professional interview. Make sure to dress up in nice, appropriate, and nondistracting clothing. Usually, business casual clothes in black or dark blue are a good choice. Normally the panel will hear you play before asking you a few questions about yourself. It’s appropriate and encouraged for you to have a few questions for the panel as well.

Related: 4 Performing Arts College Audition Mistakes Students Should Avoid

Getting into music school and making a career out of the performing arts may seem daunting—but many students have done it before you! So why not you? If you're passionate about music, pursue it and commit to it. There are plenty of ways to make it work, but you're not going to if the song is over before you've picked up the tune. 

Find a great fit college to study music by checking out our featured performing arts colleges! You can even get connected right away to any school you're interested in. 

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About Annie Bosler

Dr. Annie Bosler is a horn player and teacher in Los Angeles. She coauthored the book College Prep for Musicians. She specializes in teaching private horn lessons to high schoolers and has a 100% success rate in helping students get into music schools. Annie has former French horn students in almost every major conservatory across the United States. For more info, visit collegeprepformusicians.com and anniebosler.com.

 

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