Many students choose to participate in music during middle and high school and then tend to drop out during college, citing concerns such as “being too busy” or wanting to focus on their “real major.” However, this is often a poor decision, as music (and other extracurriculars!) can be a big part of your college experience.
It’s a common misconception that college is all about academics. That’s exactly what I thought when applying to schools, and when my parents asked me about what I wanted to get involved in on campus, I told them that I wanted to study, study, and study some more. But if you try to follow that lifestyle, you’ll quickly begin to burn out. College is the time for you to explore old and new interests outside the classroom—and music can be one of those interests! Here are a few ways you can get involved in music on campus without majoring in it.
Join a music class or ensemble
When you take a music class or join a group in college, you can often meet people you wouldn’t normally meet in your major-related classes. You might even meet people in the surrounding community, depending on what type of ensemble you are in. College music ensembles tend to understand that students have other classes and things to worry about, so there are normally only one to two rehearsals per week at night.
You might be thinking that you want to devote that time to doing homework and prepping for exams, but you need to allow yourself a break every once in a while! Music is a great way to let go of stress and explore your emotions with other people. You can ignore your other problems while you’re playing and practicing, which means music can serve as a relief from all your classwork.
Earn college credit
If you’re still convinced you need music to serve more of a “purpose” in your college career, not to fear! Music ensembles can often count as credit toward your degree. Some colleges will even count private lessons as credit, and if you participate in an ensemble, they may pay for your lessons. Of course, this all varies by school, but this is what I have widely seen during my college search.
There are also actual music classes that focus on subjects such as theory and aural skills, meaning you can learn about something interesting and satisfy some college requirements at the same time. My school requires humanity credits, and music counts toward that, so your school may have the same options!
Find a community group
Some schools like my own do not offer their own music programs. However, it’s normally easy to find a music program at a nearby college or in the surrounding community. With just a little digging online, you can find a group of people to play with. It’s also possible to find other students at your college who are interested in playing music. You can create your own band or chamber group to play just for fun. You may even be able to book a few gigs and make some extra spending money.
Even if you’ve never played a musical instrument before, college ensembles are often very welcoming. They want as many students as they can get to participate, as there are often not enough music players to form a complete ensemble. You don’t have to be perfect, so don’t stress about practicing for hours every day to prepare—just do your best and you will have a good time.
Bonus: get a boost for grad school
If you’re thinking of applying to graduate schools, you may also want to consider staying in music. Graduate schools, like undergraduate colleges, like to see that students do more than sit in the classroom all day. Graduate school admission officers also know that music students are dedicated and tend to perform better in many fields due to how music stimulates the brain. Therefore, music could provide an extra boost to your graduate school application.
All in all, I would highly recommend that you try to become involved in music during college. Or if you know for sure that music is just not your “thing,” there are other extracurriculars to try as well! Just make sure to enjoy your time there—it’s not all about studying!