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Mastering the College Admissions Process for Music Students

The College Admissions Process for Music Students

Every year, thousands of aspiring musicians embark on the challenging journey of applying to college music programs. This process is not for the faint of heart, as it can be emotionally taxing and require a great deal of dedication and hard work.

In this article, we will explore the rigors and challenges of the college admissions process for music students, the selectivity of music programs, and the assistance available to these aspiring musicians.

Challenges and Rigors of the Admissions Process

The college admissions process for music students is a multi-faceted and rigorous endeavor. From filling out the dreaded FAFSA/CSS Profile to writing essays that showcase their passion and talent, music students must navigate a complex system.

Additionally, many music programs require standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, as well as specific music-related exams, such as the AP Music Theory exam. Aside from the academic demands, music students must also demonstrate their interest in the field.

This often involves attending auditions, participating in pre-screening processes, and potentially even completing interviews. All of this while maintaining their grades and remaining involved in extracurricular activities.

Selectivity of Music Programs

One of the biggest challenges facing aspiring musicians is the selectivity of music programs. These programs are prestigious orchestras and hyper-competitive training grounds for future performers.

The acceptance rates for these programs are often lower than those for traditional academic programs. Conservatories, which have a primary focus on music education, tend to have lower acceptance rates due to their small class sizes and highly specialized curriculum.

Universities with strong music programs also have competitive selective admissions processes. Institutions like Julliard, Curtis, Manhattan School of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Music are known for their rigorous admissions standards.

Assistance in the Admissions Process

Navigating the college admissions process for music students can be overwhelming, but thankfully, there is assistance available. Many high schools have a College Transitions team or similar service that specializes in helping music students find and select the right college for them.

These teams can provide guidance on every step of the process, from selecting the right college to preparing for the prescreening process, auditions, and interviews. They can also help students understand what to expect during these processes and provide feedback on their performances.

Choosing the Right School: Conservatory or University? One important decision that aspiring musicians must make is whether to attend a conservatory or a university.

Understanding the difference between these two institutions is crucial in making an informed decision about one’s education and future career. Conservatories focus primarily on music, offering a specialized and intensive education in the field.

Students at conservatories spend the majority of their time honing their musical skills and are able to receive a targeted education in their chosen instrument or area of study. Some of the most prestigious conservatories include Julliard, Curtis, Manhattan School of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

On the other hand, universities offer a broad and balanced undergraduate education. While music is still a significant part of the curriculum, students have the opportunity to explore other fields of study and develop a more well-rounded skillset.

This can be particularly beneficial for musicians who are interested in pursuing careers outside of solely performing, such as music education or music therapy. Institutions like the Eastman School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Jacobs School of Music, and the University of Rochester offer conservatory-level music programs within a university setting.

Dual Degree Programs and Double Majoring

For students who are unable to decide between a conservatory and a university education, there is another option: dual degree programs and double majoring. These programs allow students to pursue both a music degree and a degree in another field simultaneously.

For example, the Eastman School of Music offers a dual degree program with the University of Rochester, allowing students to earn a Bachelor of Music from Eastman and a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science from the University. Oberlin Conservatory of Music also offers a similar program with Oberlin College.

Students in these programs benefit from the specialized music education at the conservatory while also receiving a broader education from the university. In conclusion, the college admissions process for music students is a challenging and rigorous endeavor, requiring a great deal of dedication and hard work.

The selectivity of music programs adds an additional layer of difficulty, but with the assistance available from college transitions teams and guidance counselors, aspiring musicians can navigate the process more effectively. Ultimately, the decision to attend a conservatory or a university depends on one’s personal goals and aspirations.

Dual degree programs and double majoring provide a unique opportunity for students who are unable to choose between the two.

The Prescreening Process for Music Applicants

Aspiring musicians who are applying to college music programs often encounter a crucial and challenging step in their journey: the prescreening process. In this section, we will discuss the purpose and requirements of prescreening as well as provide tips for recording a winning prescreening audition.

Purpose and Requirements of Prescreening

Prescreening, also known as the pre-audition or preliminary audition, is a crucial step in the college admissions process for music students. This process requires applicants to submit a video recording of their performance to the college or university they are applying to.

The purpose of the prescreening process is for the institution to assess the talent and potential of the applicants before inviting them for a live audition. Each college or university may have specific instructions and requirements for the prescreening process.

For example, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance requires applicants to submit instrument-specific recordings, with detailed guidelines on repertoire choices and technical requirements. It is crucial for applicants to carefully review and follow these instructions to ensure that their prescreening audition is considered.

Tips for Recording a Winning Prescreening Audition

Recording a prescreening audition may seem intimidating, but with the right preparation and attention to detail, applicants can create a polished and impressive video submission. Here are a few tips to help applicants record a winning prescreening audition:


Find quality acoustics: Choose a space with good sound quality, preferably a room with good acoustics. Avoid recording in rooms with excessive echo or background noise.

2. Invest in equipment: Use a high-quality camera or smartphone to record your audition.

Make sure the camera is stable to avoid shaky camerawork, and test the audio to ensure it captures your performance accurately. 3.

Pay attention to lighting: Adequate lighting is crucial to ensure that your performance is clearly visible. Natural light is often the best option, but if that’s not possible, invest in good-quality lighting equipment.

4. Authentic performance: Although it’s a recorded audition, strive for an authentic and live performance.

Avoid excessive editing or artificial enhancements that can undermine the integrity of your performance.

The Audition Process for Music Applicants

After successfully passing the prescreening process, music applicants move on to the next stage: the live audition phase. In this section, we will explore the process of live auditions and invitations as well as provide tips for surviving the audition itself.

Live Auditions and Invitations

The live audition phase is the primary opportunity for music applicants to showcase their talent and potential to the college or university they are applying to. Unlike the prescreening process, live auditions are typically invitation-based, and applicants are selected based on the quality of their prescreening audition.

Institutions like the Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory follow invitation-based audition processes. Applicants who pass the prescreening stage are invited to attend a live audition on campus or in a designated location.

This invitation is a significant achievement, as it demonstrates the institution’s recognition and interest in the applicant’s talent.

Tips for Surviving the Audition

The live audition can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with proper preparation and strategies, applicants can navigate it successfully. Here are a few tips to help applicants survive the audition process:


Visit the campus: If possible, visit the campus of the institution before your audition. Familiarize yourself with the location, performance spaces, and practice rooms.

This can help ease any nerves and make you feel more comfortable on the day of your audition. 2.

Arrive early: Plan to arrive at the audition venue well in advance. This allows you to settle in, warm up, and mentally prepare yourself before your scheduled audition time.

3. Dress appropriately: Dress professionally and appropriately for your audition.

Research the specific dress code recommended by the institution and adhere to it. This demonstrates respect for the audition process and professionalism.

4. Research the audience: Get to know the faculty members who will be evaluating your audition.

Research their backgrounds, areas of expertise, and preferences. Tailor your repertoire choices and performance approach based on this knowledge to make a positive impression.

5. Play to preferences: While it is crucial to showcase your own musicality and artistic choices, it can be advantageous to align your performance with the preferences of the institution.

Research the types of students they have accepted in the past and try to incorporate elements that align with their interests. In conclusion, the prescreening and audition processes are critical steps in the college admissions journey for music students.

By thoroughly preparing for the prescreening process and following the guidelines set by the institution, applicants can create a winning audition recording. Surviving the live audition requires careful preparation, visiting the campus if possible, and tailoring your performance to align with the preferences of the institution’s faculty.

With dedication, hard work, and attention to detail, music applicants can increase their chances of securing a coveted spot in the college or university of their dreams.

The Interview Process for Music Applicants

Once music applicants have successfully passed the prescreening and live audition phases, they may be invited to participate in the interview process. In this section, we will explore the importance and length of the interview as well as provide tips for interviewing successfully.

Importance and Length of the Interview

The interview is a critical opportunity for music applicants to make a personal connection with the college or university they are applying to. While not all music programs require interviews, institutions like Berklee and the Manhattan School of Music often include them as part of their admissions process.

The interview allows the applicants to showcase their personality, motivation, and dedication to their craft. Typically, music interviews range from 10 to 15 minutes in length.

Within this limited timeframe, applicants must make a lasting impression and convey their passion for music. The interview also serves as an opportunity for the institution to get to know the applicant beyond their application and live audition.

Tips for Interviewing Successfully

To interview successfully, music applicants should keep a few key tips in mind:

1. Maintain eye contact: Eye contact demonstrates confidence and engagement.

When speaking with the interviewer, make an effort to maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. 2.

Exude humility and confidence: Strike a balance between displaying humility and confidence. Acknowledge your strengths and accomplishments, but also express a willingness to learn and grow as a musician.

3. Share your personality: The interview is an opportunity for the admissions committee to learn more about who you are as a person.

Don’t be afraid to show your personality, share anecdotes, and discuss your musical journey. This will help make a lasting impression.

4. Demonstrate dedication and passion: Use the interview as a platform to emphasize your dedication and passion for music.

Talk about the sacrifices you have made, the challenges you have overcome, and the milestones you have achieved. Show the interviewers that you are fully committed to your craft.

5. Aim for a winning personality: Remember that your personality can serve as a tiebreaker in a highly competitive applicant pool.

Be friendly, courteous, and professional. Make the interviewer feel comfortable engaging in conversation with you.

Final Thoughts on the Admissions Process

The college admissions process for music students is not for the faint of heart. It requires a significant amount of determination and follow-through.

In this section, we will discuss the determination and follow-through required, as well as the importance of being yourself throughout the process.

Determination and Follow-Through Required

Landing a spot in a prestigious music conservatory or music school requires an unwavering determination and strong follow-through. The competition for these spots can be fierce, and applicants must be willing to put in the necessary time and effort to stand out.

From preparing for prescreening recordings to attending live auditions and interviews, music applicants must adhere to hard deadlines and demonstrate their commitment at every step. This determination and follow-through indicate to admissions committees that applicants are serious about their music education and have the drive to succeed.

Emphasizing the Importance of Being Yourself

Throughout the college admissions process, it is crucial for music applicants to be true to themselves. While it is tempting to portray an image that matches the expectations of top-choice colleges or conservatories, it is essential to embrace your natural ability and unique qualities.

Being yourself not only allows you to present an authentic representation of who you are as a musician, but it also brings forth a sense of confidence and genuineness that can captivate the admissions committee. They are looking for individuals who will contribute something unique to their program, and being true to oneself is the best way to demonstrate that.

In conclusion, the interview process serves as a critical opportunity for music applicants to make a personal connection with the college or university they are applying to. With limited time available, it is essential to maintain eye contact, exude humility and confidence, share your personality, and demonstrate dedication and passion.

Throughout the entire admissions process, determination and follow-through are key, as they show admissions committees that you are serious about your craft. Being yourself throughout the process is also of utmost importance, as it allows you to present an authentic representation of who you are as a musician.

By following these guidelines and staying true to oneself, music applicants can increase their chances of finding success in the competitive world of college admissions for music programs. In conclusion, the college admissions process for music students is a rigorous and competitive journey.

From prescreening and live auditions to interviews, applicants must navigate numerous challenges while showcasing their talent, dedication, and passion. The importance of being prepared, staying true to oneself, and demonstrating determination and follow-through cannot be overstated.

By following the tips and advice provided throughout this article, aspiring musicians can increase their chances of success and ultimately secure a spot in their desired music program. Remember, the admissions process is not only about showcasing your musical abilities but also about presenting yourself authentically and leaving a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

Good luck!

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