If you’re a senior in high school, chances are you’ve been thinking about college applications. However, no matter where you are in your educational journey, if studying music in college interests you, read on!
College applications can be daunting; however, a strong first step would be to list all of the schools you’re considering. With this, you can begin to assess different application components and deadlines that you’ll need to keep in mind throughout the process. These tips are general in nature, but for music, here are specific things to consider.
Unlike academic majors, music students usually study intensely with a specific teacher. This study takes place in lessons and studio classes that stretch across your time at a school, rather than “normal” classes taken a semester at a time. With this in mind, consider having trial lessons with teachers at the schools you are applying to. While not required, a trial lesson can help you determine whether you'd be a good fit for the teacher’s studio and if their teaching style will help you grow. However, note that lessons often cost money and need to be scheduled in advance.
Once you know where you’re applying, browse the repertoire requirements, located on the school’s website. Depending on requirements, you may need a pianist and recording space to record your audition. Professional quality is not necessary, but try to get good recordings! You can always use your phone, but consider investing in an audio recorder; I personally use a Zoom recorder with my phone to record video and audio simultaneously. Try to get more than one take so you can choose the best recording.
Pro tip: Record ahead of the deadline and if you can, spread recording sessions out to reduce stress and fatigue. Don’t record the day of the deadline (sadly speaking from experience).
Although I’m a master procrastinator myself, I recommend doing things in advance when it comes to college applications. This is especially important when it comes to recording sessions and working with accompaniment. If you need a pianist for your recordings, be considerate and provide them with music well in advance. The same goes for scheduling trial lessons and recording spaces.
Lastly, remember that the application process can differ based on the type of school you’re applying to. If you’re applying to a music school based at a university (think, the Shepherd School at Rice University), this would be two different applications. Unlike
conservatories (ex. Juilliard, NEC), music schools based at universities often require you to submit a music pre-screening in addition to a regular, academic application. And these may be due earlier than academic applications, as schools have to assess pre-screening submissions before sending audition invitations. So, make sure you are keeping track of your deadlines! A simple timeline or spreadsheet can be infinitely helpful.
And, speaking of timelines, here’s an overview of everything discussed above:
August - September Audition requirements uploaded to school websites Determine what to play for pre- screenings September - November Practice and record your pre-screening materials Write any essays that need to be submitted alongside recordings December - January Application deadlines usually fall within these months Applicants notified of whether they are invited to audition January - February Auditions! Depending on the school, these may be conducted in-person or online Remember, this is a general guideline and may not apply to everywhere. Be sure to check the deadlines of individual schools for more information. Best of luck!