Music Degrees

Music Degrees. What Does Applying To Be A Music Major In College Actually Look Like? (Part 2)

If part one of this article on applying to colleges as a future musical student unnerved you, part two probably won’t be much more comforting. Going to college is a lot of work and it begins years before you ever set foot in a university classroom. In this final part of the discussion, I’m going to go over actually filling out applications, auditioning, and, of course, the waiting, which can somehow be the most difficult part of this entire endeavor.

Please don’t let this lengthy article scare you away from going after your collegiate dreams! It’s not meant to stir up anxiety, but you should know what you’re getting yourself into and what it will take to be accepted into the program you desire the most if only so you can be adequately prepared for the journey ahead.

Start the Application Process

As I mentioned in my last piece, while there are several items every school will require you to turn in, there are also many things that will differ from school to school and program to program. You’re going to need to make sure you don’t miss a single piece of an application. Otherwise, a college may not consider you at all.

First, you’ll need to make a list for every school you’re considering and get your hands on an application. Many institutions will push you to apply online so you might not need an actual paper copy of the application. However, there is a lot you’ll need to gather before you hit send (or mail it all in, if you’re going the old school route).

There are a number of official documents essentially every college needs to consider before accepting or denying you, some of which you can get your hands on once and simply make copies of, while others will need to be sent by a third party individually to each program you may want to become a part of. Your high school transcripts are sent from one school’s office to another which means you’ll need to ask somebody at your school to forward them but more often than not, you won’t actually be the one doing so. Test scores — be they from the SATs, AP classes, the ACTs or anywhere else — will also need to be sent one by one. Documentation about your medical history is also essential as is financial info relating to how you and your family (if they’re involved) will be paying for your education. This process will help you attain financial assistance if you need it. The numbers may also lead to the college pointing you in the direction of certain scholarships or programs to lighten the burden.

Another part of your application will include recommendation letters, which you can typically also collect once and then distribute as you like. You’ll need to reach out to Teachers, employers, those you’ve interned or volunteered with, or anyone else you can think of who might have nice things to say about you and your character (though friends and family are usually not appropriate choices) to pen short letters, which you will include in your application package. You’ll need to give all these people time to think of what they’d like to say and then actually write the piece, and the more you rush them, the worse the final product may be.

When it comes to attending a musical program at a college, you won’t always be required to write and turn in an essay — which is typically one of the more stress-inducing parts of the application process — but the majority will still ask you to do so. (Tech and trade schools often skip the essay component.) If that’s the case, make sure you take your time and make this piece of writing the best you can, from the emotion expressed to the grammar, because any little thing may make those in a decision-making position look another way…or possibly even choose you.

After you interview or perform (or possibly both), walk around, talk with those who work and study there and try and get a feel for what life and classes on campus are really like.

Arrange Auditions and Interviews

You may have the best essays and you might come highly recommended but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best fit for the school. To determine if you’re a good fit for one another, many colleges want to meet with the names behind the paper. Sometimes an interview is requested or is mandatory to get in. It depends on what you’ll be majoring in, but for Music Performance programs (and even some Music Business programs) expect to do an interview as well as an audition. Make your appointments with Counselors, Teachers, or admissions people (depending on the school), and try to make it earlier, rather than later.

Sometimes, actually visiting a school isn’t an option — even for the all-important audition. While that might make you slip out of the running at a few schools you wanted to attend, chances are, if you truly don’t have the time or money to fly or drive to wherever a certain college is located, they will usually allow you to submit an audition video or recording. If that’s the case, you should go to great pains to make sure you find a studio or room with the best acoustics, the best recording equipment, the best Engineers. Make sure your recording is one they won’t soon forget.

If your top college is far from where you live, you might want to take this opportunity to tour the school and see if it really is a fit, which is yet another thing I mentioned in part one of this piece. After you interview or perform (or possibly both), walk around, talk with those who work and study there and try and get a feel for what life and classes on campus are really like.


If you are going to audition in person, which I suggest, you’re going to need to practice. Practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more. It’s something you’re going to spend an incredible amount of time doing as a musician no matter where you go or what you’d like to study and there is no way to avoid it. Practicing makes you a better musician and if you are lucky enough to be selected for your top choice school, you’ll be practicing more than you ever thought you would for several years…and then when you’re a working musician, that’s a huge part of being the best.

Work with a Music Teacher at your school or a Private Instrument Teacher to choose a piece that is challenging, exciting, unique and something that shows you are both incredibly talented and not afraid to take risks…if they allow you to actually choose what music you play for them. Once you have thought long and hard about what will be the best option for you to display what makes you the perfect candidate for this school, spend hours practicing, and don’t leave it until the week of! If possible, find opportunities to play this work in front of crowds of any size, so you can get a feeling for what it’s like to work through the pressure and the nerves when it comes to this specific piece.

After you interview or perform (or possibly both), walk around, talk with those who work and study there and try and get a feel for what life and classes on campus are really like.

Give It Your All!

Of course you’re going to give it your all in your audition but if you want to be truly prepared and go into the room with the best chances of eventually earning a coveted position at the school of your dreams (or at least one of the few you decided to pursue all the way), you’ll need to not only wow them when it comes to your music, but also, with your personality. Be friendly, energetic, confident, and don’t forget to smile. It’s okay to be nervous, but if you let tension take over your body, you might not win in the end, even if you play better than you ever have before.

Wrap It Up

After all is said and done, there’s going to be a lot of waiting, which always sucks. Sometimes a college will make you wonder if you’ve been accepted for a few days or weeks, while for others, the anticipation can go on for months. It might be torture, but it’s just how it goes. Sorry!

Once the letters, both rejection and acceptance (many people receive both), start pouring in, you’re going to need to make some tough choices. Which program do you want to be a part of and can you make it a reality? In addition to a yes or a no, you may only be accepted into one area of study to begin with or perhaps you find out a specific Teacher you wanted to work with won’t be available any longer. It might be the case the financial aid package they present you with simply isn’t enough to allow you to attend. In this case, it’s worthwhile to contact the school’s Financial Aid office. Sometimes schools are willing to add a bit more monetary assistance to your financial package.

Take your time and think about your options and the benefits and consequences associated with each, and then start discussions with the schools you’d love to attend and politely decline those offers you’re not really interested in, especially once you can compare them to others that have come your way. Now, go get that music degree!

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