Selecting your undergraduate institution is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. There are no perfect programs, so you must research schools online to find the best fit for you. Speak with your high school music teacher as soon as possible; he/she will assist you in identifying excellent collegiate programs around the country.
Before you begin your search, think about your goals (yes, write them down). Create a list of must-have criteria including location, size of the school, opportunities for scholarships and internships, reputation, facilities, and job placement record. Are there opportunities to tour internationally? Does the school have an active guest artist program in the choral and music education areas? Are you more interested in a large state school or a small liberal arts school? What is your dream job following graduation?
Once you’ve answered these questions, your next step is to develop a shortlist. I do not believe it’s necessary to apply for admission to 10-12 schools. This seems to be the trend, but it is extreme (and expensive!). Most students do this so they’ll have a safety net in case they aren’t admitted to their top choice. I suggest a focused list of 3-5 colleges. If you have prepared well, do you really want to attend a “safety” school? See Part 1 in this series to learn more about preparation. If you have friends who attended your high school and are in a music education program, ask them for more information about their college. Once you’ve selected your 3-5 colleges, it is okay to rank them. When you visit and audition, you may find that your ranking changes.
You might be tempted to attend a famous conservatory rather than a state college. Your family will pay double and sometimes triple the cost. If this is not a problem, then I say go for it. However, there are many state colleges with incredible music programs that will offer you a top-notch education at a much lower cost. Anytime you go out-of-state or choose a conservatory, you will pay a premium. However, private schools and conservatories often have outstanding scholarship programs, so I encourage you to pursue admission if you identify institutions that match your goals.
Once you’ve identified your 3-5 schools, you must prepare your admission and audition materials. Some schools require a pre-screening recording before scheduling an on-campus voice audition. Do not procrastinate with submitting your materials or preparing for your live audition. The audition and admission requirements for each school will be listed on their website. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the admissions director, choral conductor, coordinator of voice, or the choral music educator professor with questions.
You will need to have either your ACT or SAT scores sent electronically to each institution, so plan ahead. As I suggested in Part 1, work on your audition repertoire with your private voice teacher or request help from your choral director. Practice sight-reading and rhythm daily to prepare for that part of the audition. Colleges will require letters of recommendation. Give those writing for you at least a couple of months’ notice. Also give your referees a due date of at least one or two weeks before the admissions deadline.
Colleges often require a personal statement as part of their admissions requirements. Begin this work at least four or five months before the deadline, if possible. You’ll want to have plenty of time to reflect and edit. Have at least a few other people read your statement and offer suggestions. You can include long-term goals you identified when you answered the questions in paragraph 2. Describe those qualities you believe make you a promising music educator and why you are passionate about teaching. It’s called a personal statement for a reason, so show the admissions committee who you are and why they should be interested in you as a future student. Check for spelling or grammar errors using one of the free programs such as Grammarly before you submit your materials online.
When it comes time to upload your materials, do not wait until the deadline. You might encounter tech issues, so I encourage you to upload materials at least one week before the deadline in case you need to contact tech support. Confirm that they have received your reference letters.
In the next post, I’ll provide tips for a successful college music audition.