3 Tips for Parents of Music Students Who Weren’t Accepted

Parents of music students who weren’t accepted by their schools of choice have been contacting us. Most have needed an objective ear to listen to their stories and help them overcome their own sense of sadness and even loss around this. Others needed to vent their feelings about their offspring not getting what they wanted and felt they deserved. Some felt really let down by the nature of the audition process. Some needed to get some anger off their chests. Several had really important questions to ask that we feel are useful to address here for the sake of other parents.

1. Asking schools why they said no.

While some schools will not discuss their reasons for not admitting students, others will. After talking with many music admission directors, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best for students — NOT parents — to check in with schools where they weren’t admitted, if they want more information.

Schools tend to be more receptive to hearing from students, whether it’s about acceptances, opportunities for getting more financial aid, etc. They like to see students showing up for themselves. They’re trained to look at students from many perspectives. The ability of students to communicate their questions and needs demonstrates a level of maturity that shows the students are ready to take on the arduous task of becoming a music major. Should students decide to reapply where they weren’t admitted, it will serve them well to have contacted the schools directly rather than having parents do this for them.

Most if not all admission staff have dealt with many parents who care more about students being accepted than the students themselves. Before any contact is made, it’s important to distinguish who is really disappointed: parent or student?

Admission folks don’t expect perfection in the way students communicate, just like they don’t expect students to audition at the level they’ll be at by the time they graduate. However, communicating with courtesy and respect is important. Parents can best serve their children by rehearsing a phone call with them or reading a draft email rather than taking it on themselves.

Just so you know — admission offices are typically short-staffed and those who work there are wearing many hats. Once May 1st rolls around, they have to deal with wait lists, new acceptances, and reshuffling unused scholarship monies. They’re inundated with phone calls from prospective and accepted students and they’re required to be preparing the next year’s budget at the same time. That’s just a part of their spring job descriptions.

2. Does it really matter which school my child goes to?

Not all successful musicians came out of the top schools and not all of the top schools produce successful musicians. Some highly acclaimed musicians never attended college-level music schools at all. Success in music has so much to do with performance AND networking, internship experiences, business skills, improvisational skills, communication skills and more. We strive to address this in one way or another in most of the articles on MajoringInMusic.com. If a student wants to focus on music in their career, we urge them to find ways to get those experiences and skills while they’re in school.

3. How does a student’s musical background affect their chances of being accepted by a music school?

Music schools are looking for students who show promise. They want to accept students who demonstrate the capacity to make great strides as a result of attending their schools. They are also looking for a specific number of horns, strings, keyboard players, etc. as well as to fill gaps in their orchestras and ensembles. Voice and musical theatre programs also have guidelines re: numbers of admits.

A student who takes private lessons from a teacher with strong performance and teaching skills, and who performs with school and extracurricular youth orchestras, bands, and ensembles, is more likely to audition well. Arts school students and students from larger arts-strong public high schools have an advantage over students from smaller schools with less to offer musically to their students. Still, there are students from small high schools and in towns and rural areas who manage to find ways to audition competitively. Summer music camps and programs provide enormous support to students thinking about majoring in music, and can give a needed boost to all students prior to auditioning, especially those lacking strong school music opportunities.

Remember that the audition isn’t everything. Some schools have demanding GPA requirements. Many look for evidence of well-rounded students whose life experiences inform their music. All want an interesting, diverse student body because they know this will serve the entire school. These are all factors that may impact your student’s acceptance.

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