College music fairs provide high school music students with great opportunities to learn about a wide range of schools and programs.
Here are 7 tips for getting what you need at these fairs:
1. Plan to attend college music fairs whether or not you know you want to major in music.
College music fairs help you clarify whether you want to major, minor, double major in music or simply find ways to keep music in your life in college.
You’ll meet admission folks, get on their radar (a good thing to do!), and have your most burning questions answered.
The fairs are free to attend and you’re welcome to attend as many and as often as you want.
2. Before the fair, ask yourself the following:
• What genre or area of music are you most passionate about? Do you think you’ll want to focus mostly on that in college?
• On what instrument or in what area of music are you most proficient?
• Which schools will be at the college fair you’ll be attending? Do they offer what you’re interested in studying?
• Have you looked at the websites of schools you’re interested in? Many of your questions (including majors offered, applying and auditioning, faculty, cost of attendance, size of classes, scholarships and financial aid) will be answered there. If these schools participate on MajoringInMusic.com, you’ll find the most important information you’ll need for now on their individual school pages.
• What besides music would you like to explore in college? Are you as passionate about any of these other areas as you are about music?
• What are your main questions right now for each school?
3. What to expect from a college fair
• You’ll be asked to sign up for each fair you attend.
• In-person college fairs tend to be crowded and noisy. You may have to wait in line to talk with each school. Be patient and don’t expect to get all your questions answered, just the most important ones.
• An informative panel discussion may be offered before or after the fair. Plan to attend if at all possible.
• Pick up a business card and any promo information from the schools you’re interested in. This will be helpful for following up.
• Virtual college fairs may allow you to reserve a time with each school you’re interested in meeting with.
• Schools will create a file on you. They want to remember you especially if you show ongoing interest in their school and if they’re excited about your applying.
• Be prepared to show up as your best self. It will serve you well if you look, dress and act like you’re interested in the schools you meet with.
• Schools don’t expect you to be “perfect” and they are used to students who are nervous or shy.
• If you have a particularly good connection with a school representative and you’re interested in their school, send an email to acknowledge that and ask any specific questions you forgot to ask at the fair.
• Expect to hear from schools you meet with – by email and/or snail mail.
4. Conservatories vs. other types of schools
Are you a highly proficient instrumentalist, vocalist, or composer? Do you want to focus on in college? Do you want to take fewer electives and general education classes so you can dive right into your area of interest? Do you think you’ll be able to audition well? If you answered “yes” to these, consider checking out conservatories.
If you think you want to explore other areas of interest in addition to music and may even consider a second major or one or more minors, consider a music school within a university or a liberal arts college with a strong music department. You’ll need to apply and be accepted by the overall university or college as well as the music program. Note that many liberal arts colleges and an increasing number of universities require a stronger academic background than conservatories.
And if your academics have not been strong, or if finances are a major issue, or you’re just not sure what you want to do in college, consider a community college. Look for one where your credits will transfer to a 4-year school (in case you decide to do that later on) and where you can take music theory and applied lessons to see if music continues to be your main area of interest.
5. Helpful questions to ask at a college fair
• What’s the best way to communicate with faculty members who teach what you want to study? How can you get a sample lesson?
• Are there a few student contacts to talk with?
• What kind of career preparation is offered?
• What about internships and other hands-on experiences?
• Are you considered for scholarships when you apply and/or audition?
• When is the best time to visit the school and will you be able to sit in on some classes and rehearsals?
6. If you have learning differences
It is not necessary to discuss these at college fairs. You can find out about the services each school provides on their websites. Once you’ve accepted an offer, you will want to register with the disabilities office before classes begin. Each school in the U.S. has this type of office and many schools outside the U.S. do as well. Note that your high school IEP or 504 plan will not transfer to college.
• NO two schools are alike. Don’t make any assumptions or generalizations.
• Schools don’t expect you to be perfect but they do expect you to read and follow whatever guidelines or rules they provide.
• College music fairs are a way to learn more. And you can continue to learn through college websites, resources like MajoringInMusic.com, associations and organizations related to your area of music, and the visits many colleges make to high schools like yours.
• Take notes at each school visit. Have your phone, iPad, computer or notebook ready before you start. Ask each school if you can use your phone to record the session if you’ll remember more that way. You’ll be able to refer back to your notes when you’re ready to consider which schools to apply to.
• If you discover you have questions after the fair see if you can find answers on school websites and then contact the Admissions Office as needed.