Deciding on the Right Music School

If you’ve been accepted at more than one music school, congratulations! But if you’re not sure which one to accept, life will continue to feel challenging until the answer comes clear. Several factors may be involved in deciding on the right music school for you.

Here are some important considerations for students, parents, music educators, and college guidance counselors.

1. At U.S. schools, May 1 is the official deadline for final decisions about which school to accept.

  • Schools can’t pressure you into accepting their offer before May 1, nor can they pull any scholarship, grant, work/study or housing option they’ve offered you prior to that date.
  • It’s easier for the schools if you decide as soon as possible. Then they know how many spots on the waitlist to fill, how much remaining scholarship money is available, and what their incoming freshman class will look like.
  • If you KNOW you’re not going to accept offers at schools, let those schools know as soon as possible. You’ll be glad you did, especially if you ever decide to transfer to one of those schools or apply there for graduate school.
  • The sooner you decide, the easier it is for you, too. You no longer have the big decision hanging over your head, nor the weird feeling of not knowing where you’re going to be in the fall, and probably the next 4 years.

2. What if you’re not sure?

Prior to May 1, don’t make a decision until you have as much information as you need in order to feel as comfortable as possible with your decision. You may not have a lot of time. So you need to act fast.

  • Take a final trip to the school you’re still unsure about. Yes, it may be expensive if it’s out of town. But in the long run, it’ll be a lot LESS expensive than going to a school that’s not the right fit.
  • Sit in on classes. Talk to students. Talk with faculty. Hang out in the dining hall. Spend the night with a current student who’s ideally majoring in the same area you’d be majoring in. Be sure to set all of this up in advance!
  • Take notes. You have what you need at your fingertips – use it. You will need to compare apples to apples to make your final decision. Be sure to note how it FEELS to be there.

3. If you’re put on a waitlist:

  • You apparently now have to accept the waitlist to still be considered for it.
  • If you’re still serious about a school you’ve been waitlisted at, see if they’ll accept any additional, compelling, and relevant information you didn’t include in your application, including recent letters of reference.
  • If you’re really serious about the school you’re waitlisted at, consider visiting there again, as soon as possible (see tipis in #2).
  • You may not hear whether there’s a spot for you until after the May 1st deadline. You’ll have to accept another school in the meantime.
  • If you end up getting into the school you’re waitlisted for, and decide to accept, you’ll lose any non-refundable deposits made to the first school. You may also be at the bottom of the list for housing options, so prepare to be flexible.


  1. Chris

    I will do a campus visit very soon and will meet piano faculty. What types of questions should we be asking this and all schools? Thank you. I have played piano for 10 years and will be applying for BM (piano) to conservatories and university music departments.

  2. Saige

    For someone who has a goal of becoming a singer/songwriter (but is willing to broaden job options within music other than that) what kind of colleges do you recommend? And for music majors, what are the pros & cons for either going to a college dedicated to music/arts or double majoring (such as music and psychology) but going to a” normal” college?

    • So much depends on what you’re passionate about, what you think you want to do when you graduate, how much you want to just focus on music. There is no definitive answer to your question – we suggest you start by looking at your personal criteria and get support in clarifying what would be the best route at this time to consider pursuing. There are schools where you can study popular music/songwriting as your focus, with learning the ropes of working in the industry as part of it. Check out our popular music articles to learn more.

    • Deborah

      Hi, Saige. I would recommend checking out Carnegie Mellon School of Music in Pittsburgh. My daughter is a voice major there and she is very happy. The school is difficult to get into and it’s not cheap. However, they are pretty good about aid to students and the school has an excellent program for young musicians.

      As to the conservatory vs. liberal arts university debate: I believe that a university is a better choice. Given how competitive the industry is, you have to be prepared to support yourself through other ways besides your art. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make a living, it just means that you need to eat while you’re building your career. Also, make sure that whatever school you choose offers business of music and marketing classes. I know that CMU offers these classes to their undergrads. I wish I had been offered a business of music class when I was an undergrad at University of the Arts.

      Good luck to you.

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