As a music student, how can you make virtual college fairs work for you?
Many schools attend these fairs. Which ones make the most sense to visit? What can you do to make the most out of the experience?
Attend whether or not you’re sure you want to major in music
College fairs can be worthwhile whether or not you already know you want to major or minor in music. They can help you clarify what you want to study in college and where you might like to apply.
The good news about virtual fairs is that you get to visit with colleges from all over the country and beyond. And you can go back as many times as you want. For free!
You also get a chance to meet the admissions folks at various schools – and they get to meet you.
Before you visit
• Is there a specific genre or area of music you’re most passionate about?
• Do you want to focus mostly on that area in college?
• Are you also interested in getting a broader education along with opportunities to take electives in areas outside your major?
• Do you have more than one passion? Are there interests in addition to music you’d like to explore?
• Are you as passionate about any of these other areas as you are about music? If so, you may want to investigate a double major or a minor.
• Do you think you might want to teach? K-12 or college? Private studio?
• How far from home are you willing and able to go for college?
The first time you visit
If you’ve already identified schools you think could be a good fit, visit these first. Hopefully you’ve already checked out their websites.
What questions do you have? What more do you need to know?
You can also visit schools you’ve heard about, been referred to, or have read about.
And you can simply browse – which is especially helpful if you’re a freshman or sophomore.
Note that schools will take notes about you and create a file on you. This is a good thing – they want to remember you especially if you show ongoing interest or if they’re especially interested in having you come to their school. So be prepared to present yourself as best as you can. The schools don’t expect you to be “perfect” but it’s in your favor if you look, dress and act like you are interested in them choosing you over the many other students who will apply.
Before your second visit
• Check out the websites of schools you’re interested in before going back to a fair. Don’t limit yourself to just the “big name” schools. Look for what fits you.
• Don’t get caught up in what each school names its program. Look closely at the curriculum at each school – is this what you want to study?
• Compare the Bachelor of Music (BM) degree vs the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree if what you want to study is offered in both degrees. You’ll see that the BM degree requires more music-centric classes than the BA, which allows for more electives. Note that some schools also offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Bachelor of Music Education (BME or B.M.Ed) degrees – again, check what they offer and whether it’s what you really want.
• Consider conservatories if you’re proficient on your instrument/voice and are apt to audition strongly. Conservatories are a good choice if you want to focus mainly on your area of music. They typically do not offer a traditional college scene with sports, sororities and fraternities, etc.
• Read carefully the requirements around applying and auditioning or presenting a portfolio. Review the essays and/or statements of purpose each school asks for.
• Are prescreens required in order to audition? Do you have the technology to audition virtually?
• Do you have any questions about applications or auditions to bring to the fair?
• Look up the cost of attendance and fees.
• Review faculty listings on the websites of schools you’re interested in. Who is teaching what you’re interested in learning? Are they also working professionals in that field?
When you go back to a fair, be sure to ask these questions
• Is it possible to talk with faculty members who teach what you want to study? How?
• Can you take a lesson from a faculty person? (Free? Paid for?) How do you set that up?
• Are there a few student contacts in your area of interest you can talk with?
• What career-oriented services and events does each school offer?
• What kinds of internships and other hands-on experiences are available to music students? Who sets these up?
• Are you considered for scholarships when you apply? Are there other scholarships you can apply for?
• Will scholarships be as plentiful for students applying for next Fall and even beyond?
If you have learning differences, an attention disorder or physical or emotional disabilities
College Fairs are not where you want to identify this information.
All U.S. colleges, universities and conservatories are required to have a disability services office to provide accommodations to help you be successful at their schools. Schools outside the U.S. typically offer these services as well.
But these services are all different and it’s important to learn what the schools you’re interested in offer before you apply or accept a school. You can learn a lot on their websites but you or a parent or guardian may want to call the disabilities office and find out even more.
You don’t need to identify any special needs in your application unless it would really add value to your essay.
But you will want to register with the disabilities office before classes begin. (Your high school IEP or 504 plan will not transfer to college.)
Which schools to consider if you don’t already know exactly what you want to study?
It’s been said that 20-50% of students enter college as undecided, and about 75% of students switch majors at least once before graduation.
So if you’re uncertain what you think you want to do after you graduate, consider:
• Colleges and universities that offer a variety of areas relevant to your interests and that give you time to explore your options.
• Liberal arts colleges where you have more flexibility in terms of when you have to declare a major.
• Community college to start with – but be sure to find out in advance whether the credits will be accepted by a 4-year school if transferring is your goal.
Pandemic-related questions to consider
Music schools continue to update their websites with changes necessitated by the pandemic. Here are some questions you may want to ask them:
• What changes do they expect in your area of interest as a result of COVID-19? How are they planning to prepare students to adjust to those?
• How are they handling ensembles, choirs, use of practice rooms? Performances?
1. NO two schools are alike. Don’t make any assumptions or generalizations.
2. Schools don’t expect you to be perfect but they do expect you to read and follow whatever guidelines or rules they put out.
3. College fairs are a way to learn more. And you can continue to learn more through college websites, through resources like MajoringInMusic.com and associations related to your area of music.
4. Take notes at each school visit. Have your phone or iPad or 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.
5. If you discover you have questions after the College Fairs, see if you can find answers on school websites and then contact the Admissions Office as needed.
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Is college necessary for a career in music?
We all hear about musicians who move to NYC or L.A., start auditioning, and thrive without a degree.
We also know that graduating from a college program doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a successful career.
But here’s what college DOES offer you as a music student:
1. A far more comprehensive training than what you are likely to be able to make happen on your own. College-level music programs help you learn to be a more well-rounded musician and person, with access to professionals who want to offer their experience and expertise to help you grow into the professional YOU want to become.
2. Professors, visiting guest artists, alumni, and fellow students will all serve as an important network for opening doors to your future by introducing you to prospective employers and opportunities for auditions, gigs, collaborations, and more.
3. Injury prevention instruction for helping you safely dive more deeply into your area of music. College programs know they have to offer intervention strategies to help you heal past injuries and learn new and healthier technique.
4. How to present yourself, promote your work, collaborate with other artists, think outside the box. You also learn to manage an intensive practice schedule while juggling classes and performances.
5. Opportunities to learn about other areas of music and the arts.
6. Cutting-edge technologies.
7. Ongoing useful feedback to help you advance.
Doubting your ability to pursue music in college?
1. Ask yourself what you love about what you’ve been doing in music.
2. Spend time playing music or singing. Listen to music. Watch some of the great musicals, operas, jazz, and classical or contemporary performances offered online for free or at minimal cost.
What excites you about any of this?
What concerns you?
3. Is there anything about your area of music that tends to make you feel unhealthy or in pain or unhappy?
If so, do whatever you can to look more closely at that. Can you find someone to work with online or at a distance who can help you deal with your discomfort?
4. Talk with parents and mentors and teachers about your doubts. Consider having a session with a coach or consultant.
5. Learn about the transferable skills music majors gain – the skills you learn that will serve you well in your field but also in probably any other music-related OR non-music-related area you decide to pursue.
Even in careers that have nothing to do with the arts, a degree in music can be extraordinarily valuable. That said, it will be up to you to recognize how you can apply what you learn as a music major to a career or a graduate degree in another field if for some reason you can’t OR don’t want to continue in your current area of passion.
Photo Credit: Wes Hicks