Music School Offers: Timing Your Acceptance

Are you a high school senior (or parent of one) who has the good fortune of being accepted by more than one music school? Did you know that you have until May 1 to decide which music school to accept?

Every music school accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) is required to “allow students to choose without penalty among offers of admission and financial aid until May 1 of the calendar year of matriculation for undergraduate-level programs.” (For graduate school programs, the final offer acceptance¬† date is April 15.)

What this means is that if you’ve been offered a spot at a school, along with a financial package, as long as the school is NASM-accredited, both the spot and the scholarship must be held for you until May 1.

Schools realize that students need time for last-minute considerations and comparisons. In fact, many schools set aside specific days for students to visit, to assist with final decisions. Some may even fly you there to help you make up your mind (assuming they really want you and you can’t pay your own way). The bottom line is that all schools want you to be as sure as possible about your decision. Doing so will serve you as well as them.

Is it okay to ask for more money?

It’s become common practice for students to ask whether a larger financial aid package is available before accepting or turning down an offer. Once upon a time this was unheard of. But now it’s the norm to find out if anything more is possible, especially if you’re comparing financial packages between schools or if your family’s financial situation could prevent you from going to a school you’ve been accepted to and really want to attend.

Carefully considering the financial implications of accepting one school over another may take until right up to the May 1st deadline. “Different offers arrive to students at different times. Appropriate time should be taken to see what will work financially for you and your family,” says Marcus Turner, former coordinator of admission at Northwestern University Bienen School of Music. “Financial aid funds can sometimes become available at the last minute,” he shares, “which is why waiting until the deadline and taking time to make this important decision is extremely appropriate.”

What will your education provide you with once you graduate? What value will you gain and how does that figure in to your decision-making process about which school to accept? How will one school versus another help you build a meaningful life as a musician? Whether your goal is to get into graduate school, to launch your chosen career in music, or something entirely different, consider the value of your education in addition to the cost of it.

Are there any downsides to waiting?

At some schools, the sooner you accept, the earlier you get to register for housing. If you have strong housing or roommate preferences, this may be important to you.

The sooner you know where you’ll be in the fall, the less stressful your final semester of senior year is likely to be. You can devote more of your attention to finals, the school musical, prom, friends, etc. once you make up your mind where you want to go to school. Sharron Starling, admission director at Cornish College of the Arts, encourages students who are secure with their aid packages and who are clear about the benefits of one school over another to go ahead and make a decision before May 1.

Once you do accept an offer, be sure to notify all of the other schools you’re declining. Remember that you may end up transferring or applying to one or more of them for grad school. Courteous and timely communication could pay off in the future.

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