Tips for Visiting Music Schools

Which music schools make sense to visit? You can certainly learn a lot by watching videos and by reading their websites, but there’s nothing quite like being on campus to get a feel for what it would be like to be a student there. Consider these tips for visiting music schools.

Timing and Cost

1. Combine looking at schools with any other travel you are already planning to do to save on costs. Start doing this a couple of years before you actually start applying, to get a sense of what attracts you. This will also limit the number of schools you’ll need to see once you’re ready to apply.

2. While graduate schools may pay for you to visit before you apply, it’s unlikely that undergraduate programs will offer that option. But it’s never a bad idea to ask if there are any financial aid opportunities for visiting the schools you are interested in. Try to bundle school visits so that you can see more than one school while you are traveling.

3. Check college vacation calendars before you set your plans in motion to make sure you get a realistic view of the schools you visit. Avoid midterm and finals weeks as well as orientation if at all possible –– you may not get the time and attention you need when everyone is up to their eyeballs in busywork.

What to Expect

1. Most schools offer open houses where students are shepherded en masse through planned group presentations and tours, led by an energetic student tour guide trained to walk backwards while presenting a very upbeat talk about the school. While this allows for a view of the campus as well as a sense of who else is interested in applying, it doesn’t give you a chance to check out your own interests, questions and concerns.

2. Remember that you are a potential customer and deserve to spend the time investigating what’s important to you at every school you look at, just the way you would if you were buying a car, a new pair of skis, a computer, or anything else that you value and that will cost you plenty.

Tailor Your Visit

Sometimes it takes a bit of insistence, but politely find a way to do the following:

  • Sit in on a few classes, ideally, similar classes at each school you are looking at. Sit in on an ensemble or orchestra or choral rehearsal. Can you see yourself being part of one of these groups?
  • Meet with and take a sample lesson from an instructor you are interested in studying with. You may or may not need to pay for this lesson; every school is different.
  • Check out the practice rooms, rehearsal rooms, performance spaces, equipment and other resources.
  • Spend a night in the dorms –– ask the school to match you up with a current student with similar interests. Do you feel comfortable around other students? Does the noise level work for you?
  • Does the location of the school appeal to you? Do you feel safe on campus as well as in the surrounding area?
  • Picture yourself at each school. Can you see yourself going to school there?

Take Notes!

1. Jot down or key into your phone or computer any notes about each school you visit as soon as you can, to keep your thoughts, gut reactions and any new information as clear and organized as possible.

Does what you saw and experienced match what you thought before you went to see the school?

Your notes will serve you well when you get to the point of having to make a decision. A college counselor at a high school on the East Coast likes to share the story of a young woman who visited many schools and then made her decision about which to attend. She neglected to take notes or keep a list of criteria to judge each school by but was sure she remembered every detail in her head. When it came time to start college, the young woman and her parents drove a loaded-down car for two days to get to her chosen school. Unfortunately, as they approached the campus, it suddenly dawned on her that this was not the school she had expected!

2. Send a thank you email or note to anyone who has taken time to give you a lesson or helped you learn about the school. You never know how and when you may need their support –– and this will help them remember you.

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