How to Choose Your College

Choose College Blog HeaderYOU DID IT! You navigated the applications, survived the auditions, and received your acceptance letters. Take a moment to bask in the glow of your accomplishments.

(Go ahead, do it–you deserve it!)

Now for the reality check: How do you decide where to go? You can make a pro/con list, solicit advice from friends and teachers, talk to your parents and take whatever steps you need to help make this decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go through this process:

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For most families, this is the biggest concern. Maybe the school you had your heart set on didn’t offer you enough financial aid, or you didn’t receive as much aid as you hoped all around. First take a look at the type of aid you’ve been offered.

  • Government aid is determined by your FAFSA and is essentially set in stone once it’s awarded. This does NOT come through the school itself. For some government aid, the earlier you complete your FAFSA the more aid you get so make sure to complete it as soon as possible.
  • Scholarships and grants are awarded by the school and can be a little more flexible.

Concerned you didn’t receive enough? The best thing you can do is contact the school’s financial aid office and ASK. There is a possibility you can find more money through scholarships or grants, or they will have advice on securing a loan from an independent lender. This can also be helpful once you are in the school and can prove your commitment and financial need. Whatever you decide to do financially, make sure you consider the investment before you commit to a school; it may be a well-chosen debt if you are comfortable taking it on for a school you are passionate about and can advance your playing and your career. However, don’t put yourself in a financial hole you aren’t OK with getting out of.

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If you didn’t visit a school you’re considering during auditions, now is the time to do so. Go to those welcome parties and information sessions they’re offering! It’s a great way to meet professors, administration, and possibly future classmates. Get a feel for the school, since it’s the place you’ll possibly spending the next four years of your life. Make sure to also take a test lesson with the teacher while you are there, as they will be one of your biggest mentors during your time there. Sit in on a masterclass or lecture if possible. In short, do everything you can to experience what it would be like to go to this school so you can make an informed decision.

Don’t forget to consider the location of the campus too! As we said before when choosing where to apply, know what you’re comfortable with distance-wise and what kind of environment you thrive in. If you despise being in the middle of nowhere, that cute college you visited that borders nothing is probably going to drive you crazy. Keep in mind too what kinds of opportunities are available, musical and otherwise. Some schools have stronger chamber music programs, others are great for learning orchestral repertoire. Find out about the local music scene in the community too, especially if you are interested in pursuing a non-classical career. It is even worth it to see if you can take non-musical classes as well if that’s what you are interested in. Whatever it is you are passionate about, make sure it’s available in some form.

Music schools, whether they are stand-alone conservatories or a school within a larger university, tend to be on the smaller side. For some, a larger school provides freedom to explore new things independently and to carve their own path. Others need more individualized attention and ongoing guidance in order to succeed. Think about what would work best for you and see if you can talk to current or former students. They’ll have valuable insight on the things you can’t determine from a quick campus visit, everything from where to live freshman year to whether they feel supported by teachers and administration.

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Is everything pointing one way but your instincts are screaming against it? Listen to them. Nervous that you made the wrong choice? This choice is not the be all end all–plenty of people transfer once they realize that the school they chose does not offer something they are looking for. The best thing you can do is decide what you want (or don’t want), gather all of the information you can to make an informed decision, and go for it.

Congratulations to everyone choosing colleges!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Applying to Music School

Applying to Music School Photo

It’s that time of year: college application season. Deadlines may seem a long way off, but do not be deceived;

They will sneak up on you.

If you are looking to study music, now is the time to begin if you have not already. Some things to keep in mind when you’re applying to music schools:

Decide what kind of program you want. Do you want a conservatory where the sole focus of your studies is music, or a music school within a university/college so you can take outside classes as well? There are advantages to both, but ultimately you need to decide what works best for you. This is not to say you can only apply to one or the other–many people apply to both, and some variety in your options down the road can be a great asset. When you are vetting prospective schools, it is a good thought to have in the back of your mind.

Be careful of how many schools you apply to. Remember, as a musician you will need to audition at all of these schools and possibly send in pre-screening materials. That friend who’s looking to study political science and is applying to twelve schools? That friend does not have to do ten auditions at ten different schools with ten different repertoire lists on top of the regular application process. Know how much you can handle, and don’t schedule so many auditions that you are overwhelmed.

Know which application you need to fill out. Some use the Common Application, others a common conservatory site, and still others have their own application process. Double check each school’s website you are applying to if you aren’t sure what materials are required or on what platform they need to be submitted.

Get your prescreening materials in on time. If you are a violinist or cellist, most if not all schools will have some sort of prescreening process. The best case scenario is to have all of your repertoire learned by the beginning of October so that you can be ready to send recordings in November/December. Make sure you follow the guidelines detailed by the school–your recording could be incredible, but if it’s not the repertoire or the format requested you could be shooting yourself in the foot. This is the easiest way to weed out applicants: if you don’t follow directions, they won’t waste their time.

One last thing about prescreening recordings: do not cut in the middle of the piece. Most schools are fine with a cut in between pieces, but they do not want to hear or see any editing during. Think of it like a live audition: you don’t get to stop in the middle and start over. If you’re ever unsure, check the school’s website or call the admissions office.

If possible, visit the schools and attend performances. This will give you an idea of what kind of repertoire, caliber, and school culture to expect. If you can’t go in person, many schools have performances recorded on their websites, YouTube, or Vimeo. If you can, talk to current students or recent grads to get an idea of what the program is like. You will have questions about what is important to you in a school, so don’t hesitate to ask for answers.

 

When the time comes, visit us at our store in Newton Upper Falls or online and www.johnsonstring.com for all of your audition needs. Short of practicing for you, we have everything you need to do your best at your auditions. Good luck to all, and stayed tuned in December for another post specifically about college auditions!

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons