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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