For future college students, right now is a very important time of year. Either you are starting to receive you admissions decisions, or you are starting to think about which schools you want to apply to. Either way, it can be extremely stressful! This decision may affect your future career opportunities, and especially for singers, could make or break your vocal trajectory. In other words, it’s one of the most important decisions you could ever make. No pressure!
So, how do you decide where to apply? How do you decide which school to attend? These are big questions and they have multi-faceted answers. There is no one simple answer. However, here is a list of good things to think about as you make these decisions.
The Research Phase
The Safe, Good, Reach Tactic
It can be expensive to apply to schools, often reaching over $100 per application. This means, you need to make sure you only apply to schools you’d really love, and each application needs to reflect your best work. Because of this, many advisors suggest you apply to three schools: a safe school, good school, and reach school. Your safe school is the one you just KNOW that you’ll get into. It’s good enough, but you would have no challenges in being accepted. This means that your test scores, grades, and musical abilities are higher than the average admitted freshman of the previous year’s class. If you don’t know where you fall, call the admissions office and they often have tons of statistics on their recently admitted students. The good school is a school you’d be very happy attending. They are competitive to get into, but not impossible. The school has an extremely good reputation in your field. Your reach school is the school that has the most competitive admissions process. Only the cream of the crop get into this school. You are seemingly guaranteed success just by having it on your resume. Many people consider the Ivy Leagues among good reach school choices, or music conservatories like Curtis School of Music and The Juilliard School for musicians.
Ask Your Connections
Ask people in your field where they would recommend you attend. They will know where the best schools are and whether or not you have a decent chance of getting in. Your voice teacher will know how you work best and will have an extremely valuable opinion. Chances are, your voice teacher may even know a specific professor you should study with. Utilize your connections to get initial ideas about where to attend school, then begin researching those schools.
Your university voice teacher is the most important catalyst of your growth as a singer during your college years. They work with you the most often and the most personally. They will be the one to get to know your voice inside and out, and fix your issues inside and out. Some schools have voice teachers who are incredible performers. Just because they can perform doesn’t mean they can teach well. Likewise, you will see voice teachers who teach extremely well, but don’t spend time performing. The goal is to find the best TEACHER for you. When you visit or audition for a school, make sure to arrange a voice lesson with teachers that interest you. You must be able to click with and trust your teacher.
If you are going to school to be an opera performer, you should be able to practice performing in school. Take a thorough look at their program and see how many opera productions are given a year, how many choir concerts, how many required recitals, how many performance workshops. Are undergraduates cast in leading roles or are graduate students? As an undergraduate in a top conservatory, you may always be stuck in the chorus whereas you’d have more chances to perform a leading role in a small liberal arts school. Weigh how much performance practice is to you versus prestige of the school.
Location, Location, Location!
As a graduate student, you will be spending two years at school. As an undergraduate, four. That’s a long time! You want to actually like where you are living, no matter what the school program offers. Consider whether the school is in an urban or rural location, if you can take public transportation or need a car, the climate, the campus and campus surroundings, and housing. If you hate the city and really hot weather, maybe don’t go to school in Phoenix, Arizona. If you hate public transportation, don’t move to New York City. Tons of students transfer schools their sophomore year simply because they don’t like their environment. Location is an all too often ignored factor.
You’ve Gotten In!
Did you get into your top choice school? Congratulations! That’s an indication that your choice has been made a lot easier. Consider the ranking of which schools you wanted to get into most when you first applied. You had very specific reasons for this that are valid. The following considerations may alter your ranking of these schools.
Talk to Professors
Email your advisor and ask to speak to them or professors in your program. Before you talk to them, make a whole list of questions to ask about the school, the program, the culture, and employment after graduation. You need to make sure that the school and program best fit your individual needs. They will have answers to questions that you wouldn’t necessarily find in the shiny, bright brochures you receive from them in your mailbox.
If you didn’t do a live audition, visit the school to get a feel for the campus itself. Can you see yourself spending 90% of your time there? If you are able, arrange to sit in on a couple classes or rehearsals. This will give you the most immersive experience of attending the school without actually making the commitment. Plus, if you attend a class or two, you will be able to chat with students about their experience at the school. You want completely honest feedback? Ask a student.
As much as you don’t want it to be, money can be a huge sway in where you decide to attend, and for some people, it can be the deciding factor. Student loans are a huge burden to bear and should be considered very seriously. You may be paying back your student loans for the next ten years or even longer. In 2016, the average bachelor degree graduate owed $37,172 in student loans. That’s as much as a down payment on a house! Schools like the Curtis School of Music have a large amount of funding, so students are offered a free ride. Others may not offer as much funding. If you are attending an out-of-state public school, be prepared to spend more money. If you are attending a private university, you may be given more in scholarships and grants. As a graduate student, you may be offered a fellowship, which would remit some tuition and give you a stipend for cost of living. Consider what you are willing and able to pay.
All this considered, take a deep breath! It will all be okay! No matter where you go, what you put into your education is what you will get out of it. If you discover that you don’t like the school where you are attending, you can always transfer schools. It’s not the end of the world and certainly it has been done many times before. Take your time - don’t feel like you have to make a decision right away. Best wishes in your education journey!
If you are interested in applying to German music schools, please read GVAI's blog post about How to apply for German Music schools here.
And last but not least, if you want to prepare best for a college or agency audition tour in Germany, consider to sign up for our Summer Opera Program 2018 The Magic Flute in Seattle, WA.
Sign up for our newsletter and blog posts, because they are an invaluable source for singers and keep you always up to date.
Personalized diction, voice & performance training, singing lessons online or in person
Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....
Apply now: Deadline extended to 4/15/18