This time of year, a hot topic on many high school students’ minds is, “How do I apply for college?” If you plan to fill out applications for the first time this fall, it's possible you're already feeling intimidated (before you've even started)! But we can tell you firsthand: Applying to music schools, as it turned out, wasn’t as scary as we thought it would be. Personally, both of us are planners. If we don’t have a plan laying out everything we need to accomplish, we do start to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, this made all the difference in our application process.
We’re both big fans of spreadsheets. It’s impossible to keep track of important information without writing it down somewhere, and spreadsheets help organize it all: which schools you’re applying to, each school’s audition requirements, what you’ll actually perform at each audition, etc. A spreadsheet puts all this information at your fingertips. It’s easily accessible from many devices, shareable to people who care (like parents and teachers), and it’s easy to read.
Step one: Organize your thoughts
Spreadsheets, of course, are completely customizable. What you actually put on your sheet is really up to you and your planning style. Get the ball rolling by asking your teachers and classmates for school recommendations. Couple advice and research with your own priorities, then start filling things in: When is the application due? What are the requirements? Do you need a pre-screening audition? This kind of focused work at the beginning of the process can cut down on the number of auditions you have to do, which in turn helps with travel costs and stress levels. Here’s an example of a general school application spreadsheet:
Step two: Do the work
Once you have the spreadsheet all filled out and your decisions made about where to apply, you can get to work submitting items for your applications. Turning your applications in early is infinitely more stress-relieving than sending them in at the last second. While it’s not always possible to send things in early—some items, like letters of recommendation and test scores are somewhat out of your control—we recommend doing so if you can.
You have a couple of submission options, depending on your preference: Send it all in at once (so you don’t feel as scattered and can save time on actually submitting), or use your spreadsheet (ta-da!) to keep track of what you’ve submitted so far, using color coding as your guide. It also helps to call in reinforcements: Tell a friend, parent or teacher when your due dates are so they can check in on your progress periodically.
Step three: Blow their minds
Next, level up your spreadsheet and use it for auditions, too. By listing out the repertoire options of prospective schools, you can find the commonalities in order to cut down on the number of pieces you have to learn. Once the pieces are narrowed down, it’s helpful to talk with a private lessons teacher or band director to help you prepare. Your teachers understand your capabilities and can help you make selections that help your talents shine.
Let’s be honest. Auditioning can be downright terrifying at times, but it’s important to remember that nobody involved wants to see you fail, not even the people you’re auditioning for! College recruiters know an important part of your journey as a musician is learning how you manage performance anxiety, and nobody expects you to master it by the time you’re auditioning for colleges. Still, it can help to practice some calming techniques you can deploy before you play. Try:
- Humming your repertoire
- Doing breathing exercises
One last thing: Auditioning takes a lot of prep, a lot of work, and a lot of gumption, but don’t forget to listen to your gut. If you feel that a school isn’t right for you, figure out why and take that into consideration with all the other schools on your list. On the other hand, if you feel that a certain school (say ... CU Boulder ...) has something that attracts you, put it at the top of your list and do your best there.
Here’s something you can put in your brand-spanking-new spreadsheet right now: The University of Colorado application is due Nov. 15, and the music application is due Dec. 1!
Auditioning for college can be a stressful time, but it doesn’t last forever! On the other side, you’ll have a college that wants to teach you, and a college experience you’ll never forget. Go forth with preparedness and success, and good luck!
Check out more blogs by our Music Buffs here.