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How many schools should a Vocal Major apply to?

Elegie17Elegie17 3 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
Hi everyone! I made a post last month regarding some of the schools I was considering applying to, and since then, I've been able to visit UMich, Oberlin, and Carnegie Mellon. Through college visits and more research, I've been able to whittle down my list to about 13 schools. Still, this seems far too many for a vocal major, considering I need to do a live audition for every school I am planning to apply to. I'm going to post my current list, and if anyone can help me get it down to perhaps <10 schools, that would be amazing. Fyi, I am interested in a BA/BM program for classical voice/opera at a large school (preferably) and currently live in NY. Here we go!
JSOM, Indiana University
Oberlin Conservatory
NYU Steinhardt
Syracuse University
Vanderbilt University (definitely a reach)
Northwestern University (also a reach)
University of Michigan SMTD
University of Cincinnati
SUNY Purchase
Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam
Boston University
Mannes, The New School
Eastman, University of Rochester
Thanks so much everyone! I look forward to updating on my application and audition experience.
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Replies to: How many schools should a Vocal Major apply to?

  • songbirdmamasongbirdmama 257 replies17 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 14
    Can't help you whittle as the list represents the best of the best musically, but you do have rural, suburban and city schools with small enrollments (Oberlin) huge ones (IU) and those in the middle. Have you visited them or even looked at the towns on google maps? Think about the overall environment you would prefer as you have 4 years to spend there! Also it is very important to weigh what you and your family can afford - those NY state schools are going to be very affordable, as would travel to and from places closer to home. When D applied (current senior at Northwestern VP major), she had 3 reach, 3 sweet spot, and 3 somewhat easier admits -based on academics as well as musicianship. We thought that 9 was a good number as we weren't sure she would pass all the prescreens (though she did). Once you had a set of recordings, it wasn't too hard to reformat for each school, and even many of the essays prompts were similar. But try not to accrue debt. You will want to have enough flexibility to spend on summer programs and MM degree. You say BA/BM but they are really very different. You should look at sample 4 year class schedules for each school and see whether BA/BM is better for your interests. I know D finalized her decision because one larger school had way too many non music requirements- she was not about to take calc or a lab science! Good luck.
    edited September 14
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  • NYCMusicDadNYCMusicDad 139 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 14
    Another NU VP parent chiming in to say you have a very good list, you just need to think a little bit more about what among the non-musical factors is most important to you. My daughter applied to 8 schools, 6 of which are on your list. She had made some limiting decisions going in- she wanted pretty high level academics and did not want to go to school in New York City, having lived there from birth. So she would not have considered NYU or Purchase or Mannes. But you're not her. Go sit under a tree and try to envision yourself at these places and imagine where you see yourself happiest. In a big program? Small campus? City? Country? Etc. A phenomenon that happens at university music schools that might affect your thinking is whether the music school is set apart from the main campus. URochester is a good sized school, but Eastman is relatively small and a 20 minute bus ride away from the main UR campus. So feeling like you're at a big school there would take more effort on your part. Vanderbilt's music school is also physically separated from the main campus, but they offer some of the best opportunities to study other things while pursuing an undergraduate vocal performance degree, as their credit requirements are lower for the BM than other schools. Get into the weeds a little about the specific degrees and their requirements and things may clarify for you.

    You also might want to consider which of your programs a reach-y for voice (setting academics aside), either because they attract a lot of talented applicants (CCM, Eastman, UMich, NU to name but a few on your list), or because they don't have many spots each year (Vanderbilt comes to mind). Make sure your end list isn't solely places like that.

    The only thing that jumps out at me is that you have two SUNYs, one of which has a more of a performance focus (Purchase) and one of which has more of a Music Ed focus (Crane, I believe, confirm that). Unless you're undecided between those two paths it might make sense to go for the one that fits your goals better.

    Investigating the current faculty lineup is also important, of course, and making sure there's at least one teacher, preferably a few teachers, you'd be happy studying with.

    Lastly, look into which of these schools hold auditions in NYC. I know Oberlin does. You might be able to knock off a couple auditions in NY.

    Good Luck.
    edited September 14
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  • Elegie17Elegie17 3 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @songbirdmama Hi there, thank you for your great advice! I've been really concerned about having too many on my list, but your point about the pre-screens and perhaps not getting a live audition at all the schools is a relief to hear. I have been able to visit all except Eastman, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, and Potsdam. Through these visits, I've decided I really want to go to a big school with a LOT of school spirit- just because I'm a music major shouldn't mean I can't get the classic college experience! However, I've been unable to remove smaller schools like Oberlin and Eastman because of the amazing faculty and opportunities. Also, I will definitely be looking at the sample 4 year schedules for each school. Thanks so much again!
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  • songbirdmamasongbirdmama 257 replies17 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @Elegie17 - Look on a Map to see the location of the music schools relative to the rest of the colleges. In places like Hopkins/Peabody, for example. you will see they are not close, making dual degrees more difficult logistically (Think about scheduling classes back to back on two different campuses miles apart). At a conservatory you are going to be immersed in music, and there will be less "cross pollenization" with liberal arts, in general. For example, music students all live in the same dorm at Eastman. Not the case at Vandy or Syracuse, where your roomie and hall mates might be engineers of philosophers. So if you want a typical college experience, think hard about the conservatories. Ironically, my D thought like you but essentially had a conservatory experience at Bienen by her own choice. She really wanted to be immersed more than she thought. However most of her peers did 5 year dual degrees or double majors and will not go on to grad school.
    Best luck!
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  • bridgenailbridgenail 1034 replies5 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 15
    Another VP parent here. My D graduated from IU in 2015 so a few years ago. You have already received excellent advice above from parents closer to the process. I agree with them that you should consider these 3 factors closely while reviewing your list: 1) affordability/possibility of scholarships 2) curriculum semester by semester and 3) fit which @songbirdmama explains well above.

    You don’t necessarily have to remove a school right now...you just need to prioritize. It is VERY common for time and money to whittle down the list over the next few months. If you have a handful of strong “yes schools”, start working on those pre-screens. Maybe make sure to have a safety and good match or two in the mix. As you work on it, you may just notice a school or two always at the bottom of the list. And you may never complete their pre-screens. My D dropped 2 schools this way.

    My D looked at LACs and big universities. The auditions really helped here clarify what felt best (along with curriculum). So if you want Oberlin and IU on your list at this point in time that’s fine. Still I would be doing the mental gymnastics about what school environment is best for you academically, musically and socially...not simply looking at “great music programs”. Being happy matters!!!

    My culling knife would be looking at schools and cost closely. If cost is not a concern that’s fine. But if it is, I would check closely the likelihood for academic scholarships or not (along with music scholarships). You can spend a lot of time and money to get an acceptance for ... $60 or $70,000 per year. You may want to get pre-screens done earlier for some schools with a reputation for scholarships (or affordability).

    I hope this helps.
    edited September 15
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  • vistajayvistajay 1463 replies27 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You are correct that it will be very, very hard bordering on impossible to schedule and complete 13 separate auditions. Most of your schools are in cold weather locales. Weather related travel issues alone will affect several of your auditions. Some of those 13 schools will have conflicting audition dates. My son applied to ten schools for a VP-BM. But he did not have to do that many auditions. One prescreen was rejected, he did six auditions, and the other three he ended up canceling after he was admitted to more preferred options. It will work itself out.
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  • MusakParentMusakParent 1002 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited October 1
    My VP student applied to 10 auditioned programs hoping to be able to audition at 6 or 7 and that is what happened. VP is very competitive. My kid applied for double degrees too and found not every individual music faculty member was enthusiastic about double degree students everywhere it is theoretically possible to do it so ask about that directly when you are able. I do think that can affect music admissions if schools are looking at a long list of applicants. If you are going to be at a school, much better to be working with a teacher who is understanding that you are a multi-interested student.

    I was going to say you never know why you may be cut from a prescreen either. My kid had a sample lesson at one school. It went great. He clicked with this guy. He went way over the allotted time. Then at the end he said are you applying to school X and/or school Y? My kid said yes. He said, I don't blame you, those are great options too and sent him on his way. This was a very high buck private known to be financially stingy and those schools he asked about had the ability to come in at a pretty low price point. He was not invited to audition there. I think they filter on all sorts of criteria.
    edited October 1
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