My son applied mostly to good university programs that had a very strong teacher for his instrument, because he wanted both music and liberal arts education. This is how he went about identifying programs:
He discussed his options with his current teacher, and past teachers. He researched the quality of the teacher at every University-affiliated school of music that also allowed him easy access to a good liberal arts education. He listened to recordings by the teachers, because he said that you wind up sounding like the person who trained you. He networked on instrument-specific student social media websites and with older students whom he had met at summer programs, pre-college programs, and a several days long international level residential competition/institute for his instrument, to find out how they felt about the teachers and schools that they were at. He looked at how much the teacher was present at that school. One school he ruled out because the famous teacher was teaching/playing at five different places across the country, which meant he would not be very available.
Some programs he ruled out because the studio was too big, and he felt that there would be too much competition. Some he ruled out because of lack of academic rigor in the liberal arts. He refused to go to a conservative church school. Some because the teacher had a reputation of being difficult to work with. One because unfortunately the teacher was out sick, and would be covered by a different person every six months.
Meanwhile, I networked on an internet forum dedicated to his instrument. I’m sure they exist for upright string bass, too. I got a lot of recommendations there, but for each one, when I presented them to my son, he explained to me why he had eliminated that program from his list. He always gave me very good reasons why he had done so.
By the time he was done with all of his research, I was really surprised to find out that he only wanted to apply to about eight schools. His safety was our flagship state U, which happened to have a fantastic teacher for his instrument. The lack of performance opportunities during the pandemic has affected his career goals. He wound up at a top Ivy which does NOT have a performance music major, but he will continue to play in the orchestra there, and probably will continue to study with a private teacher.
One thing which could have helped him to narrow down his choices, would have been try out lessons, with feedback. He already had a pretty good idea where he stood compared to other players in the country in his academic year, but had he not, these lessons would have helped him to understand where he had a chance and where he did not. He emailed the teachers at every school where he planned to apply, and I think that they all offered him a free zoom lesson (which we hadn’t been expecting at all).
If he hasn’t auditioned for national level orchestra programs, which of course it’s been very difficult to do, because of the pandemic, I don’t know how he would have an idea of where he stands in comparison to the other string bass players in his year, across the country. This is where the zoom trial lessons may really help him to narrow his focus.
There is another very important consideration, and that is what he plans to do with his degree, how he plans to make a living. He should consider whether music education is an appropriate field for him, and if so, he needs to factor that into his choice of schools. There are places where he can study both instrumental performance and music education.