International student interested in applying as a music major (BA)

I am an international (Asian male) senior who is currently trying to apply to US universities as a music major (BA). I had a few questions I wanted to ask.

Background info:


GPA: 4.7/5 (Unweighted) - No class rank, but highest percentile in class (competitive private high school)
APs: AP Calculus AB/BC, AP Statistics, AP Physics C - Electricity and Magnetism (took the max amount of APs (and rigorous) available at my school)
SAT: 1420 - hoping for a score of 1450 or higher.
LoRs and Essays: I won’t say much because it’s subjective, but one thing I will say is that my common app is very personal (related to my journey with the guitar).

ECs (Music main)

I have been playing classical guitar at the highest level in my country (country name withheld to protect privacy). I have won 3 awards in international competitions, over 10 awards in national level competitions, participated in over 15 masterclasses and festivals, and have had my name and competition results published in a guitar magazine (name withheld for privacy). I have also appeared as a guest artist at concerts for public institutions and conservatories.

I have organized masterclasses and concerts (for young aspiring guitarists, with 30 to 40 participants per event) for touring top international guitarists, raising a total of more than $20000 for these artists (for non-profit purposes, with the goal of reducing the cost of masterclasses and concert tickets, I did not take any commissions in exchange allowing myself to take the masterclasses :slight_smile: ).

Participated and volunteered as a tour leader/interpreter/translator (speak three languages) for public master classes and festivals. Participated in planning and attracting aspiring guitarists and amateurs from (country name) to join the festival (abroad) as a tour group (I negotiated with the management to get a tour group discount).

Other non-music related ECs:
Student President (Student Government) for 3 years
Team leader of a project to translate U.S. university classes into my native language.
Internships at hospitals and universities (College of Medicine)

I’m applying as a music major (BA), not to schools like Juilliard or SFCM, because I don’t want to pursue only music (I want to go to a LAC where I can do music and other things). I am interested in applying to schools like Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and Vanderbilt (I may apply to cross program). If I am applying as a music major, am I not academically suited for these schools? Are the music majors at these schools very competitive? Would being an Asian male give me an advantage in the application process because I play an instrument that is not commonly known (classical guitar)?

Additional info:

  • I am not applying for financial aid.
  • I will be submitting supplemental materials and a letter of recommendation from my guitar teacher of 14 years (recordings of myself playing in concerts and competitions (music from Bach to Toru Takemitsu)).

I look forward to hearing from you all!

The supplement should also include a resume, and you have quite a lot to include in that.

You can certainly apply to some of the top schools. What do you mean by “cross program”? Are you referring to a double degree?

I recommend you read the Double Degree Dilemma essay under the Read Me thread here on the music major forum.

If you were to attend Harvard, there are teachers at NEC who would probably teach you. Harvard gives credit for lessons and certain performance ensembles, but you find a teacher in the community.

Stanford has advanced classical guitar: audition requirements listed are Tarrega, Sor, Carcassi; brief works by Bach, Scarlatti-Brouwer, or Villa-Lobos. Columbia has Marco Cappelli.

Vanderbilt has Richard Todd for “collegiate non-majors.” Does this mean there is no classical guitar program at Blair? I guess you would not be attending for a BM anyway.

You appear to be academically suited but of course international students have an even lower acceptance rate. Music can generally help with admissions so it is good you are submitting a supplement. Your guitar accomplishments are impressive.

Have you looked at Oberlin? Check out their Musical Studies BA which was recently enhanced to give access to the resources of the Conservatory. You could check out Tufts as well. Very active music program. Williams. Another school I really like is Clark in Worcester MA, which has classical guitar (Major in Music - Bachelor of Arts Degree - Clark University) and a lot of international students, I believe.

Like everyone, you should have some matches, reaches and safeties but your talent in music, as documented by your supplement, should help with admissions when added to academic stats that meet the benchmark.

If you are retaking the SAT and bumping up to 1450+ that’s great but don’t stress too much over that.


Hi compmom! Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

What do you mean by “cross program”?
I was referring to the double degree. After reading your essay on the double degree dilemma, pursuing a music career in graduate school seemed like a very attractive option to me!

What should be included in my resume?
So far, I have listed competition results, performance/masterclass/festival experience, repertoire, teachers, and music-related ECs. Is there anything else I should mention?

As I mentioned before, Harvard and Columbia are my first choices (I prefer urban schools because I can go to concerts more often :slight_smile: ) but do you know what exactly is the admission process for music majors? It says on the website that supplemental materials are not necessarily reviewed, but is that true for those applying as music majors? Would a very good music supplement actually increase my chances of getting into these schools?

In some cases, applications from those wanting to pursue a music degree will be routed to the music department, where audition results and the department’s need for a balance of majors may be factored into the type, and amount of financial assistance offered.
Does this apply to schools like Columbia and Harvard?

What is the general admission rate for music majors (BA)?

Sorry for asking so many questions. I can’t find any info online, so you seem to be the person to ask!


There is no template for a music resume and it sounds like you have been thorough in including your accomplishments. The list in your original post was impressive and I assume all of that is in there.

Where did you find that text that you italicized? Financial aid at Harvard and Columbia is solely based on financial need. No other factors.

You send the application and music supplement to admissions. They may or may not have the music department review. The resume and letter of recommendation are important. You can submit two letters if that helps, but one from your main teacher is fine.

You might also want to consider Tufts.

I will PM you.

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At the colleges you have emphasized for your list, you wouldn’t be accepted as a music major as such, in that you would declare your major as an actual student (typically late in your sophomore year). You would, however, be reviewed as a potential music major, which could have a positive, but not easily quantifiable, affect on your chances. Your best estimate, then, may be to assume that the overall admission rate for colleges of interest would apply to you (excepting those at which you might apply to a specific school within the unviversity).

As a potential addition, look into the University of Rochester’s B.A. program.


No…this doesn’t apply to Columbia and Harvard. Those schools give need based aid only.

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You do not have to be a prospective music major to benefit from a music supplement by the way. You declare a concentration at Harvard and many colleges at the end of sophomore year.

In schools with BA programs they are often interested in how you can contribute to extracurricular music regardless of major.

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It looks like Vanderbilt only offers classical guitar as a second major, so the OP would need to apply to one of the other undergraduate schools for a primary major, then audition for the second major after a semester of lessons.

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Hi-do you have any insight as to how admissions decides whether or not to have a music supplement reviewed by the music department? thx

Good catch! I think the OP wants a BA so I was just looking to see whether they have any guitar faculty. It looks like there is no guitar performance degree at Blair. Hmmm.

No idea, sorry. I always thought it might be in cases where the application, resume and letters leave the decision murky and admissions needs music dept. review but that is purely speculative.

It is good for applicants to understand that in many cases the BA application is very different from a BM application. The latter involves required repertoire, prescreens, auditions and sometimes a portfolio For a BA applicant just a recording/video, resume and letter(s). In fact, you can ask if they want you to cue the best 3 minutes to listen to!

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The below is from Hamilton College, and may help you in your general understanding of the process:

You are invited to submit materials to document your special talent(s), including solo music performances, theatre performances, dance performances, and visual artwork. . . .


  • Students can link to 1-5 videos or audio files on YouTube, Vimeo, or SoundCloud.

  • Students must categorize their submission as primarily orchestral music, vocal music, jazz, or keyboard and composition (to facilitate the assignment of the correct faculty reviewer). Students may complete submissions in more than one of these categories.

  • Students must describe their plans for music involvement in college, provide a summary of their training and experience (including instructor names and length of training), and describe their roles in any submitted work.

  • Do not submit full orchestral, band, or choral recordings unless you are a featured soloist; if so, please specify your solo.

From reading the above, it appears that supplements of this depth routinely will be reviewed by the music department.


that is my impression too but I have also heard some never get reviewed just due to the volume. thx.