The Role of Academics in Music Major Admissions

Hello, All. I just introduced myself in the music major introduction thread, but I’ll just sum it up a bit.

I’m a hs junior right now. I’ve looked through these forums a lot through the last three years, which has helped narrow down some of my schools, but I just happened to make an actual account. I’m looking at majoring in percussion performance, but I’ve gotten a little stuck about how my academics play a role in admissions.

I’d say that I’m definitely most interested in orchestral percussion and I’m mostly looking for a conservatory or a great conservatory/school within a university. The thing is, for many of these great conservatories within a university, the academic standards are usually really high. I’m talking Oberlin, Rice, Boston University.

I know that the whole predicament between academics vs. music has been an age-old debate in these forums and I still really haven’t been able to come to a great conclusion one way or another. So, right now, I’m going to have a cumulative unweighted gpa of around 3.6-3.8 by next year and likely an SAT of around 1250-1300.

The list I’m currently considering now is a bit lengthy, at least, in my opinion:

Boston U

U of Denver, Lamont

CU Boulder
Colorado State

So, I guess my main question is: Does anyone think that Rice and Oberlin will even consider my application taking into account my sub-par academics? And also, I’m completely open to other colleges, I just don’t want to go to Manhattan or NEC, where I’ll have over 300k in debt after graduation.

Sorry for the long post, everyone, and it may be a little too niche or specific. So, thank you in advance!

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I think you have a good list so far, and yes you should apply to your reaches. I would think your academics would meet benchmarks, but others can chime in.

I would comment on the fact that for a first post, yours is articulate and very clear on goals. I have a feeling you will impress beyond your playing :slight_smile:

And you are smart to avoid the freestanding conservatories that you named, given the lower financial aid offered at those schools, and where merit often isn’t enough to cover your needs.

Are you considering any public in-state options? Are you in CO?

Have you considered a summer program at Oberlin? Or any other programs? (So Percussion Summer Institute for instance)


Since you’re a percussionist, I would definitely add the Blair School at Vanderbilt to your list. The Vanderbilt Percussion Group is AMAZING. (I’m an alum, so I’m pretty biased I guess, but they are a seriously impressive studio with unbelievable alumni outcomes and, in my opinion, one of the best profs around. Definitely check it out!)

Academics wise, I think you’d probably be considered admissible at any of the schools you mentioned (definitely Oberlin, probably Rice too, since I think Shepherd admits people in that range). It’s possible you may be less inclined to get one of the really big merit scholarships at schools who consider SAT/ACT in those deliberations. (I know Vanderbilt definitely does this and I’m assuming Rice does as well, although these also have wonderful need-based aid programs to make up for that, Vandy especially so). Definitely worth applying to all of them, though, as compmom rightly pointed out!

Good luck to you!


Hey! from experience I think having a higher test score really helps and maintaining a high GPA is good too. For example having an ACT that’s like 31+ will really set u apart. Idk how that converts to SAT but u can look that up. Colleges know that if you apply for music you’re not gonna take the most rigorous courses and that’s ok. Just keep practicing and working hard and you will end up where you’re meant to end up. :slightly_smiling_face::slightly_smiling_face:

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Thank you! I’ve had experience reading the forums, so I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what exactly I want to ask.

I’m mainly asking people’s opinions on academic benchmarks b/c anytime I try to find benchmarks on Oberlin or Rice, they’re usually just the general population and is mixed in with music majors. I also heard some rumours on another thread that in the past decade, Rice has been holding music majors to higher and higher academic standards. I’m not sure why b/c I’d think they’d end up getting worse musicians, if that’s the case. But, ultimately, I think I’ll end up applying; it doesn’t hurt to try.

Yes, I’m in CO. I have personal connections, more or less, to pretty much all the state schools’ percussion professors. CU Boulder, CSU, UNC. Although, DU Lamont is private, I have the best connections there and they’re probably the secret conservatory of the Rockies. The only downside in CO being our higher education is funded poorly, so tuition, etc. is higher than most states’ public options (except maybe CA). But, they are all great schools, especially their music departments.

So, I’ve applied to the DU Lamont Summer Academy and I’m hopeful that I’ll get a good scholarship to attend. I’ve heard about the Oberlin Percussion Institute. But, for the life of me, I can’t find anything about it in the last decade. It’s mentioned on Oberlin’s website and Professor Rosen’s website, but I cannot find anything about it anywhere on the web. Perhaps, I’ll contact the percussion department or the conservatory and see. I’m just worried that the deadline is past already or very close, as the DU Application is actually due today.

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Thanks. I’ll look into it. I’ve heard of Blair, but haven’t researched it too much.

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Yes, having higher test scores and gpas will definitely help in admissions to places like Rice. I think a 31 is equivalent to about a 1400, so a good bit higher than I’m at right now. It’s doable for me, but it would be at the expense of my music performance. So, I’ll definitely just do my best and I’ll end up happy wherever I go. Thanks.

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Honestly I started studying for the ACT this time last year (i’m a senior rn) and I got from an 18 to a 32. I literally raised 14 points and probably spent about 4.5-5hrs a week studying (including my 1.5hr tutoring session once a week). U can totally do it without it hindering your practice schedule. I still practiced 2-4hrs a day and had a social life haha! I literally go out every weekend and I could manage everything pretty easily. Just keep doing what you love (music) and try not to stress too much. I believe in you! :slightly_smiling_face::slightly_smiling_face:

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also i literally find out if i got into blair TODAY lol i’m so nervous. i’ll let u know what happens & share my stats with you since i’m going in as a violin performance major!


I also work 15 hours a week and have two younger siblings, so it’s pretty tough practicing right now. I used Khan Academy to study for the PSAT, so I’ll start doing that now to prep for the SAT in the spring and fall.

I wish you the best on your acceptance!


Your music is more important than scores. Do you expect enough financial aid or do you need merit? In our experience Oberlin merit was for music. PM’ing you.


Omg I see what u mean. Yeah just focus on the music, your job, and your siblings for now. Wishing u all the best and happy practicing :relaxed::relaxed::relaxed:

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You sound like a very good student and musician. Good musicians can get in Oberlin, definitely and BU probably, with your estimated SAT scores and your GPA. Will these schools require SAT/ACT scores next year?? Does anyone know if Oberlin still meet “need”? BU does.

There was one member whose percussionist son currently studies at Temple. Does anyone remember her/his name? If she/he is still active here, you may be able to get specific feed back about percussion auditions / admissions. Temple sure sounds good.

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Thank you. Yeah, I don’t think anyone knows if schools will ask for scores next year or not. Idk if it’s more beneficial to send scores even if they’re lower if it’s test optional, but I guess I’ll see when it’s time.

I also am concerned about Oberlin meeting “100% financial need.” They say they do, but my family of 7 making less than 100k is still calculated that I should max out federal loans, max out work-study, and magically pay 8k more each year. Idk if the calculator is just wrong or if Oberlin has really dropped the ball on their morality.

However, I know that Rice just announced last year that they will provide students whose families make less than 120k with full tuition scholarships. Families under 65k with full tuition, room, board, and fees. And I think something like 120k-200k with half tuition.

And I know that BU also matches need completely and obviously Curtis does.

I think I have heard of that person who went or is at Temple, but I haven’t caught their name.

You all may be thinking of @Lendlees?

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Yes, I think it is lendlees!

Any insight into the woodwind/oboe studio at Vanderbilt? And what is the interview like? My sons is Saturday.

Yes! I’m the one with the percussionist kid at Temple/Boyer. @percussioncelery I will PM you. I have a lot of opinions on the schools you’ve listed - if you are interested in hearing about them.

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I do not think your list is too lengthy. Your academics strike me as relatively strong. Some schools are now test optional so it’s hard to recommend/evaluate re SAT. If you like Rice and Oberlin, go ahead and apply. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Very different places - Rice is a large university, Oberlin is a small-ish liberal arts college (3000 students). Oberlin makes it relatively doable to pursue a double degree if that is of interest.

UPDATE: I ended up applying and auditioning at Boston U, Rice, CU Boulder, and DU and withdrawing my application from CSU and Oberlin.

I was accepted at all except for Rice. I will be attending BU this fall for percussion performance! Thanks for everyone’s help!

Edit: And BU definitely meets financial need! I’m going to BU for less money than any state or private school I got accepted to.