Music Major to Music Major: Best Advice for College Freshmen


As you prepare to leave high school behind and study at music school, numerous possibilities await you. At first, it may seem daunting when you think about how to juggle multiple responsibilities, like classes and student clubs while pursuing the best opportunities. Sometimes hearing nuggets of wisdom from peers who have been in your shoes can help you to manage your time and expectations while you prepare for this next exciting chapter. 

We recently asked current music students what advice they would give to those just beginning their music studies. Cayla Mendoza, a junior at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, views the undergraduate years as a time to learn about yourself and enjoy new experiences enabling you to grow as a musician, student, and person. When asked what advice she would give her younger self, this double major in Music Therapy and Psychology says, “Practice being authentic to yourself to help you hone in on what is authentic to your craft…understand that your path is never stagnant and that sometimes the pathway you choose may not be the one you thought you were going to take yesterday.” We collected many more insightful pieces of advice, like this one from Cayla. Keep reading to learn more about navigating your first year as a music student.

5 Tips for College Students Earning Music Degrees

1. Get a Routine and Stay on Schedule

You’ve heard it before – ”Get organized! Stay on top of your work! Don’t fall behind!” The most successful music students put an emphasis on being highly organized and having excellent time management skills. Students recommend jotting down notes during lessons, using a calendar app, and creating a schedule. Plan everything from your classes and practice time to your homework and time to unwind. Take advantage of every moment that you find throughout the day. 

Think about when you are most productive and know your individual habits so you can plan around them to be effective. For example, if you’re not a morning person, planning practice time early may not be as productive as it could be. 

2. Be Classy 

Music majors usually take 15-18 credit hours a semester, often more than their campus counterparts who might only have 12 credit hours. Prioritize going to class! With numerous assignments, ensemble rehearsals, and lessons to attend, it can be tempting to skip. But any music student will tell you the in-class experience is invaluable. 

3. Best Advice for Your Out-of-Class Experiences

Try to record your performances or see if the concert hall staff can provide you with a recording. Music school students know that performance recordings (both on and off campus) can be a great asset for studying your performance and technique. 

Make time to attend concerts, recitals, and masterclasses, as well as student ensembles, faculty, and guest performances. These experiences can help you improve your own performance as you view new musical interpretations and techniques. Don’t forget to take advantage of discounted student tickets. 

4. Create Opportunities and Network

Say yes to activities that fit into your schedule and enhance your overall educational experience. Be on the lookout for ensembles to join and ways to collaborate on projects and performances with other students. Stay in constant communication with your academic advisor to manage your course load and help you find opportunities. Consider starting your own ensemble or picking up a side hustle or gig. Basically, go where the music is.

5. Take Time for Self-Care and Relaxation

Music majors stress the importance of self-care and listening to your body and mind. Eat right, drink plenty of water, get the sleep you need, exercise, and even relax! Staying healthy is key to being able to take advantage of all the opportunities available. Logan Sandefur, a junior in the BM MADE program at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, advises, “Take care of yourself! When your body is telling you to take a break, it is totally ok to do so”. 

Whether it be planning regular time to visit the gym or student fitness center on campus, participating in weekend activities you enjoy, taking elective classes you’re interested in, or checking out the local music scene — go explore the world beyond your music school. 

Being organized, using your time wisely, taking advantage of opportunities, and caring for yourself are all important parts of your journey as a music student. Seeking wisdom from peers and school advisors who understand your perspective is a great way to make your years at music school a success for you. 

Let Our Experience Work for You

We’ve been there. We know how overwhelming the music school application process can be. Let us help you navigate the challenges from finding the best music schools for you to managing the many parts of the application process. With years of experience in admissions, the team at Inside Music Schools understands what music schools are looking for and how to prepare for it. Contact IMS today to take the first steps toward making your music career a reality. 

Get a Music Admissions Consultant as a Guide

When faced with numerous opportunities, it can be hard to know what to prioritize. Working with qualified admissions consultants who specialize in music, like Inside Music Schools, can make the process more manageable. We help you manage your expectations and stay on track because we understand what music schools are looking for and how to prepare for it. The IMS team has assisted hundreds of families to successfully navigate all the steps from the very beginning of college research to selecting your school and beyond.

Talk with us – connect with IMS experts now to learn more about how we can help you prepare and cruise through the music admissions process!

Photo of Karen Kerr
Karen Kerr
Senior Consultant at Inside Music Schools

An accomplished professional with over 28 years of experience in higher education, admissions, and recruitment, Karen has always made her goal finding the best-fit school for student musicians. Most recently, she served as the Director of Admission and Recruitment at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, where she was responsible for recruitment, auditions/interviews, and admissions of all undergraduate and graduate applicants. Prior to joining the Frost School, she was part of the admissions staff at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance where she reviewed applications at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.