A quick guide for prospective foreign students by the staff at IMS.

by Inside Music Schools

Studying Music in the United States

Inside Music Schools has helped many international music students seek acceptance at colleges and conservatories in the United States. We hear the same questions from many of them. You likely have the same questions if you are one of the many international musicians wanting to study in America. So, we thought we’d dedicate this post to answering some of the frequently asked questions we receive.

Which schools accept international students?

Just about every American college welcomes students from foreign countries. Many actively recruit them as a way of helping their school’s diversity to enrich the education of their students. In general, you can also expect to be accepted by your classmates. There are a few countries from which there are no students in the United States, like Cuba and North Korea, but this has more to do with political issues than college policy.

What types of schools are there in the United States?

There are different types of institutions of higher education (beyond high school) in the United States. While the terms college and university are often used interchangeably in casual conversation, there is a difference. Basically speaking, a college is a small school for undergraduate study. Many colleges champion the liberal arts—academic disciplines like literature, history, languages, philosophy, mathematics, and general sciences. This is in contrast with such professional and technical disciplines as business and engineering.

Many liberal arts colleges treat music as an academic discipline rather than a professional one. That means you take fewer courses to train you to become a professional musician and more in humanities courses to help make sure you receive a well-rounded education. This type of degree is known as a Bachelor of Arts. As a musician at most liberal arts colleges, you would receive a bachelor of arts in music degree.

How is a university different?

In comparison to colleges, most universities are large institutions that teach both undergraduate and graduate students. They are typically made up of various schools and/or colleges, such as a school of medicine, a school of architecture, and a school of foreign languages. Most universities also have a school of music. While some of these offer a Bachelor of Arts in music, the emphasis is usually on the Bachelor of Music degree. It requires more study in music and less in the humanities and other general education disciplines. It is a professional degree.

What about conservatories?

Exterior photo of Julliard.

A conservatory stands as the third type of music school in the United States. It specializes in one or more of the fine arts—music, acting, dance, and the like. Conservatories in the United States developed to first foster classical music but have come to embrace jazz and other forms of music. Juilliard is a well-known conservatory in our country. Conservatories tend to be small, hundreds rather than thousands of students. However, Berklee College of Music in Boston is the world’s largest music school in the world and can be seen as a conservatory.

To keep things simple for the rest of this post, we’ll use the terms college and school to refer to all types of institutions of higher education. We’ll also use America to refer to just the United States even though the word includes other countries in this continent.

What is a for-profit school?

When we talk about colleges in this article, we are mainly referring to not-for-profit institutions. We tend to think of these as purer in intent since they focus on education more than their financial bottom line. Almost all are accredited by a regional agency that helps assure the quality of education you receive.

For-profit schools are just that, “for profit“. They include some well-known music institutions. Some offer quality education to their students while others are more questionable. Some are also accredited while others are not. If you are considering a for-profit college, look closely at its reputation.

How well do I need to know English?

The need to understand English is one of the first things we have to point out to international students who approach Inside Music Schools for help. Almost every college in the United States requires a certain proficiency in English. This makes sense as you will be studying in English. Most schools will expect you to have received a good score on a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam. You can find practice TOEFL exams online.

What does it cost to go to school in the United States?

The cost of going to school in the United States is the other thing we have to emphasize with international students. It is because it can cost a lot of money. The average tuition for a publicly supported, four-year university is around $20,000 if you are a non-resident of the state where the school is located. (All international students are considered non-residents.) The average cost to attend a private institution is closer to $40,000 a year no matter where you call home. A year’s tuition at a top conservatory is over $50,000, not including the cost of room and board.

Can I get scholarships?

Given the cost of going to school in the United States, international students are often interested in receiving scholarships. American colleges basically offer two types of financial assistance. The first helps need-based students and mainly go to American citizens of low income. Scholarships are talent-based and are awarded to highly skilled musicians, especially ones that are of interest to a particular school.

You should not necessarily expect to receive a scholarship from an American college to go to school as a music student from a foreign country. Sadly, if you cannot afford full tuition, you probably cannot afford to study here unless you can find some sort of scholarship in your home country to support students studying abroad. You can read more about music school scholarships here.

Are there other costs?

Tuition is just one of the expenses of going to school in America. You must also pay for room and board, textbooks, supplies, local transportation, and personal expenses. That’s in addition to flying to the city where a college is located and back home at the end of the school year. Together, these expenses can add up to almost as much as tuition itself. 

College students around the world find ways of living cheaply. So do students in the United States. Still, you must budget.

How about visas and work?

International students are required to enter the United States with a F-1 student visa. Once accepted, the college will send you an I-20 form which you will take to the U.S Embassy in your country in order to receive the visa. Be sure to consult the American Department of State for the most current information.

International students are not permitted to work in the United States while they are on a student visa.

Contact Us

Did you find this blog helpful? Do you picture yourself in a music career? If the answer to that is a “yes”, your next step is simple. Contact insidemusicschools.com and allow our team of industry insiders to guide you toward your goal of being a professional in the music industry. Through expert counseling and real world experience, we will make sure you are prepared for the journey

Founder & President at Inside Music Schools | Insidemusicschools.com Head of admissions and faculty member at Berklee College of Music for 40 years, Steve Lipman and our team at Inside Music Schools speak music as their primary language. We approach each client contact with open eyes, ears, and minds. As the country’s premier music school consultant, he advised students from the United States, Canada, China, Australia, Turkey, U.K., Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Israel, and Italy.

How can Inside Music Schools assist an international student?

At Inside Music Schools, we help college-bound music students move decisively toward their future.

Visit Insidemusicschools.com and contact our staff. You can click this link to contact our staff directly and allow us to guide you during this process.

by Steven Lipman

Before You Write…

Since the dawn of time, humans have expressed thoughts in writing. Whether documented on cave walls, ancient papyrus scrolls, hand-scribed Medieval codices, printed books beginning with Gutenberg, or computer devices in our day, the importance of communicating through written means has been a constant.

Those of you engaged in writing college essays about music, grad-school term papers, or applications for careers in the music industry are gaining awareness of the importance of developing solid writing skills. When communicating in writing with a party you have not yet met, your words will shape their first impression of you. Create your prose with care and precision.

Who Am I Talking to?

As a music journalist and editor, I offer some general observations that may prove helpful for those seeking to make a career in music. First, understand your audience. Are you writing a music personal statement  or musical resume for a college admissions officer or someone who you hope will become your future boss? Make sure to adopt the proper tone. As you begin to network in the music industry, determine whether your missive should  be business-like, warm and personable, or a combination of both. Know when to be formal and when it’s ok to be informal and conversational.

Writing a novel where you rely colorful imagery to portray a scene and have hundreds of pages to do it, is different from something of more limited scope. Be aware of when to express your thoughts as concisely as possible. Weed out extraneous words that don’t add meaning and clutter your ideas. I’m not advocating for dry, facts-only writing unless that is what’s needed (as in a résumé). In a personal essay, strike a balance by using colorful language and injecting some personality, but refrain from going down a bunny trail off topic. If your project or music college essay has a prescribed word count, make every word count!

Writing concisely takes discipline and effort. French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal is quoted as writing: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It takes time and effort to make sure your document is tightly written and says what you need it to.

Noteworthy Basics

As with a great piece of music, make sure you have a catchy opening. Readers will form an opinion instantly about whether they are in for an interesting read or not. Make sure the areas you want to cover are balanced. Be mindful of how much space you want give to each topic you plan to address and give each its due. Alluding to music again, you need a strong finish, a thought-provoking ending.

There are countless common grammatical and punctuation mistakes, here are a few that crop up often. Be on the look out for disagreements between the subject and verb in a sentence. Make sure singular nouns are matched with singular verbs and vice versa. Avoid overly long sentences spliced together with numerous commas. If your sentence has too many ideas, break it into shorter ones so that your reader hasn’t forgotten your main point by the time he or she gets to the final period.

Be sure that you fully understand the definitions of any unusual words you choose. If there is any doubt, look it up. A misused word speaks volumes to your reader. As an editor, I encountered writers who had fallen in love with a pet word and were reluctant to give it up it even after learning it didn’t mean what they thought. Be as willing to change a misused word as you would to correct a wrong note.

Thinking of pet word choices, watch out for echoes. By that I mean the overuse of distinctive words—especially in a single or consecutive sentences. Use the find option in your word processing program to check the number of times a word appears.

Never Forget

Always take the time to proofread carefully. Often while writing, we get to the point where we no longer see typos or other issues. Have a parent, teacher, or a friend proof your document. If that’s not possible, take a break. Leave your draft over night if time permits and come back to it with fresh eyes another day. It never feels good to discover typos in your document after you’ve sent it out.

Most likely we are not writing things for the ages like Beowolf or the Dead Sea Scrolls, but your story is important here and now. The goal is to hold someone’s interest and convey information. Care as much about expressing yourself in writing as you do in music. Make it your best effort.

Help Writing College Essays for Music School Admissions

Inside Music Schools helps to prepare students for applying to music school. Contact us today to learn more about our services & how we can help.

by Steven Lipman

Will you get accepted at a top music college, conservatory, or university music program? It can depend on a lot of factors, including the school’s acceptance rate. 

Factors Influencing Acceptance Rates

An institution’s acceptance rate reflects the percentage of students who get accepted into it out of all who apply. When an acceptance rate is higher, a school is easier to get into. Conversely, when a school’s rate is low, it’s harder to gain admittance. 

Many factors can drive down an institution’s acceptance rate, and the circumstances are different for each school. 

Music college with high acceptance rate

Further, the “acceptance rate” you find for a school is an average of the rates for all students. Admissions departments might accept students more or less frequently for specific instruments, musical genres, and particular majors. 

Here is one common reason the admission rate for a particular instrument or major might differ from a school’s overall standard. It can help fill out ensembles. For example, if a school is lacking in trombonist, it might accept more players of that instrument, and thus a higher accept rate for trombonists.

Still, knowing the general acceptance rate at a college of choice serves as a great first step in determining the right school for you. That’s why we at Inside Music Schools put together this multi-tiered list of the acceptance rates of many top schools around the country. 

I’ve divided this list into two categories. You’ll find conservatories and music colleges under one and universities with truly stellar music departments under the other. 

Is there a particular school on the list that interests you? Perhaps you’d like to know whether your chosen instrument tends to have a different acceptance rate. Let’s get on the phone and talk about your music school goals!  Call us at 617-823-5442 or contact us today.



Under 50% Acceptance Rate

Over 50% Acceptance Rate:

by Steven Lipman

Giving Your Best in a College Admissions Interview

Top musicians know thoughtful preparation is the best way to succeed on their next big performance.

The same holds true for students planning for college admissions interviews. You can think of this interview as perhaps one of your most important performances, so treat it like a professional – prepare to your fullest extent to make sure you knock it out of the park.

During my decades as a director and dean of admissions at a leading music institution, I found that 15- or 20-minute interviews were not always optimal settings for judging an
applicant’s viability for success in college. That means the odds are stacked against you.

Applicants are sometimes nervous, jet-lagged, or perhaps didn’t sleep well the night before the interview. Additionally, most high school students have had little experience interviewing.

This stressful environment is not ideal, but it’s often all the admissions interviewer and the applicant have to determine if they are a good fit for each other.

The interviewer is trying to discern whether the candidate will enhance the student body, and is likely to persevere and graduate. Another factor that many applicants don’t think about is whether they are likable.

You can achieve “likability” by being confident, thoughtful, and – perhaps above all – prepared. So, read more on my thoughts on how to best present yourself in an admissions interview.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled, and Your Head High

Arriving a few minutes early will indicate to an interviewer that you take this meeting
seriously and are respectful of their busy schedule.

Use the time you’ve gained by arriving early to observe your surroundings – do students look stressed out as they go to class? Are there people creating music around you? Do you feel you would be comfortable integrating into the overall fabric of the student body?

Most times there is a receptionist to lead you in to your interview when the admissions person is ready. If there is no receptionist to escort you and the interviewer’s office door is closed, knock right at your appointed time.

Enter the room confidently with a smile and your head held high. Offer a warm greeting such as, “Thank you for offering me this time today.”

These first steps are crucial because – as we all know – first impressions are everything. A great entrance sets the course for a productive and insightful interview.

As you speak, be aware of the interviewer’s body language as well as your own. Take your cue from the interviewer whether to offer a handshake. Keep your focus, and don’t fidget with your résumé, phone, or anything else that could become a distraction during the interview.

Make eye contact and be sure you express conviction in your responses. Your answers should be concise but detailed, and include specifics. Be as articulate as you can, minimizing extraneous words such as “um” or “ah” – speak naturally, clearly, and confidently.

Know Your Audience

Consider the entire school as your audience. Since you want to attend this institution, you should be familiar with some of its unique qualities or programs.

Referring to these particular characteristics at appropriate times in the conversation will show that you are serious about the school. Offer honest thoughts on what you feel are your unique and interesting qualities and abilities while sounding humble. Avoid clichés and generic responses at all costs!

Additionally, observe the facial expressions of the interviewer to assess whether your answers are resonating with your audience. If you find the admissions person is unenthused with your responses, don’t worry – speak with more energy, or begin to ask questions. Continual engagement is absolutely crucial.

Give and Gather Information

Interviewers will have a list of questions for you. Most importantly, be ready for questions about your long-term career goals.

Be able to express why you are interested in enrolling at their school. Mention particular aspects of the curriculum, specific faculty members you wish to study under, or the types of people that make up their student body.

You may also be queried on how you feel you could contribute to the student experience there. This is a chance to share thoughts on any cross-cultural experiences you’ve had and your potential to be a positive team player or leader on campus.

In the course of the conversation, take the opportunity to share thoughts about your creativity and your willingness to step out of your comfort zone. You might be asked about the process you undertook in selecting the repertoire for your audition or the contents of your portfolio.

Engaging dialog is crucial to a successful interview. Come prepared with at least two insightful and relevant questions to ask your interviewer. If a given school has great study-abroad or internship programs, or a cross-registration policy with other schools, ask questions that make it apparent that you have done your homework.

Asking questions is a great way to get more information about the school that can’t be found on the website, and it shows a genuine interest in attending. Many interviewers look upon genuine curiosity positively – it shows initiative, passion, and a true interest in the programs their particular institution offer.

Also, interviewers are always willing to share thoughts about their school’s strong points. Expect this ahead of time, and think of these strengths in terms of your desires and future career goals.

Music school interviews are a perfect opportunity to exchange ideas and information, and in the end you want to make sure the school is a good fit for you. Engaging the interviewers in conversation – through asking questions and listening intently to what they have to say – will only make your candidacy a more serious consideration for the interviewers.

Beginnings and Endings

In a musical performance, many people will remember how it began and how it ended.
You’ve put your best foot forward to start your interview, so be ready to end on a positive

Giving a sincere thank you to the interviewer for his or her time and attention will
leave them with a favorable final impression.

And don’t forget to breathe – this will keep your nerves in check while you undertake one of the most important performances of your life.

Further – perhaps above all – these interviews are meant to show who you are to the admissions person. That means one of the most important things you can do is to be you!

Best of luck!

[hr height=”60″ style=”default” line=”default” themecolor=”1″]

If you’re seriously considering applying to music school, you don’t have to be alone. Along with expert coaching and benefits such as my
“Simulated Admissions Interview,” my guidance can give you a leg up – placing you a head above the rest.

contact me today to find out more!