Exercise Your Power of Choice: How to Choose a College

Nov 09, 2022

By Anne Sullivan 

It’s that time of year when many sharp students are thinking about their college choices. Deciding on a college can be nerve-racking. There are so many things to consider. Here are some of the tips I share with my students to help make their decision easier. 

Phase one of the college choice process is the research you must do to decide which colleges to apply to. First you need to identify your career goal or goals. Then begin your research by looking for people who have careers like the one you want for yourself. For instance, if you want to play in a professional orchestra, find out who plays in those orchestras now. Read their bios. Find out where they went to school and who their teachers were. Do they teach somewhere? Do their teachers still teach somewhere?  Record your answers.

You will likely see some names of teachers or schools appearing often on your list. Those schools or teachers have successfully trained their students for professional careers. They would be great study options for you as well.

Phase two begins when you have completed your applications and auditions, and the acceptance letters start arriving. In order to be able to weigh the offers against each other, there are at least four factors to consider. Those four factors are:

  1.   The Teacher

What will make one teacher better than another for you? The first issue is compatibility. You should have a lesson with the teacher to experience his teaching style. Will this teacher be a good personality fit for you? Second, assess the teacher’s influence in the larger musical world.  What are her students doing now professionally? Is this where you see yourself after school?

  1.   The Campus and Campus Life

Not a complicated choice. You either love it or hate it. Would this campus feel like home for the next four years?

  1.   Playing and Learning Opportunities

Will you have playing opportunities at this school? Will you be able to work and perform off campus? Are there plenty of opportunities to experience music from the audience? Is there enough cultural life to broaden your horizons on and off campus?

  1.   Money

We often wish this wasn’t a consideration, but it is an important one. Too much college debt will limit your choices after school. You may have to work outside your field just to make enough money to repay the loans. However, if you have made your applications based on your research, all your schools are good career choices. So making a decision based on finances won’t be a sacrifice, just a smart decision.


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