Applications 101: How to Accept Rejection and Pick a School That's Right For You!
With many of us in the audition stage of applying for schools, we are looking forward to getting our acceptances, but also facing the reality of possibly receiving a rejection. Many of us probably have a ranking of the schools we’d like to attend. Some of us may not, but that’s okay! Today we're going to cover the back half of applying to schools: How to accept rejection, and pick a school that’s right for you!
I’m going through the college application adventure for my third time, and it doesn’t get easier! If anything, it actually gets harder. Rejection is something that is more commonly faced when applying for graduate school. Why is that? Are we not good enough? Are schools more picky with who they accept?
For students who just applied for their undergrad, you have A LOT of time. Most schools don’t expect you to be job ready at this stage in your life, however, there are a fair few schools who look for the best of the best and only take people who are at a specific playing stage. That isn’t as common though. Most schools look for potential. Are you willing to work? Are your grades good? Did you take part in ensembles in high school? Honor bands? Do you have an idea of what you’d like to do in the future?
I’ll tell you a story. I didn’t start playing horn until I was a freshman in high school! Prior to that, I was a piano player since I was 5 years old and then later picked up flute when I was in the 4th grade. So I knew how to read music already. The hardest parts were the horn itself and the transposition. Horn sounds in F rather than in C like I was used to at the time, so that was quite an adjustment!
Throughout highschool, I got a private teacher, I placed well in the honor bands that I auditioned for, and was kicking butt for only playing for 2-3 years. When I was applying for college, I originally applied as an education major. When I auditioned for schools, I did all of the standard things to do when applying. I applied to 4 schools, I toured each of them, I took a lesson with each teacher, and I ranked my schools from the first place I’d like to attend, to the last. This ranking was based on distance, school program, proximity to major cities, and especially how well I got along with the teacher. Ultimately I attended Montclair State University where after a year in, I reapplied for the performance program and was accepted into a new major.
Point being, I had done all the right steps, but I also was coming into college with much less experience than many of my other freshman colleagues. There were other people who had already been playing for 6 plus years, rather than little old me who had only been playing for 2-3. Undergrad acceptance isn’t based on who played best, it’s based on potential shown and if you take direction well and are willing to learn and grow.
Graduate School is a whole different ball game. At this point, many schools expect you to now have certain skills after attending and finishing a bachelor's degree. How’s your musicality? Are you technically proficient? Are you knowledgeable in theory and music history? Are your fundamentals good? Do you have the potential to win an audition? Do you show promise in the field of music? Are you willing to do what it takes?
Your acceptance has A LOT to do with your musical ability, and that’s the truth of it. You can make all the right moves; taking lessons with teachers, visiting the schools, playing a good audition and you can still be rejected.
I applied to 4 schools for my Masters. I was accepted to two, waitlisted at one, and rejected from one.
I won’t lie, I was a bit disappointed when I received my rejection. I was also disappointed when I didn’t get off the waitlist for the school I REALLY wanted to attend. But that’s life. You never know who you’re up against. You never know what they’re looking for or how many students they’re looking to accept that year. Sometimes, it’s also not your day and you might not have played a great audition. That’s happened to me before.
This year, I also applied to 4 schools (seems like a trend doesn’t it?). I had high hopes for this one school. I really thought that I was at least going to get past the pre screenings. I feel like I’m a great player, and I also feel like I have a lot to offer.
I didn’t pass the pre screenings.
That rejection hurt more than any other I’ve ever received before.
To be honest, I was sad for awhile. I didn’t want to practice. I made excuses not to and I contemplated not going through with any of the other applications. I was so very happy with my tapes I submitted and to get shut down when I thought I submitted my best work was soul crushing.
Deep down, me not submitting any audition materials to the other schools was just absurd. It was silly. I picked 4 really great schools to apply to. I got my stuff together and just finished submitting my materials. I’ve since passed my exams for one school and have received 2 interviews overall. I’m still waiting to hear from the 3rd school!
A DMA is something I’ve wanted to pursue, and while the rejection hurt, it was one of those things where you learn from your experiences and they make you stronger.
You can’t win them all, but you can take the experiences, learn from them and move on.
You’re allowed to be upset about a rejection. It hurts! Especially if it’s from a school you really wanted to attend. All I can say is you will end up where you’re meant to be. The universe has a plan for you. Do not give up, even when it seems like the easiest option. You’re allowed to be upset. Take a few days, cry it out, journal, do what you need to do, pick yourself back up and get back to work. It wasn’t meant to be, and there are better things coming your way. I promise.
So with that being said, when I get my acceptances, how do I decide?
Well first, CONGRATS! Whether you’re a grad student or an undergraduate, this is a big accomplishment and it must feel so great to get in!
Let’s talk about how to decide.
First, I hope that you’ve taken a lesson with the teachers at each school. Who did you like the most? Who do you think will kick your butt, but also be your biggest supporter? Who do you think will help you get to the next level?
Second, where do you want to be? Say you got accepted to 2 schools, one in New York City and one in Florida. Where do you want to be located? Where do you think you’ll thrive? Would you want to move to that city post graduation? How about the weather? Would you want to be in the sticky sun year round, or go through normal seasons?
Third, did you receive a financial package? Any scholarships? This is a huge factor for many people. School is (unreasonably) expensive and offsetting any costs in terms of tuition or other fees can be incredibly helpful. See who offers the most.
Lastly, where do you want to go? Did you have your heart set on a specific school? Ultimately it comes down to where you think you’ll thrive and where you’ll be happy.
With many of us just now waiting for results, consider these things to help you make the best decision. Remember that rejection is a part of life and you’re allowed to be upset. Remember it doesn’t mean you’re not good, just maybe not what they were looking for this year. What is meant to be will be and you will have other great options. You’ll end up exactly where you need to be.
Good luck everyone, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
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