Minimum GPA Requirements for Most University-Attached Conservatory Programs
The minimum GPA necessary for admission into the University of Michigan music program, as seen in the source cited above, is actually a 3.0, which is an 85% average, or right in the middle of being a B student.
When we look at the minimum GPA requirements for most music schools attached to universities, we find that a magic number that, at the very least, gets you in the front door is the 3.0 GPA.
Some university-attached conservatory programs are known for having students who are both musically and academically accomplished. One example is Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music; with just an acceptance rate of about 10%, we deduce Northwestern turns down so many students, at least in part, is because of academic standings in high school.
The GPA Requirement of University Music Departments
There is a big difference between a university’s music department and a university-attached music school/conservatory.
At a university-attached music school, the music school itself:
- Very much operates contextually; classes are most often in the music school.
- The admissions policies are almost always different than that of the attached university.
- Students who apply usually have to perform an audition or, at the very least, submit recordings/portfolio of original work.
- Students usually are pursuing a B.M. degree, a Bachelor’s in Music degree. A Bachelor’s of Music degree signifies approximately 75% of coursework in a music field.
- Some music schools do confer BFA’s, which is common for musical theatre students, and signifies that approximately 75% of coursework in a musical theatre field.
At a university music department, the department:
- Has admissions policies that are similar or, most often, exactly the same as that of the larger university.
- Auditions are not always required for admission, though sometimes they are.
- You rarely start your degree as a music major; rather, you start as a liberal arts student, then declare a music major after 1-2 semesters into your education.
- Your class-load is typically 1/3 music, 2/3 liberal arts. It can be a little bit more in one direction or another.
- Most students will graduate with a B.A. degree, a Bachelor’s of Arts degree, as opposed to a Bachelor’s of Music degree.
Okay, now that we have clarified this, we can look at the GPA recommendations for university music departments.
Usually, the GPA requirements will be exactly the same as that of the parent university.
Why is this?
Let’s say you want to be a music major at Cornell University. You actually don’t apply to Cornell as a music major; rather, you simply apply to the greater Cornell University to be judged in the same way that any student entering the liberal arts program would be.
You can submit supplementary music materials to demonstrate your ability with music and your proficiency/accomplishment with music. But that being said, you are still applying as a liberal arts student.
Sometimes, you may be able to apply to a music concentration at a university music department, such as with Harvard.
In either example case as noted above, the GPA requirements are still going to be the same as that of a student entering into the liberal arts program at the university.
Do Exceptions Exist to the GPA Standards & Rules Noted Above?
Yes, I have seen it happen with some of my clients who are below the academic requirements of a music department or university-attached music school do gain admission into a program.
Usually, my firm sees one of two exceptions. Legacy is one; if your family has been attending a university for generations, and likely also a benefactor to the university, this will be in your favor.
This is largely out of most people’s control. There is a better option that I consistently work on with my students.
Developing a relationship with faculty at a music school, or at the very least meeting them in person.
Taking trial lessons with a teacher at a school can have a remarkable effect on admissions during the application process.
What is a trial lesson? In the world of music schools, a trial lesson is a meeting with a teacher at the school in which you play and have a one-on-one seminar for usually an hour.
If the teacher likes your playing or your original music (if you are a composer/music producer/engineer), they can have a powerful say in your admission into a program.
In fact, I heard a story recently from an actual college admissions officer who is instructed every year to create a separate pile of applications dedicated solely to students who have a prior relationship with faculty at the school.
That being said, even this does not guarantee admission into a program.
It is important to keep in mind that GPA is one of many measuring tools for applying to colleges.
GPA: Hardly the Only Consideration
Remember this: in addition to a GPA, most music programs looks at auditions, interviews, essays, resumes, personal statements, repertoire lists, pre-screening video recordings, test scores, summer program experience, and many other factors when evaluating a musical candidate.
Remember, when applying to schools, whether it is a conservatory, university-affiliated music school, university music department, or even a liberal arts college, they are looking to see the whole picture of you, not just one dimension.
Listen to me when I say this: It is of utmost significance to present to any school all of the above requirements at the highest level to obtain admission and potentially merit-based scholarship into a school.
Bottom Line: Grades can sometimes be important, but there are many other factors that ultimately determine admission into your top-choice, best-fit music school.