Yale School of Music: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, Tuition, and More


The first thing you need to know about the Yale School of Music is the degree structure. Unlike most music schools that offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, the Yale School of Music only offers graduate degrees devoted to music; however, for undergraduates wishing to pursue the B.A./M.M. (Master of Music Degree), there is a clear path.

To begin, you enroll at Yale University and pursue Music as your major much like you would declare English or a History major. After completing the general course requirements at Yale, you apply to the School of Music your junior year and move on to the Master of Music degree by your fifth year of study.

Obviously, for students looking for a dedicated program in undergraduate music, Yale may not be the right fit. But a solid undergraduate degree from Yale (the only music school in the Ivy League) coupled with the opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious music schools at the graduate level is certainly an attractive option for prospective music students.

The faculty boasts composer Martin Bresnick, who has taught an unusually large number of important professional composers, clarinetist David Shifrin, who is regularly heard on top commercial recordings throughout the world, and cellist Aldo Parisot, who has taught at the school since 1958.

Yale University
Yale University: Photo by Namkota via Wikimedia Commons

Did I mention the graduate cost of tuition at the Yale School of Music is free?

In 2005, Stephen Adams (1959 Yale Alumni) and Denise Adams donated $100 million to the Yale School of Music, which continues to allow the school to provide full tuition awards and fellowships to all incoming graduate music students.

Given the free tuition and some of the top programs in the nation, including music composition, as well as percussion, strings, winds, and brass performance, the Yale School of Music is a serious contender that should be on every prospective graduate student’s list.

Acceptance Rate

The acceptance rate for graduates at the Yale School of Music is approximately 10%. Since the school announced free tuition in 2006, the number of graduate student applicants increased dramatically. According Yale News, the first year free tuition was offered, the number of applicants jumped from 777 to 1,496.

Because Yale University offers a music major at the undergraduate level, aspiring musicians at the undergraduate level must apply to Yale University just like everyone else.

The acceptance rate for Yale University is around 8%. Keep in mind, to get in as an undergraduate, you’ll need to prove some serious academic credentials. For example, the average SAT score for incoming undergraduates was 2,235 points out of a total 2,400 points possible! (For those of you taking the “new” SAT, the new highest score you can receive is 1,600, so adjust your math accordingly).

As with all applications to music school, keep in mind sometimes the numbers just don’t work to your advantage. For example, teachers can only take on a certain number of students for a given instrument each year. In these cases, musicians who apply for maxed-out studios are usually refunded their application fee and told no one who plays their instrument will be accepted that particular year.

Tuition & Fees

As noted, all incoming graduates at the Yale School of Music receive full tuition awards and fellowships. For undergraduates at Yale University, the price is steep. According to the Yale website, tuition for the 2016-2017 year was $49,480, room & board is $15,170, and estimated book & personal expenses are $3,580, which make the grand total an estimate $68,230 per academic year!

You can find a helpful list of expenses along with financial planning advice here.

Requirements and Admissions Tips

As noted, undergraduates need to apply to Yale University and then declare their music major in their junior year. You can find the application, instructions, and everything else you need to know about the undergraduate application process here.

For undergraduate admission, musicians must be aware that Yale University is first and foremost an academic institution. The most crucial parts of your application in order of importance are: your high school transcript, evaluations from your high school teachers, and finally your test scores.

For graduates, the Yale School of Music offers the following degrees & programs: Master of Music, Master of Musical Arts, Doctor of Musical Arts, Artist Diploma, Certificate in Performance, B.A./M.M., and String Quartet Fellowship. You can learn more about each degree and program here. Areas of study at the Yale School of Music include: Strings, Winds & Brass, Percussion, Harp, Guitar, Piano, Organ, Voice, Composition, and Conducting.

The Yale School of Music requires pre-screening recordings for all applicants. Because the quality of your pre-screening material is crucial to your application, we here at Music School Central make sure your pre-screening recording is not only of excellent audio quality, but also that you play at the highest competitive level.

You can find more about each pre-screening and audition requirement for each area of study at the Yale School of Music here.

If you are accepted to audition at the Yale School of Music, I would recommend you schedule a lesson with a faculty member in the department you are interested in enrolling into at the Yale School of Music prior to your audition. Knowing how a specific teacher works with you is critical for determining if a school is a good fit. Also, if they like you and your playing in your lesson together, your chance for getting in might be higher. Keep in mind this is only a recommendation and not a fact in every instance.

If you work with me and former Berklee College of Music Dean of Admissions Steve Lipman in our college consulting program, we can help facilitate a meeting with you and a member of the faculty at the Yale School of Music, or nearly any other program in the world.

Notable Alumni

Ten years ago, I would have said that Juilliard had the highest number of active alumni in professional music; today, in the world of classical music, the leader could be Yale, a school with students in practically every professional music position available to a musician around the world.

Alumni include the American composer David Lang, founder of the music collective Bang on a Can and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Little Match Girl Passion, which went on to win a Grammy in 2010; Marco Beltrami, film and television composer, known for his work scoring the horror films Mimic, The Faculty, and Resident Evil; and the conductor Gisele Ben-Dor who made her debut with the Israel Philharmonic in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (televised by the BBC) and, currently, plays a crucial role in the rejuvenation of the music of Latin America.

You can read current news about Yale School of Music alumni here.


The faculty at the Yale School of Music is committed to educating musicians and creating tomorrow’s leaders by combining their love of music within an international research university with a deep academic heritage.

Faculty include composer Martin Bresnick, known for his musical philosophy of direct and concise expression, which make him a widely influential teacher of contemporary composition; Hungarian-born pianist Peter Frankl, a former student of Maria Curcio (the last and favorite pupil of Arthur Schnabel, one of the most respected pianists of the 20th century); and Armenian classical violinist Ani Kavafian who debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1969 and frequently plays with her sister Ida Kavafian (a classical violinist and violist).

You can find a complete list of the Yale School of Music faculty here.

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