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Articles / Applying to College / Musical Talent and College Admissions

April 10, 2003

Musical Talent and College Admissions

Question: I am an 8th grade student who is wondering if musical involvement, such as orchestra and concert band, will help me get into a good college.

Having musical talent is certainly a plus in the admission process, but when you’re talking about the most selective colleges (e.g., the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, Swarthmore, Amherst, and other equivalents) there are so many applicants with musical accomplishments on their applications that yours will have to be truly outstanding to make a real difference in your admission decisions. For instance, admission committees at the top schools are accustomed to candidates who have been selected for regional and state orchestras, and some have even won national competitions.


Of course, if you are thinking of applying to a music college or to a “school of music” or of performing arts within a large university, then it will certainly be helpful (and probably necessary) to have had both music performance and music theory experience.

If you love music or have been told that you are talented, you should definitely pursue your passion and not worry about whether your achievements will affect your applications. At the same time, you might want to think about some very different activities that you might enjoy that will look a bit more unusual on an application and will give you pleasure as well.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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