Posted by StringOvation Team on Dec 13, 2018
While the music school application process may seem tedious, the essay is by far the most challenging part. Not only does the essay portion share insight about who you are as a person, but it’s also what many college admissions counselors are most interested in (besides your audition).
The reality is that the bulk of students applying to music schools – particularly the more prestigious ones – are apples-to-apples on paper. The audition and the essay are the only arenas where your individuality and essence get to shine through.
It’s Time to Brush Up Those Essay Writing Skills
Here are six tips on how to write a music school essay to impress! We also recommend reading Music School Audition: How to Prepare.
1. Read the instructions carefully
While there are some boilerplate consistencies between essay themes or topics requested by schools, there can be subtle differences, too. Don’t assume that one essay will fit the bill for all schools. Read each set of instructions carefully to ensure you don’t miss anything, and follow them to the letter.
Even a simple mistake of submitting the essay in one font when the school requested another can get your application into the “no” pile because it gives inundated essay screeners a streamlined reason to weed applicants out. And it demonstrates that you follow directions!
2. don’t include another school’s name accidentally
Many admissions counselors note that they get essays that have another school’s name in the essay, because of the similarities mentioned above in essay themes/instructions. As a result, students who aren’t careful wind up forgetting to “find/replace” one school name for another.
For example – an admissions counselor at The Eastman School of Music may be happily reading your essay until they come to the line, “I have dreamed of graduating from the Boston Conservatory for my entire musical life…,” at which point s/he may stop reading.
Of course, counselors understand and expect that you’re applying to more than one school, but this grave oversight in proofreading, and check-marking which essay is for which school, casts a shadow on your application status.
3. Use Grammarly or a similar editing tool
Many of the best online editing tools, like Grammarly, allow free trial periods, after which you can cancel your account without any charge or penalty. It’s a good idea to use these editing tools upon completing your essays to fine tune them.
4. Print the essay on paper and read it out loud
The advent of online applications make the overall process easier for many, but the final proofreading and editing of your essay(s) should always be done on paper.
In a Phys.org article explaining how we read differently on paper than on screen, professor Maria Gilje Torheim explains, “Reading long, linear, continuous texts over multiple pages that require a certain amount of concentration, referred to as "Deep Reading," the reader often experiences better concentration and a greater overview when reading from a printed medium compared to a screen.”
We tend to “scan” when we’re reading on screens, making it easier to miss mistakes in grammar and sentence structure. Reading out loud – and preferably to someone we trust – is a better way to catch and repair mistakes or awkward phrasing.
5. Review common graduate school essay “kisses of death”
There are two great articles worth reviewing before you write your music school application essay. The first is an actual study, Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process, that systematically reviewed answers from psychology graduate admissions committee members about mistakes or common occurrences that diminish an applicant’s probability of acceptance.
The second is, 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose, written by professionals consultants who work with grad school applicants to improve their chances of acceptance.
Both offer insightful, evidence-based tips about what to do – and what not to do – to help your essay(s) shine brighter than your fellow applicants’ essay(s).
6. Be honest and be yourself
Finally, don’t try to be something you’re not or write an essay consisting of platitudes you think admissions counselors want to hear. Rest assured they’re reading those trite and overused sentiments over and over again from fellow applicants.
The goal is not to blend into the crowd but to stand out as the unique individual you are, so admissions counselors feel like you’ve connected with them via your words – a connection that compels them to accept your application.
The team at StringOvation wishes you all the best as you pursue your music school dreams. Happy writing!