The College of Arts and Architecture

Frequently Asked Questions - Undergraduate

Becoming a Penn State Major
1. What should I be doing to prepare to become a successful music major?
2. What is the application/audition process?
3. How soon will I learn the results of my audition?
4. What if I know that I want to major in music but I'm unsure which degree is right for me?
5. Is it possible to double-major with another major outside of the School of Music?

Financial Aid and Scholarships
1. Does the Penn State School of Music offer talent scholarships?
2. Does the Penn State School of Music offer academic scholarships?
3. Does the Penn State School of Music offer need-based scholarships?
4. Do students receive scholarships for participating in ensembles?
5. Are there additional scholarship opportunities once I'm a Penn State student?

Life as a Music Major
1. The Penn State campus at University Park is a huge place. Will I get lost in this environment?
2. What are the class sizes in the School of Music?
3. Can I double-major in two instruments?
4. Can I sing in a choir AND play in an instrumental ensemble?
5. Are music education students treated differently than performance majors?
6. What is the ensemble audition process?
7. Is marching band a requirement for music majors?
8. What is the procedure for using a practice room?
9. Are there instrument lockers in the music buildings?
10. Do I need to buy a computer as a Music student?

Life After Graduation from the Penn State School of Music
1. Do Penn State music graduates get teaching jobs?
2. If I'm from another state outside of Pennsylvania and I want to return to my home state to teach, can my Pennsylvania Teacher certification transfer?
3. Do Penn State music graduates get accepted to graduate schools?
4. What does it mean to say "I have a music degree from Penn State"?


Becoming a Penn State Major

1. What should I be doing to prepare to become a successful music major?

The School of Music requires that students have a principal area of study (either an instrument or voice). If you are not already taking regularly scheduled private lessons, you are advised in the strongest terms to begin private study immediately. It is unusual that students are admitted to the School of Music without a multi-year background of private study. We also encourage you to begin piano lessons (either privately or in a class) as all Penn State music majors are required to play the piano at a proficient level prior to graduation. In addition, you should avail yourself of the opportunity to study music theory if it is offered at your high school. If theory is not offered at your school, you are advised do some theory work from a programmed learning text such as Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm and Meter: A Self Instruction Program by John Clough.

Great musicians know a lot about their own instruments and literature, but they are knowledgeable in other areas of music as well. We encourage you to begin a recorded music collection of the very best models of players/singers/ensembles in your chosen field as well as exemplars of musical achievement outside of your specific area of interest. Frequent attendance at classical music performances is also strongly encouraged.

2. What is the application/audition process?

First, apply to the University for academic admission. Penn State offers academic acceptance based on a differential equation comprised of high school GPA, SAT score, and class rank. Academic admission requirements vary widely across the University depending on the college and the individual schools and departments within the colleges. Students with outstanding academic records are also encouraged to apply to the Schreyer Honors College.

After submitting a University application, schedule an audition with the School of Music by going to our website: music.psu.edu. See step #2 under "Undergraduate Admissions Process" for the online scheduling form. Auditions occur in January and February, so we strongly advise that the academic application be submitted by November 30. Applicants who are not academically qualified for entrance to the University will have their audition canceled. Check regularly for updates and notifications regarding application status through your MyPennState account. Be sure to review the audition requirements for your primary performing area.

Make sure that you read the complete directions found at Undergraduate Application Process.

3. How soon will I learn the results of my audition?

After each audition day, the studio instructors may make some preliminary decisions regarding acceptance. Often, however, they must wait until all auditions are completed before making their final decisions. The audition results are forwarded to the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, and finally, to the Penn State Admissions Office. The decision to offer or deny admission comes directly from the Admissions Office. Most students will receive a decision before the middle of March. Notification will be sent to the student's MyPennState account.

4. What if I know that I want to major in music but I'm unsure which degree is right for me?

The choice of degree is often the most difficult decision for entering music majors. To alleviate the necessity for making an unchangeable decision during the freshman year, all School of Music curricula are fairly standardized during the first three to four semesters of study. The decision regarding which degree to pursue needs only to be made at the end of the fourth semester.

5. Is it possible to double-major with another major outside of the School of Music?

Yes. However, a student undertaking this plan of study should possess excellent academic and time-management skills. Students who plan a double-major should expect to attend Penn State for longer than four years. If you desire focused course work in another field of study, but you do not necessarily require another major, we suggest that you investigate the Bachelor of Musical Arts degree program.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

1. Does the Penn State School of Music offer talent scholarships?

Yes. The School of Music offers talent (merit) scholarships for qualified music majors. These are awarded based exclusively on your audition. Scholarships are offered to prospective music majors only. School of Music talent scholarships are renewed annually for up to four years for qualified continuing music majors.

Scholarship offers are usually made after all the auditions for the year have been completed. Typically, the scholarship notification process begins in mid-March and lasts until the end of April. If you have auditioned successfully, you will receive an offer of admission from the Penn State Admissions Office prior to the notification of a scholarship offer. Scholarship offer letters will be sent directly from the School of Music.

2. Does the Penn State School of Music offer academic scholarships?

Yes. Access Undergraduate Financial Aid for information. Academic scholarships are also awarded through the Schreyer Honors College.

3. Does the Penn State School of Music offer need-based scholarships?

In addition to the need-based scholarships awarded through the University, the School of Music is pleased to offer several Trustee scholarships to music students. These one-year awards are offered to qualified students based on completion of the FAFSA and by the recommendation of the Director of the School of Music. They may be renewable depending on the student's continued eligibility. The Undergraduate Financial Aid document provides links to the appropriate websites where this information can be accessed.

4. Do students receive scholarships for participating in ensembles?

No. Many ensembles provide one or two small awards at the end of each school year to students who have provided extraordinary service and leadership, but these are not tied into School of Music scholarship funds nor are they exclusively awarded to music majors. The Mainwaring Endowment is an exception to this. Male voice majors who receive scholarship money from this endowment are expected to sing in the Penn State Glee Club.

5. Are there additional scholarship opportunities once I'm a Penn State student?

Yes. Each year, there are two scholarship competitions for music students based on performance and/or academic achievements. The annual scholarship competition is for returning undergraduates and is held during the spring semester. Based on performance or academic achievement, these are one-time awards ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Each year, a number of students are awarded scholarships by this competition.

The Marjorie Jane Brewster Competition is open to seniors only. Winners of this competition are supported for their first year of graduate music study at a school of their choice. Awards range from $6,000—$12,000.

Life as a Music Major

1. The Penn State campus at University Park is a huge place. Will I get lost in this environment?

Penn State music majors enjoy the best of both worlds! The School of Music is relatively small, consisting of approximately 300 students, yet our students enjoy the resources and opportunities that come with study at a major university.

2. What are the class sizes in the School of Music?

Although you may be in large classes and lectures in your general education courses (those outside of the School of Music), the class size in the School of Music is small. It is an intimate setting where students make many good friends and have a clear sense of belonging. The student-faculty ratio in the School is approximately 6-1.

3. Can I double-major in two instruments?

Yes. However, applicants should be advised that musical training at Penn State is rigorous. It is rare that our students are able to maintain the workload of majoring in two instruments simultaneously. More often, students declare a principal instrument and elect to study another in a secondary capacity.

4. Can I sing in a choir AND play in an instrumental ensemble?

Yes. Talented singers and instrumentalists are encouraged to participate in both choral and instrumental ensembles in order to continue developing their personal musicianship.

5. Are music education students treated differently than performance majors?

No. While the coursework for these majors is different, the opportunities for applied study, performance, and ensemble participation are the same. At Penn State, both performance majors and music education majors receive one-hour private lessons per week with a faculty member.

6. What is the ensemble audition process?

The faculty-conducted ensembles of the School of Music hold auditions during the first week of each semester. All students at the University are eligible to audition. The ensemble audition schedule and requirements are posted prior to the beginning of each semester. Auditions for chamber music ensembles are arranged with the coaches of these groups.

7. Is marching band a requirement for music majors?

No, it is not required. However, Blue Band can be a valuable experience for music education students planning to be band directors. Many music majors have risen to leadership positions within the Blue Band program while achieving academic and musical excellence in the School of Music. The Blue Band offers a high level marching band experience open by audition to any student at the University Park campus. Annual competitive auditions result in a membership ratio of between 15-18% music majors and 82-85% non-music majors within the 300-member band. Further information regarding the marching band can be found at Penn State Blue Band.

8. What is the procedure for using a practice room?

Generally, you may use any open practice room at any time. However, during the third or fourth week of each semester, music majors and minors may sign up for a practice room. The sign-up order is based on class seniority. Located in the basement of Music Building II, there are around thirty practice rooms, most of which have upright pianos. There are also a number of practice rooms with grand pianos which are intended for piano majors.

9. Are there instrument lockers in the music buildings?

Music majors are issued a locker for storage of their primary instruments. Non-music majors may apply for a locker if they are participating in an ensemble for credit or taking private music lessons for credit.  

10. Do I need to buy a computer as a music student?

Owning a computer is not a requirement for School of Music students. Computer-related coursework can be done in a number of campus computer labs. Nonetheless, many students benefit greatly from owning a laptop computer. Although most college computer labs are Macintosh-based, many students opt to purchase Windows-based computers.

It is recommended that music education students purchase Macbooks for use in real-time student-teacher observation work. Each music education student will need access to a digital video camera that can record up to 60 minutes throughout the degree program.

Information about campus computing facilities and special packages available at Penn State's Computer store can be found at Information Technology Services and Software at Penn State.


Life After Graduation from the Penn State School of Music

1. Do Penn State music graduates get teaching jobs?

Penn State graduates are in demand in the job market. The job placement rate for students graduating with the Bachelor of Music Education degree is over 96%. During the student teaching phase of the degree program, students work directly with music faculty and members of the education community to hone their teaching skills. Additionally, guidance is offered to develop job search skills and resumé/vita materials.

2. If I'm from another state outside of Pennsylvania and I want to return to my home state to teach, can my Pennsylvania Teacher certification transfer?

Although certification requirements vary among states, Pennsylvania's certification meets those of 43 other states. It is usually possible to obtain temporary certification in another state while preparing to meet its additional requirements.

3. Do Penn State music graduates get accepted to graduate schools?

Yes. Because of the rigor of the education here and the individualized attention provided to all of our students, Penn State graduates who wish to pursue advanced study are regularly accepted into the graduate schools of their choice. Graduate programs base acceptance on collegiate GPA (overall and music) and performance skill as demonstrated by audition.

4. What does it mean to say "I have a music degree from Penn State"?

Graduates of the School of Music go on to enjoy success in a variety of fields throughout the United States and beyond. Whether in performance, teaching, scholarship, or business, the quality of musical training offered at Penn State provides an excellent foundation upon which graduates have launched rewarding and successful careers. Penn State is recognized as one of America's great universities, possessing both academic excellence across an impressive range of programs and an extensive variety of research endeavors in all fields. A Penn State degree carries this fine reputation for scholastic achievement. The University's Alumni Association holds the largest dues-paying membership in the world and takes pride in the fact that one in every 665 U.S. citizens is a Penn State alumnus. With a Penn State degree, you will be immediately networked with millions of Penn State alumni throughout the world.