Studying Music in the United States

Dr. David Lee FishGENERAL

Many international students dream of studying music in the United States. As a flourishing hub for music education, the United States welcomes thousands of them each year. If you’re considering this journey, this guide will answer your most pressing questions and shed light on the vital aspects of the American music education system.

The American Welcome

The United States is renowned for its cultural diversity, extending to its educational institutions. According to International Student, almost all American colleges embrace international students, with many even actively recruiting them to enhance the cultural richness of their campuses. The acceptance of international students is generally high, with only a few exceptions. You will find open, welcoming arms waiting for you studying music in the United States.

Understanding the American Education System

The American higher education system encompasses several types of institutions. While the terms ‘college’ and ‘university’ are often used interchangeably, they denote different types of institutions.

Colleges: Small Scale, Broad Spectrum

Colleges, usually smaller in size, primarily focus on undergraduate study. Many champion the liberal arts, which include academic disciplines like literature, history, languages, philosophy, mathematics, and general sciences. In this context, music is often considered an academic discipline, leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Universities: Larger Institutions, Greater Specialization

Universities, on the other hand, are larger institutions that provide both undergraduate and graduate programs. They are typically composed of various specialized schools and colleges.

For music students, most universities emphasize the Bachelor of Music degree, a professional degree requiring more intensive music study.

Conservatories: Specialized Schools for Fine Arts

The third type of institution is the conservatory, specializing in fine arts like music, acting, dance, and more. Conservatories, like Juilliard and Berklee, focus on fostering classical music and other music forms, like jazz and popular music.

The Juilliard School
The Juilliard School is popular with international students studying music in the United States.

Not-for-Profit vs. For-Profit Schools

In the U.S., colleges are usually not-for-profit institutions, focusing more on education than their financial bottom line. However, there are also “for-profit” colleges. According to PrepScholar, some provide quality education, but others have more questionable practices. Therefore, it’s crucial to closely assess any for-profit college’s reputation before enrolling.

English Proficiency: A Prerequisite for Studying in the U.S.

English proficiency is a critical requirement for international students intending to study in the U.S. Most American colleges require a certain level of English proficiency, assessed through the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam. To prepare, practice TOEFL exams are available online.

Cost of Studying Music in the United States

Studying in the U.S. can be a significant financial undertaking. Tuition for a publicly supported, four-year university averages around $20,000 for non-residents, while private institutions average around $40,000 per year. Top conservatories can exceed $50,000 annually, excluding room and board costs.

Financial Aid: The Possibility of Scholarships

To offset the high costs, many international students with dreams of studying music in the United States seek scholarships. U.S. colleges typically offer two types of financial assistance: need-based aid and talent-based scholarships. While need-based aid primarily targets low-income American citizens, scholarships are awarded to highly skilled musicians. However, international students should not rely solely on American scholarships and should explore potential scholarships from their home countries. More information about music school scholarships can be found here.

Additional Expenses: Beyond Tuition

In addition to tuition, students must budget for room and board, textbooks, supplies, local transportation, and personal expenses. Travel expenses to and from the U.S. can also add up significantly.

Immigration and Work: Understanding Visa Requirements

International students must enter the U.S. with an F-1 student visa, obtained by presenting an I-20 form (provided by the college upon acceptance) to the U.S. Embassy in their home country. Please note that working in the U.S. is not permitted on a student visa.

Studying Music in the United States: How We Can Help

At College Music Major, we aim to support international students on their journey of studying music in the United States. Our team of insiders provides expert counseling and real-world experience to prepare you for this significant journey. Visit the international page of our website to contact the CMMaj team directly.

About the Author

Dr. David Lee Fish

Dr. David Lee Fish, Ph.D. is the founder of College Music Major. A veteran figure in music and education whose extensive career spans decades, he's known for his unique approach to music and for sharing his passion with others. His expertise ranges from performance and songwriting to education and private consulting.