Undergraduate Frequently Asked Questions


Fall 2021 Admission & COVID-19 Top

How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the Bienen School of Music admissions process?

The coronavirus outbreak has clearly affected how students and families navigate the college admission process. We understand that many communities have experienced school closures or restricted activities, and that families around the world are enduring financial strain and loss of loved ones. We are committed to working with schools and families to ensure all candidates receive full consideration for Northwestern and the Bienen School of Music’s incoming classes. 

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Is the Bienen School planning to change fall 2021 application deadlines due to COVID-19?

Please consult our Application & Timeline page for comprehensive information. 

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My prescreening/audition requirements normally require that I collaborate with another musician(s) or use several instruments. How should I record my prescreening or audition?

The Bienen School does not expect any applicant to stray from CDC guidelines in order to record prescreening or audition materials. Please see your program/instrument’s Audition & Program Requirements for comprehensive information about this year’s requirements.

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Will you be having on-campus auditions?

No. All auditions for fall 2021 admission will be 100% virtual; this includes Early Decision, Regular Decision, and graduate audition rounds. Please see the FAQ question below for specific information.  

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In what format will auditions take place?

This year's audition format will consist of a live performance audition via Zoom, and faculty also will consult prescreening or audition videos as needed. Specific audition procedures and information will be sent to all applicants via email. 

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Can I take a virtual trial lesson?

Lesson requests with faculty members are made directly through the faculty members themselves. Visit our Faculty Profiles to find contact information for individual faculty members.

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How can applicants let the Bienen School of Music know about ways they have been impacted by the pandemic?

Please feel free to upload a statement about how you have been impacted by the pandemic to your Bienen School Supplement. Please note that this is optional.

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How can prospective students learn more about the Bienen School without visiting campus in person?

Join us for a Bienen School information session! Sessions are led by a Bienen admissions staff member and cover the application process, degree options, financial aid, and more. The sessions also include time for Q&As. Register for a session here. If you have any questions about Bienen School admissions, feel free to contact us at musiclife@northwestern.edu .

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Applications Top

What is the application process?

Refer to Application Instructions for information.

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How do I apply as a dual degree applicant?

The indication to apply to the dual degree is made on the Common Application to Northwestern University.

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Is there a separate music school application to complete?

No, however, all Bienen School of Music applicants are required to submit materials via the Bienen School Supplement.

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Do you have an Early Decision round for undergraduate applicants?

Yes. Those interested in Early Decision should first contact the Bienen School's Office of Admission, Financial Aid and Graduate Services: musiclife@northwestern.edu.

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My degree/major doesn’t require an audition. Where do I submit my materials?

All applicants should submit music materials via the Bienen School Supplement regardless of whether or not their chosen major/degree has an audition component.  

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What file types and sizes do you accept within the Bienen School Supplement?

Most file types are accepted, and can be as large as 5 GB each. Refer to the Bienen School Supplement Portfolio section for detailed information.

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Where do I upload a music teacher recommendation?

Request and submit this through your Common Application.

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Do I receive separate admission decisions from the Bienen School and Northwestern?

No. All admission decisions are sent from the Office of Undergraduate Admission. If you have applied to more than one school within Northwestern, your admission decision will state which school(s) you have been accepted to.

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Can I be accepted to the Bienen School and not Northwestern?

No. The Bienen School of Music is a school within Northwestern University, so Bienen School applicants must be admitted to both the Bienen School of Music and the University as a whole.

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Academics/Degrees Top

Can I major in more than one performance area?

No. Students are allowed to major in only one performance area. Additional majors may be added in music studies areas such as music education, musicology, music theory, music cognition, and music composition and technology, in addition to all majors found outside the Bienen School.

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Can I add a second major?

Yes. Students are welcome to complete two majors within the Bienen School of Music with the exception of two performance majors. Bienen students may complete a second major or dual degree program in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Students interested in pursuing a second major in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Medill School of Journalism, School of Communication, or School of Education and Social Policy may add a dual degree with the second school, or they may transfer to the second school and pursue music as a second major.  

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Can I pursue a dual degree?

Yes. If you have exceptionally strong interests in music and another field, this option offers the opportunity to earn two separate degrees (music plus one in an outside field) in five years. The Bienen School partners with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, McCormick School of Engineering, Medill School of Journalism, School of Communication, and School of Education and Social Policy so that you may pursue both your passions side by side.

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What is the difference between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees in the Bienen School?

Bachelor of Arts degrees within the Bienen School are considered liberal arts degrees. There are no performance-based BA degrees. BA students may pursue an optional concentration in the areas of composition, musicology, music cognition, and music theory. 

Bachelor of Music degrees include more music and performance-based courses. Those pursuing a Bachelor of Music in performance or music education perform in ensembles and take private lessons during the entirety of their undergraduate studies. Students pursuing a Bachelor of Music in other music studies areas (musicology, music cognition, music theory) receive one year of private lessons and have a one-year ensemble requirement. BM music composition students take private composition lessons with faculty and have a one-year ensemble requirement.

For more information, see Degrees.

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Does the Bachelor of Arts degree include performance opportunities and private lessons?

Bachelor of Arts in Music students have a one-year ensemble requirement. There are no private lessons with faculty, but lessons with graduate students may be available. 

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What opportunities exist for non-music majors?

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How do I declare a minor?

Minors are declared after arriving at Northwestern as an enrolled student. See available music minors. Please note that there are no performance minors.

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Prescreening/Auditions Top

How can I ensure my prescreening/audition recordings are high quality?

It is not necessary to record in a recording studio. Use the best available technology you have. Many successful prescreening recordings have been created on smartphones, but we recommend that you find a good-quality external microphone with which to record your repertoire requirements. External microphones do not necessarily need to be expensive. We also recommend that you investigate your recording device’s sound input settings and make sure to adjust the sound input to avoid distortion. Your camera should be stationary for each selection and each selection should be uploaded as a separate file. The goal is to achieve a “natural acoustic” sound. Do not edit or electronically alter the audio of your prescreening submission. 

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Can I upload my prescreening repertoire in separate video files?

Yes. This is strongly encouraged.

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How do I schedule my audition?

You will receive an email from the Office of Music Admission with instructions on how to schedule your audition.

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When should I book travel for my audition?

Do not book travel until you have scheduled your audition. If you must purchase your travel prior to confirming an audition, we recommend purchasing refundable tickets. The Bienen School of Music reserves the right to change audition dates. We are not responsible for any expenses incurred for changing travel plans.

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Can I use a recording as my final audition?

The Bienen School of Music strongly prefers that applicants audition by live virtual audition. In the event that you are unable to take part in a virtual audition, please contact the Office of Music Admission as soon as possible to discuss submission options: musiclife@northwestern.edu

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What should I bring to my audition?

The Office of Music Admission will send you a Musical Background form to bring to your audition. You may bring the sheet music for your audition selections, but this is optional.

Vocalists: Though we provide an accompanist for the live audition, you must supply your own music for the accompanist. Do not send the music in advance; simply bring it with you when you come to campus. We recommend making photocopies of all your music, back-to-back, and neatly organizing your selections in a three-ring binder. Please do not place the music in plastic sleeves as this causes glare for our pianists. Do not use staples. A binder is preferable to large books or scores.
 

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Should my audition be accompanied?

All auditions, with the exception of jazz studies and vocal auditions, should be unaccompanied.  Jazz studies and voice applicants: Please see your program/instrument’s Audition & Program Requirements page for comprehensive information about this year’s accompaniment requirements.

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May I observe classes, rehearsals, and attend concerts?

Yes! You will receive information on other activities that you may participate in via email.

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Financial Aid Top

Is there financial aid available? How do I apply for financial aid?

Yes. Northwestern University offers financial assistance to students primarily on the basis of demonstrated need. Northwestern is among a small group of private institutions that continue to meet the full demonstrated institutional financial need of our aid applicants. In addition, there are merit scholarships from the Bienen School. Learn more.

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Is there financial aid for international students?

There is no difference in the merit-based scholarship process for international applicants. International students are ineligible to apply for federal student loans through FAFSA, however. There are some options for international students to receive a private loan, however many of them do require a U.S. citizen to act as a co-signer. More information can be found here.

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Visiting the Bienen School Top

Where can I stay while visiting?

Directions to campus and parking details can be found on our Visit Us page.

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Can I take a tour of the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts?

Normally, we provide a tour of our facilities and an information session every weekday at 11:45 a.m.

However, the Northwestern Office of Undergraduate Admission and Bienen School of Music have temporarily canceled all upcoming information sessions, campus tours, and large group visits due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here.

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Can I take a lesson with one of your faculty members?

Lessons with faculty members are made directly through the faculty members themselves. Visit our Faculty Profiles to find contact information for individual faculty members.

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