Do you enjoy playing music, but you aren’t planning on pursuing a career in music?


Michael TK Lam

Doctor of Musical Arts Student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Have you wondered how music can help you with your university applications? Even if you aren’t planning on majoring in music, did you know you there is a huge variety of musical activities in university? Having a musical background can strengthen your university applications, even if you aren’t pursuing a degree in music. The following are methods to present your musical pursuits while maintaining your academic life in other areas.


University Applications – UK vs US

The university application process in the United Kingdom is simple but limited, as students can only apply to five choices in UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). The US, on the other hand, does not limit the number of choices, in which students can apply to as many universities as they need. However, the difference between the two is that the US does not have a centralized application portal that covers all American universities. In fact, most colleges/universities have their own portal on their website. For instance, University of California (UC) has a portal that includes all nine UC’s undergraduate applications. You might be thinking, wouldn’t that a hassle if I had to apply to all my choices individually? Luckily, many universities participate in the Common App, which covers a number of prestigious institutions.

Music Exams

If your high school has a strong music curriculum, it is very likely that the Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory course is provided. The Advanced Placement (AP) is a program in the US and Canada that provides college-level courses in high schools. An examination is provided at the end of each school year and students who score 3 or above on a 1 to 5 scale will receive college credits for that particular subject. Having an AP course on your high school transcript sends colleges a message that your academic level is on par with universities, which will be a massive boost to your application.

Even if your high school does not offer AP Music Theory, you may consider other options such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity College London (TCL) exams. The abovementioned institutions are the most prestigious and internationally recognized exam boards that provide music exams in performance and theory. With their grade system (Grade 1 to 8) and advanced diplomas, students’ performance levels are recognized and graded accordingly. In other words, it gives universities a solid idea of your musical ability.

Extracurricular Activities & Private Lessons

Apart from academic achievements and exams, there are a huge variety of activities you can participate in before you graduate from high school. Please take advantage of the activities provide by your school! If you are an instrumentalist, join the school orchestra; if you are a singer, join the school choir. Regardless of your level, these activities can show versatility in your application and maximize your chances of being accepted. Even if you aren’t part of any ensemble or group, you can always take private lessons with music teachers. One of the perks of having a personal music tutor is that he/she can also provide guidance based on their personal experience.

I hope you find the above advice useful and I wish you all the best with your college applications!