Undergraduate Frequently Asked Questions

Application Questions

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 Audition Registration. 

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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. The deadlines for Early Decision are:

  • Audition Registration, prescreening (if applicable) due – October 15
  • Common Application due through NU – November 1
  • Live on campus audition must be completed by – November 25
  • Composition portfolio due – December 1
  • Enrollment deposit due – February 1
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Financial Aid Questions

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 Bienen Questions

Where can I stay while visiting?

Information for parking, hotel accommodations, transportation, and on-campus events will be sent with confirmation of an on-campus audition.

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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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Audition Questions

Can I use a recording as my final audition?

Final round auditions may be performed on campus or by online submission, though live auditions are strongly encouraged. If you plan to upload a recording as a final audition, this recording is due by February 1 and should be submitted during the audition registration/application process. Applicants submitting final auditions online are required to submit a video recording rather than audio. If for some reason you are unable to attend a previously scheduled on-campus audition, contact the Office of Music Admission and Financial Aid to discuss submission options: musiclife@northwestern.edu

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How should I record my prescreening videos?

It is not necessary to record in a studio. Plan to use the best available technology you have. Many successful prescreening recordings have been created on smartphones. The camera should be stationary for each selection and each selection should be uploaded as separate files. If the microphone is separate from the camera, it should be no closer to the performer than 12 inches. The goal is a “natural acoustic” sound. Do not edit or electronically alter the audio of your prescreening submission. The video should show the performer in full length.

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What should I bring to my audition?

When you register for your audition, you will provide us with an overview of your musical background. However, we recommend that you bring a copy of your résumé with you to the live audition. You should arrive early to give yourself time to check in, warm up, and find your audition room. It is recommended that you have the sheet music for your audition selections with you, although your audition panel may not ask you for them.

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?

For Bachelor of Music instrumentalists: all auditions, both recordings and live, should be unaccompanied. Jazz Studies prescreening auditions should be performed in combo settings; Northwestern will provide the combo for on-campus auditions.

For Bachelor of Music vocalists: both prescreening and final auditions must be accompanied. A professional accompanist will be provided by the Bienen School of Music for on-campus auditions.

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When should I book travel for my audition?

If you are invited for the final round of auditions, you will receive an email with instructions on selecting your audition date. Do not book any travel until you have received a confirmed date and time frame for your audition. If you must purchase your travel, 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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Academic Questions

Can I major in more than one performance area?

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?

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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