How To Pick a College

April 8, 2015

While at the National Trumpet Competition a few weeks ago, a young woman asked me:

“Does it matter where you go to college?”

My answer was:

“It depends.”

Here’s what I meant by that:  Going to a school with a great reputation doesn’t guarantee success.  That’s one of the reasons choosing a college can be so hard.  Since there are so many factors that go into choosing a college, and every person is different, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way:

  • There is no best school
  • There is no one school that is right for everyone
  • Great players come from all over the place

Knowing this, choosing a college becomes a very complicated and personal decision.  Even the variables that go into the decision making process are not the same for each person.  With all of that being said, here are a few helpful hints on how to go about choosing a college.

It’s a Two-Way Street

The process of applying to college can be overwhelming.  As an applicant it’s important to remember that although schools are certainly looking for what they perceive to be the best students, you are also looking for the best school for you.

It’s Not Just the Teacher

For years people have been saying that you should choose a school solely based on the private teacher that you believe to be the best for you.  As a private teacher, I appreciate the importance of the one-on-one relationship that should develop between student and teacher, and believe it to be very valuable.  Although I agree choosing a teacher that you believe in is important, it shouldn’t be the only part of the decision making process.  Finding a teacher, program, and environment that are going to provide you with the opportunities to get you where you want to go is vital.

Find the Right Fit

Armed with the knowledge that college isn’t picking you- you are picking a college, and that it’s not just a single variable that should make your choice, how do you choose?  I’m glad you asked.

Finding the right school is like finding the right pair of shoes.  If you choose your shoes based on what everyone else is wearing, you might end up with sore feet.  If you’re a runner, wearing a pair of wing tips probably isn’t the best way to go.  When looking at colleges, look for the right fit for you.  Look for a school that can help you get where you want to go.  It will have the major(s), teachers, ensembles, classes, and opportunities that match your goals.

To get the best information will require some work on your part.  Please ask questions.  Ask questions of faculty.  Ask questions of current students.  Ask questions of former students.  The students will be the people best equipped to tell you what going to school is really like.  The faculty should be your best source of information about what will be expected of you once you’re on campus.  When you’ve made the right decision, going off to college can feel like going (to a different) home.


Now that you’ve done your research and decided on a college, make a commitment to being a vibrant member of your new community.  Your best chance of getting all you can out of your time is to invest fully in the experience.  Take full advantage of all that is available to you.

Done right, you’ll be amazed at what can happen in just a few years.


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