Choosing A Major

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So You Want To Be A Music Major?

college admissions consultantThis fall, I’m doing something different with my blog to spice it up a bit. I’ve invited several admission counselors from around the country to contribute posts about topics they feel high school students and their families should be paying more attention to as they go through the college search and application process. As much as I like to share tips and advice, why not get it straight from the horse’s mouth? 

Today’s post is the third in this series and it’s by Reuben Councill, Associate Director of Admissions from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania:  

While the college search process is always an involved one, music majors definitely have a few different aspects to consider.  While there are certainly schools where you can major in music without taking an audition for entrance into the degree program, I think the vast majority of potential music majors will choose to attend a program that has an audition requirement.  Proper preparation is key to a successful process and I am happy to give you some points to consider.

First and foremost, you need some professional assistance.  If you are not already doing so, you need to have lessons from a private instructor who is a specialist on your particular instrument or voice type.  This person will be in the best position to help you prepare an audition that will showcase your strengths and allow you to have the best options for acceptance into a variety of schools.  If you need help locating a suitable instructor, good references include your high school band or choir director, professional musicians from a local orchestra or choir, and music professors from any colleges or universities in your area.

Second, you need to decide on a list of potential music programs.  Most students will audition for a variety of schools – some more competitive than others for program acceptance.  As a prospective student, it is important for you to be in contact with each department or school of music for which you plan to audition.  While requirements will be similar, you need to be sure that you are preparing exactly what each program expects to hear from you at the time of audition.

Third, it is important to evaluate the type of degree offered by each institution you are considering.  Without going into too much detail, as a performance major, you can expect to see Bachelor of Music in Music Performance or Bachelor of Arts with a performance emphasis.  A significant difference with a Bachelor of Music degree is that the student will receive a much more in-depth curriculum particularly regarding theory and history requirements within the music major.  However, the Bachelor of Arts can be the perfect degree for someone wishing to complete a dual major with a truly rich musical experience.

Music Education has a wider range of options.  The three programs most widely available are Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Bachelor of Science in Music Education, and Bachelor of Arts with Music Teacher Certification.  While each can be the means to a successful career as a music educator, the three programs go about it in different ways.  In the Bachelor of Music in Music Education, the music department retains the majority of curriculum oversight.  Most of your practical education courses will be taught by music professors with music specific environments and experiences.  The Bachelor of Science in Music Education still provides a core music curriculum, but the majority of education requirements are handled through the education department.  In these circumstances, music teachers are spending a good deal of time with students from other disciplines in a more general methods environment.  The Bachelor of Arts with Music Teacher Certification provides a general music curriculum and then tacks on enough education related coursework to meet the requirements for state teacher licensure.

Hopefully that is not an overwhelming overview!  I am happy to serve as a resource if you have additional questions.  At Susquehanna University we are pleased to offer a very rich musical experience at the undergraduate level.  We offer Bachelor of Music in Music Performance, Music Education, and Bachelor of Arts degrees in a very well-rounded department that includes opportunities for singers and instrumentalists including a full orchestra and opera program.  Being undergraduate only, students will have a wealth of opportunities throughout their four years without having to compete with graduate students for the best ensemble placements.  Please be in touch if you would like more information.

Reuben Councill currently serves as Associate Director of Admissions at Susquehanna University.  Prior engagements have included Executive Director for the Williamsport Symphony and Coordinator of Music Admissions also at Susquehanna.  As a musician, he performs regularly as Principal Flute with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free 60-minute consultation. Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Why You Don’t Need To Go To A Brand Name College

Why You Don’t Need To Go To A Brand Name CollegeA couple days ago, Lynn O’Shaughnessy of The College Solution wrote a piece about the gap between what employers are saying about college graduates being ready for the workplace and what college administrators are saying. It’s an interesting read and you can check it out here.

While I’m not surprised to see such an incredible gap between what the two sides are saying, what I wanted to talk more about was what Lynn exposes towards the end of her post. Namely, the fact that employers just don’t care where your degree comes from.

That’s right. They don’t care. What they do care about, according to the survey, are two things:

Knowledge and applied skills in the student’s chosen field.

So, instead of going into excessive debt to pay for a brand name, go out and look for schools who fit you financially, academically and socially. Consider majors that align with your values, interests, personality-style and skills. Then make a commitment to yourself to learn as much as you can about your intended field while interning several times before you graduate.

Do that and it sounds like a lot of employers will value you and there’s a lot to like about that.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation. 

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Do You Know What You’re Looking For In A College?

Do you know what you're looking for in a collegeLast week I talked about the importance of paying attention to a college’s personality. Campus culture is often overlooked but colleges do have unique characteristics which make them WHO they are. It is these characteristics, these personalities, that often make a campus feel like home or nothing like it.

If you missed the post, you can catch it here.

Today, I’d like to take a step back and talk about the characteristics that make a college WHAT it is.

With over 4,000 colleges in the country, students must do their research and thoroughly investigate the schools they are interested in to determine if these schools really are worthy of their interest. Here’s a few characteristics you should be paying attention to if you’re not already:

1. Size

There’s a big difference between a large research university like Penn State with 37,000 undergrads and a small liberal arts college like Assumption which tops out at 2,000. You are going to stand out a lot more at a smaller school where classes are built on active discussion and debate, and where professors teach undergrads and will have time to meet with you to talk about internships and your career aspirations. At larger schools, you are more likely to be just one in the crowd. And sometimes that crowd can be to the tune of as many as 400 other students in your Introduction to Business course.

2. Location

Location, location, location. It’s the buzz word in real estate and it can also be rather important in choosing colleges. Visit Brown University and there’s a lot of hustle and bustle going on around you in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. You’ll be in a concrete jungle surrounded by businesses, restaurants, and traffic not to mention thousands of other students from Johnson & Wales, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College and Rhode Island College. Visit Susquehanna University in rural Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania and you’ll find a very open and green campus nestled alongside a small college town where you’ll quickly become a “regular” at the local coffee shop.

3. Majors

Colleges aren’t created equal and neither are majors. As a graphic design major, will you have to produce a portfolio? For nursing, will you have to complete pre-requisite courses in your freshman year before you can be admitted to the major? As a business major, do you start taking business-related courses right away? Regardless of your major, is there a required internship? Is there an involved alumni-mentoring program? How are graduates of the program doing and where have they ended up? You want to know the answers to these questions so that you know what it takes to get into your program and, more importantly, what it’s going to do for you.

4. Cost

Cost matters, but it matters even more when you pay attention to how strong of a candidate you are at each college. The stronger your candidacy, the more likely you are to receive a merit scholarship. This is especially true at private colleges where tuition and fees far exceed those at public schools. So, while you might have a dream school like Boston College, you need to understand that, even if you do get in, you probably won’t get much, if anything, in the way of merit money and will be stuck with a sizable bill that may not work for you and your family.

If you would like some assistance with your college search or financial aid process, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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How To Make The Most Of Your Summer

Dobler College ConsultingFirst, I’d like to wish all the hard-working women out there doing a wonderful job being moms a Happy Mother’s Day! It’s not an easy job and I hope you all get to spend some time today doing the things you enjoy and spending time with those you love!

Throughout the year the New York Times college section, The Choice, runs a checklist for high schools seniors and juniors on what they should be doing each month. The checklists, which are written by college counselors from around the country, genuinely contain helpful advice and I like to share them with my own students. On May’s checklist for juniors, there was one tip in particular that I wanted to talk about today and that’s how to make the most of your summer.

On the checklist it’s referred to as summer jobs and enrichment but I would expand that to include career exploration.

Why? Because it’s never too early to start exploring where your interests and skills may lead you.

Maybe you’re good with numbers but you have no idea what it would be like to be an accountant or an actuary. Maybe you don’t even know what an actuary is.

You’ve thought about physical therapy and athletic training but you really don’t know the difference between the two.

Perhaps, as a young child, you were always building things with your LEGOs but you’re not sure if that interest would translate into a career in engineering or construction management.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve had a lot of ideas about what you might do with your life but you’ve never taken the time to tell anyone let alone spent time researching them.

Well, if any of this sounds familiar, then your upcoming summer is a great way to get off that proverbial horse and get to work figuring out just who you are going to be and why it’s going to matter.

The checklist talks about getting a part-time job or going away for a couple weeks to a college-sponsored summer program to help enhance your college applications. And while experiences like that can help solidify your profile in the eyes of college admission counselors, there’s also a lot of value in securing a job shadow or informational interview. While either would only last an a couple hours or even just a full day, spending time with someone who does what you think you may want to do is time well spent.

So how do you do this? Well, first start talking to your parents, friends, teachers, and your school counselor about what you’re interested in. Talk to them about some of these ideas you’ve had and that you’d like to explore them further. Find out who they know who might do something similar to what you’re describing. Then, arrange to be introduced to this person even if it’s just over the phone. Be prepared to talk some more about what you’re interested in and that you would appreciate learning more about what they do, how they got around to doing it and what they would recommend to a young, interested person like you.

You may not find what you’re looking for by doing a job shadow or informational interview, but you’ll NEVER find it if you don’t try.

Have questions about doing a job shadow or what to ask on an informational interview? Use the comment box below or email me at

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Great Expectations? Let’s Just Start With Appropriate Ones First

Dobler College ConsultingLast week I talked about how some of you, as high school seniors, are trying to make your final decision on where you will enroll for the fall. It’s definitely not an easy decision to make, especially when there are probably several people chiming in with opinions. If you missed the post, check it out here.

This week, I want to talk about a decision that those of you are high school juniors are trying to make: what you will major in.

While some of the students I work with have been locked into a major for some time, I have others who are struggling with the decision. The reasons for the indecision are numerous but I would bet that you would recognize one or more of these:

“I’m afraid of picking the wrong thing. What if I go somewhere for one major and find out I really wanted something else and that school doesn’t have it?”

“I really love music, but I just don’t know if I can do anything with it in my life.”

“It’s hard. I have a lot of interests and what ends up happening is that whatever I am most into at the moment is what I think I want to do. But then something else comes along, and I want to change my mind. I just like so many things.”

Sound familiar?

If any of these stances do, my best advice to you right now is to relax. That’s right. Just relax.

First of all, it’s April of your junior year. It’s too early to be worried about a major right now when you should really be focused on doing well in your fourth quarter.

Secondly, unless you are interested in a pre-professional program like engineering, accounting, or nursing, your major may not even matter.

There. I said it. Let me say it again: Your major may not even matter.

Notice I said “may” and not “will.” Sometimes it will matter and I wrote a piece about this very idea last year. But, for the most part, it won’t matter.

What will matter is connecting with your professors and helping them get to know you so that they can introduce you to people or opportunities where you will develop professional skills.

What will matter is completing an internship or five of them. Experience is EVERYTHING.

What will matter is working hard, not just to acquire knowledge for a test but to become the owner of that knowledge for a lifetime.

What will matter is joining clubs and organizations and learning how to network with your peers and other professionals. Someday, you may work with some of them. Someday, some of them may work for you.

Now, this is not to say that you should just blindly begin your college search and application process with total disregard to a major. But it is to say that you shouldn’t set such great expectations for yourself. So, don’t worry too much about what you think your major is or even what it should be right now. Instead, spend some time figuring out what your VIPS are and then let them help inform your journey.

If you have any thoughts on picking a major or setting (un)realistic expectations, please use the comment section below. If you want some help figuring out your VIPS and what they mean for you, email me directly at or call me at 203.525.4096.

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