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Conservatory or University? 5 Tips to Deciding

Deciding between a music conservatory or university can be a difficult choice. No one should tell you that attending university is somehow less credible than attending a conservatory; however, which you choose ultimately depends on what your goals are in the music industry. Here are five tips to deciding between university and conservatory.

Availability of Minors

Conservatories are beneficial because they focus firmly on a particular area of music; education, performance, composition, and so on. Universities are beneficial because they help produce well-rounded students with a good understanding of humanities, arts, and sciences – and the availability of minors. For example, if you know you want to perform opera, you may choose a conservatory with an excellent opera program; but if you know you want to major in music with a minor in conservatory because you have a mind to do music therapy as a master's, you may want to choose a university. Align your choice with your career goals and the availability of the academic path you want.


In an ideal world, cost would not be a factor in determining where you study. But it is, and while the education students receive at conservatories is often world-class and totally worth the money, not everyone can afford to study at a conservatory. If cost is a determining factor for where you study, look for universities and colleges that are accredited by an independent academic body (such as the National Association of Schools of Music) and boast alumni success within your major of choice.


The number of conservatories in the world are far outweighed by the number of colleges and universities you can choose from. If you live in a region where a conservatory is nearby, and you want to stay close to home, it's an easy choice. However, if attending a conservatory means traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles from home and you're not prepared to make a move that big, examine universities in your home region.

Spectrum of Majors

Most conservatories have a limited range of majors, and many do not permit double-majoring or minoring in other subjects, particularly European conservatories. If double-majoring or minoring is important to you and you cannot find a conservatory that offers these options, attending a university may be better for you. Once again, align your choice of school with what career goals you've determined, and go from there.

Availability of Financial Aid

Some conservatories are extremely generous with financial aid, particularly to students who have great need or are especially meritorious. If cost is a factor, search out conservatories that have generous bursary or financial aid programs. Nearly all universities and colleges offer financial aid (with the exception of a very few), and some even offer it to non-citizens. Apply to a range of both that have generous financial aid packages, and see what each one offers you upon your acceptance.

Choosing between conservatory and university can be a difficult choice – each offers unique opportunities as well as a range of opportunity for scholarships and other forms of financial aid. These five tips will help you choose – and get your career in music off to a great start.

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