Students interested in pursuing the study of music beyond Carleton may need additional coursework and activities in addition to the requirements of the Carleton music major, depending on the chosen graduate program. In general, a student should seek out as many musical experiences as possible: listening to recordings, attending concerts, and reading books about music.
Students are also well-advised to keep an updated portfolio of significant academic work throughout the undergraduate degree: written papers, performance programs and recordings, composition scores and recordings. Since a modest ability at the keyboard is required in most areas of music study, achieving piano proficiency is strongly recommended.
For composers, an exposure to other arts is valuable, and interdisciplinary work is encouraged. For performers and conductors, attendance at important summer festivals is a plus (Aspen, Tanglewood, etc.). For music historians and theorists, a second foreign language (German in particular, French, Italian, or Latin) is useful, as are courses in European history and critical theory. Composers and music theorists might consider a basic course in computer programming, logic, or mathematics and set theory.
The steps in applying to graduate school are simple, if not always easy. First, talk to Carleton music faculty about what you are interested in doing. They may recommend certain graduate schools that specialize in your area of interest. You will want to plan in advance to take the GRE examination since many graduate schools require this for entrance.
Write to at least three or four schools for information and application forms. Check to see that these schools have faculty members who share your interests. Be certain to check with those faculty members personally if possible as to their plans during the time you might be there.
Apply for any scholarships for which you may be eligible (Rhodes, Marshall, Mellon, etc.). Many fine graduate schools offer substantial scholarships and/or assistantships. In some cases, a scholarship will cover not only tuition and fees but will also provide a monthly living allowance. Do not let worries about money discourage you from applying.
Prepare a portfolio to send along with each application. A portfolio is a small sample of your work, possibly your senior thesis and/or term paper(s) written during the history and theory sequences, perhaps a composition or a tape of a recital or a research project, and anything else that would give someone a good idea of who you are and what your strengths are. Contact faculty members for recommendations and to discuss possible improvements to your portfolio.
Finally, consider making a trip during Winter or Spring breaks to visit and evaluate the schools to which you have applied. Many programs require an interview and/or audition.