Graduate School


This page is intended to provide a general timeline for undergraduate students thinking about applying to graduate school in music.

This timeline is not meant to replace conversations students should have with faculty members in their area of study. If you are looking to meet with a faculty member to talk about graduate school in general, feel free to set up a meeting with Dr. Gentry, Assistant Professor of Music History and Literature.


This timeline is a very broad description of the application process for many graduate programs, such as performance, music education, music theory, music history, musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, and conducting. While the timeline can be useful as a starting point for applying to many of these programs, it may not be applicable to more specific programs, such as performance, composition, or conducting. Please start discussing the possibility of graduate school with your studio professor, or professor in your intended field of study, during your junior year.

Application Materials

Application deadlines are usually December. Plan ahead!

  • GREs
    • GREs are offered regularly. It is a good idea to start practicing and plan to take it around the summer before senior year.
  • Writing Samples
    • A senior thesis is a great sample
    • Start thinking early in your junior year about writing a larger work
    • Usually two contrasting papers, both substantial in length (e.g. 10–25 pages or so each)
    • If written for a class, the sample should be polished and revised beyond what you completed for the class.
    • Get proofread and get as much feedback from faculty as possible.
  • Personal Statement
    • Craft a narrative of why you want to go to graduate school, and that program specifically.
    • Should be tailored for each program. Name specific faculty and aspects of the school you like.
    • Your ambitions should be fairly specific (e.g. Which faculty do you want to work with, what sub-fields do you like?) You’re not committing yourself to these specifics for good, but it is important to look extremely knowledgeable and determined about the specific program you’re applying to.
  • Transcripts
    • Plan ahead- sometimes these take time to arrive!
  • CV
    • Ask your advisors for examples. It is a different genre than a résumés.
    • Look at the page for Résumés and Cover Letters for more information.
  • Letters of Recommendation
    • Give your writers a lot of time. A month is a good amount of time, but less can be fine depending on your relationship.
    • Give your writer a CV and a at least a draft of your personal statement so that they can craft a letter that works with your other materials.
    • Plan ahead! Some applications require the entire application to be submitted before letters of recommendation go out.


  • It is important to connect with professors and professionals in your field by attending conferences during your junior, or the start of your senior year.
  • Plan ahead during your junior year to gain experience in your field (e.g. attend regional conferences or local chapter meetings).

*Note: Graduate programs in the humanities, especially PhDs, should ALWAYS be funded. (MAs can be an exception.) Be wary of programs or schools that will not fund your education.