Bienen School Of Music Graduate Application Essay

Welcome to the Bienen School of Music!  Please read the following page carefully for application requirements to the Master of Music (MM) and Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degrees. 

(PhD Applicants: Go to PhD Application)

Graduate Application Requirements

The application to graduate programs in the Bienen School of Music is online, via our Graduate Application. Prescreening recordings, composition or education portfolios, transcripts, resumes, and other media or written documents should be uploaded during the application process. NOTE: To successfully upload these requirements to the application, your materials must be converted to modern, mainstream file types. Digital document files, scanned images, and media files that were created on outdated software programs may not be viewable by our faculty. Extremely large files (such as graduate theses or large-scale compositions) that cannot be uploaded should be mailed to:

Office of Music Admission and Financial Aid
70 Arts Circle
Room 2-120
Evanston, IL 60208

The Bienen School of Music will not return any application materials that are mailed to our office, so it is strongly encouraged that you upload all materials along with your application. Prescreening recordings  and composition portfolios must be uploaded within the graduate application; physical recordings will not be accepted.

Graduate Application Checklist

  • Graduate Application
  • Application fee. $75, nonrefundable (credit card only)
  • Transcripts.  You are required to provide transcripts from all postsecondary schools that you have attended. Transcripts must include grades and the institutional grading system, courses initiated and completed, and should show any degree(s) that were awarded or are anticipated.
    • To save you time and money, we will accept scanned copies of transcripts for the purposes of your application; however, these scanned copies must be uploaded to your Graduate Application. Scans that are sent as email attachments from an applicant will not be accepted.  If your transcript is printed on two sides of a page, make sure you scan both sides of each page. Take special care to ensure that the transcript scan is clear and legible. Scanned transcripts will be considered “unofficial”, and we reserve the right to request an official transcript if there is uncertainty or a scan is not legible. If your application is successful and you enroll at Northwestern, you will be asked to provide final, official transcripts at that time.
    • If your school provides electronic transcripts and requires an email address, please use
    • If you transferred schools during a prior degree, we need copies of transcripts from both institutions.
    • If your transcript is from an institution outside the United States, we may request additional information regarding specific courses of study.  In some cases, you may be asked to have your transcript evaluated for U.S. equivalency.    
    • Transcripts that are not in English must be translated into English and evaluated for U.S. grade equivalency by an approved educational credentialing service.  We recommend World Education Services or Educational Perspectives.  Do not translate them yourself.  Official electronic reports may be sent to
      • IMPORTANT: The Bienen School of Music requires that individual courses and grades are listed in an evaluation report. For both WES and Education Perspectives, select the course-by-course evaluation. If you would like to use a different translation/evaluation service, or if you are not sure whether your transcript needs an evaluation, please contact us at
  • Letters of Recommendation.  Two letters of recommendation are required, although you may submit more than two. Within the graduate application, you will have the opportunity to list all of your recommenders, and you will be asked to provide their email addresses. They will then receive an email that allows them to upload their letter of recommendation to your file. If your recommender does not wish to use the online form, they may mail a copy to our office. Emails from personal accounts will not be accepted.
  • Résumé. You should upload your résumé within the graduate application—do not mail hard copies to our office. Performance applicants will also be given the chance to upload a repertoire list, which should consist of musical selections that you have studied to the point of performance. Educators and doctoral applicants are welcome to upload their professional curriculum vitae (CV) in lieu of a résumé, if desired.
  • Individual program requirements.  Consult the 2017-2018 Audition and Program Requirements before starting your application. This booklet will outline if your intended degree program requires prescreening recordings, writing samples, or portfolios.
  • English language proficiency.  If your native language is not English, regardless of citizenship, you are required to provide official results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Scores that are more than two years old will not be accepted. Please see our TOEFL Requirements page for more information.

Graduate Application Timeline

Graduate Application dueDecember 1
NOTE:  All supplemental materials, including prescreening recordings, portfolios, transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and writing samples, are due on December 1. You can upload all of these materials to the Graduate Application. We will not accept late materials—hard copies must arrive in our office by December 1
Audition or interview confirmations sentMid-December - Early January
On-campus auditions and/or interviewsFebruary 8-18
Final audition via recording dueDecember 1
NU Admission Decision releasedMarch
Enrollment Deposit dueApril 15

Northwestern University does not discriminate or permit discrimination by any member of its community against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship, or veteran status in matters of admission, employment, housing, or services or in the education program or activities it operates.


Contact the Office of Music Admission and Financial Aid at or (847) 491-3141.

Request information from the Bienen School of Music.


Founded as a premier research institution in 1850, Northwestern is located in Evanston, Illinois, alongside beautiful Lake Michigan. The undergraduate campus is comprised of six schools: Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Communication, School of Education and Social Policy, Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications, and Bienin School of Music. Some students elect to pursue a dual degree program, ultimately receiving degrees from two Northwestern schools.

Known for its prestigious music, journalism, and engineering schools, Northwestern‘s other popular majors include psychology, biology, education, and business. Students enrolled in a particular school may also take courses at other schools within Northwestern.

Statistics and Basic Information

Northwestern is a very selective school, with an acceptance rate of 10.7%.

Tuition costs $50,424 for one year at Northwestern, with a total cost of $70,496 including room, board, and other fees per year. Approximately 62% of Northwestern students receive financial aid. Admission is need-blind, meaning a student’s financial need (or lack thereof) will not factor into his or her admission decision. Early Decision applicants applying for financial aid must submit financial aid forms by December 1st, and Regular Decision applicants must do so by March 1st.

Early Decision applicants must submit their complete applications by November 1st, and will be notified of their admission decision on December 15th. Music applicants applying to the Bienen School of Music must register for an audition by October 15th. Early Decision is binding at Northwestern, and students admitted through this plan must submit a nonrefundable tuition deposit by February 1st. Regular Decision applicants must submit their applications by January 1st, and will be notified of admission decisions in late March. Music applicants must register for auditions by December 1st under this plan. Admitted students must secure their spots by May 1st. Students applying under the Early Decision plan may receive a deferral of admission, meaning the admissions committee will consider them as art of the Regular Decision pool. If offered admission in the Regular Decision round, these candidates are no longer bound to matriculating at Northwestern.

In 2014, 2,767 applicants were offered a position on the wait list, and 55 students were subsequently offered admission to Northwestern.


Northwestern accepts the Common Application or the Coalition Application, along with the Northwestern supplement.

There are five sections in this supplement: General, Academics, Contacts, Family, and Northwestern Statement.


In this section, you will indicate your entry term. The only option here is Fall. You will also indicate your preferred plan: Early or Regular Decision. If you indicate that you are applying Early Decision, you must respond yes to the following statement, indicating that you understand that this decision is binding if you are admitted:

If you are accepted under an Early Decision plan, you must promptly withdraw the applications submitted to other colleges and universities and make no additional applications to any other university in any country. If you are an Early Decision candidate and are seeking financial aid, you need not withdraw other applications until you have received notification about financial aid from the admitting Early Decision institution.

You will also be asked whether or not you are applying for financial aid. Keep in mind that this will not impact your admission decision.


In this section, you will select to which of the six colleges listed above you are applying. If you are applying to the School of Education or the School of Music, you must declare a major here. Journalism is the only available major within the School of Journalism. For the other schools, you may select “undecided” as your major, and have the option of declaring your final major once you are enrolled as a student.

For the prestigious Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME), a seven-year combined undergraduate/graduate program in which students are admitted into either College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Communication, or the School of Engineering and the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, students must submit a pre-application by December 1st. Some students will then be invited to complete an application. Applicants are only admitted to this program under the Regular Decision plan. You will indicate whether or not you were invited to apply to HPME here.


In this section, you will indicate whether or not you have applied to Northwestern previously, and how you learned about Northwestern. You may indicate up to ten responses in order of influence.


In this section, you will be asked if any relatives are associated with the school:

Are any siblings also applying for undergraduate admission to Northwestern University this year?

Have any relatives ever attended Northwestern University?

            – Are any of those relatives a parent, step-parent, grandparent, or sibling?

Have any relatives ever worked for Northwestern University?

            – Are any of those relatives a parent or step-parent?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you will be prompted to list your relatives’ names and relationships to you.

Northwestern Statement

The Northwestern Statement is not required, but you are strongly encouraged to complete it. There is just one question, and you have 300 words to answer it:

Other parts of your application give us a sense for how you might contribute to Northwestern. But we also want to consider how Northwestern will contribute to your interests and goals. In 300 words or less, help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you’ll make use of specific resources and opportunities here. 

This is a typical “why us” essay. You should try to be as specific as possible and use plenty of examples and anecdotes to show the admissions committee why Northwestern appeals to you and why you would be a good fit for the school.

Other Requirements

Northwestern requires either the SAT or ACT. Two SAT Subject Tests are recommended, but not required. Additionally, applicants must submit a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor, along with one recommendation from a teacher. You may submit additional letters of recommendation if you are inclined to do so, though we at CollegeVine recommend sending no more than one additional academic recommendation or one recommendation from an outside party (work manager, volunteer coordinator, etc.). Keep in mind that each recommendation should provide a new perspective on your accomplishments and personality to admissions committees.

Northwestern conducts off-campus interviews through its Alumni Admission Council. However, there is a limited number of these interviews available, and they are not required, nor are they considered a significant component of the application. Applicants who are unable to schedule interviews will not be penalized in the admission process.

Note that Northwestern does not accept any unsolicited supplemental materials.

The Northwestern application has fewer components in its supplement compared with some of the other elite colleges, but you should take great care to make sure your application is thorough and complete, and convey your enthusiasm for the school in the short amount of space available.

Need help with your Northwestern application and other applications? Our personal admissions specialists are here to help. Sign up for our College Application Guidance Program today.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.

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