Undergraduate frequently asked questions

Application Questions
Audition Questions
Financial Aid Questions

Application Questions

What is unique about the Shepherd School admission process?
Each year we assemble a team of musicians based upon very specific ensemble needs. For orchestral instrumentalists, we populate two orchestras with a specific number of students for each section. For vocalists, we need specific voice types in our vocal program. Admission for instrumentalists, vocalists, composers and music history is also decided by reviewing studio attrition, and how vacant studio slots can best be filled.

How may I tour the Rice University campus and The Shepherd School of Music?
The Rice University tour and information session schedule and registration may be found here. The Shepherd School of Music does not offer formal tours, but prospective students are invited to attend Shepherd School classes and rehearsals at their leisure. If you would like to meet with a Shepherd School admissions professional, you may schedule your visit.


Do enrolled students have to live on campus?
Will I live in a residential college all four years?

We believe a large part of what makes Rice a remarkable environment for undergraduates is the residential college system, so we encourage all freshmen to live on campus. New students are assigned to one of our eleven residential units, or colleges. Each college houses approximately 230 freshmen and upperclassmen; another 70 or so members of each college live off campus for one of their four years at Rice. The colleges serve not only as residence halls but also as primary centers for dining, studying, playing, networking, and developing leadership skills. Each college functions as a self-supporting unit, boasting its own government, budget, sports teams, dining facility, and commons.

What are Houston and the Rice campus like?
As the fourth-largest city in the United States and the largest in Texas, Houston offers the diversity and richness found only in world-class urban centers. The city's population totals 1.9 million, while the greater metropolitan area covers 8,778 square miles and has a population of 4.7 million. Economic vitality spans the energy, healthcare, space, high-tech, and chemical industries. Houstonians support more than 500 cultural, visual, and performing arts organizations; 75 art galleries; five major museums; resident companies in opera, theater, symphony, and ballet; and four major league sports franchises. More than 90 languages are spoken in the Houston area. As a Rice student, you will benefit from the best of two worlds—a traditional university campus located in a thriving metropolis. The campus includes about 50 major buildings, designed over a period of nearly a century and which are representative of the changes in style of 20th century American architecture. The university's earliest buildings were conceived by the architect, Ralph Adams Cram, in a revivalist style based on the medieval architecture of Southern Europe and are characterized by red tile roofs, rose-hued brick, semicircular archways, and elaborate detailing.

Are there many performing opportunities for undergraduates?
There are on average 285 students at the Shepherd School; approximately 120 undergraduates, 165 graduate students. With chamber music, studio class, choral ensembles and orchestra concerts, there are numerous performing opportunities for undergraduates. Undergraduate and graduate students perform together in ensembles, assuring that students learn from each other while maintaining the highest level of musical excellence.

Can I apply for early decision or Questbridge?
Due to the complexity of the audition process, The Shepherd School of Music only admits by regular decision.

Can I apply for the Bachelor of Arts in Music?
We do not admit directly into the BA degree. This degree is reserved for enrolled students, often performance majors, who have decided to change their focus.

Can I enroll in the second (January) semester?
There are no freshmen or transfer mid-year admits to Rice University or The Shepherd School of Music

How many undergraduate applications do you receive annually?
What is your acceptance rate?

The Shepherd School receives over 300 undergraduate applications annually and our acceptance rate is typically around 15%.

May I take trial lessons from faculty members?
Individual lessons are scheduled directly with faculty members, but the Shepherd School admission office can provide faculty contact information. All introductory lessons are subject to faculty availability.

Is there a chamber music program at the Shepherd School?
Depending on their field of study, undergraduate performance majors are required to participate in two to six semesters of chamber music at the Shepherd School. We believe instruction in chamber music to be critical to maintaining a successful career in music.

What undergraduate performance opportunities are there in Houston outside of the Shepherd School?
Many of the professional ensembles throughout greater Houston frequently employ Shepherd School students. Churches, synagogues, museums, private parties, and weddings are just a few of the “gigging” opportunities.

When are undergraduate applications due?
The deadline for Shepherd School applicants is December 1.

When are transfer applications due?
The Undergraduate Audition Profile Form or the required preliminary online submission is due to The Shepherd School by December 1. Your Common Application and Rice Supplement are due March 15. When scheduling your audition, please keep in mind auditions take place from mid-January to mid-February.

Do music applicants have to complete the Rice application?
Yes. The Shepherd School is an academic division of Rice University, and music students take academic course work, live in residential colleges, are an integral part of Rice’s campus life, and ultimately receive degrees from Rice University.

Do I have to take the SAT Subject Exams?
All music applicants need to take either the SAT or the ACT. Please see this standardized testing page from the Rice website for more information. The SAT Subject Exams are recommended but not required and any applicant who does not take the SAT Subject Tests will not be disadvantaged in the review process. If you take the ACT, you do not need to submit any SAT test scores. If an applicant wants to take the SAT Subject Exams, we recommend selecting their two best subjects since music is not offered.

Am I allowed to designate a teacher preference?
Yes, with the execption of composition, musicology, percussion, and trumpet, all applicants must select a teacher preference on either their Acceptd profile or Audition Profile Form. Once your Acceptd profile or Audition Profile Form have been submitted, changes to your teacher preference must be made in writing. Please contact Geoffrey Scott for specific information.

Would I take private lessons with a teaching assistant?
No. Shepherd School performance and composition majors study privately with faculty members.

How important are my high-school grades and College Board scores?
While it is critical that you have a successful audition, it is also important for the Shepherd School admission committee to see your non-musical academic strengths. Music majors are required to take non-music academic courses at Rice University, some of which may be challenging. Maintaining a good high school GPA and testing well on the College Board exams help indicate what type of college student you may be.

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Audition Questions

How do I schedule my audition?
For an applicant who must submit the online  preliminary submission by December 1, the faculty will review and make decisions before the Winter break. The invitations to audition will be emailed with the link to schedule your audition. For an applicant who does not have to submit the online preliminary submission, your Audition Profile form will allow you to indicate your preferences to audition. Audition dates and requirements may be found here. IMPORTANT! Please set your email filter to accept rice.edu emails since this is our primary source of our communications with applicants.

May I send a recording for my audition or must I come to the campus and audition live?
Most of our faculty members require a live audition before accepting someone into their studio. We do not conduct regional auditions in order to encourage serious applicants to visit the campus and experience our faculty, ensembles, and campus first hand. If you have extreme circumstances that warrant a recorded audition, you must contact Geoffrey Scott, Shepherd School of Music Admissions Director.

Do I need to audition for The Shepherd School of Music if I’m not a music major?
No. Audition dates are reserved for music major applicants only, and The Shepherd School does not offer a minor in music. If you are interested in lessons, ensembles or classes outside of your major, please consult our non-major offerings.

What are audition days like for applicants and their families?
Prior to your arrival on campus, you will receive an audition confirmation email listing the date, time, and room location of your scheduled audition. We offer morning orientation sessions for applicants and their families on our busiest audition days, and we encourage all to tour the music building and general campus at their leisure. You may also review our class schedule to attend a class during your visit.

May I stay in a residential college when I audition?
Overnight stays are a great way to meet current Rice students and to explore our campus, but availability is limited. High school seniors interested in staying overnight on campus can make arrangements to spend up to two nights with a student in one of Rice's eleven residential colleges. Please request an overnight visit at least two to three weeks before you would like to visit. We encourage you to call 713-348-7423 when requesting an overnight visit so a Rice University admissions staff may get to know you better and help find you a compatible host. Overnight visits are NOT available during the first and last weeks of the semester, or during final exams.

If I don’t stay on campus for my audition where should I stay?
The Rice campus is located in the heart of Houston’s museum district where there are numerous hotel accommodations. For a listing of nearby places to stay, please visit our map of area hotels.

Should I bring an accompanist to my audition?
All instrumental auditions are conducted without accompanists. A pianist is provided for voice auditions.

How do I make a change in my audition repertoire?
If there is a change in your audition repertoire, please bring multiple copies of your new list to your audition for the faculty.

How long are auditions?
Most auditions run from 10 – 15 minutes long.

What if the weather affects my travel for my audition?
If Houston is experiencing challenging weather, we will post a notice on the home page. If your travel is affected by difficult weather, please call us as soon as you are aware of this so we can re-schedule your audition for later in the day or on another audition day. We count on you to let us know so we can notify the faculty and their schedules can be adjusted.

When will I know the results of my audition?
Rice University will notify Shepherd School freshman applicants of their admission status on April 1. Transfer applicants will be notified by May 15.

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Financial Aid Questions

What forms are required to apply for financial aid?
To apply for financial assistance, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 1 and use 003604 for the School Code. You must also complete the CSS PROFILE form by March 1 and use 6609 for the CSS Profile Code. In addition, you must submit 2015 Tax Returns and W-2s to IDOC by March 1 and complete the Shepherd School Financial Assistance Application and mail it to The Shepherd School.

What if I know my family doesn’t qualify for financial aid, but I want to be considered for a merit award?
If you wish to be considered for a Shepherd School of Music merit scholarship, you must still complete all forms listed on the Costs and Financial Aid section.

How are merit awards determined?
Merit awards are generally distributed by the Shepherd School to applicants exhibiting exceptional musical ability and potential, coupled with excellent academic credentials. Merit awards are reviewed annually, and as long as merit recipients continue to make satisfactory musical and academic progress in their field of study and the degree program to which they are admitted, the expectation is for the award to be continued for four years.

Do you offer any type of tuition payment plan that allows families to pay in installments?
Yes. The Rice payment plan is designed so that students or parents can pay over the course of the semester, as opposed to paying the full amount of tuition. Please visit payment plans.

Do you offer special Shepherd School scholarships for international students?
No special international scholarships are offered. Merit award considerations apply to all applicants (including international), but international applicants do not qualify for any U.S. need-based financial aid.

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