Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I was trying to come up with some good titles for this blog, and a couple that occurred to me were:

Ask and you shall receive

Or

Be careful what you wish for.

If you are an applicant to Juilliard this year in the Music Division, you have recently been asked to complete a survey for us. This is pretty standard for Juilliard Admissions – we like surveys! We are dedicated supporters of Survey Monkey, and collect lots of good information that help us understand how to improve our processes, from how we recruit to how we run auditions to even how we inform students of their admission status (that’s how we knew that our applicant pool was ready to go paperless – from responses on surveys saying that we should get the audition results up online!).

In this year’s survey, we included an open comment field, and asked everyone to give their thoughts on how we could better inform prospective students about the School, and/or improve the application process.

Well.

Ask and you shall receive.

And hey – be careful what you wish for!

But also – tidings of comfort and joy.

We got such great responses. I would estimate that half said that their experience with us was very good – and many that said that our application was one of the easiest that they had done.

As for the other half – it wasn’t bad news, or bad comments, or in my opinion, bad anything. I’ve gotten such great ideas already for how we can do things next year! We heard a lot about our website (we’re working on it, folks!), and that it would be helpful to have checklists, everything in one place rather than in multiple documents or web pages, clearer instructions – and these are things we can do. But we needed to know that these things were needed – otherwise, we would have gone on thinking that everything was perfectly fine.

In fact, that’s part of the reason that this blog exists – in fall 2007, when I was applying to nursery schools for my daughter, I realized how little information I had about nursery school – and more than that, how little information I was actually getting from the schools themselves! We (the Admissions staff) have a wealth of information about Juilliard and our admissions processes that is in our heads – we think that we are explaining things in our print materials, website and application, but perhaps we only think that because we are so intimate with it. And perhaps, to someone who hasn’t done this before, the whole thing seems completely mysterious and vague and unclear and confusing. I think that our blog helps (oh, and we got some comments on the survey that said it does!), but we can do more.

So, while I am comforted that many are having a good experience applying to Juilliard, I also find joy in the many comments that will help us do things better.

Thank you to all who responded – I hope you in turn will find comfort and joy in knowing that you will make the Juilliard application experience better in the future.

Financial Aid tips for new applicants

by Tina Gonzalez, Director of Financial Aid

Now that you’ve completed your admissions application, it’s time to start thinking about financial planning as well. Very few students can attend college without some form of financial aid, and our students are no different. Over 90% of our students are receiving some kind of aid through Juilliard, and over 70% are receiving scholarship. Here are some steps you can take now to help finance your college education.

1. Get organized! Make a spreadsheet of each school to which you are applying, and make a note of their costs of attendance, required financial aid materials and deadlines. Later on you can enter the scholarship offers you’ve received and compare them (federal financial aid should be similar at every school, since this money comes directly from the government).

2. Plan ahead! If you’re reading this, you’re already on the right track. Have a candid discussion with your parent or guardian and find out how much financial help you can expect from them. This includes whether they’d be willing to take out loans on your behalf, or cosign a student loan with you.

3. Educate yourself! Do you know the difference between a grant and a loan? In addition to learning about your schools, you’ll need to know about federal student aid as well. This includes grants, loans and work-study funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The best sites to visit are www.studentaid.gov and www.finaid.org. The information there is so helpful, we even refer to them ourselves when we have questions. In addition, you can go on the FAFSA website (www.fafsa.ed.gov) at any time to get a preview of your federal aid eligibility.

4. Do some research! In addition to saving for college, you should also research outside funding sources. There are plenty of free scholarship searches online such as www.fastweb.com. You can also write letters to local philanthropic organizations, especially ones with whom you have a religious, ethnic or professional affiliation. Or you can even throw yourself a benefit performance to raise money!

So, to get you started, here’s what you’ll need to apply for financial aid and scholarship assistance at Juilliard:

Juilliard’s scholarship decisions are based on financial need AND merit. The merit component is based on the strength of your entrance audition. The need portion is largely determined by the information on the following required items:

  • The Juilliard Financial Aid application, which will be available online in January.
  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), if you’re a US Citizen or resident. This is available at starting January 1, 2010.
  • A complete, signed copy of your and your parents’ 2009 federal tax form, or (for international students) official documentation of your parents’ salaries.

Detailed instructions will be available in the Financial Aid application. Our deadline is March 1, 2010. It’s extremely important to apply on time, as we are unable to award aid until all forms have been received.

I hope you find this information useful. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and encourage you to stay in contact with us throughout the process. If you have any questions or concerns along the way – even if you just want to make sure we’ve received your information – we’re here to help you. Good luck!