Tips from Juilliard: Check Your Checklist

Tips from Juilliard: Check Your Checklist

With college, university, and conservatory application deadlines approaching, you want to make sure you have gathered together everything that you are required to submit with your application. Back when you assembled your list of schools, you also (hopefully!) created lists of what each school requires as part of their application. Those lists become your checklists for the schools to which you are applying.

The materials that you are required to submit with your application will vary from school to school, but the ultimate idea is that each school requests the information that will help them understand you as an applicant. A checklist helps ensure that you submit what is required, and do not submit superfluous materials. What follows is meant to clarify some of the different materials, based on what I see as the most misunderstood requirements.


A transcript of your studies so far (high school or undergraduate) details your academic record. Colleges use this record to assess how strong a student you would be if you enroll. The main confusion with this checklist item is the difference between official and unofficial transcripts. 

  • Unofficial transcript – This is a transcript that you download from your school’s system and send to the school(s) where you are applying.
  • Official transcript – This is a transcript that is sent directly from your school to the school(s) where you are applying.

It is a long-standing practice in higher education to require official transcripts that are sent directly from school to school. The reason for this is to prevent students from tampering with their grades. While technology has changed how transcripts are issued, the fact remains that if an official transcript is required, it does not come directly from you. 


In the application process, some schools ask for a résumé. Why? To get an overview of what you have done in your life. Sometimes an “artistic” résumé is required; sometimes simply a résumé. The thing to note here, though, is that a résumé is not a program bio.

  • Résumé – This document is a bulleted list or outline of several general categories: your educational history (schools you have attended), the teachers with whom you have studied, the summer programs and competitions in which you have participated, etc. Generally, a résumé would cover the last three or four years, and be one page long (but no longer than two pages). Note that a list of repertoire that you have studied (“rep list”) is generally not part of a résumé. If a school wants a rep list, it will be a separate requirement.
  • Program bio – A program bio belongs in a concert program. It is not a résumé. The format of a résumé makes it easy to scan quickly, which is what we need to do when reviewing many applications. Reading prose paragraphs that are meant for concertgoers is not as efficient for those who are reviewing your application materials. 


The point to clarify here is the difference between an artistic recommendation and an academic recommendation.

  • Artistic recommendation – This is what one normally provides: a recommendation from your current voice teacher that addresses your strengths and weaknesses as a singer.
  • Academic recommendation – When this type of recommendation is required, the point for the college is to learn about how you are in a classroom setting. Do you attend class? Do you turn in assignments? Do you participate in discussions? The answers to these questions help college and universities determine if you would be successful in the classroom. To have an academic teacher write about your artistic abilities misses the point. As the applicant, it is your job to make sure your recommenders understand what information they are to provide.


Many institutions of higher education require essays as part of their application process. Auditions do not always allow time for conversation between the applicant and the faculty. Your essay provides schools with information about you that they cannot necessarily learn in the audition. Here are some points to note:

  • Make sure you are answering the school’s essay prompt. Do not assume that all schools use the same prompts. For example, if one school asks you to write about why you wish to attend that school, and another school asks you to write about an accomplishment of which you are proud, you would not submit the same essay to both schools.
  • Unless specifically requested, you are not required to reveal personal trauma in your essay. If you choose to do so, that’s fine, but you are also entitled to your privacy.
  • Neatness counts! Check your spelling and grammar. Above all, if you are using one essay for several schools, and you mention the school by name, make sure you change the name for the different schools. (A pet peeve of mine is when an applicant tells us they want to go to NEC, but they are submitting that essay to Juilliard!)

Your checklist should include all required application materials and the deadlines for submitting those materials. Use the checklist to ensure that you submit all your application materials on time. The explanations provided in this article are meant to help you understand the most common application requirements. If there are requirements that you do not understand, always feel free to contact the school’s admissions office. We are here to help!

Kathleen Tesar

Kathleen Tesar, BM, MM, EdD, is the Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School. A former professional violinist, she was previously the Associate Dean at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and Director of Admissions at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. She presents frequently on topics related to performing arts admission, and is co-author of College Prep for Musicians (Bosler, Greene, Tesar).