Music & Scholarships with Trisha Craig
| “It’s not just about your grades. Grades are just a small percentage of who you are. It’s all else about you that really matters.”
Have you wondered what the best strategies for gaining scholarships through music or other impact projects are? Trisha Craig is the owner of Music Build Lives, a college counselor and an expert in scholarships who is helping students earn admittance to top music schools like Yale.
There is a lot of bad advice out there. Listen in, because in this episode Trisha will clarify it and share some of her best practices.
- What most teen musicians misunderstand about elite college admissions
- Real-life stories about students show struggled to get admitted
- What the elite colleges are really looking for as their admits
- One biggest misconceptions students have about scholarships
- The inside-track path to help you get into your dream school
- Invaluable tips to help you make better decisions in your college admissions journey
And so much more.
Too many people are overwhelmed, stressed out, and frustrated about college admissions prep. I created this podcast to help you build a standout college profile and boost your confidence. Enjoy!
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Welcome back to season two of the Ivy League Prep Academy Podcast. Equipping you to successfully pursue the college of your dreams. We believe everyone deserves to reach their full potential, and the admissions process shouldn't hold you back. All right. Hello and welcome back, everyone, to the Ivy League Prep Academy Podcast. I'm really excited today because we get to speak to an expert who not only is someone who just builds people up everywhere she goes, she's someone that I've spent a lot of time chatting with and talking to. We have counseled each other around individual students and around just our basic philosophies. There's a tremendous amount of overlap. And I love when I find someone in the college counseling field who loves people, loves teenagers, and knows how to build them up rather than stress them out and overwhelm them. And that is Tricia Craig, and she is our guest today. So very quickly. Tricia Craig is the owner of Music builds lives. It is a college counseling program for accomplished music students. She is also a professional flutist and teaches other creative people how to manage the entrepreneurial side of their careers. So she works with adults as well as teenagers, but she lives on the sea coast of New Hampshire in the United States with her dog. Higgin. And Tricia, welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you. I'm so excited to be here. And I just love talking to you, too, because like you just said, it's just so exciting to meet someone else who loves teens and who just helps them strive for success and you believe in them like I do. And so I love being able to talk with you about that stuff. I'm very excited.
It is so much fun. I was going to wait until the end and make this announcement because I know everyone's going to want to get a hold of you and your wisdom and get more of you. But I'll just say, right from the get go, tricia is not just a friend and not just an expert and not just amazing at helping teenagers get admitted to top universities through this music pathway, but also she is an expert in scholarships and scholarship acquisitions. And it just so happens that the exact same things that really set you aside and put you head and shoulders above the competition as far as getting admitted or pursuing admittance to your dream university, those are the same things that help you qualify for these really cool scholarships. She's an expert in that, and she's going to be working with the Ivy League Challenge to help our participants earn scholarships through their impact projects. So we'll talk just a little bit about that in a second. I couldn't even wait until we got into the first question to introduce that because it's so exciting. And Tricia, what you do is just so valuable. So thank you for that. Let's go ahead and share with our listeners who you are and how you can help them. So first of all, you worked with musicians to help them get admitted to top tier schools, and we're talking the very top right. We've had some amazing success there. You've also worked with all walks of students to help them earn impressive scholarships. Let's explore both of these ideas. First of all, right, from the get go, what would you say most teen musicians misunderstand about elite college admissions?
Well, first I want to say that I kind of have two groups of kids that I work with, those who want to study music as a major, and so they're trying to get into elite music schools. And what they often don't understand when it comes to that is how important the audition process is. It's almost more important than any other element when you audition and also understanding what happens behind the scenes during those auditions. So that's a very specialized thing. Most of my students, most of my clients, though, are leveraging their musical training to get accepted into a more traditional school and probably not majoring in music. And those are the ones that are often surprised to find out that it's not just about your grades, it's about a bigger package. And the parents and the guidance counselors are all telling them, your grades, your grades, your grades. But that's just such a small percentage of who you are, and the rest of it is really the key. So, I mean, we both probably have stories, but a really clear story is a young woman who's the daughter of a friend, and the friend is a very high end lawyer, and he went to a very elite New England school, and the daughter wanted to follow in his footsteps and go to that same undergraduate elite school. And she was kind of a shoe in, right? The guidance said, oh, she's a shoe in, she'll be fine. Legacy. And the father is a big name and a big alum. So she worked her butt off to have really good grades. And I was saying, you're going to have to do more than that. And they disagreed. And in the meantime, that same year, I had a client who came from a less strenuous, I guess, of high school. He was not at the very top of his class. He was in the top 10%, but he wasn't in the top two or three very good grades, very good, not all right. But we worked really hard on developing who he is and through his musical training and through the stuff that he did with music. And the young woman didn't get accepted at all, and he got in with scholarship money. That just illustrates and everybody says, well, it's not fair. She had the best grades. And what people don't understand is that the colleges aren't just trying to get people to come there to get good grades. Like kind of anybody could get good grades. What they're trying to do is they're trying to develop a beautiful campus community that's interesting, that's got lots of different elements to it. They're trying to fill all the pools that they have at the school. Right. So they're trying to fill all of the communities within that community, and they're trying to develop really incredible, interesting alumni. So no college wants to say, well, all of our alumni got all A's. They want to have alumni who are doing interesting things. So not just a lawyer, but a lawyer who does contract lawyer law or somebody who's they want, people who are going to be interesting while there are students there that are going to be involved in the community and who are going to be really interesting alumni later. Absolutely. People don't look that far ahead.
Yeah, well, I mean, you look at I can't remember which college president it was at Harvard who said, look, we can fill two freshman classes only with valedictorian applicants, and we can completely fill two classes just with our valedictorian applicants, and yet only a small sliver of those valedictorians get admitted. Right. It's not like they're highly recruited. Yeah, that's great. That's a huge misconception, and that's really important. Do you feel like teenagers have the same misconceptions about scholarships? Or what do you think are the biggest misunderstandings around scholarships?
Well, this is where I really kind of open eyes, especially for music students, because people don't understand that the scholarships come from departments other than the financial aid office. So when you're applying as an applicant, you send everything to the admission office and to the financial aid office, and then you think you're covered. But all of these other departments on campuses have their own budgets and they have to fill what they do. Right. So in my regard, if you have an orchestra, for example, and not a big music degree program, but a really strong music department, and you have an orchestra, you have a budget for that orchestra. If you're really lacking in students, in a certain instrument or in general, then you're going to lose that orchestra, and then the college will lose that orchestra, and that will end up adversely impacting the campus and the community and everything. So they have to keep it filled and they have to fill it with incoming students so that music department will actually recruit and get high end music students to be bumped up because they need them so badly. And those students, they'll offer them money if they will just play in the orchestra. I remember the first time this worked out for one of my clients, and I think you and I may have talked about her at one point, but she was early on before I was doing it as a full time business, and I kind of forced her to do all the things that I do with my clients. And she knew that she was going to go to college on a field hockey scholarship. She was sure. But I felt that it was really important that she also leveraged her musical stuff. And when it came down to it, she didn't get offered any field hockey opportunities, not even to play right? Yeah. Let alone a scholarship. But because she did all of these things that I told her to do, the music department saw who she was and they got her resume that I had her send in, and they got all the info that she didn't want to have to send. And they called her and she didn't even audition. They called her and said, we need you. We'll pay your tuition if you'll play in the orchestra. And she called me crying, and she's like, I was hoping they'd let me play in the orchestra. But they needed her. They needed to fill it. That's one of the struggles with a lot of these schools. Some schools are starting to try to have maybe a community element. So they'll have community members join the group, but they'd rather have students first and foremost. And then some of the top music schools, even with some of the less popular instruments, sometimes they hire ringers. They'll hire someone like, I've gone and played at some state schools because they don't have a flutist to play in their concept band. So they pay me. They would have rather pay a scholarship to a student who had been looking for that. So kids don't realize that a lot of these everybody knows about football scholarships or something really dramatic like that, but anything the school has a budget and they have to have kids in that area or else they lose that department, they lose that opportunity. So there's money, and it comes from those people in particular. So the music department or the orchestra conductor will be the one who would call and say, we'll give you some money if you'll play in the orchestra. And that holds true for other high end clubs or activities or even minors.
That's so valuable. I think you've just opened up so many eyes, and that's why we do this right? Get the word out and try to help these teenagers understand that there's a really stressful way to get there. And then there's this kind of inside track. If you understand kind of the inner workings of how the university makes their decisions, you can make better decisions as well. And so that is just beautiful. How would you say, I mean, we already understand this really well, but is there anything else that you think is really important for teens to make better decisions, things that you do that really help teenagers make better decisions along this college admissions journey?
Well, if we talk about, let's say, that they've already worked as one of us and they already are aware of what they're trying to do and how they're trying to do it, the biggest thing I find, especially in recent years, and I don't know if you have found this, too, but the thing that I can do the most to help them is to make them confident in doing it themselves. So many kids are, like, relying on the guidance department to send in certain things or relying on their parents to call for information, or my clients might even rely on their trumpet teacher to make a call for them. But if you're the one who calls and you're the one who initiates that relationship and has that conversation, you're already way above everybody else. Because somebody at the college is going to be like, wow, I just talked with this kid and they were really cool and really proactive and very knowledgeable, and it's marketing and it's building relationships. One of the things people don't understand is that humans are making these decisions. It's not some mystical thing, and it's not some algorithm. It's actual humans. Thank you. Accepting humans. And so you have to be human and act like a good human. I always think it's marketing. It's really educating and creating authentic relationships that really get you where you want to be.
So much wisdom in that to realize that it is human beings trying to connect with human beings and doing it through this application process. So if you can understand how those human beings are feeling in the moment and the fact that they're really stressed out and they're trying to make it they're trying to increase their energy level through caffeine because they've gone through 300 applications that morning with someone else. And when they find someone that they like, they still have to sell that person to the rest of the group. All of that right. That entire process, if we can just get that through to the students and their parents, that this is what you're up against. So let's make your story understandable. Let's make your story memorable. Let's create a theme and make sure that all the pieces to this theme fit together so that it makes sense, so that you're not asking the college admissions officer to burn calories, trying to figure out who you are and how you fit. Let's tell them how you fit in their ecosystem.
All of that.
That is just gold. I really hope that those of you who are 14, 1516 years old and you're just starting to worry that this is a really stressful journey, trust us that this can be simplified and it can be fun. But you have to understand kind of those key little details.
Those key little details. And also, it's not like we said, like you were saying. One of the Harvard presidents was saying that they could fill every single year full of valedictorians, and that's not what they do, right? Because they want real you ness. They want you to be who you are. And so to try to be what you think, like to say, well, I have to have all good grades. And if you have an interesting interest and you really pursue that and make that part of your life and make a commitment out of it and use that for community service or for better training or for diving in and really getting the nitty gritty out of that thing and can really communicate it, then that makes you so much more interesting. And that's going to stand out and they're going to be like, wow, this kid's weird. We want somebody like this here. We want this interestingness going on. It's not just another flutist or it's somebody who brings something unique to the table that is authentic.
Absolutely. I love it and I really hope that our listeners are hearing this. It's absolute gold that you're sharing and thank you so much. I'm thrilled to emphasize once again, like I said at the beginning, that Tricia and I are not just friends and people who see the value in each other's work. We're partners and Trisha is going to add tremendous value. I'm really excited that she is going to play a role in the Ivy League Challenge during this next upcoming cohort and provide personalized attention to students to help them understand how our Impact Project leads to we'll handle college admissions in the program, but she's going to talk about how that takes on even this extra dimension, which is the college, the scholarships. Right. We're talking about serious money. When you are effective with utilizing your theme, your personal values and combining that with the evidence that you provide through your Impact Project that these actually are your values, you can take that and if you know what you're doing, convert that into tremendous amounts of scholarship money. And so, Tricia, I'm just really excited to continue working with you. I'm excited to introduce you to my tribe and to the listeners. Thank you so much for what you do, your community with your community to help these teenagers and thank you for joining us on the call today.
Well, thank you. I can't wait to work with your people and this has been a fun conversation, so hopefully we'll do it again. Thanks.
Absolutely. I can't wait. Thanks, Trisha.