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Applying to Music Therapy Graduate Programs: What You Need to Know!

Written by: Julia Bissessar

Over the past year, I have been preparing and planning for what I will do once I graduate from McMaster University. I am currently in the last year of my undergraduate degree studying Honours Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour with Music Cognition specialization. My post-secondary degree has combined my love for music and psychology, and I wish to continue learning more about my passions in a post-graduate degree. After taking courses in music cognition and music therapy in undergrad, I began to consider pursuing a career in music therapy. Currently, there are only two schools in Canada that offer a master’s program for music therapy: Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. You may be aware that a handful of universities in Canada offer music therapy as an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree. As I wasn’t even aware of music therapy as a profession upon entering university, I did not take the opportunity to enroll in those programs. Luckily, I can still pursue music therapy in graduate school.

When planning on which schools to apply to, I did my research to see what these schools were looking for in potential students, how the department centered their teaching of music therapy, and what skills I would have upon graduating the program. For your convenience, I made a chart comparing the necessary components for applications to Laurier and Concordia:

Location: I am born and raised in Hamilton, ON, not far from McMaster. I’ve stayed at home throughout my degree and will have to move out to attend graduate school. While most of my friends have moved away for their undergraduate degrees, I have yet to have the experience of living on my own. I have visited Montreal many times before and it is a beautiful city, however, I feel like it might be too far away from my loved ones. Waterloo is about a one-hour drive from Hamilton and with access to a car, I can continue to work and visit family and friends in Hamilton.

Minimum average: I won’t lie; the past four years of my undergraduate degree were quite a rollercoaster. Becoming adjusted to university life, making new friends, working multiple jobs, and balancing my schoolwork was difficult. If you’re an undergraduate student who is swamped with school, trust me, it gets better! Included in your graduate application, you have the opportunity to highlight your achievements outside of academics, which I will touch upon later in this post.

Degree requirement: While Concordia’s master’s program is looking for applicants with bachelor’s degrees in music therapy, my Music Cognition specialization within the PNB program at McMaster gives me some connection to a music-centered degree. A degree in psychology with knowledge of music will also make you a strong candidate at either school.

Internship requirement: This is a big factor in choosing where to apply. I currently do not have 1,000 hours of internship, therefore, my chances of being selected for Concordia’s master’s program is slim to none. As Laurier offers an undergraduate degree in music therapy, the internship hours are included in that degree. However, if you did not take their undergrad degree in music therapy and do not have the hours, Laurier offers a 2-year graduate program that incorporates a co-op position that will help you get those hours.

In addition to their master’s program, Concordia also offers a Graduate Diploma which includes the 1,000 hours of internship. Its academic requirements are very similar to that of Laurier’s program, but the application process is the same as Concordia’s master’s program. It is a one-year program in which you can be certified by the Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) in the United States. You can find out more about the program here.

Statement of intent: As I mentioned earlier, with graduate applications, you have an opportunity to highlight your strengths and talents outside of academics. A statement of intent usually details why you are a strong candidate for a program and how you will use the skills you will learn from the program once you graduate. Concordia asks for a 500-word statement of intent, while Laurier has given questions to answer, with a soft limit of 1500 words overall. When writing a statement of intent, it’s a good idea to write down all your goals for yourself in terms of academics and personal growth and think about how the program can bets help you reach those goals. 

Audition: Due to the current pandemic, auditions are to be pre-filmed and sent to admissions committees. Concordia asks for the videos to be uploaded with the application, while Laurier reviews applications then reaches out to students for an audition video to be sent and an interview to be held over video call. The guitar is a commonly used instrument in music therapy, mostly due to its portability. While Laurier does not mandate applicants to be able to play the guitar, the ability to play a secondary instrument or multiple instruments is seen as an advantage regardless of where you apply.

Interview: As with every graduate program, an interview is conducted between you and an interviewer/interviewers from the admissions committee. Although I have not yet had an interview for grad school, you are usually asked specific questions about your degree and academics as well as question about your goals and experiences.

References: Like interviews, graduate schools ask for academics, and sometimes, professional references. These references can come from former/current employers, thesis supervisors, mentors, instructors, teachers; anyone who can vouch for your strengths and skills and why you would be a strong candidate for a program.

Writing sample: While Concordia does not require a writing sample to be submitted, Laurier asks that a 10-20 page sample of your writing to be included in your application. It is mentioned that this sample can be taken from an undergraduate thesis. Writing is an important part of academics. Your ability to convey ideas and concepts in written form is valuable for communication, even more so in an online environment like today. You should choose any pieces of writing that best show your ability to communicate in a clear, concise, and organized manner. Also be sure to double check your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and citations! 

With all of this taken into consideration, I have chosen to apply only to Laurier’s MMT program due to the distance the school is from home and the fact that I am lacking some of the requirements for Concordia’s master’s program. Currently, my final application has been sent and I am writing my CASPer test at the end of January. I am hopeful to hear back about an interview and audition sometime next month. Fingers crossed!

Here are the links to Concordia’s and Laurier’s Master of Music Therapy programs: