New England Conservatory – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, and Profile

Located in Boston, MA, the New England Conservatory of Music is a private music school widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Founded in 1867, it is also the oldest music conservatory in the United States. 

The New England Conservatory offers collegiate music education to students of all ages, drawing talented musicians from all corners of the world. More than 40 countries around the globe are represented by students in the school’s world-class, interdisciplinary music programs. 

The school is quite small, with a total undergraduate enrollment of just under 500 students as of the fall of 2019. Add an additional 250 or so graduate students, and the conservatory’s total enrollment is about 750. 

Set right in the heart of Boston, NEC’s urban campus spans only a single acre. The college is conveniently located less than a block from the highly-esteemed Boston Symphony Orchestra, offering students very intimate proximity to one of the best orchestra groups in the world. 

The cost of attending this elite music conservatory — including tuition and other associated fees — comes to a total of $53,730 per year. It is important to note, however, that an overwhelming 90% of students at the school receive scholarships, grants, or other forms of tuition assistance. 

If you are considering going to school for music, then there are few better choices out there than the New England Conservatory of Music. 

Read on to learn more about this phenomenal music conservatory, from its acceptance rate, GPA requirements, major programs offered, notable alumni, and much more.

New England Conservatory Acceptance Rate

New England Conservatory of Music
Karlunun, Boston New England Conservatory, CC BY-SA 4.0

The acceptance rate into New England Conservatory is 36%

For comparison, the average acceptance rate for four-year music, art, and design schools in the United States is just over 60%. Given this relatively low rate, NEC’s admissions process can be considered quite selective. 

During the 2020 admissions cycle, 1,147 students applied to NEC, making the year’s applicant pool a modest 1.59% larger than that of the previous year. Of the thousand-plus students who applied, just 416 were offered admission to the school. 

Looking at the available admissions data from the 2019 school year, one can see that the New England Conservatory’s acceptance rate fell by about half a percent the following year. Thus, more students are applying to NEC, but fewer are being accepted to the school.

It is worth noting that many different factors can influence a given student’s likelihood of admission to NEC, and fluctuation in the number of applicants is a major one. Another is variation in yield rate. 

New England Conservatory GPA

Our recommendation for a minimum GPA for NEC is 2.5. The most significant factor for admission to NEC is musicianship.

At the New England Conservatory, students are expected to earn not only solid grades throughout high school or secondary school, but also excellent musical ability, as exhibited through the audition

Due to the ongoing issues with in-person auditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, most NEC programs currently allow prospective students to satisfy the audition requirement through a video or audio recording. 

In addition, applicants to the musicology and music theory programs are exempt from the audition requirement and instead must interview with admissions officials.

NEC advises students to keep in mind that although showing stellar technical ability is a crucial aspect of the audition, audition panelists are also interested in seeing the applicant’s personality and passion for their instrument. 

Students should choose audition pieces they are confident in playing rather than trying to impress admissions with challenging songs outside of their skill level.

Through the audition, applicants must show a high level of technical prowess and genuine comfort with their instrument of choice. 

The audition is, essentially, the most important part of the application process, so getting loads of practice ahead of time is important. Mock auditions are one way students can prepare for the actual audition experience. 

What Is NEC’s Ranking? Is NEC a good college/conservatory?

NEC is among the best music schools in the world. 

The New England Conservatory is consistently named one of the top music schools in the United States. For example, some sources have named NEC the third best music school in the country.

According to, on the other hand, NEC is ranked sixth in the country. To add to that, NEC occupies the #10 spot on Niche’s 2022 ranked list of the best music schools in the country.

Whether NEC is tenth, sixth, or third place among colleges of its kind, it still stands that it is one of the most prestigious music schools the US has to offer. 

Further establishing the school’s first-class status, NEC boasts collaborations with highly esteemed colleges, such as Tufts University and Harvard University. 

Through these collaborations, NEC offers students the opportunity to take part in a five-year degree program that includes intensive study in music and other academic subject areas.

All of NEC’s programs are led by distinguished faculty members who are expert professional musicians, allowing students a unique opportunity to gain invaluable wisdom from some of the most talented musical scholars in the world. 

To return to the initial question, yes, NEC is an amazing music school.

Notable Alumni of New England Conservatory

New England Conservatory of Music
Daderot, New England Conservatory of Music – Boston, MA, CC0 1.0

Throughout the New England Conservatory’s 155 year-long history, the school has produced many highly successful graduates

Notable NEC alumni include the likes of Coretta Scott King, American civil rights activist and wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King earned her degree in violin and voice, but she played several other instruments as well.

Freddy Cole, widely beloved jazz singer and pianist, began his more than half a century-long career performing and recording music by studying popular music at NEC. 

Although his career was largely overshadowed by that of his brother, Nat King Cole, Freddy received four Grammy award nominations in the area of jazz. 

A household name among percussionists, Everett “Vic” Firth is an NEC alum who founded the eponymous manufacturing company known for its world-class drumsticks and mallets. Joining the elite Boston Symphony Orchestra at the age of 21, Firth enjoyed a 50-year-long career as a timpanist and led NEC’s percussion program for over four decades. 

What Are the Available Music Majors at NEC?

The New England Conservatory School of Music offers a variety of major programs, from the undergraduate level up to the doctoral level. 

The school is perhaps most well-known for its amazing jazz offerings. In fact, NEC’s jazz studies department has been acknowledged as one of the best in the world, according to the music magazine JazzTimes.

NEC offers undergraduate students a bachelor of music degree in either jazz performance or jazz composition. The school also offers each of these majors as options for the master of music or doctor of musical arts degree programs. 

There is also a robust contemporary improvisation department at NEC, another great program option for students who are interested in pursuing careers in music.

NEC also has extensive program offerings for those interested in studying classical music. Undergraduate major options include composition, percussion, piano, woodwinds, brass, strings, and vocal performance. The school’s brass, strings, and woodwind majors all include several different instruments students can specialize in, such as flute, cello, double bass, and tuba.

All NEC students, regardless of degree program or major, are frequently given many opportunities to perform in recitals, small and large ensembles, and more. Additionally, all students are required to take a small number of general education courses in order to gain a broader, deeper understanding of musical studies from a new perspective. 

Should You Apply to NEC?

If you are interested in pursuing a degree in music, then there are few better options out there you could choose than the New England Conservatory of Music. 

With NEC’s campus being located in the heart of Boston, students are truly embedded in Boston’s lively musical and cultural community. 

The school’s location is immensely advantageous, not just because of its proximity to prestigious groups such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the employment opportunities that it entails, but also because of all the fun things to do in the area.

Boston is often regarded as one of the best college towns in the country, so attending NEC is an almost surefire way to make the most of your college experience. 

With a student-to-faculty ratio of just 4:1, NEC also offers intimate class sizes and a tight-knit community atmosphere. Students can benefit from one-on-one attention and guidance from the school’s highly-accomplished faculty.

The New England Conservatory also features state-of-the-art facilities, like Jordan Hall — the school’s main performance hall— which hosts an impressive 600 or so concerts every year. 

Many of these concerts feature world-renowned musicians and highly-revered musical ensembles like the Boston Symphony Orchestra, not to mention student and faculty performances.

In short, if you want to go to a phenomenal music school that will help you grow as a musician while enjoying all that the greater Boston area has to offer, you should apply to NEC.