I have had the chance to visit a lot of universities over the past 10 years, both with my regular job, and as a member of Valor Brass. I was in Texas last weekend and while there, I had the chance to discuss with a young trombone player his upcoming graduate school auditions. We talked at length about the experiences he's had so far just setting up his auditions. It's always interesting to visit different schools. Like auditions, I feel like you often can tell within a few minutes of walking in an institution what kind of atmosphere you will find as a student. Correspondence with the admissions office, registrar, and faculty is a good indicator of how that institution feels about your application and about you as a student.
Some schools are welcoming, open, helpful, accommodating, and just downright encouraging. Others are unresponsive, rigid, not accommodating, and may make you feel as if they are doing you a favor by opening your application!
It might be true that a specific teacher will be best for you in spite of the institution where they teach. However, there are definitely numerous options for less-expensive, smaller, less well-known programs from which to choose. Bottom line is, find a teacher that works for you, and if it doesn't cost $50,000 per year, then all the better!
So, as you hit the college audition trail, think about the way you are received. Besides finding a great teacher, you are shopping for a great institution as well. There are a large number of hidden gems out there!
The Virtual Trombonist