Since I made the leap from undergraduate student to graduate student/professional, I've always felt as though one can never go back to their undergraduate years. Those years are special and somehow innocent; something we wish to relive but never can.
And thats true. One can never go back to their undergraduate years, no matter how hard we try.
But, we can savor those years later on and relive the memories while living in the present. It all starts with picking the right undergraduate institution.
As musicians, we are always focused on making sure that we go to the right institution for the ensembles, teachers, fellow students, etc. And, of course, these are all incredibly important factors to think about when choosing a place to go to school. We want to make sure we're pushed by our teachers, colleagues, and circumstances. This sometimes leads prospective students to disregard one important factor: comfort.
Being comfortable in a place and situation is important. An undergraduate location should feel like home. You shouldn't feel comfortable with a place simply because it pushes you professionally, but because you are in a good place socially. That social interaction will help you to grow as a musician and will allow you to make lifelong connections with professors and fellow students that will help you advance.
I recently had the great opportunity to return to my alma mater as a judge for a jazz festival. I had been back on campus, but never when school was in session. Returning with all of the musical creativity that occurs during a long semester was a treat. The program is clearly progressing in a positive direction, and that is comforting.
More importantly, I was able to go back and have a good experience. I never thought that would be the case. It was a fantastic experience. Some moments were eerie (having the ONLY practice room available be the same one I used for 4 years as an undergraduate student, for example), while others were bittersweet (talking with my old choral conductor and having him reaffirm that what I'm doing my current position is spot on), while others were sentimental (like eating at the "ho" and enjoying it!).
All of this is to say that students making their undergraduate choices should take into account more than the reputation of their potential school and teacher, and make sure that they are comfortable on campus. Sometimes having a place that feels like home and that you can go back to is just as important!