How many programs should you audition for? A "Freakonomics" approach
Let's apply a sort of "Freakonomics" approach to getting into an audition-based BFA program. How many programs should you audition for?
We will start by assuming entry into an audition-based program is a probabilistic process that can be represented as a series of independent events. In simple terms, this means that there is always a possibility that you will be admitted to a given program and a possibility that you won't be admitted and that no audition has any bearing on the outcome of any other auditions. This assumes that you do not audition for a program for which there is NO possibility that you will be admitted (although it turns out that doesn't really matter for this exercise) and that there is ALWAYS a probability that you won't be admitted, no matter how good you are.
Is this realistic? Well, it seems to be based on the anecdotal evidence at hand buried in various CC threads. Very few, if any, students seem to be accepted to EVERY program for which they audition. Meanwhile, some students are accepted to ZERO programs, and this also fits the assumption, i.e., there is no such thing as a 100 percent probability of acceptance for any given audition. I have seen examples of students who were accepted into many "top" programs but were rejected from programs with far less notoriety. Some people may get in EVERYWHERE, but it seems to be highly unlikely and has not been reported often in CC threads.
Let's also assume that most people audition for more than one program, and while the probability that you will be admitted to any given program may vary, there is an equivalent average probability of acceptance for each audition that can be used to realistically represent your odds of overall success. Here, "success" is defined as GETTING INTO AT LEAST ONE PROGRAM.
Use the assumptions stated, we can use some simple probability calculations to determine the "Point of Diminishing Return" and the "80/90/95 percent probability of acceptance points." I am going to define the Point of Diminishing Return as the point where the slope of the tangent line (the first derivative) begins to decrease, i.e., the point at which each audition adds a rapidly diminishing possibility of at least one acceptance (this turns out to be always be around a probability of success of 62-65 percent).
Using the formula P(Success) = (1-(1-P)^n) where P is the probability of success at any given audition and n is the number of auditions attempted:
P=35% PDR=3 auditions P(80%)=4 auditions P(90%)=6 auditions P(95%)=7 auditions
[Translation: if your chance of acceptance at any given audition is 35 percent, then the point of diminishing returns starts after 3 auditions, doing 4 auditions gives you an 80 percent probability of achieving at least one acceptance, doing 6 auditions increases your odds to 90 percent, and doing 7 auditions increases your odds to 95 percent]
Doing a few more cases:
P=25% PDR=4 auditions P(80%)=6 auditions P(90%)=8 auditions P(95%)=11 auditions
P=15% PDR=6 auditions P(80%)=10 auditions P(90%)=14 auditions P(95%)=18 auditions
P=10% PDR=10 auditions P(80%)=16 auditions P(90/95%)= more than 25 auditions
P=5% PDR=20 auditions P(80/90/95%)= more than 25 auditions
I used these relatively low probabilities of success (35% and less) based on looking through past CC acceptance threads, few students seemed to exceed a 35% audition acceptance rate and many were less. Of course, your mileage may vary.
The results seem to corroborate with much of the "Generally Accepted CC Wisdom" which is something like:
1. Don't load up your list with "lottery programs" (extremely competitive programs) because the odds are against you - look at the 5% and 10% lines. You would have to audition at 10-20 programs to reach the point of diminishing returns and more than 25 to reach a high degree of probability of success. Even for students who may feel that they are in the top tier in the country, it seems the odds of acceptance at the top programs may still be relatively low - there may 20 short, blond-haired girls who can all sing like Kristin Chenoweth and are all trying to get into CCM where there is only one slot of that type available ...
2. Spending time to determine where you would have a higher probability of acceptance (a "good fit") is well worth it - if you can get your odds up to 25% then you only need 6 auditions to achieve a probability of success of 80 percent. If you can increase your odds to 35 percent, then you only need 6-7 auditions to reach a 95 percent probability of success. Another way to state this to follow common "CC wisdom" is that: "doing more than 6-7 auditions won't dramatically increase your chances of success if you pick your schools wisely." Another corollary would be, "if you don't choose wisely and only do 6-7 auditions, then the chances that you may not get a single acceptance may be higher than you would prefer (or possibly anticipate - see the sad notes in the "Rejections" thread)."
3. Doing less than 6 auditions does not seem like a good idea unless you are really confident of your chances of success.
4. If you can't get a good feel for your fit in the process and you really, really want to get into an audition-based program, then you should consider doing 10-12 auditions across a broad-enough spectrum of programs in order to get your odds up (for example, 11 auditions are required to achieve a 95 percent chance of acceptance if your probability of success is 25%). Attending Unifieds would seem to be a logical path to follow in this case where you can get some additional auditions in that you might not be able accomplish through campus visits. Generalizing this idea, another corollary would be that "a student who is not able or capable of doing extensive analysis to figure out where they would fit (and therefore get their odds up) is best served probabilistically by doing basically as many auditions as possible" (sad but true if this analysis is correct).
a. I did the math in a hurry over lunch and I may have goofed something up (its been a long time since I took Probability). Please let me know if I made a mistake.
b. This is entirely based on anecdotal evidence. Caveat Emptor.
c. No particular path is recommended, this was just an exercise in looking at things from the "cold equations."
d. As with any application of probability, the BFA auditions process may not, in fact, entirely fit this model (or fit it at all).
e. I am not an expert in sociology, economics, or mathematics but this was fun to think about.
Last edited by EmsDad; 11-16-2011 at 03:53 PM.