Preparing to Apply - Information for H.S. Juniors and Seniors
Because of the time commitment, complexities, extraordinary competitiveness and stresses of applying to MT programs, I thought it might be of use to have a thread for suggestions for those not yet involved in the application process or just getting ready to seriously think about applications. Let me kick it off with the following thoughts.
1. One of the most critical keys to an acceptance is having a well thought out list of schools to which to apply. You are talking about an area of study where the admissions rate for audition based BFA programs ranges from 3 -9% of applicants. Just based on the numbers, the odds of acceptance at any 1 school are very, very tough. Therefore it is essential that the list of schools to which you apply be diverse. It should be comprised of small programs, larger programs, programs where academics are a factor and programs where they are not. Programs that draw a large number of applicants from a national pool and programs that are more regional. Research the heck out of the schools using their websites, talking to current students on this Board and by visiting to understand the focus and balance of the program and get a handle on whether it seems to be a good match.
One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is to limit your schools to those that have a "reputation" of being a "top school". There is a big disconnect between the "public" perception of which schools are the "top" and the reality that excellent training resulting in accomplished performers is available from dozens of schools that do not share a "public image" of being a "top" school. If you limit your applications to only the "top" schools and avoid those that are excellent but inaccurately and broadly brushed with the misnomer of "second tier", your odds of disappointment at the end of the process are greatly increased.
There is no such thing as an audition based "safety" school. The competition for each and every audition based program is intense. It is important to have on your kist 1 or 2 non-audition BA programs where the admission criteria are the same as for any liberal arts student. There are many BA programs out there that offer very strong theatre performance training and MT opportunities. Find a couple with which you are a strong academic match. These are your "safeties".
Finally, as you narrow down the list of schools to which you apply, keep in mind that a year after graduation, no one is going to care about the school name on your degree. All that will matter is what you bring to an audition. Look at the Playbills for shows across the country and you will see a wide diversity of schools represented - "top" schools, "second tier" schools, BFA's, BA's. More important than the name of the school or whether it is a BFA or BA is what you invested of yourself in the learning process.
2. If at all possible, use an experienced vocal coach/teacher to assist you in preparing songs for your auditions. Start this process now. It takes time to find the right songs and for your voice and singing style to grow and develop. If you have an acting coach available in your area make arrangements to work on your monologues late summer early fall before your senior year but don't delay looking for monologues. Start reading plays now to get a sense of what types of monologues fit you. You should have a pretty good idea of what monologues you will use by mid-summer before your senior year. The reality is that most applicants are using vocal and acting coaches. The failure to similarly so do could put you at a competitive disadvantage.
3. If at all possible, attend a MT summer program at a school that offers a MT BFA. It is a great opportunity for training and learning. It also can give you a sense of whether this is really what you want to do in college. Finally, it gives you an opportunity to work with other talented students from around the country and can give you perspective of how you fit into the mix.
4. Finally, as stressful as the process can be, remember it's all about the passion you have for performing and the joy it brings you. Remember to have fun and enjoy the experiences you will have. Try to keep balance in your life and give yourself time to pursue other interests and activities. For parents, resist the compulsion to become hyper-invested in this process. Your kids will need you as their "safe harbors" to come to when they are emotionally or physically exhausted. Help them to maintain their sense of balance, perspective and optimism and to recharge their batteries. This process will provide wonderful opportunities to spend some precious moments with your kids as you share their dreams, aspirations and fears.
This post is long enough. I'm going to paste in the next post an old post I put up talking about time tables for the application process.