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She's talking about a gap year

snapdragonflysnapdragonfly 610 replies36 threadsRegistered User Member
edited February 2011 in Musical Theater Major
D is having, I think, some genuine burnout. Most of it is academic. She's had some extremely tough (I mean seriously tough, the kind that even the valedictorians are thrilled to get a B from) teachers last year and this year and between that and everything required to find a school that an MT student has to do, it's showing. She wakes up tired even after a good night's sleep. She went to sleep by 930 the past three nights and is still tired. She recently saw her doctor who has a tendency to go over her with a fine tooth comb anyway and we mentioned the tiredness and no medical reason (anemia, mono) was found, so I don't think it's that. Just a year and a half of unrelenting and escalating stress.

We've re-prioritized her schedule and let some stressors go while keeping the most important stuff, for now. Most of her auditions are behind her now, there's just a few and those are for merit money and to see if she likes the school and program. Now it's about her grades - she is absolutely hating her economics class, both the subject matter and the teacher, but switching out is not an option now so she has to just suck it up and get through. The good news it's a DC class so she won't have to take it in college! woot. But if she can't make at least a 70 then her participation in UIL (state sponsored contests) is at risk and of course her drama teacher is breathing down her neck up until the very last minute. Her drama teacher is not cognizant of the fact that awards won at the end of May are of pretty much no use to a senior who had to make a decision based on offers given to her WAY before then. Her drama teacher is a whole nuther subject but let's just say that the best we can do in this case is for her to just get through these last 4 months and know that no matter how eccentric of a director she ever gets in college, she probably will find him or her easier to deal with than what she's already lived through.

I think most of her schools do academically accept gap years. I personally, am in favor of them in theory; if Harvard's all for them there must be something to them. I don't want this thread to necessarily be about general gap year stuff - I know that any kid going to Harvard is going to probably be a different kid than the average bottom of the list podunk state school as far as ambition and drive and a gap year for one kid is going to be different from a gap year for another - in other words, yes, I agree completely that a gap year is not just a year long weekend in pj's on facebook to avoid the next step. But I think burnout is a real issue.

What is obviously going to be a problem, IF she's still feeling this way, is I strongly suspect that any auditioned BFA programs that accepted her won't hold those spots and she'd have to re audition. There is one school she really is considering that we haven't heard back from but she may not get into the BFA - but - she would consider the BA program there and from what I can tell, it would be a GOOD BA program. If she were to go with a BA it wouldn't be an issue, I don't think.

I told her if she really thinks that after the summer off she'll still be burned out and really wants to look into this that she needs to research this herself. As I said I personally am open to the notion but this is still avant garde in America and I don't think I've mentioned it to one single person who even had ever heard of them.

If she gets into a really hard to get into BFA program that would require re auditioning, I think that it would be risky (going through the stress of auditions again would negate the purpose of a gap year in her case) to do that. I mean - MAYBE they figure if they want her now they'll want her next year but my assumption is, if it's like casting a play for them to carve out a group of 10 to 12 kids for their program, that next year will be a fresh start and she would in fact have to re audition.

And maybe after she gets past recovering from this month (which was especially brutal) she'll rethink it.

I do know that I felt deep down that my son should have taken one (for a different reason) and I was completely shot down on that issue and looking back, it is crystal clear that he'd have been MUCH better off if he had, and I really regret not sticking to my guns on that. He is a much different creature - much less assertive about what he wants - than my daughter is - and had a tendency to just compliantly eat what he was given rather than say "this isn't what I need and want". He's much better about it now (because he grew up a great deal, which is why I wanted a gap for him). But with D it's really about burnout.

I asked what her gap year purpose would be and she said it was threefold: to recover from academic burnout, to continue taking dance and vocal lessons and especially to improve her vocals (which have improved TREMENDOUSLY!! this year but could still get far more amazing if she works on them) and to work and save some more money. She hasn't personally had time to work much and save money, because the only job that would really have been practical for her schedule was an assistant dance teacher, which was a GREAT job but her drama teacher bullied her into quitting. I mean, do any of your kids have time to work in a restaurant or retail, what with grades, rehearsals, and auditions, because if they do, I have the worlds hugest admiration for them and you both. (not that I don't anyway)

I'm tending towards letting her just ponder this for a while because if things ease up I think she'll be feeling better about it - it takes more than just a weekend to recover from several months of a gauntlet, sometimes. I know college is tough but honestly I think that kids who are still finishing up high school AND trying to get into MT have one of the toughest years of their lives - comparable perhaps almost to some years of law or medicine as far as hours put in. Maybe not for all, but she had to not just maintain but BRING UP her grades for her 7th semester (which she did) and she had to not just practice her vocals but jump in quality a great deal to catch up with most other kids - which she also did.

There's no point in all this if she's miserable so as I said we backed out of things that in the long run wouldn't matter to give her a bit more breathing room.

But if she ends up picking a school that, because of all of her DC credits (27 hours which almost certainly will transfer to most if not core classes in college) won't be especially hard for her academically, I don't know if she will really need to have had a whole year off to be able to handle that. I'm assuming that the rigour of her drama classes she *can* handle. And if she can't, she needs to rethink her career, is my thought on the matter.

But, if she still really thinks she needs a longer break than just the summer - well, nobody I know even has heard of one, and if they did, they certainly wouldn't have any idea how it applies to an MT kid.

So what do you guys know about it?
edited February 2011
28 replies
Post edited by snapdragonfly on
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Replies to: She's talking about a gap year

  • NotMamaRoseNotMamaRose 3973 replies117 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My first reaction to reading your post is: have your daughter do what SHE needs to be healthy emotionally and physically, and the rest will take care of itself. Her well being is paramount and much more important than any college (MT or otherwise) program. If she gets into a great school now, she will be just that much more amazing in a year if she has to re-audition, but I truly do think that some schools would consider holding her place for the next year. The ONLY important thing is that she is happy and healthy: the rest is not as important. In the long road of life, this is just one small moment. I can't see how taking a year off to regroup and rest and think about things can hurt and could only help. Good luck!
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  • amtcamtc 2838 replies26 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wow - from what you said, she's got super difficult academic teachers and a super difficult acting teacher, stressing for money awards, plus the whole MT admissions stress. Of course she's a mess!

    She's only 17 (maybe 18), as her parent can't you help her put things in perspective? Does she need to compete for every award, speak to her drama teacher, her health is way more important than awards. Don't know what a DC credit is but you don't even know what she needs in college and what will transfer, couldn't she just pass the class without stellar grades? Life is full of choices and she needs to figure out, with your help, what is most important and what is not.

    Finally, most BFA programs do allow for a gap year, even CMU, which admits one of the smallest number of BFA MT kids of all the programs. The year my daughter was auditioning there was one girl who took a gap year, one who was admitted from their summer program, and one who left mid-year and was coming back which left like 2 or 3 slots for new admit BFA MT girls. You should check specific schools but I think you'd be nicely surprised.

    Offering a gap year should help take some pressure off your daughter but it's up to you, as her parent, to help alleviate some of her pressure by speaking to both her and those adults creating undue pressure. JMHO
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  • MomCaresMomCares 3058 replies90 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'd be happy to let our D take a gap year... which most everyone in our part of the country is familiar with. For one thing, maybe our D would rethink this risky MT career path, which mom still isn't thrilled about. ;-)

    I remember a worldwide study on elderly people in which they were asked what they'd do differently. A large % said they'd spend more time reflecting on their choices... ie more gap years!!

    You may be right that she'll change her mind after a few weeks of breathing room, but if not, embrace the gap!!
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  • Gwen FairfaxGwen Fairfax 2380 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think a gap year is a great idea, in general, and it sounds like it would be for your D too. But I also think a BFA would be so different, with the academic piece so much smaller, that it might be just as invigorating. It sounds as if your D is under so much stress, just contemplating a gap year might help. Boy do I sympathize with drama-teacher troubles. When it stops being about the kids and starts being about the teacher's ego, the contests won, etc...yikes.
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  • classicalbkclassicalbk 725 replies42 threadsRegistered User Member
    Snapdragon- I was thinking along the same lines as Gwen - it could be that your daughter will have a great time at college and it will be so much better than high school. She'll be studying mostly what she wants to study, with folks who are as charged up about it as she is - it will be very different than the misery she's in now. Hugs.
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  • musicmom1215musicmom1215 2637 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My first thought is, "This too shall pass." College is so different from high school that I think the "burnout" would not be a factor. The kids in her major will be just as dedicated to performing as she is, and the academic part will be...different. It may still be difficult, but the whole college atmosphere is just more relaxed. Especially with all the DC (dual credit) hours she has, she will mostly be taking classes in her major which will be more interesting and stimulating to her than economics! And she can go to class in her pj's! Well sort of. (At least the dress code is less stifling than our local high school--shirts tucked in, no pink hair, no shorts, etc.) I remember how stressful the spring of senior year was for BOTH of us, but in May it was over and we could breathe again. Hang in there, and best wishes to both of you as you race for the finish line!
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  • NotMamaRoseNotMamaRose 3973 replies117 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Just a note to remember that temperamental teachers and classroom politics don't end in high school: they go on into college and into the real professional world, too. The business our kids want to go into is rife with unfairness and subjectivity, probably more so than almost any other field I can think of. In a math class, the person who gets the least problems wrong on the test is the best student. But in acting and musical theater, well, three different "experts" can watch a performance and each may have a very different opinion. A BFA may not require as much "book learning" and "book related prep" as an academic degree does, but it has its own unique and incredible tensions, too. BFA kids generally have jam packed days and nights (rehearsal for class, scene study with friends, rehearsals for productions and in class performances, etc.) and their in-class work is very emotionally laden because they are putting themselves out there, personally, day after day, and being criticized. Bottom line: it is tough in a way that those of us who don't perform cannot imagine. This comes as a surprise to some students, who while in high school absolutely loved being in musicals and plays and doing summer camps, but who find it to be plain hard and often draining work when they get to college and are doing it pretty much full time. Please note that this is not meant to sound discouraging; on the contrary, my own kids LOVES her program and can't imagine studying and training for anything else. But those who imagine that a BFA is less pressured and draining than, say, a degree in physics or Sociology really just don't know what they are talking about.
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  • onstageonstage 1242 replies8 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Completely agree. Don't think for one minute that the atmosphere in a BFA program is going to be relaxing. Sure, the kids are doing what they love -- but the competition is high, the work is difficult, and the professors will expect a great deal. My daughter's days in a BFA MT program typically began at 8:30 am and didn't end until after midnight -- 7 days a week. And I have to tell you, it involved much more "book-related prep" than I ever expected.

    The OP's daughter may well feel better and less pressured in a few weeks -- but if not, my advice would be let her take the gap year if she needs it. A BFA program is a high-pressure situation, and she needs to go into it feeling mentally ready.
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  • newyorker22newyorker22 252 replies17 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    There is a great book about the gap year called The Complete Guide to the Gap Year by Kristin White, which covers some of the issues related to gap year, college admissions, how to pay for it, and has a directory. you might check it out if she wants to investigate the gap year
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  • pacheightpacheight 1153 replies15 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    it's OK not to have a plan for a gap year. hangin' out in pj's and sleeping in for awhile might be the best thing...learn how to rest!

    Harvard is pushing for 20% of admits taking a gap, Stanford is like minded. All of Australia does it and a big chunk of europe does it.

    a gap year can help a person become reacquainted in who they are and what they want, what they can contribute to life!
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  • MichaelNKatMichaelNKat 4250 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Have to agree with NMR and onstage. My daughter, who is a graduating senior in a BFA program, was an all honors/AP student at a rigorous college prep high school, with all of the dance classes, voice lessons, school and community shows, extracurricular activities, etc that she (and we) thought could be physically packed into a 16-18 hour day. Throughout college, she has often commented that the work load and time demands have exceeded her high school experience. In addition to all of the performance aspects of her program, there is more reading, paper writing and analytical "academic" work than I ever thought would be involved in a "performance" based program. On top of that, the physical and emotional demands of her BFA program have been unlike anything she dealt with in high school. Her days are still 16-18 hour days but she feels even more gets packed into that time frame than what occurred during her high school life and is of a far more demanding nature. Over the past 4 years, her class which started out at 26 has whittled down to 21 as students concluded a BFA program was not for them due to the demands and intensity.

    So I agree; don't for a minute think that a student burned out from high school will find a BFA program to be "refreshing" simply because the student is doing something he or she loves and has a passion for. I would keep my finger on her "pulse" and seriously consider a gap year if she and you conclude that she is not physically, emotionally and mentally ready to dive into the demands of a BFA program. Many schools will permit deferring admissions for a year and there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of that if it seems appropriate to do so. For some students it is a very beneficial and mature choice after which they go on to very gratifying and successful college experiences. And in your daughter's case, it sounds as if she has some very constructive and worthwhile ideas about how she would spend the time.
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  • megpmommegpmom 3093 replies21 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would also advise making this summer between HS and College be as relaxing as possible. Lots of time with friends, hanging out, laying on the couch, etc. My D had a part time job to earn spending money for college (because it is very difficult to have a job in a BFA, or even BA MT program). My D also chose not to do any shows, just one workshop that she has been attending since 5th grade. So, when she arrived for her freshman year, she was very refeshed. But still, this year has been incredibly stressful for D - dance injuries, lack of sleep, overscheduling, etc. But she says she's loving it - so I just say a lot of prayers!
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  • classicalbkclassicalbk 725 replies42 threadsRegistered User Member
    At a Q & A at NYC Unifieds last week, a male parent asked if we should give the kids the summer off before college started, "like in all the movies," and the director of the program said (with a smile), "No! If the student doesn't have a great performing JOB, the student should be getting some great training." He particularly noted the need for boys to take summer dance intensives. So that's yet another opinion.

    I'm glad to have the heads up that the MT college experience may not actually be just like extended summer camp. ;)

    Another thought about gap years - it means you graduate a year later, meaning you're a year older, and you look a year older, which makes no difference for English majors but may be something to consider for theatre. For certain parts that could be a good thing, but for others a later graduation date would cut into your performing time as a certain "type" unless you are at a school that welcomes and encourages taking performing jobs before graduation.

    That said I met two young women at Unifieds, one who took a Gap because the previous year she was waitlisted at all the best schools but didn't get into one of those schools, and another who wasn't happy with her current college and was going for a transfer. They both felt very much more confident the second time around (after getting extra training in NYC).
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  • NotMamaRoseNotMamaRose 3973 replies117 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    classicalbk, you said that "At a Q & A at NYC Unifieds last week, a male parent asked if we should give the kids the summer off before college started, "like in all the movies," and the director of the program said (with a smile), "No! If the student doesn't have a performing JOB, the student should be getting some great training." He particularly noted the need for boys to take summer dance intensives. So that's yet another opinion."

    Really? I guess that would be *the* ideal, but for many kids, the need to work at at least a part time job to make money for college is kind of pressing. My D did just that (it was the first summer in years that she didn't do a summer program) and she was just fine when she entered Tisch that fall.

    And in my uninformed and non-expert opinion :), I wouldn't worry too much about my kid taking a gap year in terms of being a year older at graduating and looking too old to play 16. My concern would be, first and foremost, my own child's health and well being. As has been stated above, most BFA programs are quite demanding (physically, emotionally and intellectually) and I wouldn't have wanted my own kid to enter one at less than 100%.
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  • takeitallintakeitallin 3352 replies26 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think a lot of kids would benefit from a gap year. We suggested it to our D but she chose not to because she was so caught up in that thinking that she would be too old when she graduated, etc. In hindsight, we should have pushed it more, although she probably still would not have listened to us. She attended a rigorous high school program and was in all AP/IB classes. By the time she graduated, she was totally burned out and wanted as little to do with academics as possible. She was having serious reservations about college, but decided she would be OK because of a more performance based program with all like minded students at a conservatory. However, once she started school, she found she did not feel challenged enough academically, and that she actually did not enjoy being around only performing arts students. That is not to say others would not love that atmosphere, but she found she actually missed a more typical college atmosphere. This, after her thinking she would be happy never to see the inside of an academic classroom again. Fortunately, she figured this out relatively quickly and left the program. She stayed at home and got her AA at our local comm. college, worked and saved money, and did local shows for 1-1/2 years. Then she reapplied to MT programs. This time, while she still chose a BFA program, it is at a regular university. She made a point of finding non-performing arts roommates. She was only able to transfer in as a soph. instead of a jr. , but since she has her comm. college units that satisfy her GE requirements, she is able to take some very challenging and interesting literature, history, and political science courses that she loves. We think that if she had taken that gap year after high school, she would have recognized that she was just burned out, and maybe been more realistic about what she wanted out of a college program. In the end, who knows if it would have made any difference, but I think she would have had time to wind down and examine her options more calmly if she had taken some sort of a gap year. While we had experience with older kids in more "normal" majors, it is so different with an MT kid. Wish I knew then what I know now!
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  • MomCaresMomCares 3058 replies90 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Part of the reason I'd be happy if our D took a gap year is that I think it would be educational for her to experience being truly POOR for a year. It took me 10 years of working in the theatre to realize how nice it would be to be able to afford to buy a home and subsequently to decide to go back for a different degree.

    I think many kids (including ours) experience all the upsides of working in the arts (and there are SO many amazing upsides) without experiencing the financial downside, and that a bit of realism in that respect could be something that might inform their educational choices.
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  • classicalbkclassicalbk 725 replies42 threadsRegistered User Member
    I don't know about my kid but I sure need a gap year! It sounds lovely to take the slow train for a bit.
    I think the program director's meaning was that if the student didn't have a paying job, they should get training. Kids should be doing something during the summer, according to that prof. I think he was coming from a great understanding of the competitive nature of the beast. If your kid isn't in ballet class, somebody else's is. I'm not saying what I think, but what the prof at this particular university implied. Of course, a mental health break is absolutely required if things are getting tense and/or total exhaustion is about to set in. Certainly we've seen famous folks in the business having to take a break due to "exhaustion." I wish high school students could do the same. It's so important to learn to see it coming and deal with it rather than waiting for an injury to happen or a breakdown or whatever bad thing.
    MomCares- I will ask my D if she thinks she'd like to buy a home someday. That is worth pondering. 17 year olds trying to plan their lives.....sigh.
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  • MomCaresMomCares 3058 replies90 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    >> MomCares- I will ask my D if she thinks she'd like to buy a home someday. That is worth pondering. 17 year olds trying to plan their lives.....sigh.


    I enjoyed dinner last night with an 86-year-old woman who was an extremely successful ballerina, and has lived in HUD housing her entire adult life. It may not give our 17-year-olds pause, but it does mom. ;-)
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  • classicalbkclassicalbk 725 replies42 threadsRegistered User Member
    If we don't spend it all on college, then my whole family can all go touring Europe for a year. Now that's an idea, Word Doc! :)
    A dad on CC in recent years suggested spending a gap year in NYC, doing the waiter thing, taking voice and acting classes with pros in the business, and auditioning at every opportunity. The kid would sink or swim, but understand the reality of it all before spending 4 years and a shocking amount of $$ on college for a degree that doesn't pay well, except to a few particularly blessed folks.
    I guess I was an odd duck (still am!) but I thought college (a music conservatory) was easier than high school and grad school (a big 10 school) easier than college. Something about all the classes becoming more and more related as years went by and a different type of thinking required. I also much preferred the company post-high school.
    And Momcares, isn't it just wrong that dancers who work harder and sacrifice more than anybody, are in the worst paid profession? That's a sad story about your ballerina friend. I imagine she "lived" at the theatre or dance studio- and maybe when you get to wear a tutu and a tiara at work on your set that looks like a castle, you don't think so much about the house and yard.
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  • NotMamaRoseNotMamaRose 3973 replies117 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Is ballet the worst paid profession? Yikes-a-rama! I have one actor and one ballerina. Who is going to help out with the bills from the assisted living facility, for my husband and me? Seriously, dance is even higher stakes as a career choice, I think, than acting. One injury and you're out, as they say on Project Runway.
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