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HS Junior visiting colleges-- Good Qs to ask?

SU88BFASU88BFA Registered User Posts: 349 Member
edited March 2013 in Musical Theater Major
My son-- a junior in HS-- will be visiting colleges in March. Some are not MT schools (he's taking a 2-day college tour with his HS class) and some are MT schools that I'll take him to.

What are some good questions that we should ask if we happen to get a chance to speak to MT students and/or Faculty? I can think of the obvious questions, but thought I'd ask here, too..... Always get good advice here on CC.
Post edited by SU88BFA on
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Replies to: HS Junior visiting colleges-- Good Qs to ask?

  • prodesseprodesse Registered User Posts: 1,252 Senior Member
    We didn't do the college visit thing, because my son said he didn't want to fall in love with a school and then not get in. Of course that means we'll be doing a whole lot of traveling during Spring Break this year, once he knows the results of all his auditions!

    One thing it's good to know is the casting policy. Some schools do not allow students to audition for their mainstage productions for a year, or even two; others require all students to audition for all productions and they are not allowed to turn down a role. Some schools allow MT and acting students to participate in each other's curriculum and performances, and others keep them completely separate. I have heard of a couple of schools that have "guaranteed casting" for majors.

    This may not matter to everybody. My son surprised me by not being at all turned off by a school that only allows juniors and seniors to perform on their mainstage, saying that there will be plenty of other acting opportunities and he thinks a climate that encourages students to develop stage tech skills is healthy for future job prospects.
  • MTDancerMomMTDancerMom Registered User Posts: 90 Junior Member
    My daughter often asks schools about their policy on voice lesson. We were surprised to find Universities that did not offer private voice lessons as part of the MT curriculum, only group vocal classes. She also wanted to be sure that there were 4 full years of private voice lessons, not just 2 - 4 semesters.

    As an advanced dancer, my daughter also asked about dance placement. There are several schools that require all MT students to take basic level Ballet and Jazz, even if they have danced their entire lives. If the students wanted to take advance levels, they were required to wait until the MT basic curriculum was fulfilled.

    Final big question was always to see what level of actor training the MT curriculum included. Often there is an Actor training and MT training at the school. Some schools allow cross registration of class, some do not. Sometimes the MT curriculum is so full with music and dance that there is a restriction on what acting classes they offer for MT.

    In the end there are no wrong questions or answers, just start to look at what aspects are most important to you and drill down on those.
  • Times3Times3 Registered User Posts: 1,373 Senior Member
    We have always tried to ask questions that you couldn't find an answer for on the school website or in the viewbook. Things like...overall school culture (how many students attend your productions? do you feel like you're part of the college/university as a whole, or is it more divided?). Does everyone leave on the weekends, or is there a life here? What do you do when you aren't in the studio or rehearsals? Also--if you get to talk to students informally--how many of your faculty are full-time (versus adjuncts/guest artists). If you have guest artists and directors, how much time do you spend with them. We've also found it worthwhile to ask in depth about special interests--in my son's case, he's particularly interested in stage combat, so whether or not it's listed as a course offering, there may be opportunities to study it in depth. He's also interested in whether undergraduates can direct productions, and in what context. So as MTDancerMom says above, focus on your particular interests, and be sure to ask questions that go beyond the that's already available online. Hope that helps. We did lots of visits and found we still had lots to learn during the audition process. My son learned as much about what HE wanted as he did about the individual schools.
  • MTCoachMTCoach Registered User Posts: 112 Junior Member
    In addition to the great questions offered above, you might consider also asking the following:

    - Are you connected to any regional theatres / summer stocks, or are there any performance opportunities outside of school?
    - Does the program showcase? Where? Is every senior included or is there an audition?
    - Does the program have a policy in place should the student need to take a LOA due to obtaining professional work?
    - Is the program connected to another program where students from both take classes together? (e.g. do MT and dance majors take the same dance classes?)
    - What techniques are covered within the program? (e.g. Meisner, Comedia Dell'Arte, Alexander, Cecchetti)

    In many cases, the tour or discussion will be led by an upperclassman from the program. It's sometimes interesting to ask that student what they feel their favourite experience at that school has been (theatre related or not) or what advice they would give themselves on auditioning if they could go back to their senior year. Similarly, if you are able to speak with a teacher, it's interesting to ask them what their favourite thing to teach a student is (also a good question for interviews during auditions). Those questions give you, not only insight into the program, but also help you understand the feel for the people there because the questions are so subjective.

    Also, to elaborate on what MTDancerMom said about asking about voice lessons, it is sometimes also helpful to ask if most students stay with the same teacher all four years, if there is a policy in place to change teachers if the fit isn't right and/or what the policy is on matching students to a private instructor.

    There are so many good questions to ask! When you go, encourage your son to ask whatever he feels is important to him. The tour guides for programs are so used to getting asked a variety of questions, they will not think anything of it. Enjoy your experience looking at schools!
  • SU88BFASU88BFA Registered User Posts: 349 Member
    Great responses-- and questions! I will be keeping them all in mind as we drive about to the different campuses. He will be visiting quite a few. They'll all start to become a blurr.....I'll make sure he makes notes to himself after each school visit.

    We (husband and I) debated the value in these college visits, and came up with a few reasons why we felt they were important to our S-- As of right now, he's not familiar with colleges at all. What kind of a "feel" does he want at the school he eventually attends? Urban, suburban? big, small? He hasn't a clue. If he goes to a school for a visit now and it has the right "vibe" or not-- then we know to keep it on "the list" or cross it off.

    I'd rather cross it off now with minimal effort made, then later after auditions, possible acceptance, then disappointment when he went to campus and it wasn't a good fit. There are arguments to be made for all courses of action, of course!

    Thanks again to all who responded!
  • MTDancerMomMTDancerMom Registered User Posts: 90 Junior Member
    SU88BFA - I strongly recommend you assist your son in keeping track of his thoughts along the way. I felt like that was the one way I could really help my D on this road to college (I have no music, dance or acting talent to give her advice!). Every time we looked up a college on line, I would take notes. After every audition, she would come back and dump anything that had transpired and what her thoughts/feelings were about the audition.

    I simply kept a folder for each school and retired the ones she was rejected from and added to the rest. Over a year long process, it can be very difficult to keep all of these feelings and thoughts straight. She has actually thanked me several times for having kept these for her to refer back to.
  • MTCoachMTCoach Registered User Posts: 112 Junior Member
    I think that's really great that you're able do that. There is definitely a lot of value in visiting the campus and deciding if it "feels" right, because ultimately, if you son doesn't feel it's the right environment for him regardless of how good the program, he should move on and find what fits him. And inevitably, he'll wind up loving a program you aren't crazy about and vice-versa :) All best to you and your son over the coming year!
  • prodesseprodesse Registered User Posts: 1,252 Senior Member
    I agree with MTDancerMom. Remember when you were house hunting? Everything blurs together, like the shoreline when you go out in a boat. If you have your son take notes, they will be pretty terse, based on my knowledge of teenaged boys. And it's ever worse after auditions because they're so jazzed up. (Warning, you may have to eavesdrop shamelessly to your son's side of a cell phone conversation to find out about the audition. Lots of kids will tell more to their buddies or acting coach than they would to Mom and Dad.)
  • randav2randav2 Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Prodesse must be living in a secret room in my house. Your warning is dead on. :)
  • Times3Times3 Registered User Posts: 1,373 Senior Member
    ^^Me too, and I also made sure to take a lot of notes during the information sessions (when provided) at auditions. These were the most up-to-date and accurate sources of facts about the program and about admissions, and we refer back to those notes a lot right now. We also have found that when we were lucky enough to be able to manage two trips--an advance visit (even a drive-through) and then an on-site audition--the second visit was much more informative. I know not everybody feels the need to "layer" their visits, but it definitely helped in our household.
  • kategrizzkategrizz Registered User Posts: 778 Member
    Wish I had read this thread before we just did 3 visits in 3 days - some good questions we didn't think to ask!

    Our DD is also a HS Junior - and we first took her on visits last March as a sophomore - it completely changed her focus, and brought home to her the immediacy of the task ahead of her. From that first tour - she only really liked one of the schools. (One is only 15 minutes from home, and therefore too close, and the other had a real 1960's institutional feel to it that turned her off.) We just visited 3 more this week, and I honestly think she could see herself at any one of them.

    We have found it beneficial to understand more about what different programs might offer. We've done it on breaks from schools - and it's mostly just cost us gas, meals, and one hotel night (because we had a friend to stay with near one school). Other than the long drive home today - I think she really enjoyed this week - despite college campus tours in the frigid cold!

    For those that will ask:
    Oakland U (too close to home)
    Wright State (she did not like the campus)
    Otterbein (she LOVED)
    Western (liked a lot)
    UofM (liked a lot)
    Ball State (liked a lot - and felt that campus was beautiful)

    She has another break in March - and I am strongly considering heading up to Ithaca and Syracuse - we have family we can stay with - and she can see a couple more programs.

    Our audition list will be longer than our visit list - but we've seen the HUGE (UofM) and the tiny (Otterbein) and the in between... We've also seen programs from different levels of selectivity... so that will help as we look at the schools that aren't so convenient to visit before we are (hopefully) faced with making decisions.
  • MomCaresMomCares Registered User Posts: 3,146 Senior Member
    In my experience it's worth visiting at least one school that might be quite different than what you assume your child is looking for.

    When D was a Junior we almost accidentally visited Northwestern when she was enroute to UMich for MPulse, and much to our surprise NU jumped to the top of her list, bumping out all BFAs. After that visit, Yale also moved up on her list as she realized she wanted a more traditional college experience than a BFA would offer.

    Allow possibilities to be surprised, and consider creating a school list that allows for a last-minute change of heart, as much can happen during the long wait between the summer before senior year when you make the list and the following May when the rubber meets the road.
  • SU88BFASU88BFA Registered User Posts: 349 Member
    Great posts-- thanks all! I'm actually getting excited to these college visits-- am I crazy? (I'll probably read this thread again in a year, as we're waiting on pins and needles, and laugh at myself.) Considering which colleges to apply to is such an open-ended question, and our "list" is long! I feel that having some answers at this point is helpful. And all these questions that everyone has posted will help tremendously.

    I want to make this road trip worthwhile, so I put together a variety of schools we're hitting:
    Shenandoah, Point Park, CMU, Penn State, UArts and Rider. In that order-- making the loop from Virginia! Son will see JMU and VCU with his class the week before. Wish us luck!
  • broadway95broadway95 Registered User Posts: 742 Member
    SU88BFA-that is a really good list because you get to see such a variety of campus types. We did the Penn State, CMU and Point Park sophmore year and that really helped. You learn so much more after the first visit somewhere too. One thing I learned at Penn State was to not necessarily go to the general information session and make the theatre program the focus and if we had time then go to the general information meeting for the whole school. For my D-she had to love the theatre program and then decide if she liked the campus atmosphere enough. For her the rah rah of fooball and our tour guides not knowing a thing about the theatre turned her off before we even got to the theatre tour. If it had been the reverse she may have felt differently because she did like the campus area but that initial impression was hard to get past for her. Best of luck and have fun. I really enjoyed our time going on visits-in fact we still talk about it. Also surprising Unifieds was stress free for us and I really have enjoyed this extra time with my D. The waiting is the only thing driving me crazy!
  • zebrarunnerzebrarunner Registered User Posts: 226 Junior Member
    I am planning to hit a few schools with my S (who is a sophomore) this spring too (Point Park, CMU, Penn State and Muhlenburg). Someone who has been through the process told us to try and set up a voice lesson at each school and try to sit in on an acting class or see if you can take a dance class so you can get a good feel for the school. I can see doing that if you have been admitted, but are the schools willing to do all that for you (we would obviously pay for the voice lesson) when you haven't even applied or been admitted?
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