(1) I agree that you should have all your essays done in the summer and applications in by August and September, especially if you are planning on doing the majority of auditions at Unifieds. It’s first come first serve on audition dates, & a lot schools require a compete application or acceptance before setting the audition dates. You will also have first dibs at merit scholarships, as a lot of schools give the bigger awards to students who are accepted prior to December 15th. Additionally, the paperwork is endless with schools with separate artistic supplements, recommendation letters, merit scholarship applications, honors college applications, FAFSA, CSS Profile, & some schools that want copies of your actual tax returns even with FAFSA and CSS Profile. Everytime you turn around, there’s another document needed they didn’t tell you was needed, and then you’ve got to deal with pre-screens and auditions on top of all of that. So, you need a time buffer to make sure the applications really are complete. When you’re looking at 20+ applications, cannot stress enough that you start EARLY. We also found that a number of schools offered application fee waivers for applicants in August, so nice way to save some money.
(2) Your grades and SAT/ACT scores matter, & I don’t care what anyone else tells you. Take advantage of super scoring and test more than once. Make sure you do the SAT essay, in case you want to apply to a school that requires it. Study! Why does it matter when schools are going test optional, making exceptions on academic standards for MT/Acting students, or the program admits 100% on audition, you ask? Two big reasons - merit scholarships and school rankings. You want to actually afford those schools you are fortunate enough to audition into because as you will hear often, there isn’t as much talent-based $ for the programs to hand out. We have found the big money is in merit scholarships. Additionally, if you opt out of test score reporting, you often opt out of the largest (or all) merit scholarships. If you are interested in a nationally ranked university, they have to be mindful of not bringing down their statistics, and these schools will tell you that sometimes they want a student really badly after the audition, but admissions won’t let them give an offer because their academics are too low.
(3) Get your recommendation letters early, and ask if those providing recommendations are willing to give you a .pdf copy for your records. The recommendation letters and transcripts were always delaying our applications. It became especially critical when my D decided to do walk-ins & had very little time to apply to a couple of those schools. Which leads me to what we would do differently…
Our biggest regret was putting all our eggs in the Unifieds basket. We wish we would have worked with a coaching company which had access to a smaller & earlier audition process or looked into earlier regional auditions. I think everyone should go to Chicago Unifieds to get a real taste of what this business is about because then not only do you see how competitive this is, but you can hear it (the walls are thin & you know when the person before you killed it!) If you try to fit in too many auditions in a short period of time, especially with Acting, the pieces get stale. My D really struggled to find ways to refresh her pieces or had to go with some other pieces she didn’t like as well for schools that were important to her because she had already performed them a few times that day. Also, it’s a germ haven–people are sick going there, get sick while there & get sick after, so there is a risk you won’t be at your best. We took Airbourne, Emergen-C, Throat coat tea, vitamins, herbs, and still got sick! The hotel is BONE DRY. We had a humidifier, steamer, sinus spray, sinus mosturizing gel, Fontus, but nothing can prepare you for the dryness. Another mom said she bought a second humidifier for the room, and I was so upset I didn’t think of that! But, that’s just the mental and physical dynamics, and the real loss to us was time to redirect/revamp/reassess. No matter how much you prepare, even with a coach, sometimes a monologue or song might fall flat for some reason or not be working for you those few days, so having a forum to perform the pieces early for a number of schools and feel the feedback (or get early rejections) when there is still time to make adjustments and maybe apply to other schools before it’s too late in the game, would have been a great luxury. (Or, alternatively, having an early acceptance, so you’re not one of the crazy people in February and March is worth more than you will ever know.) My D was having a really rough day (which is huge when you only have 3.5 days), & I was really proud of her ability to regroup, decide to add walk-ins, re-work her pieces in the mirror, and reset. It was one of those pivotal moments when I knew she was going to be okay and was meant to be in the business, but let’s face it, having a month instead of an hour to make that turnaround would have been much better–LOL!
Our other regret was not being more strategic with how we scheduled the auditions. My D scheduled a top school as her first college audition ever, & she said her leg just would not stop shaking. She scheduled another favorite as her last audition at the end of the last day. It was her 18th audition when she had nothing more to give to her pieces. Spend time thinking about how you want to schedule the most important auditions. For example, if you know a school does an immedite callback cut, maybe don’t have another top audition scheduled immediately after when you could be feeling heartbroken.
Anyway, that is my two cents. BAL Class of 2025!