Time for another l-o-n-g final decision share! First, many, many thanks to this group for taking in a lone Tech Theater parent – this admission process is a wild ride on a good day, and without a group going through a similar experience to commiserate with, (what’s left of) my sanity would have been seriously at risk. The support, humor, encouragement, and excitement for every family’s success has been nothing short of amazing. I am happy to pay it forward if any future tech families need guidance or reassurance – I learned so much from my D’s journey this year.
Summer Programs: Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute (SSTI-Tech) 2018 and 2019 – I cannot say enough about this experience – the 4th week of the program (between performance weekends) focuses on advanced workshops, portfolio sessions, and college admission guidance with mock interviews (same level of college audition prep for the performers). My D’s portfolio was gorgeous, thanks to the preliminary work in 2018 and polishing the latest version in 2019, not to mention the inclusion of stunning professional photos from both years’ unbelievable productions.
BFA Theatre Design & Production/Tech Programs Applied: University of Arizona, Missouri State, SCAD, UNCSA, CCM, U of Michigan, DePaul, Carnegie Mellon, Pace, Boston University, Emerson, Rutgers Mason Gross, and Penn State.
In-Person On Campus Interviews: Missouri State, CCM, U of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon (at Chicago Unifieds), Rutgers Mason Gross, and Penn State
Skype Interviews: DePaul, Pace, BU, Emerson, and UNCSA
*originally scheduled on campus
Portfolio Submitted but No Interview Required: U of Arizona and SCAD
Accepted: U of Arizona, Missouri State, SCAD, UNCSA, CCM, U of Michigan, DePaul, Pace, BU, Emerson, Rutgers Mason Gross, and Penn State
Priority WL: Carnegie Mellon
Background: My D started playing the violin at age 3 and added the flute at age 4. She demonstrated perfect pitch and serious musical talent early on, along with a natural singing ability. Choir, wind and vocal ensembles, and orchestra were early favorites, and she has continued to play the flute in her school’s orchestra throughout HS. In 6th and 7th grade, she was recruited by her brother’s HS musical theater director to join him on stage for productions his junior and senior year (the director loved having younger siblings in her casts). The following year was D’s own 8th grade musical. She had an opportunity to work on the technical aspects of that production, ended up running a spotlight, and discovered she preferred being behind the scenes to being on stage. By freshman year, she was teaching herself how to set up the hardware and program the new lighting software that her school had just acquired as part of a new fine arts facility (the teachers didn’t have time to read the manuals and figure everything out because they were still unpacking and storing everything in the new space, but she did!). D was the lighting designer and board operator for the spring musical and received an honorable mention in our region’s HS Musical Theatre Awards as a freshman. That was it - she was hooked. In addition to HS productions (plays, musicals, and dance performances), she has worked on set design and lighting for a couple of community/regional theatre productions.
College Admission Process: We had minimal big picture information about this process going into it, except for the intel D had acquired through SSTI. We knew the tech/lighting programs accepted very few students, like 3-4 at most schools, but no acceptance rate stats were available – did 5 students apply for those spots? 50? 150? What kind of acceptance chances did she have? No clue. But I was fairly sure she had an amazing portfolio. Fortunately, her “randomly assigned” college counselor at school was a theater guy, so he was infinitely more helpful than we ever expected. Even he didn’t have acceptance rate stats, though, so he advised casting a wide net and helped her carefully craft her list.
We decided to arrange some college visits during her fall break this school year to get a sense of a few different programs and campuses. In order to see the most schools for our travel dollars, we flew to NYC and drove to Boston and back to see SUNY Purchase, BU, Emerson, Pace, and Rutgers Mason Gross. It was an exhausting week, but we definitely learned a lot about each program and what to look for at the others on her list. [Hot Tip: never, ever rent a car at LaGuardia or drive from Boston to NYC on a Friday night. I knew it was a wacky plan, but…yeah, just don’t do it. ?]
Application insanity came next. Oh, the never-ending artistic supplements and varied digital portfolio requirements! Some schools wanted 20-25 annotated images, some wanted no more than 5 photos, and some permitted collage pages. First up was Emerson, the only one with an early action option. The Skype interview felt less than optimal to my D, but it wasn’t feasible to arrange a trip to Boston a month after our college tour week, and we had been assured that taking the Skype option would not affect her admission chances. Thanksgiving week was completely application-focused with a short break to eat mashed potatoes. There were still artistic supplements with later submission dates to be completed, but she knocked out a huge chunk of her To Do list.
First in-person interview was Penn State in mid-December, just two weeks after she submitted her application. Shortly before our departure, she got an offer by e-mail from Emerson with a substantial scholarship, so we took that as a good omen. Of course, we were both sick when we left, which turned out to be a not-so-good omen. The on campus interview, even with a somewhat intimidating faculty panel of 5, was so much better than Skyping with one person – her coming out afterward and whispering “nailed it” with what was left of her voice was a proud mom moment for sure. I vowed right then that we would schedule as many in-person interviews as we could manage. Receiving an acceptance from Penn State a week later, right before Christmas, was huge. Also, having two acceptances in her pocket so early seemed like a good indicator that she’d have some great choices in the end. I thought she might want to drop a few of the schools she hadn’t finished supplements for after that, but she kept going.
January and February were filled with more artistic supplements and multiple travel weekends – a second trip to Rutgers, Chicago Unifieds for CMU because all of the on campus slots were filled, U of Michigan with a drive to Cincinnati afterward for the CCM visit/interview the next day, and then Missouri State the following weekend. Skype interviews for Pace, DePaul, and BU were sprinkled around when we weren’t traveling. She was scheduled to visit and interview at DePaul the Saturday of Chicago Unifieds, but her HS spring musical rehearsals were in full swing with opening night the following Thursday and she was desperately needed for Tech Runs, so she decided to cancel and request a Skype time. P.S. She was sick again on our one-nighter Chicago trip and the weekend we were in Michigan/Cincinnati but still felt good about her interviews. My persistent illness turned out to be pneumonia, which explained why I had been abandoning every campus tour after the first stop.
Our last adventure was supposed to be UNCSA on March 20th, possibly the latest interview date anywhere, but, of course, by then everything was shut down, COVID-style, so it was switched to Skype.
(continued in next post)