Final MT Decisions Background - Class of 2025

The guy that played “Lafayette/Jefferson” in Chicago’s Hamilton and then on the National Tour went to Belmont. We noticed that when we went up to see it a few years ago in Chicago. The campus is beautiful and I hear nothing but good things from students who go there! I tried to get my daughter to apply, but she resisted for some reason. Kids!

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Hello! We had to choose between Belmont and Catholic as well and she is headed to Belmont. We are in the Northern Va area and I’m guessing you are as well. If you want to send me a message, I’d be happy to chat! Don’t know I can shine a light on anything you haven’t already thought of but I’d be happy to talk it out.

Woo Hoo!! Congrats! We live outside of Nashville as well!! Everything Bogeyw said is absolutely true!!! Belmont is still on our list!!

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This is such a great story! Congratulations to your girl. I love how there are times we as parents “just know” and time proves us right.

Hopefully you saw my reply yesterday regarding social life at Belmont. I thought I responded when you first tagged me, but I was doing it on my phone so apparently it didn’t actually post.

Programs Applied to: Baldwin Wallace, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, CAP21/Molloy, Carnegie Mellon, CCM, Coastal Carolina, Columbia College Chicago (non-audition BA), Elon, Florida State, Hartt School, Indiana, Manhattan School of Music, Missouri State, Montclair State, Otterbein, Pace, Penn State, Point Park, Roosevelt, Shenandoah, Syracuse, Texas Christian, Texas State, Arizona, Miami, Michigan, UNCSA, Oklahoma, U Arts, Webster

Prescreens Passed/Waived Due to Moonifieds: Baldwin Wallace, BoCo, CAP21, CCM, Coastal Carolina, Elon, Florida State, Hartt, Indiana, MSM, Missouri State, Montclair, Otterbein, Pace, Penn State, Point Park, Roosevelt, ShenCo, Syracuse (redirect to Acting), TCU, TSU, Arizona, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, U Arts, Webster

Accepted to: BoCo, CAP21, Florida State, Hartt, Missouri State (BFA Dance), Otterbein, TCU, UArts

Withdrew: Syracuse, Columbia College, Roosevelt, Manhattan School of Music

Not accepted to: Baldwin Wallace, Carnegie, CCM, MIssouri State MT (after initial WL), Montclair, Penn State, Point Park, ShenCo, Michigan, Texas State (after initial WL), UNCSA, Webster

Wait-listed: Coastal Carolina, Elon, Indiana, Pace, Arizona, Oklahoma (all released)

Coach: DCCAP, Dave Clemmons; MTCA ala carte for monologue and acting through song; College Audition Coach a la carte for Moonifieds

Summer Programs: TPAP Blueprint, Florida State MTI, ArtsBridge (Virtual)

Background: Daughter started dancing in pre-school and danced competitively through fifth grade. The dance studio she attended until third grade always had at least one eye on MT (the owner’s daughter was a Rockette and performed in Broadway productions of Cats and The Producers). Every other year the school would put on an MT focused Revue. She was cast as the lead in Peter Pan in her last year there and never looked back. Received first formal voice training from a Manhattan-based voice coach over Skype (the only game in town back then…how quaint) for that show, thanks to the owner’s daughter’s time on Broadway. He still is her “finisher” for any audition material.

In sixth grade, we decided to start her online education, not to “go pro” but to give her the flexibility to be in a variety of shows and give added focus to her training. Got her first paycheck for a show at a professional opera in the children’s choir and was cast in youth ensembles in musicals at regional professional theaters. Filled gaps with “pay for play” opportunities. Attended MT school affiliated with a regional theater, where we first met Dave Clemmons (he was Director of the school for a few years).

High school remained online, so no high school shows or choir competitions. Free time split between training, performing and occasional volunteer work. Went to TPAP before her sophomore year at Dave’s recommendation. She came back feeling she could hold her own with her peers at the intensive. Repeated this experience at Florida State and Artsbridge.

We were able to observe the CAP auditions her junior year and used that as a jumping off point for her own college audition prep. Had her list of colleges set and started choosing and working on material by January. When COVID hit, we decided to hedge our choice to go with the CAP auditions (they were slow to announce what schools would be attending) to also speak with Moo as daughter could attend Moonifieds without using Moo as a coach. Received validation of her college list from Moo and her team. Added some ala carte services from MTCA to finish off her prep team. Ultimately chose Moonifieds over CAP auditions (see know your child below for details on that).

Started in earnest in August on applications and refining her audition material. All prescreen submissions (including for Moonified schools) in by mid-October. All academic applications submitted by each school’s EA deadline. Received feedback in October in a set of mock auditions hosted by MTCA.

Before any in person auditions or prescreens, we got an early taste of the good news/bad news train we just boarded. On the positive side, a program director at one of the schools participating in Moonifieds reached out to daughter directly to tell her how impressed they were with her recorded prescreen. It was all but an offer to go to this school, which is pretty high up on the selectivity scale. Dave Clemmons said he has never seen this program director do this. After that refreshing start, she received a quick no on her prescreen to Carnegie Mellon. Ouch. Let the roller coaster begin. A redirect from Syracuse to Acting was a headscratcher that was an appropriate middle ground to end the month. She declined an audition there when they would not consider her for MT.

Moonifieds in November went off without any technical issues and only resulted in one disappointing result in December when Baldwin Wallace let us know she did not pass her prescreen. With the yin and yang that seemed to occur throughout this process, she received her first artistic acceptance from UArts right on the heels of the BW news. She will be getting a BFA. Releases her safety – Columbia College. All live auditions scheduled for January and February. Took a short holiday break.

January auditions went off without a hitch and another big BFA acceptance from BoCo, but even that came with its own drama (see Don’t Read Into Anything below for details). Allowed her to lighten her audition load by cancelling dates with MSM and Roosevelt (No trips back to my hometown…bummer). Also informed UArts that she would not be accepting its offer.

Hartt comes back with a yes the day before her final audition on February 11. The waiting starts.

March comes in like a lion with acceptances from Otterbein, FSU, CAP21, TCU and MSU Dance (which feels like a way for the school to bring in strong MT dancers through the back door). No’s and waitlists come in throughout the month, giving her a path forward in April to gather more information on each accepted school.

Visits in April to all schools she had not seen before. Mainly campus tours but she was able to meet with directors of each program except TCU as its COVID rules prohibited any interaction between its personnel and anyone outside the university. Long before the visits she had a clear favorite, but she used the trips to stress test her initial instincts.

All schools but one released after she returns from last trip. Over the phone for any who offered her; emails for waitlisted schools.

Final Decision:
Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She hit it off with Laura Marie Duncan in the audition and was about ready to kill the rest of her audition schedule when she got the good news in January. Each of her accepted schools showed her that they really wanted her in their own way, but BoCo really showed it. Talent scholarship, personal contact from Laura Marie from offer through acceptance. Issues brought up by students/parents there now are pretty evident to anyone interested in going there so not much of a surprise when we heard about them. While the school can’t offer the traditional college experience like some of her other choices, having the city of Boston as your “campus” is an excellent consolation.

Last Thoughts:
I will not be coming back to this forum providing sage advice to newcomers. This is not because I do not want to pay it forward (I will…see below) nor do I want to devalue the contributions of those that came before me.

I used this site to gain insight by reading through threads from the past three or so audition cycles. During this past cycle, I tended to contribute (and consume) information for the use only in this cycle. Mainly when information (waitlist and audition decisions primarily) about schools my daughter applied to came available. I realize this is not the only way to use this board, but with this use in mind, I will give my thoughts below on what I have learned through this process so someone who consumes the information like I did can use it as a reference going into their journey. This has a practical side to it as well; Daughter has two younger siblings who will not be going down this path that need my full focus as both have special needs.

Finally, if we have learned anything about MT auditioning these past few years, it is that a whole lot of what worked in the past doesn’t necessarily translate to future years. My thoughts on how to set up a virtual audition room may have very little impact if schools go back to in person auditions next year, just like advice on how to pick up walk-in auditions at Unifieds had for this year’s crop of applicants. Therefore, my thoughts will focus on aspects of the application/audition process that transcend the mechanics of how the process works/will work.

So here we go. If I were new to this process, here are the big things I would want to know:

Know (and listen to) your child – This can be broken down into two categories: talent and personality. On the talent side, get assessments from objective professionals (i.e. with nothing to gain/lose by sharing their opinion) about your kid’s strengths and weaknesses. We all know the politics and sometimes economics that go into casting pay for play and school shows. Even regional theaters’ casting for professional shows can tend to play favorites in casting youth ensembles. If you can afford it, send your child to a summer intensive that pulls its talent beyond your region. They will get a sense where they stand talent wise in these settings.

For personality, start with how to approach helping in the application/audition process. D needs, at times, additional prodding to get through administrative tasks. Just creating a spreadsheet or timeline and pointing her to it would not suffice. A question or two on the status of certain things helped keep the stress levels down by avoiding too many fire drills. The other example came from listening to her. After observing the CAP consortium auditions in 2019, she really felt performing in front of a large group of panelists, and the adrenaline that goes with it, would fit best her strengths as a performer. Enter COVID. She attends a handful of master classes in the Spring of 2020 and the stress of performing in front of a lot of panelists – that she cannot see but knows are there – impacts her performances. We quickly pivot to using Moonifieds for her mass (but individual) audition format. If she had not let us know about her concerns, or we had not listened, we would have allowed a stressor to remain in stressful enough endeavor.

Start early, but not for everything – Freshman year: Train, train train; Set up a Hilton Honors account and start accumulating points on it (Palmer House remains a Hilton property and will host future Unified auditions, if they are revived post-COVID). Do the same for airline miles. Even without in person auditions, they help with travel to campuses your child is accepted to; Visit one (and ONLY one) example of each program type, especially if it is part of some other travel (summer intensive, vacation, business trip). Don’t go out of your way to do this and definitely do so with as little emotion as possible. Dream schools should only exist after your kid is offered artistically to one.
Sophomore year: repeat freshman year prep; observe the audition cycle of the two classes ahead of you. Read this site, Facebook, and talk with any MT friends a year or two ahead of your child. Do this in real time as much as you can as it can prepare you for the ebb and flow of this crazy process. A lot gets lost if asked about these things in hindsight.
Junior year: pick an audition coach if it makes sense in your situation. At a minimum, line up voice and monologue resources to help with selecting the correct material for your child. Start working on that material. Research schools and build a balanced list to apply to.
Senior year: start applications as early as possible to get them out of the way and, in some cases, open the door to schedule an audition slot; If you have been working on material in your Junior year, consider getting prescreen videos out to/scheduling auditions for schools as early as possible (October 1 is a good goal for prescreens; November auditions where possible). This can help scheduling in the busy January/February window as well as get some important feedback on your material. Possible artistic offers early in the process can relieve the stress later on. Early rejections can indicate issues with material and can allow your child to apply to additional schools.

Divide and conquer; Stay in your lane – Daughter and wife were glad to allow me to handle the logistical side of things. I have no ability to choose an outfit or set up a ring light. Enough said.

Prioritize your senior year, at the beginning of the year – If you want your child to maximize his/her/their senior year experience with choir, musical(s), play(s), debate team, etc. I think you have two choices: Gap year or lighten your kid’s coursework in (at least) half by loading up on HS classes in their first three (or four if they can take some HS classes in 8th grade). Your kid will try to convince you he/she/they can handle it all, but something will have to give, especially if schools go back to in person auditions. No need to take all senior year activities off the table, but you do not want to be in the position of having to choose between an audition and an activity your kid could have to back out of. Pick wisely.

Filter out the noise – If you have done a good job of creating an appropriate, balanced school list (adjusted to early news if necessary), what others in the process do, and the results that come from their efforts, do not mean anything in your kid’s journey and should be treated that way. If you or your kid tries to control what you can’t in this process, you are only adding stress (the natural byproduct of controlling things you can never control) to an already stressful process.

Don’t read into anything – until there is something to read – This bit of advice is best given with an example. Kids who applied during the early window at BoCo were told the school’s decision (yes or no; maybe deferral I can’t recall) would be communicated by the end of January. A week or ten days before this due date the school inadvertently sends out an invite to an accepted students zoom meeting BEFORE sending out decision emails. D does not get an invite and. is. stressed. Wife is stressed. I tell them to wait for actual news before jumping off the proverbial cliff. Few days go by and still nothing. On January 28, daughter gets an email from Laura Marie Duncan welcoming her to the program, apologizing for sending her the Zoom invite early, and asking her to call if she has any questions. Daughter calls and tells Laura Marie she never received the initial email. Not in spam, not anywhere. After some digging, it turns out BoCo’s email delivery system had flagged daughter’s account as opting out of receiving mass emails from the school.

I wish anyone who goes through this process in the future the best of luck. It has always been hard and will always remain so. The deeply personalized nature of an MT education coupled with a large (and growing) pool of high schoolers interested in it means the odds at any individual school are never in your favor. There are not enough “up and coming” programs to ever make up for the demand. But by casting a wide enough net into a pool of schools matched to your child’s talent will in the vast majority of cases provide him/her/them the chance to get excellent training in MT. Where they take that training is more important than where they receive it anyway.

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Welcome to the BoCo Fam! Great story and insight - enjoyed following your journey. It’s true, Boston is one big campus. Please feel free to PM me if you have any granular questions.

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Very happy that your daughter has found her place @MTDad2025! Great insights by you too! Thanks for sharing.

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I am so excited for your daughter (and your family)! I’ve always appreciated your willingness to assist and sage advice along the way. Thank you for your contributions to the Class of 2025! What a journey!

And s huge congratulations to your daughter on finding her place!:heartpulse::performing_arts::tada:

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@mtdad2025 congrats on a great outcome. truly sorry to hear you wont come back, maybe with some time away you will change your mind? in the end, its truly all about the kids…people can always benefit from many views. Happy your daughter landed in a great place & had many options, best of luck to her!!

PS fwiw I think your advice here is excellent

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I decided to post our experience because maybe it will give some hope to those out there whose kids were later to this theatre adventure…

Applied to (she applied to a lot of programs since she was very well aware that she had much less experience than others. For most of the programs listed, she applied to both MT and acting programs): AMDA, Ball State, Baylor, BOCO, Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Coastal Carolina, Elon, Emerson, Hartt, Ithaca, James Madison, Long Island University, Loyola University of New Orleans, Marymount Manhattan, Millikin, Molly/CAP21, N Carolina School of the Arts, Negraska Wesleyan, Tisch, Ohio Northern, Otterbein, Point Park, Roosevelt, Shenandoah, Southern Illinois, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, University of Michigan, UNC Greensboro

She participated in International Thespian Festival and got a few early offers/encouragement to apply. Some schools (AMDA, Point Park, Nebraska and Loyola) she decided to officially apply to and others she ended up not applying to. This was a nice way thought to at least know she would have options.

She also participated in Moonifieds so saying which schools she passed prescreens for is a little more challenging since some you didn’t need to pass in order to audition at Moonifieds. The prescreens she did NOT pass though were: BOCO, Carneigie Mellon, Elon MT (she passed Elon acting), Emerson MT, Michigan, UNCG MT (she passed UNCG acting).

Accepted to: AMDA, Baylor, JMU (acting), LIU, Loyola of New Orleans, Nebraska Wesleyan, Point Park (acting and theatre arts)

Waitlisted: Emerson (T&P), Marymount Manhattan, Molloy, Southern Illinois - decided to withdraw from all waitlists when she made her decision

Coaching - Mary Anna Dennard (Moo). For us, coaching was so important. Being late to this, we really had no idea what to expect in this audition process. I didn’t even learn about this forum until halfway through the process - we were really naive and coaching definitely helped.

Summer - Two summers at Stagedoor Manor

Background -

My daughter enjoyed singing in elementary school and participated in school choirs. In 6th grade she started working with a private voice coach. Continued with school choir through middle school and early high school and then the school acapella group in high school.

Auditioned for the school play in 7th grade and really loved it. By 9th grade, theatre was emerging as a passion and by 10th grade, she started saying that she would like to try to go to college and study theatre. Participated in every school production, took all the acting/directing/playwriting classes offered through her school but was not involved in community theatre (could never find the time to do both). We were fortunate that her school has a very strong theatre department so she was able to get a lot of experience in school.

Luckily, her school offered dance as a PE credit starting in 10th grade so she was able to take dance in school 10-12th grade. Summer before 12th grade she took some private lessons over zoom in anticipation of auditions.

Decision-

We were pleasantly surprised that she ended up with a handful of MT and/or acting choices. When this process first started and we learned how competitive it was, we weren’t sure if she would have any choices at all! She was very excited about all of her options, but when it came down to it, location was a main factor for her. Although we live in the southwest, all of her family is back east and she really wanted to get back east (and really was hoping to end up in Boston or New York). Over spring break, we decided to visit what had emerged as her top 3 - Point Park (acting), LIU (MT) and Molloy (waitlist). She honestly loved something about all three of those programs, but absolutely fell in love with LIU. She loved the campus, the proximity to NYC. We were fortunate to meet several students who were so enthusiastic about the program. She loved that many of the mainstage productions are directed by outside professional directors and loved how active the student run theatre is with opportunities for writing and directing. When she got home, she had a zoom session with David Hugo to get last minute questions answered and that sealed the deal.

Final Decision - LIU Post MT

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CONGRATULATIONS!! Wishing her the best and thanks for sharing!

Congratulations to your daughter!

Congratulations! My D has 2 friends at LIU Post and both absolutely LOVE it.

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congrats, we are not far from LIU post, the LIRR commute into NYC is safe & easy, best of luck

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Congratulations!

typo duplicate

Eight months and 25 days ago, my sojourn into the world of applying to musical theatre programs began in earnest and today it ends. In this COVID year, this journey was akin to bunkering in an evacuation shelter as earthquakes, flash floods, and hurricanes raged concurrently outside; hopefully it bears no such resemblance for next year’s class and beyond. As part-interloper and part-sherpa to this process, I still have more questions than answers but hopefully the following description will be helpful in part to some of you as previous descriptions were for me. I found value in reading everyone’s journey in prior years as everyone’s perspective and story is unique and contains insights that helped us. For those of you without much time to spare, I’d suggest not wasting your time here, but to read the sage advice of @MTDad2025. The only way my vantage point might differ slightly is that I did find being familiar with the “prior process” helped despite it having changed due to COVID-19. Two other masterfully captured recounts are by @MyPennyX2 and @NYYFanNowMTdad.

For those of you about to embark on the college audition and application process for musical theatre, extremely valuable information can be found right here, somewhere in this College Confidential forum. In fact in our case, I believe everything we needed to know we found here.

The forum would get bashed a little from time-to-time, for some contributions speculative in nature or passing along what was openly admitted as hearsay or an unpopular but heartfelt opinion. But that’s just part of the conversation and well worth the sacrifice for the nuggets of truth and insight and 97% accuracy contained within. In fact, I prefered CC to all other forums discussing musical theatre programs. I found the information here most helpful; I believe it’s aided by the somewhat confidential nature of this forum. People generally can share and express themselves without fear of being shouted down; I hope that continues. Toward the end of the process, I started to use other social media forums to more effectively connect to families that have insights regarding specific schools; when CC took away the listing of MT programs altogether and previously lost the ability to see when new posts had been added to the MT program-specific sub-forums, CC lost key functionality; I hope both are re-established.

I’m respecting my daughter’s desire for privacy, but I’m so indebted to people on this forum for their help and guidance along the way, that I promised myself that I would pay it forward (a reason why this forum is so rich) so a compromise was reached: I would limit what I shared to what I felt was most important. Before I begin, I would like to thank all past and present contributors to this forum, an expression of parents helping parents out, and the new age incarnation of it takes an online internet village to raise a MT applicant. After all, we didn’t invent this process; we’re only trying to help our young applicants get through it. A special thank you, however, to @EmsDad, @CaMom13, @NYYFanNowMTdad, @soozievt, @Jasklo and @Gyokoren (the latter for sharing an interesting study). I’m especially indebted to you for your generosity of time, valuable insights and selfless guidance. Thank you to each of you from the bottom of my heart for helping my family out in multiple ways.

In a nutshell: The elevator speech version of this process goes something like this: “MT programs are generally small. The programs have many more qualified applicants than they do spots available so decide on your couple of safeties both from an academic and artistic vantage point, and then determine how many more schools you want to apply to and which MT programs seem like the best fits for the young aspiring performer; get to know the programs well enough to make that determination, but not so much that you begin to fall in love with specific programs early on in the process – a very fine line to walk I know. The good news is that there’s a plethora of great programs to choose from. You’ve got five minutes to show your stuff. Your mileage may vary.”

Now for a version that will go into more color and more insights. The application process took over my daughter’s life over everything except her senior year coursework and primary extracurricular activities. She loves to audition for and perform in shows, so there’s a lot to love about this process, but as she likes to remind me, you don’t have to fill out lengthy applications and write several essays each time you audition for a show. Demand for MT program spots greatly outstrips the number of spots at the more popular programs. Each program’s class size ranges from: smallest 5 - 11; below average 12 - 13; middle 14 - 16; above average 17 - 24; large 25+ but are even the last two categories really that large if they’re divided into sections? The acceptance rates are more daunting than the odds of getting into HYPS; let that hyper-competitiveness sink in. Despite the dearth of job prospects that await these same applicants four years down the road, I’m still a believer in the education they receive as it will carry them through whichever walk in life they take or so I like to tell myself.

Program fit: Because there are so many programs out there (and they tend to be small), it makes sense to come up with a list that the applicant believes are better fits based on weighting criteria important to the applicant. Criteria I would consider include geographic preference; professional training and / or academic emphasis; programs that are strong across the board or that tend to emphasize one discipline over another; the extent to which a program has built-in flexibility; the degree to which there are elective offerings within the major; the degree to which a minor in a different field is possible; the degree to which current students in the program are as passionate about musical theatre and performing arts and engaged in it as you are; what alumni are doing and even the extent of alumni involvement with the program. It’s possible to find programs that will tick every box for you; it just takes some work but it’s worth the investment in order to target schools that are closer matches. I would attempt to complete this assessment by the summer between junior and senior year. Knowing the relative weight is important, but it’s also possible that some of the weighting could change as the student goes through the process. They’re learning about the programs and what they want out of a program as they go through the process. I would not include expected net price as a criterion because I found that it is not always accurate so you may miss out on opportunities that would otherwise present themselves; more on this later. Applicants should dig as far as they need into a program in order to know what it’s about and to determine whether they want to apply to the program or not.

Thoughts on travel: I encourage early travel to visit prospective programs to be minimized and kept to junior year (unless you happen to be in an area anyway). A case where a trip could help: if you’re on the fence about studying in an area you’re unfamiliar with and ideally in a location where there are different types of schools you can visit. For instance, if you’re unfamiliar with New York City, and on the fence about whether you want to study there, take this trip and visit two to three different types of schools in or around the city. Some students love the vibe in New York City, are either comfortable or energized by it; enjoy the arts and cultural communities and offerings, and the campus within the city setting; others find they aren’t looking for that (at least not just yet or ever), while others like it in a manner akin to other locations so they can go either way. The applicant won’t know unless they experience it. Based on my travels, to assume NYC as a whole, and the specific school in NYC, would or would not be a fit, would be a mistake if the applicant has not been there because it’s a slightly different animal. Other trips can be accomplished as part of a live audition (assuming those resume) or after an offer has been received.

Important to remember but not to dwell on: In recent years, I think most MT programs get ten times the amount of qualified applicants (I’ll call that the “talent” hurdle) than they have spots available while most of the remaining programs will have more than enough qualified applicants to choose from; it stands to reason, then, that many factors will come into play in deciding which of these qualified applicants will make the cut besides talent for those that meet the talent hurdle. The programs have many different options for the composition of each class… not just one. That’s interesting to speculate about but not important because the extra factors the school might consider are beyond the applicant’s control. Moreover, these factors are also subject to change in importance or may morph for any school at any juncture.

Number of applications: Given the work and cost involved, each student / family is different in their willingness and ability to apply to “XY” number of programs. That needs to be taken into account and respected. The more balanced your school application list is and the more non-audition programs that are on it, the shorter your list can be to be confident you’ll receive a program offering.

12 different programs to consider: One of my favorite things about CC’s annual Decision Background recap threads is the ability to glean the perspective of families that had the opportunity to do a more thorough review of programs. To pay it forward, the twelve schools that stood out in a very positive light and I would urge you to consider IF and only if they’re a match for your prospective performer: Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, Indiana, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Michigan, Muhlenberg, New York University, University of Southern California, Western Connecticut, Western Michigan, and Wright State. I recommend each of them unconditionally IF you find there’s a fit for you but there are differences among these programs so not all of them will be a “best fit” for most applicants.

Manhattan School of Music (MSM): If you are interested in a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre and if you want to study in New York City at a conservatory, definitely apply to MSM. It’s a relatively young program but steadily guided by Lisa Gennaro, who I believe studied at NYU and taught at the MT program at Indiana University Bloomington.

Arizona State University (ASU): Another Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre program to consider is ASU, which has a deserved reputation for positive innovation.

New York University (NYU): NYU offers multiple strong options including a BM, BFA, BA and even joint or dual degrees. Some of the differences in the options are explained here. While New York City is not for everyone, if it is for you, I would consider NYU. I don’t believe you’ll find a school anywhere with as much breadth, depth and flexibility in their performing arts program. NYU offers top instruction in singing, acting, dance and storytelling. The drama faculty alone is extensive, 38 full-time members, and extremely in tune with and responsive to the students in the program. BFA students are broken down into sections within studios; in the New Studio on Broadway, there are 14 - 16 students per section. Every family with a young adult enrolled there is effusive in its praise of NYU and, by all accounts, a supportive community is formed. They do offer Early Decision I and Early Decision II as an option.

University of Southern California (USC): Another young program but don’t let that youth fool you; they’re under the wonderful and seasoned leadership of Kenneth Noel Mitchell, Karen Parks, and Kathryn Dunn who have established a terrific, integrated curriculum from one of the top acting programs in the nation, one of the top music programs in the nation, and one of the top dance programs in the nation. In fact, they’re few programs as strong in all three fields as this one.

Wright State University: This is a somewhat under the radar program. I know people consider it, but perhaps not to the extent it could be. I don’t have one bad thing to say about it, and its strong D-lab set-up for students, found at programs like NYU and Michigan, is a huge pull. You can’t go wrong here.

Muhlenberg College: Frequently, people want to know a good BA non-audition program to consider… well this is a great one. Definitely a different vibe from most (if not all) BFA programs but it’s different not sub-par. You don’t get an MT degree but you can major in two fields and either get a minor or certificate in one more if you bring in credits.

University of Michigan: Michigan’s BFA in Musical Theater gets bashed on CC a lot; I think its bashings are undeserved. It’s a top notch program with caring faculty.

Western Michigan University (WMU): @EmsDad chronicled his daughter’s experience at the WMU program. Suffice to say, residents of the Great Lakes state are blessed to have not one but TWO excellent MT programs run by state universities. It doesn’t matter that Wolverines in Ann Arbor are top dog, they offer a solid training program and university experience in Kalamazoo. Out-of-staters take note too.

Western Connecticut State University: Tim Howard is quietly running an excellent program with very talented faculty including Tony-award winning and nominated dance instructors. Some people complain that the campus is split with Performing Arts (and a few other specialities) on one campus and the other offerings on another, but the University of Michigan faces a similar situation and that’s never brought up.

Carnegie Mellon University: Dance is de-emphasized in the evaluative process, but it’s offered and those that want even more, take supplemental classes at Point Park. Carnegie Mellon is a true gem of a program, and they were very thorough (at least for this year…): five rounds of evaluation for select candidates.

Indiana University Bloomington: My daughter really connected with the MT students. A fine MT program and university.

The Juilliard School: Another school to consider if New York City and a stand alone conservatory are appealing. If your applicant is interested in studying one area intently, their drama, vocal performance and dance divisions can be considered. For many, that’s not a desired option, but if it is, Juilliard is a classy school in every way.

As is usually shared in CC:

Some MT programs don’t heavily weigh course rigor and student grades. While some programs consider them, it’s at most a part of the equation and in the majority of cases is not an insurmountable hurdle. It’s mostly about talent and potential at most audition programs. All schools offer scholarships and grants for coursework rigor, strong grades, financial need and artistic talent. So talent, strong academics and not requiring financial aid are the most an applicant can do to receive offers and secure a golden ticket; that’s the trifecta to strive for (as mentioned above, offering something different can be a critical component too but what the school is looking for is out of one’s control and subject to change). Taking challenging courses that you are up for, doing well in them and setting aside money to pay for college helps applicants achieve their dreams.

Most important advice (or what I found least accurate in CC and elsewhere):

My analysis of prior offers from schools based on what I gleaned from CC as well as a separate analysis using outside sources was all over the map – sometimes accurate and sometimes polar opposite; I projected programs on likely best to worst value offer, and sometimes they were spot on but just as many times they were the exact opposite; I batted only .400; that gets you a spot in the majors but fired on Wall Street. Similarly, I even found net price calculators to not always reflect the net price. So my finding to pass along to you is: don’t attempt to project the likely outcome based on others results in CC or even what you project to be affordable and not affordable because all you’re doing is unnecessarily cutting out great opportunities from your list. Select schools solely based on desired fit, and since it is, for the most part, an artistically-based decision, as many dream outcomes as you are willing and able to apply for . Upfront, you do have to gauge the number of schools it is feasible to apply to . I’m sure there are many people who will disagree with me but I would say offers will vary too much year-to-year to project accurately based on prior outcomes. For illustrative purposes:

Program A - projected best offer - actual result: third worst offer
Program B - projected 2nd best offer - actual result: penultimate worst offer
Program C - projected 3rd best offer - actual result: 4th best offer
Program D - projected 4th best offer - actual result: mid-tier offer

Program E - projected middle tier offer - actual result: mid-tier offer
Program F - projected middle tier offer - actual result: mid-tier offer
Program G - projected middle tier offer - actual result: 3rd best offer

Program H - projected third worst offer - actual result: best offer
Program I - projected penultimate worst offer - actual result: worst offer
Progam J - projected worst offer - actual result: 2nd best offer

As you can see, if we had cut out schools based on where we thought she would receive the best packages, we would have lopped off a couple better ones.

Gen ed / liberal arts credits: Regardless of the program, I found these requirements to be anywhere from 22% to 33% of a student’s studies. Given the degree that people talk about this, I was expecting a much wider range. The fact that the range is relatively narrow, I consider this a non-distinguishing factor among programs, even if it does make sense to look at the options available to complete required coursework.

Regrets: Thankfully few. My daughter was strongly advised to put a housing deposit down on a waitlist school as soon as possible and prior to May 1st. Most schools will refund that money prior to May 1st in any event. But two issues: while most issue a refund, some would not, and don’t let the latter sucker you into an early deposit.

Early Decision is an option for some programs. While not pursuing this option is not an after-the-fact regret, it’s something I would more strongly advise an applicant to consider if we were doing it all over again, and if one of your applicant’s top contenders offers it and you know you would accept that offer.

Control the stress level: I won’t lie, it was an emotional rollercoaster, with highs and lows, nailbiter until the end, unexpected turns, unnerving weeks increasingly on edge and thrilling steep rides. But we controlled the stress level by recounting Richard Niebuhr’s serenity prayer, focusing on what she loves (auditioning and performing) and her attempting not to fall in love with a particular program until an offer was in hand. That’s what worked for us.

Inside scoop: Once offers are received, get the lowdown and perspective of the parents and students who are recent graduates and currently attending these programs. I found there was a huge difference between what these people had to say and those not in the programs, even from those making college admissions their vocation. Those on the outside had difficulty providing substance, proper context and / or even accuracy.

Some programs facilitated visiting facilities and having face-to-face and / or virtual observation of classes, while other programs did not. While frustrating, we came to appreciate that those programs not integrating prospective students were adhering to their focus on the current student body. It wasn’t just lip service; they walked the walk. As a result, in some cases my daughter interacted with recently-graduated, current and prospective students to arrive at opinions concerning programs and what might be a better fit for her.

The future: It will be interesting to see the long-term impact on universities as a result of COVID-19. Life could largely revert to how it was before, but perhaps universities will make a number of changes. The one thing that is interesting about theater is that it’s hard to recreate the same connection when it’s not in person; at least in my view, but perhaps others feel differently.

Before I forget… the “stats:”

Programs Applied to: 36

Prescreens: 21 of 25 passed

Schools that showed themselves in a very positive light: Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, Indiana, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Michigan, Muhlenberg, New York University (NYU), University of Southern California (USC), Western Connecticut, Western Michigan, and Wright State.

Artistically accepted to: 8

Waitlisted at: 6

Withdrew from: 7

Rejected artistically from: everyone else

Coach: Yes

Summer programs: One in 2019; nothing in 2020 (the “COVID” summer)

Last thoughts: Buckle up, and godspeed on your journey

Final decision: In the end, she was primarily deciding between NYU Tisch School of the Arts and USC School of Dramatic Arts. Even though the programs are different, she felt she would thrive at either of them. In the end, selecting NYU over USC had more to do with what NYU offered (as opposed to what USC did not offer). What she liked about NYU Tisch:

  • The quality of acting, singing, dance and storytelling training offered (which she found at USC too)

  • Ten different professional theatre studio offerings at NYU; a lot to grow from and benefit from

  • 16% of the coursework are electives (that’s more than most – if not all – BFA and BM programs) and the number of electives to choose from

  • In addition to the electives, the professional training in junior and senior years is based on whichever route the student is interested in pursuing (understanding that an audition is required in some cases). She was intrigued by what Tisch students have been able to achieve in four years and the program’s overall flexibility for every student in the program.

  • Large base of full-time drama faculty (38), the extent of their commitment to the students and the degree to which students felt they have a close relationship with the faculty; moreover, the diverse points of view adds value to the program.

  • The extent of positive reviews from recent graduates and current students; we couldn’t find anyone not giving a rave review of their education, artistic growth and overall experience

  • Dance and music theory training leveled from the beginning (enhancing the likelihood you’ll start off at a well-adjusted level)

  • The main issue raised by families, the need for an additional performance space, they felt was being addressed by this new facility under construction.

While I was concerned about administration being tone deaf and unresponsive, we couldn’t find one family that felt that was the case; in fact, they felt the exact opposite.

As this trip ends, I do have two questions that were never answered. Perhaps some of you have answers.

  1. Why do college athletic recruiters seek as much footage as possible of prospective recruits they’re interested in, while footage for MT performers isn’t generally sought? (I don’t think it’s about “fairness” because 99% of programs take into account whether an applicant needs financial aid or not. It’s probably about lack of time or resources on their end but welcome other insights.)

  2. Why is so much emphasis placed on MT performers to “be themselves” whereas performers are usually asked to transform into someone they’re not, and to do it so well, that their performance is deemed authentic and captivating?

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@Twelfthman you were too humble in the begining, your summary has TONS of valuable information presented in your own unique and authentic way. I was happy to be a resource to you throughout your journey and couldnt be happier for you & your talented daughter. you had many great choices and picked a great one in the end…CONGRATS!! time for that celebratory drink!! you guys didnt just make it, you succeeded in grand fashion!! & while your daughters talent certainly was the ultimate deciding factor - dont doubt for a second that you played a huge role in her successful outcome in the end.

your 2 questions are great, 1) likely resources as you noted, even the best MT programs dont have the funding that top Athletic programs have…#2 I truly don’t know- maybe never will

Happy for you guys!!

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Thank you @Twelfthman for this amazing recap and congrats on NYU Tisch!

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