Importance of rigorous academic classes?

<p>I am currently a high school sophomore. I wanted to ask all of you out there how important it is to be taking rigrous classes for acceptance into MT programs. The only reason I ask is that I'm supposed to take all honors and one AP class (music theory) next year. I was thinking about dropping some of the honor level classes down to regular level but I am not sure yet. I think it would be much more useful to be working on my singing, dancing, and acting skills as opposed to doing homework all the time. I already have a great GPA and dropping one or two honors classes couldn't hurt it that much. Do any of you have any thoughts on my situation?</p>

<p>I have no idea which colleges you might hope to applly to and you likely don't yet either as you are in tenth grade. But the decisions you make now about your high school courses, can possibly close off some college options and my advice is to take the most rigorous curriculum you can handle and leave the door open for a stronger academic application and chances at more MT colleges. Some MT colleges have easier academic odds than others. </p>

<p>The reason you give for not taking all Honors classes is that you want more time to sing, dance, and act and less homework. You likely aren't going to like what I have to say about this, but it is possible to take the most rigorous courses (which for many, include several AP classes on top of Honors classes) AND sing, act and dance. It should not be an either/or proposition. The strongest applicants have excelled both in academics and in singing, acting, and dancing. My kid took the most rigorous courses at her HS and then some (accelerated, etc.) She juggled that with extensive activities in musical theater. Please be aware that when colleges review your academic application, they definitely examine the rigor of your course load within the context of what your high school offers. Sure, you can more easily obtain a higher GPA with easier courses but colleges would prefer to see a strong GPA with more challenging courses. Just saying.</p>

<p>SoozieVT knows her stuff! Just coming off the whole college audition ride with D, I can't stress enough the importance of a rigorous curriculum, excellent grades AND standardized test scores when it comes to scholarship opportunities. Great singing, dancing and acting skills will help you get through the audition process but your grades and test scores may make it possible for you to actually afford the colleges you are accepted to! It is not an easy task but nothing that is worth it ever comes easy!! Good luck and keep up those grades and take those AP classes.</p>

<p>Rigorous courses are important, and can be done. Daughter just finished senior year w/5 APs, one honors course, and doing 9 out-of-town auditions throughout the year. She dances 5 nights a week, does voice, piano and acting, and was the lead in both the fall play and spring musical this year. How??? Astoundingly organized, and really took advantage of every moment. She had a study hall in the fall during a period when the auditorium was unused, and got permission to use the space for practicing for auditions. She talked to all her teachers before the audition tour started, and worked very hard to get as much work ahead of time (or to do in airports, etc) while we travelled for auditions.</p>

<p>It was a wonderful thing not to have to sweat the academic acceptances to the schools she was considering, she'll have over a semester of AP credits to be able to play with as she's working on her college schedule, and (this is the huge one) she was able to be invited to compete for academic scholarships, including the ones she won that are going to send her to college as a BFA MT fully scholarshipped. </p>

<p>Did she have some late nights? You'd better believe it. Some tears along the way? Ditto. But being forced to be on task during school and evenings kept her doing well -- she HAD to get the work done, so she did.</p>

<p>It's funny -- I tried to talk her out of AP Latin this year (what theatre kid needs 5 years of Latin!?!?) but she insisted on it, and did really well. Tonight she's at a celebration dinner with the AP Latin "survivers." Tried to convince her to not do the fall play (she had 5 college auditions in the fall) but she really wanted a chance to have fun, too...and it was a great thing for her. The main thing is that she didn't close any doors -- we have a performing arts h.s. in our community, but chose to send her to the local public h.s., because we didn't want to pigeonhole her into "I am only a performer" thinking. What if she decided she wanted to be a nuclear physicist? (Very small chance of that!) By the same token, wanted her to be able to do anything in college (and life) she wants to -- and being fully academically prepared is important, no matter what college and career choices you make. (And those can change over time...)</p>

<p>Along the audition tour, she fielded a few interesting questions and remarks -- at one school, she was asked right out, "With an ACT score of XX, why are you going into theatre?" Another school told her "a smart actor is an excellent actor". And it's true -- exercise your brain, and most importantly, your organization skills and pro-active skills in letting teachers and directors know what's going on... </p>

<p>You can do it, and it will be good. Organize! Sleep when you can...and make sure your friends understand that you're working on life here...and they may have to take a number (the real ones will!!)</p>

<p><em>claps to poster above</em></p>

<p>My recommendation would also be to take the most rigorous academic schedule that you are capable of handling. At a great many colleges and universities that house BFA MT programs (let alone BA programs), a student must meet the same academic criteria for admission as any other applicant to a different major. The more rigorous your high school curriculum, the more competitive you will be and the greater your range of options when the time comes to apply to schools. Even at BFA programs where the academic criteria are relaxed for MT students, you will be surprised at the number of high academic achievers who apply and at the role h.s. academics play in scholarship opportunities.</p>

<p>Moreover, taking the most academically demanding h.s. curriculum that you are capable of will force you to develop focus, efficiency, time management skills and a work ethic that are critical to successfully handling the demands of a BFA in MT. My daughter was an all honors and AP student throughout high school and had some combination of dance classes, voice lessons, rehearsals and performances virtually everyday after school. Plus she worked for an entertainment company on the weekends and hit the gym for an hour 5 days a week. As a freshman MT student in a BFA program, she frequently commented that that the rigor of her h.s. curriculum combined with her h.s. extracurriculars gave her essential skill sets without which she would have felt overwhelmed by the demands of a BFA. As it was, she still felt that her freshman year (and years after) required her to work harder and apply focus and time management skills that exceeded anything ever required of her during high school. </p>

<p>So don't cut back on the academics simply because you desire to do so out of convenience of time allocation. Do so only if you need to within the limits of the academic demands that you are capable of handling.</p>

<p>Echoing mommafrog and MichaelNKat's excellent posts....I cannot agree more. This was how it was for my D too. She took the most rigorous courses and also had independent studies and accelerated beyond grade level. She also graduated HS in three years (and still went up to Calculus and French V). All the while, her schedule outside of class was intense. She was in extracurriculars every afternoon, every night and all weekend (not to mention college auditions and applications in the final year of HS). It is not like she chose between homework and getting to act, sing, and dance like the OP is talking about. She did all these things. Also, given where we live, she had to travel great distances daily to do all these things. Trying to remember all the non-academic things she did.....chorus, jazz band (piano and vocalist), All States, school musical, adult musicals in the region, private voice lessons, private piano lessons, private guitar lessons, six dance classes per week, select jazz dance repertory troupe, select tap dance troupe, monologue coaching (final year only), created/wrote/directed/choreographed original musical revue shows at her school, and so on. It was a very chockfull life in HS in addition to rigorous academics and high grades. Took the SATs twice in tenth grade, plus SAT Subject Tests and did very well (put in practice time first). All the college auditions were on campus, no Unifieds (so more trips). </p>

<p>But as others wrote, this meant she was very good at time management. When she got to her BFA program, it was even more intense and so she was prepared to handle all that it entailed. (I think colleges will examine what you handled in HS and how you handled it......did you challenge yourself.....were you involved.....did you achieve.....did you lead.....did you excel at academics all the while, etc.) Now, my kid graduated her BFA program two years ago. Her life since graduation day is JUST as busy as it was when she was going to her BFA program. She creates homework for herself and projects to take on and tackle. Even when she visits us twice a year at home, she says she has to work and accomplish things. </p>

<p>So, don't think that challenging academics are not important because even if you never take math or science or foreign language in college, for example (my kid didn't take any of these, though did have liberal arts at her college.....NYU), it is that kind of background and rigor and time management that will give you the qualities you need to succeed in a BFA which is a rigorous program and frankly, in this field as a career. </p>

<p>Also, others mentioned that strong academics, besides helping your chances of being admitted or opening up more college options (some who haven't done well academically are not viable candidates for some of these BFA programs).....they can set you up to be awarded scholarships. My kid got good scholarships at many BFA programs, including quite a substantial one at the school she attended (and she was awarded more scholarships from them in her senior year there in addition to the original four year scholarship). They even nominated her for a national scholarship when she graduated college that she won and that involved money AFTER graduation. She also won local scholarships at high school graduation. Also, some colleges have "scholar" or "honors" type programs and my D also got selected when she was admitted to her college to be a "Scholar" and this special program had many perks including two free trips, one of which was to Brazil. So, being a great student can pay off in other ways!! </p>

<p>Again, there are gonna be students in the applicant pool such as mommafrog, Michael, and I just described with our own kids as examples, who not only can sing, dance, and act and fit that in during their HS years, but also challenged themselves with rigorous courses (the most demanding their school offered) and got great grades and test scores. When admissions to BFA programs is as fierce as it is currently, often those with the most options are those who both audition well (can sing, dance, act) AND are very strong academic candidates. I work with many students who apply to MT programs and while some students with not so great academic records often can get into some programs, it is the kids who have strong academics AND artistic talent who seem to land the most options or can apply to almost any program and have a chance. There is a clear difference in both their college search / list building and eventual outcomes. You will benefit if you don't cut back on academics because it is easier to fit in MT activities when there are LOTS of kids who are doing all they can in both areas. So, please know such candidates will be your "competition" for admissions.</p>

<p>I have been lurking here for over a year, but this is my first post. I found CC when I was looking for a summer camp for my rising 8th grader. I occasionally peruse the topics that discuss what my S will need for HS or summer training. Whenever this topic of academic rigor comes up I begin to panic. My S is VERY academically challenged and has a very hard time pulling a B/C average. Performing has been a saving grace for him because he is able to excel and receive lots of accolades that he has not received academically since elementary school (he went from an A student in elementary to a D student in middle school). In planning his HS schedule, he was scheduled for regular classes. What options will he have if colleges are looking for academic rigor? Will a child with a learning disability (recently diagnosed) have a real chance at conservatory style schools or will he be out placed by academically rigorous students (assuming talent is equal)?</p>

<p>When advising someone to take rigorous high school courses, it is with the added caveat that one should take courses they can handle. So, if your son is in the regular track (not Honors or AP) and is struggling getting B's and C's, then he likely can't handle more rigorous courses. However, grades are important and so make sure he is not too busy with other things that are taking away from his academics. (the OP of this thread was considering not taking Honors cause it was easier and less work which is a different story than not being able to do Honors level work) I have seen some students in my line of work who say, "I don't get good grades because I am busy with my theater activities" and I find that to be a poor excuse when many students are just as busy with theater activities but also keep up with their schoolwork.</p>

<p>That said, I have worked with many kids with learning disabilities, as well as kids with poor academic records and who also didn't take any challenging classes and took the bare min. classes to graduate high school. These kids still went onto college for MT but their college list options were more limited. It is not like every MT school is an available option and they needed to apply to schools where they realistically stood a chance academically of being accepted. One mistake that I see on CC all the time on this MT Forum is people asking where they should go to college for MT as if just picking schools that offer MT was all there was to creating a college list. A college list MUST be appropriate for that individual student in both academic and artistic range. One kid's college list is not appropriate for another. Make sure when your kid does create a college list, that the academic range for that school is in the ballpark for your son's academic profile. </p>

<p>It sounds like for your son, Honors classes may not be a good option but what he really needs to do in that case is to get much better grades than he is getting now. Focus on academic accommodations and tutoring and make this as important if not more important than his artistic training. Both are important in college admissions. I'm glad he was recently diagnosed and so now work with his school on a solid academic plan for the coming years so he can succeed in school.</p>

<p>It has been a journey, followed by a sigh of relief with the diagnosis. We have recently found tutoring that is working for him and hoping for more success in HS. We have found that with the absence of performing and training he is quite miserable and his B/C's slip to D/F's. We walk a very fine line in balancing his school/arts, but realize the balance is necessary for him to function. When his grades first began to slip, I pulled all his out of school EC’s thinking he needed to focus more. I can't even describe the nightmare that ensued. His teachers said he was lazy and not focusing, so I THOUGHT we were making good decisions. We now know better, so we do better...</p>

<p>We have defined what he will be allowed to participate in next year and what grades are required to keep those EC's. He realizes that education is the most important thing in this family. We will continue to provide him with support and pray that he will have worked toward having options when that time comes.</p>

<p>One question: I understand the rigor needed for certain schools. My curiosity is with less rigorous, conservatory schools. If they are still looking for academic rigor, will an A/B or B/C student, without rigor but with equal talent be a competitor?</p>

<p>Academics are really important as we found out the hard way. My son was accepted by one of his top choices for MT, but was rejected academically by admissions, and that admissions weren't interested in how much the MT department wanted him. He learned that not being a serious student has its consequences.</p>

<p>IfYouOnlyKnew,
My response is still the same but maybe I wasn't that clear. There will be schools that will accept students with lower range academic profiles. However, keep in mind that in a competitive process, it can only help to be strong academically in addition to artistically, even at those schools. But as I wrote earlier, I have worked with students who had what I would consider very low academic profiles.....no rigor of courses (the bare min. basics to graduate), poor grades and GPAs, and very low test scores....who still got into some MT programs but it was imperative that they applied to MT programs at schools that have a lower academic standard for admission. I can't say that your son with a low academic profile will be competitive for ANY MT school. He will need to find colleges that have easier academic standards for admissions (less selective) and higher acceptance rates to the university itself (not talking of the BFA program). Now, even those schools like seeing academically strong students but would consider lower academic profile students, whereas some BFA in MT colleges have a much higher academic standard of admission and are unlikely to consider your son. </p>

<p>I hate to name colleges because somebody will be offended, but in terms of academic selectivity......here is an example:</p>

<p>Very selective academically: NYU/Tisch, U of Michigan, UCLA
Pretty selective academically: Emerson, Penn State, U of Miami, Elon, Syracuse
Less selective academically: Marymount Manhattan, Hartt, CCM, Pace, Roosevelt, UArts, BOCO, Coastal Caroline, Montclair State</p>

<p>So, the answer to your question is if your son hasn't taken a rigorous class load, has below average grades and GPA, has a class rank in the lower half of his HS class, has below average SATs........he won't be competitive for SOME MT schools but he will stand a chance at certain ones and should focus his apps in that direction.</p>

<p>Thank you Soozie,</p>

<p>I understand completely what you are saying as it relates to college selectively, I did not clearly state that my question was about less academically selective schools. My apologies...</p>

<p>I did get the answer I was looking for in your post. I have experience mentoring first generation college students from high school to college; unfortunately, my S has a problem that I have not encountered before. Most of these students are A/B students, so this is unchartered water for me. I must agree, regardless of class level, taking the bare minimum is NEVER acceptable. I recently had an A student with bare minimum classes and no testing in junior year. I've found that some students are not being given quality advice at the guidance level (due to overload of kids), which removes lots of options from their plate. I applaud you for being able to find choices for these students.</p>

<p>Thanks again for clarifying.</p>

<p>As mentioned, at less academically selective colleges, your son stands his best chance, though even those schools wish to attract very good students if they can get them (and they often can get them because their MT programs are well regarded). </p>

<p>I'd say that the 3 lowest academic profile students I have worked with....two ended up at Roosevelt and one at Pace. I don't know enough about your son and after all, he hasn't even gone to HS yet. Impress upon him the importance of academics because I have met kids in senior year who regret that they closed some doors for themselves. But if he can achieve at least near average or so, there will be MT programs that will take him in terms of academics.</p>

<p>"Impress upon him the importance of academics because I have met kids in senior year who regret that they closed some doors for themselves.”</p>

<p>^^^^^^^This is my biggest concern. Thank you for sharing!</p>

<p>Thank you all for your comments. I really had no idea that academics were THAT important. I mean, I'm in pretty good shape now, but after reading those comments, I realize that I must keep trying hard in school and maintain my great GPA. Just one specific question for anyone who wants to answer: Next year I have to take US history and I can't decide whether to take the AP level American history or another class with the name of American Studies that could get me college credit (but is not AP). The American studies one focuses more on literature, poetry, art, music etc and The AP level class is your typical, rigorous history class. I think that the American Studies would be much more fun and useful for me, since I want to major in musical theatre. But the AP level class might look a little better on my transcript (even though American Studies is technically a college class). Which class do you I should take?</p>

<p>Not sure about your school system, but in ours you get an extra GPA point for AP classes. This makes it well worth it to take every AP class that you can (as long as you do well). Dual credit classes get you those college hours but if you don't get the extra GPA point, then I would take the AP class (with AP you also have a shot at college hours if you can pass the AP exam). Also, I have heard 2nd hand (so this may be wrong) that if you wrack up too many dual credit hours it actually hurts some scholarship opportunities (may only apply to state schools and some states) - you may want to check into this if you plan on taking a lot of dual credit courses and applying for state school scholarships.</p>

<p>For another point of reference, my D is headed to a performing arts high school next year and in her orientation session last week they noted that most of the kids take many AP classes. In fact, some required upper level classes (English IV, etc.) are offered as AP only (no "regular" classes). As a Freshman, she (and I think almost all of her classmates) are taking nothing but Pre-AP classes (you get an extra grade point for those as well in our system). So these kids are being pushed really hard into rigorous academics from the start as well. The counselor said that they push hard on AP classes in order to maximize everyone's scholarship money and acceptance opportunities (and the school proudly quotes literally millions of dollars in scholarship money obtained by the graduating class of 150 every year). At the orientation they stressed repeatedly that Performing Arts is an incredibly competitive area and academics are really important if you plan to "follow your art" in college.</p>

<p>By the way, what did all the "Fame" kids do right off the bat at their PA orientation? - they had to take an Algebra test for placement!</p>

<p>I think taking the alternate US History class sounds amazing and definitely would be impressive. Colleges are looking for how you took advantage of what your high school offers and this is a class worth taking advantage of! Just MHO.</p>

<p>Do not be fooled though, having a solid average I.E. basically anything over 3.6 will be fine for almost every school and most everything rides on your audition.</p>

<p>thisiismegan, for artistics acceptance, I will definitely agree with you -- The audition is the thing. A solid 3.6 or higher and good test scores should definitely make a student fit within the academic requirements to be admissable to most schools, and may unlock some merit dollars from the academic side. Remember, some schools pre-screen before you are granted an audition, and there are stories of students artisically accepted to a school, but denied admission because they were not academically admissable. However, college admissions in general being so competitive, and the uptick in MT auditions leads me to believe that if you can do anything to make your application stand out -- go for those classes with "teeth". And then prepare like mad for your audition, take lots of dance and voice and acting, build your resume...and cross your fingers!</p>