Preparing to Apply - Information for H.S. Juniors and Seniors

<p>Because of the time commitment, complexities, extraordinary competitiveness and stresses of applying to MT programs, I thought it might be of use to have a thread for suggestions for those not yet involved in the application process or just getting ready to seriously think about applications. Let me kick it off with the following thoughts.</p>

<li>One of the most critical keys to an acceptance is having a well thought out list of schools to which to apply. You are talking about an area of study where the admissions rate for audition based BFA programs ranges from 3 -9% of applicants. Just based on the numbers, the odds of acceptance at any 1 school are very, very tough. Therefore it is essential that the list of schools to which you apply be diverse. It should be comprised of small programs, larger programs, programs where academics are a factor and programs where they are not. Programs that draw a large number of applicants from a national pool and programs that are more regional. Research the heck out of the schools using their websites, talking to current students on this Board and by visiting to understand the focus and balance of the program and get a handle on whether it seems to be a good match.</li>

<p>One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is to limit your schools to those that have a “reputation” of being a “top school”. There is a big disconnect between the “public” perception of which schools are the “top” and the reality that excellent training resulting in accomplished performers is available from dozens of schools that do not share a “public image” of being a “top” school. If you limit your applications to only the “top” schools and avoid those that are excellent but inaccurately and broadly brushed with the misnomer of “second tier”, your odds of disappointment at the end of the process are greatly increased.</p>

<p>There is no such thing as an audition based “safety” school. The competition for each and every audition based program is intense. It is important to have on your kist 1 or 2 non-audition BA programs where the admission criteria are the same as for any liberal arts student. There are many BA programs out there that offer very strong theatre performance training and MT opportunities. Find a couple with which you are a strong academic match. These are your “safeties”.</p>

<p>Finally, as you narrow down the list of schools to which you apply, keep in mind that a year after graduation, no one is going to care about the school name on your degree. All that will matter is what you bring to an audition. Look at the Playbills for shows across the country and you will see a wide diversity of schools represented - “top” schools, “second tier” schools, BFA’s, BA’s. More important than the name of the school or whether it is a BFA or BA is what you invested of yourself in the learning process.</p>

<li><p>If at all possible, use an experienced vocal coach/teacher to assist you in preparing songs for your auditions. Start this process now. It takes time to find the right songs and for your voice and singing style to grow and develop. If you have an acting coach available in your area make arrangements to work on your monologues late summer early fall before your senior year but don’t delay looking for monologues. Start reading plays now to get a sense of what types of monologues fit you. You should have a pretty good idea of what monologues you will use by mid-summer before your senior year. The reality is that most applicants are using vocal and acting coaches. The failure to similarly so do could put you at a competitive disadvantage.</p></li>
<li><p>If at all possible, attend a MT summer program at a school that offers a MT BFA. It is a great opportunity for training and learning. It also can give you a sense of whether this is really what you want to do in college. Finally, it gives you an opportunity to work with other talented students from around the country and can give you perspective of how you fit into the mix.</p></li>
<li><p>Finally, as stressful as the process can be, remember it’s all about the passion you have for performing and the joy it brings you. Remember to have fun and enjoy the experiences you will have. Try to keep balance in your life and give yourself time to pursue other interests and activities. For parents, resist the compulsion to become hyper-invested in this process. Your kids will need you as their “safe harbors” to come to when they are emotionally or physically exhausted. Help them to maintain their sense of balance, perspective and optimism and to recharge their batteries. This process will provide wonderful opportunities to spend some precious moments with your kids as you share their dreams, aspirations and fears.</p></li>

<p>This post is long enough. I’m going to paste in the next post an old post I put up talking about time tables for the application process.</p>

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<p>As indicated, here is my earlier post about time tables. Applying to an audition based program is exponentially more time consuming and complicated than the "normal" college app process. Many people feel overwhelmed by the logistics. The key is to start early and have a timetable that is practical and spreads things out. </p>

<p>All of which leads me back to the comments made by earlier posters about starting the process early. In my opinion, this can't be emphasized enough. In my daughter's case, this is the schedule we used:
1. Late summer and fall of Jr year - SAT prep. Identify long list of potential schools and set up testing schedules (SAT's, SAT II's) based on schools' requirements. In my D's case, just SAT's were required and SAT's were taken November and December of Jr year to get them out of the way.
2. Winter of Jr year, identify probable short list of schools for purposes of setting up visitations for the spring.
3. If you can afford the time and expense, visit the probable "short list" in the late winter and spring of the Jr year. This enabled my D to evaluate whether the school was a place she could envision herself living for 4 years, meet with the drama department to get a sense of "fit" and obtain insight into what they look for in a student and at auditions. As a result of the visits, she was able to come up with her definitive short list.
4. May - June of Jr year, talk to teachers about recommendations. Get their committment early to avoid teachers feeling over committed and potentially less inclined to agree if asked after the start of the Sr year. Find out how you can get the recommendations to them before the start of the school year so that they can do them in a more relaxed (and hopefully thorough) manner before the Sr year crush.
5. Ok, here's the tough part for parents. Applications for the upcoming cycle start to come out in July. Do everything you can to encourage your kid to have the applications completed and sent out by the middle of September. Your kids may complain vociferously that it is the summer and they want to "chill" but they will thank you profusely come the fall and winter of Sr year when they are totally immersed in preparing for and attending auditions and don't have to worry about their applications. During the summer, your kid should also be searching for suitable audition materials.
6. Get recommendation forms into the hands of teachers and High School forms into the hands of the guidance counselor as early as possible. In my D's case, this was taken care of 2 weeks before the start of school with the result that all HS materials and recommendations were out by September 15th. This beats the fall crush and can avoid delays or procrastination by teachers and GC's. Also, things get lost by colleges and this gives your kid plenty of time to get second copies sent if necessary. The number of schools that "never received" parts of my D's application materials, thereby requiring second mailings, was startling.
7. As early as possible, schedule audition dates. You don't want to get closed out of a date you prefer. Some schools require that applications be in before auditions can be scheduled. In my daughter's case, we scheduled her auditions by the first week in October which enabled her to get the sequencing she wanted and specific dates and times that worked best for her.
8. December through February of Sr year - auditions. My D did not apply ED anywhere so this worked for her. Schools with rolling admissions were scheduled earlier than the others. This also enabled her to focus on audition prep without interruption from Sept to December.</p>

<p>As may be obvious, I was a bit nutty about micromanaging the logistics of my D's application process. Our kids, however, have an application process that requires exponentially more time and effort than a traditional academic application. At the same time, they still must attend to their high school class work and responsibilities. Attenuating stress by planning ahead is so important to enabling our kids to focus on the critical audition process. By creating a timeline and sticking to it, the process can be spread out so as to alleviate time pressures and distractions that can make the audition process even more stressful than it inherently is. Good luck to all of you. You are about to embark on an exciting journey with your kid. It will be a real roller coaster of a ride but worth ever moment of it that you share with your son or daughter.</p>

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<p>MichaelNKat and Class of 2009/10</p>

<p>Your thread caught my eye primarily because of the word "preparing." For those entering their senior year and others reapplying your notes are excellent. </p>

<p>I hope I won't sound pessimistic, but I also think it's a benefit for those students now to read the thread about "rejections." This is where more reality seems to come through in some very eloquent remarks from students, family, etc. It's tough to hear the disappointment in some of these notes, but very much the nature of the beast of this business. Our family knows that it just makes that final reward (acceptance, role, summer stock job, etc, even if it's only 1) that much sweeter. And we do believe it comes in some way to everyone who works hard enough for it, the reward just sometimes shows up in a form we don't recognize at first.</p>

<p>Absolutely, try to find some adult who can assist you proactively in this process. This is often someone more than a guidance counselor or teacher. Some kids may not have parents as active as others, but can seek out alums of their schools, local theatre company contacts, etc. Don't be shy about asking for help if you are also willing to put out the organizational and audition prep effort on your own end. Make use of this forum for its wealth of information, private emailing, etc. Plenty of students, parents, and coaches are here to help where they can.</p>

<p>Wishing all of you well in your search!</p>

<p>This is great! I'm printing out your suggestions and putting them in the file. This time last year I was stalking the mail carrier, waiting with my son for word from Tisch (he was waitlisted for acting and ultimately chose not to go the BFA route). Now my D is a sophomore in HS and I know so much more than I did last time around. In fact, we're beginning our college visits next week, so that we can have a saner, more memorable experience. My S and I visited 8 schools in the span of about 2 weeks in November of senior year, taking a whole week out of school to do it. He was always too busy with shows to do visits earlier, so as soon as my D decided not to audition for an April show, I booked our trip. Thanks again for taking the time to post such detailed recommendations.</p>

<p>Since this thread is up and my D now fits in this time frame, I have some specific questions that I hope you all can help with.
What kinds of questions should my D be thinking about to determine what colleges and then MT programs might be a "fit"? </p>

<p>Second, how do you find an academic "fit"? D is a honors student at a not too great public school, but saying that many of the students do go on to top schools. She did better on her PSATs and PLAN (practice ACT) tests than we would have thought. Both putting her at about the 85%ile. We don't know what kinds of schools a similar performance would eliminate so not to bother with.</p>

<p>Also, and this may be difficult to answer - does race matter? D is AA coming from an urban public. WIthin our state this opens up lots of money for her, but do these demographics translate to private or out-of-state publics? (I know this is a touchy questions but cost does matter).</p>

<p>Finally, and I know this has been addressed before, but how do you figure out "type"? Ds non-dancing roles have included Sally Brown in Charlie Brown and Dori in School House Rock Live, Silly Girl in B&B ... She seems to get he typically ditzy girl parts but she does NOT look these.</p>

<p>ANy suggestion for how to help her figure some of these things out?</p>

<p>i'm class of '08 and since i didn't get into any of the schools i auditioned for. i'm going to columbia college for a year as a BFA MT major, but will be re-applying for other schools next year</p>

<p>Keepingcalm: Just wanted to address the "type" issue. It is sometimes hard to understand what "type" you are if you have only done high school or youth productions. For example, an 18-year-old may be cast as Dolly Levi in a high school production, but it's very unlikely that she would be cast that way in an adult, professional production of Hello Dolly.</p>

<p>To determine your "type", focus first on the physical. Age, race, attractiveness (is that a real word?) and body size play a big part. Certainly, the roles your D has played are appropriate for her age -- and most roles are quite age-specific. Some roles are ethnic-specific, some are not. If she is tiny, her type would be different than if she is very tall or overweight. Unfair or not, a very tall or overweight girl is unlikely to be cast in romantic leads. (Likewise for a very short or overweight boy.) These body types are more likely to be thought of as "best friend" or "comedy character" types.</p>

<p>Personality doesn't have as much to do with it as you might think. If she is being cast in "ditsy" roles, and she is NOT ditsy in real life, that simply means that she is a good actress and can be convincing in that type of character. Some people have a flair for comedy, and some are better at portraying serious characters. </p>

<p>These are all things you should consider in determining your D's type. It's an important issue. I am working with a female student right now who is 5'11". She's very prettyand has a lovely, legit soprano voice. She has had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she doesn't often get cast in romantic ingenue roles -- because she's usually taller than the young men.</p>

<p>Of course, there are always exceptions to every "type"-casting. But sometimes young people need a little guidance in seeing themselves as others do, so that they understand why they don't always get the roles they would like.</p>

<p>Keepingcalm, I'll try to address your questions in sequence:</p>

<li><p>Fit of school - I've pasted at the end of this post the MT questions we asked when my D was looking at schools. There are probably additional questions I would ask now, but these should be a good start. There's also a lot of info to be gleaned from school websites including the actual curricula which can help you determine if the balance of acting/voice/dance is what you are looking for.</p></li>
<li><p>Academic fit - I view this as a 2 part question: 1) Do you meet the criteria for admissions 2) Are the academics what you are looking for. As to the first, most schools post the academic profile for their most recent freshman class so you can see how you stack up. Keep in mind, however, that for audition based MT programs, there is a broad range of both the academic credentials required of MT applicants and also the weight given to academics for purposes of admissions. Some schools expect that MT applicants will meet the same academic requirements as regular liberal arts students, some relax the academic thresholds for audition based programs and some don't give much consideration to academics at all. It's important to ask this type of question at each school. As to the second, look closely at the required curricula and room for electives at each school. There will also be a significant difference between BA programs and BFA's with the latter generally affording students much less time for classes outside of the department.</p></li>
<li><p>If you are asking about race/demographics and need based financial assistance, I don't think there is any difference between MT programs and the school at large of which they are a part. I would investigate the school's history and reputation for financial aid; I think that what you find out will be applicable regardless of program.</p></li>
<li><p>As to type, all I can suggest is that your D come into the audition process as prepared as possible in all 3 aspects of MT - acting, singing and dance. Beyond that, there is no way to predict if a school is looking for a type, trying to "cast" a freshman class or what type they are looking for. You could ask schools whether they try put together a diverse mix and see what kind of answer you get.</p></li>

<p>Ok, here are the questions we asked:</p>

<p>Musical Theatre Program Questions</p>

<li><p>Type of program? Conservatory v. Liberal Arts – BFA/BA – Differences – Focus on Professional Training?</p></li>
<li><p>Curriculum – When does focus on Theatre/MT start? L.A. component. Is MT separate major with distinct curriculum or is it a certificate/concentration? Individual design of curriculum incl individual voice or instrument. Balance of Acting, Voice and Dance?</p></li>
<li><p>Opportunity to Dual Major or Minor in related area ? - T.V./Broadcasting, Communications, Theatre Management </p></li>
<li><p>Admission Requirements incl Audition Requirements – Any requirement to reaudition after accepted and in program. What happens if based on reaudition student is told can’t stay in MT program?</p></li>
<li><p>Number of students in the MT program, class size, number of faculty, are faculty members full time, part time, working professionals? Number and size of studios and theatres?</p></li>
<li><p>Performance Opportunities - incl for Freshmen and Sophmores. Number of shows and musicals mounted each year. Any differences based on whether in BFA or BA program?</p></li>
<li><p>Typical Student Day – Class schedule, rehearsal and other related obligations.</p></li>
<li><p>Career Development Opportunities – employment and internships (summer and during school year), Senior Showcase and other exposure opportunities, networking opportunities with professionals in the field of theatre, T.V., Broadcasting, etc</p></li>

<p>Thank you.</p>

<p>So much.</p>

<p>onstage and MichaelNKat
Thank you so much. I guess I only worry about Type in terms of selecting material but if she doesn't like the material she just doesn't do it, so maybe it doesn't matter that much. Also she sees herself as a dancer who sings, with ensemble or smaller featured parts, not a lead. She is built to dance at 5'7", long legs and years of classical training with enough other dance to be adaptable.</p>

<p>As to school fit, I think we are still a step behind selecting programs and at the thinking about different kinds of institutions. the only kinds of Universities she really knows are large publics since that is where I work. So she tends to think of anything under 20,000 students as too small. I was wondering if there are questions to ask her, or ways to help her think about the range of universities and colleges.</p>

<p>She will be in NYC all summer so maybe we can spend time looking at universities and programs there.
I will print out the questions above to get her started though, maybe that will encourage her to think more completely.</p>

<p>Keepingcalm: As your daughter digs into exploring her options and schools, she may start to rethink the size issue. I would encourage her to do so simply because looking at schools that are only 20,000 students or larger will eliminate many, many fine programs that are at smaller institutions. To reiterate an earlier point, the degree of competitiveness for admissions to audition based BFA programs is such that in my view it would be imprudent to eliminate all smaller schools on general principle of "size". </p>

<p>Furthermore, in practical terms most BFA MT programs exist as a microcosm within any school, regardless of school size. Even the largest of MT programs are relatively small in size compared to other majors and departments. Moreover, the time commitments required of a BFA MT program within the the structure of a very focused and often regimented curriculum often leave little time for involvement in activities outside of the department.</p>

<p>To illustrate, my daughter attends University of the Arts, a small arts university in Philadelphia with less than 3000 students. The MT freshman class has 24 students. My daughter spends 26 hours a week in classes this semester, not counting rehearsals, studio practicing, serving as crew and homework. The MT curriculum provides for 8 electives outside of the department over 4 years. Maybe my daughter could squeeze in a couple more in her junior or senior years, maybe not. In contrast, if memory serves me right, Onstage's son (and I mention Onstage only because onstage is another poster who has responded to you - Onstage, if i get any of this wrong, please correct me) attends Syracuse University, a full blown University with over 15,000 undergrads in every conceivable major. The freshman MT class at Syracuse is about 35 students, the curriculum is again very structured, providing for 8 electives from outside the department. MT students at Syracuse also spend hours involved with MT related endeavors outside of the classroom. My point is that as different as the 2 schools are on the surface, I bet the day to day life of my daughter and Onstage's son are more similar than they are different because BFA MT studies in many ways are an encapsulated world within the larger school setting, regardless of the school. </p>

<p>So, while size of a school is certainly a factor when the time comes to make a decision from among acceptances on the table, I would not at this stage allow size to predetermine what schools to which to apply. In my view, narrowing the list to schools over 20,000 knocks out far too many opportunities without a compelling reason.</p>

<p>It's true: although Syracuse offers tons of cultural, sports, and extra-curricular activities, my D (not son!) has participated in very few in the two years she has been there. Not because she doesn't want to, -- because she simply is too busy with theater-related activities. I'm sure most BFA MT programs are similar, no matter what size the school.</p>

<p>Oops, sorry about the gender confusion :) !</p>

<p>I totalled up all of the expenses (classes, college visits, books of plays, music, travel, lodging, application fees, audition fees, SAT scores, ACT scores, etc., etc) I've had in the last year, and it came to 20000.00. We did Unifieds, too! After looking at that expense, the torment of missing all the school, the fact only one course was actually needed for graduation credits, and the misery of taking off work to be with an anxious teenager many weekends in a row, I for one suggest you look to enroll your child in a performing arts high school for their senior year. Many of them take the kids to the Unifieds, and you don't even have to do, and their classes will all help them audition, instead of making them freak out when they get C's in a class because they had to miss a final and the make up day for finals due to auditions. Also, if you look at the CMU Drama class of 2012 facebook, the private and performing arts schools far outweigh the public schools. College auditors say prior training doesn't matter, but with 300-3000 kids auditioning, it would be far too hard to determine which kids are better due to more training and which ones would be better than the performing arts kids given the same opportunities.</p>

<p>My experience was very different than Happymom08's in virtually every respect. We spent about 1/3 that amount for all the same stuff over the course of 12 months, including auditioning on campus. In addition, by scheduling auditions and visits on Fridays and Saturdays, we were able to minimize missed school days. My daughter communicated regularly with her teachers so that she never had any issues about missing work or tests and was able to keep her grades up.</p>

<p>I would be extremely hesitant about changing high schools for 12th grade for a whole variety of reasons. In any event, you don't need to be a graduate of a performing arts high school to have successful auditions and most students who are accepted to the many very well regarded and fine MT BFA programs out there come from more traditional high schools.</p>

<p>Responding to post # 14 - MichaelNKat typed a lot quicker than me :)
There is an entire thread about PA vs. "normal" high schools.<br>
<a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Some of what you say may be true at some schools, but it can't be taken for granted that is the case. Also, it may depend on the school, but I would imagine most would not be willing to accept senior transfers into their programs, because the training process would be so shortened.</p>

<p>As for audition expenses, it's been a few years since my D went through this, but while I doubt it is cheap for anyone, it can be done with a budget in mind. My D researched the schools she was interested in, found out all accepted the ACT's, so didn't even do the SAT's. She took it once, was satisfied with her score, so that was done.</p>

<p>We spent a lot of time at the library looking at music and plays - only bought stuff that she decided were serious contenders.
Her voice lessons and dance classes were around $1400 - but that was something she'd been doing her entire HS years, so I didn't attribute that to audition expenses - just ongoing. We did hire an audition coach for 4 sessions - I believe that was $25-30 each)</p>

<p>The college applications (and one or two had separate BFA application fees) and audition fees averaged around $120/school; however, I've seen that several schools now waive the app. fee if the common online app. is used.</p>

<p>For travel, she opted to apply to schools that were within driving distance (a luxury I know some folks spread nationwide can't take advantage of). In two cases, she and another student traveled together, which cut those trips in half, and one trip combined two auditions - one on Friday, and one on Sat. She did not do Unifieds, although 2/3 of her schools were there.</p>

<p>Which brings me to my last point, which is the number of auditions. She auditioned for 6. Two that are considered by most to be "elite", 3 more that she considered reasonable, and one that she thought was a safety. (She had no true safeties on her list - all were auditioned, and competitive.) She received one acceptance and one waitlist which turned into an acceptance. Were she currently auditioning, I might think 6 a little light, but I know kids who have decided that given the odds, the only way to fight that is to add more schools to their list, and don't really improve their odds at all, because all of the schools on their lists are the most highly competitive ones that are on "everyone's" list. Doing 12-15 auditions added to their stress level, and made hectic senior years even more so. With lots of research into the programs, I think a list of 6-10 should suit most people's needs.</p>

<p>I fully agree that 6 - 10 schools are all that is necessary, including 1 or 2 "safety" non-audition BA programs. My daughter also applied to only 6 schools, 5 BFA and 1 BA, and was very pleased with the outcomes. We spent a lot of time and thought with her putting together a carefully tailored and diverse set of schools. It's important to remember that there are many very fine schools out there and there is no good reason to limit your list to the "big names". In addition, as MusicThCC points out, all that a large numbers of schools on your list guarantees is that you will have more stress.</p>


<p>Maybe the thread for class of 2009 and this one can be merged?</p>

<p>Funny that this thread just got bumbed up. D had her Sophmore review this morning and had to bring in a list of colleges she was interested in in addition to planning her courses fo rthe next two years. It was interesting to get her to finally sit down and make a list, although I would say she was not particularly thoughtful. I don't have tons of faith in her guidance counselor but it will be interesting to hear what kinds of feedback she gets.</p>

<p>Also funny, end of sophmore year DD was going to be a marine biologist major. We made a list, visited schools over the summer, had career and education recommendations and track. By spring of Junior year she was a vocal performance major. Different schools, requirements, etc. By selection time in Sr year, exactly what she wanted in VP school had changed from application time in fall. </p>

<p>It is an ever changing process. Be sure to allow for it.</p>