When your student is a big fish in a small pond

Hopefully now that things are opening up (woohoo Broadway!), these kids will get a chance! Maybe you will get to see her on the big stage or screen soon.

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I’d love that, being 10 miles from Manhattan we don’t get the touring shows, her parents have of course traveled to see her. My son just perched some Broadway roulette tickets, so glad live shows are back!


@squirk Your concern is one we felt. Our D came from a town with a single public high school so understand “big fish in a small pond.”

To get our D to appreciate the competitiveness of getting into top-tier MT programs, we shared that 1. most of the top-tier programs get ten times the amount of qualified applicants than they have spots available so it’s impossible to predict from where the applicants will receive offers and, 2. what each MT program is looking for in a given year can change (and can even do so within an applicant’s cycle) so just put your best foot forward and see who makes you an offer.

These facts did not “stress or spook” our D before the process began, but she did want to apply to many different MT programs where she felt she would receive top training. However your concern is a valid one since each daughter or son will react differently and you know her best. Our D definitely wanted to put her best foot forward even after understanding these facts. I don’t believe she was “stressed” because inculcated was it’s “out of your hands so don’t sweat it,” but I’m not going to lie, going through the application process was definitely a rollercoaster ride; I think it’s part of the nature of the beast. Your idea of Moonifieds Jr. seems like a great one. We didn’t do it (so not a recommendation based on personal experience) but it seems like a good first step.

While “type” came up in conversation, she / we didn’t dwell on it.

I also think it’s smart that you are considering NYU’s Early Decision path; it’s not a route that each family / student can or wants to take (we did not), but if it is one for you, I can say that several friends of ours are glad they applied early decision to NYU.

I don’t know if you live in a NYC suburb or If your D has spent extensive time there, but if not, I strongly suggest a visit to it the summer before senior year begins because NYC has a very different vibe compared to even LA, Chicago, Dallas, etc. 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, hanging out at Washington Square Park etc.; others find they aren’t looking for that at least not just yet or ever. I recommend travel only in this instance because NYC is such a different “animal” that should be experienced first hand to know whether it’s a potential fit.

Our D is only three weeks in at NSB but I’m happy to report she has thoroughly enjoyed her experiences so far. She has loved how talented each of her NSB classmates is and the faculty teaching her classes. She’s been so busy, we’ve only talked a bit, but she reported last night that she has a single, large, lecture class – I believe it’s called Ethics of Collaboration – taught online. All her other classes are taught in person. Of these other classes, she has private voice (one on one), and the other classes range in size between ten students to 15 students. Her only complaint so far is that only some (not all) of her dorm’s common areas have opened so far (a precautionary COVID step she’s told), but she’s just booked space in other university buildings to do the rehearsing she requires, and she’s had no difficulty doing that.

I have mentioned this before but we personally found school net price and other estimators to be accurate only 40% of the time on what our net price would be. I’m sure glad we didn’t knock off NYU as a school to apply to; that would have been one of the worst decisions we could have made.

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  1. If this is the case, don’t push her to be away now; she has plenty of time. Summer between Junior and Senior year could be a time to visit NYC.

  2. There are plenty of great and different programs in the NYC region: NYU both NYU Tisch and NYU Steinhardt, MSM, Juilliard (students specialize in acting, voice or dance; not a MT major), Pace, Molloy, MMC, New School and the suburbs… Western CT State, Rider, Montclair State, etc.

Wow. Thanks to you for sharing all that.

We have visited NYC several times in the last few years, taking in many shows while we are there. While she was already getting into MT before those trips, I think the visits are what caused her to catch the Tisch “bug” specifically. So, while staying in a swank hotel and seeing shows is not the same thing as going to college, I think she would indeed do well in that NYC milieu.

Hopefully, Moonifieds Jr. will open her eyes to the level of competition, but at the same time reaffirm that MT really is what she wants to do, and renew her sense of purpose.


That’s a good concern to have. Criteria I would consider in addition to geographic preference include:

  • 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. As I mentioned previously, 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. 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.

With all that said, your D has PLENTY of time. No need to push all this now. Moonifieds Jr. is a fine start.


Outstanding post! Those program fits are really important. Some programs are heavy on dance, some aren’t. Some do quite a bit of acting for the screen. Some don’t. These variables are all important. The access and feasibility (could be very different answers between the two) of a minor is something many don’t contemplate but important. In our D’s case, she is quite a good writer and wants to explore writing shows. Also wants to explore directing. Is their support for those types of things?

All of these fit criteria will be helpful in selecting the right school within your set of choices. That set of choices will be determined mostly by the audition. So highly unlikely you get everything you want. Cast a wide net (wider than NYC) to improve the odds of being able to check off those boxes. Because what they’re looking for is fluid, the more lottery tix you buy the better. Believe me, it can feel like that.

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