I thought this could be helpful for parents planning for future years…Everyone will have some good advice that could possibly be added to this one thread.
My D made the choice to apply to only a short list of top programs. Her plan if not admitted to any of them was to take a year and train and try again. She was fortunate and has good choices. However, if someone going through this process asked me for advice in building their list of schools, I'd say evaluate your student as objectively as possible and then choose at least one school that is less selective -either a BFA (I know all auditioned schools are a tough go and there is no safety), or preferably a BA program at a school that has a strong theater program and that also offers big talent scholarships or merit aid appropriate for your student's stats.
This can be helpful for 2 reasons: if the student is not accepted to any of her audition schools, she has the option to attend the well-chosen BA and either fall in love with it, or take a year of academics and apply as a transfer if she changes her mind about the planned year "off" training. Also, if the student is lucky and gets accepted by a top program but also gets a very large merit scholarship at another school about which she is less excited, the offer from the other school can be helpful when appealing an aid decision at the first-choice school.
Finally, when we researched our EFC years ago, the Govt number was quite different from the institutional numbers, and our early research indicated the EFC would be split evenly between the number of students attending college. Now that we have a first-year student in private college and our D starting next fall, we have learned that the EFC calculated for each child (for 2 kids) is 60%. So at best, our expected contribution may increase 20%. We are still waiting for all packages, and the enthusiasm of good news is somewhat tempered by the anxiety and uncertainty around the projected costs.