And to make matters worse, everyone in your life has something to say about it. Every friend and relative has an opinion about which college has the BEST musical theatre BFA, or the BEST BA program for acting. Folks are bombarding you with opinions about what kind of program to choose- whether it is better to focus your energies in a BFA, or to explore who you are as you study theatre in a high quality theatre BA.
All this never-ending chatter can be CONFUSING….
And the truth is this:
There are a lot of great programs out there, and a multitude of paths that can lead to a satisfying career on Broadway, and in film and television.
So how does one even start to make decisions about all of this?
In my years as a college audition coach, I have been through this process with many high school juniors and seniors. And the best advice I can give is this:
You do not need to decide on a path today. Do not be in a hurry to choose a favorite school or two. In fact, in the coming months, the choices that you need to make are not about schools, but about YOU.
BEFORE you even look at colleges, ask yourself some hard questions about what you want. These questions should include:
“What do I want out of my theatre education?”
“What program strengths are essential to me?”
“What specific acting techniques am I interested in?”
“What vocal techniques?”
“Do I want a strong dance program as well as singing and acting?”
“Where do I see myself going to college?” (examples: urban or rural, big campus or small)
“What kind of environment do I want?” (examples: tough love or warm and fuzzy, highly competitive or big fish in small pond)
“Do I want to just study acting? Focus on musical theatre? Or do I want to include a well rounded education?”
Ask yourself these questions ON PAPER. And do not rush to answer them. Write list after list about what you want. Edit, change, change back, if you want– but as you do all this, keep checking in with yourself. Observe what you are feeling.
Once you have some answers that at least momentarily make sense, gather information. Visit a variety of schools, observe several program categories, and- if you can- several different programs within each category.
Keep an open mind as you do this.
Do not jump to conclusions.
Try to dwell in the question and enjoy this process.
When you start to APPLY, keep your mind and heart open.
Apply across the spectrum, so that when April rolls around, you will have choices that fit with the person you will have become.
Because believe it or not, you are going to transform in the coming year.
At this time next year, you will be a very different person, and will undoubtedly discover that you have very different ideas about what you want. And the changes that happen between when you APPLY to colleges and when you are ACCEPTED INTO many of them is even more profound.
And here’s another important consideration:
It will amaze you how different each college looks once you are IN! Once you are sitting on those campuses, letting each of THEM woo YOU. There is something about the chase that makes every school seem like the ONE. It is not until your chase is over and theirs begins that you will start to have a sense of what you truly want.
And as you look at schools, remember this.
There is a TRAP waiting to suck you in and make your college audition process miserable.
The trap is this:
It is oh so tempting to start looking at the college audition process as a game. A game with high stakes, where the winner takes all.
This could not be less true.
The college audition process is NOT a game. It does NOT matter who gets in where, or how many offers you rack up. What matters is finding a fit, a school that has what you want and need in a college theatre program.
So as you visit schools, arrive armed with questions about their programs.
For each college visit, create an index card with specific questions. Questions should include:
“Who are your teachers? What are their backgrounds?”
“What acting and vocal technques are taught?”
“WIll I have the same teacher for all four years?”
“Is there a cut system at the school? Is there a chance of being let go after one or two years?”
“What kind of agent showcase does the school present? Does everyone get to participate?”
“If not, how does the school determine who gets to be seen?”
“Are there other opportunities to be seen by professionals?”
These are just the opening questions. Each answer will lead to more questions.
Finding answers to all of these questions will help you to find a school that is a fit for you.
And what you need to find in all of this is a fit, not a conquest.
So keep your eyes, ears and minds open as you search for schools.
Find what feels right for YOU, not what is the coolest or most popular program.
And beware of your competitive nature in this process. Although there is PLENTY of competition involved in it, the end results should be not about winning, but about finding the match that will give you a happy four years…
…four years in a program that you love, and that is a good fit for YOU.