Mentoring for your college auditions | The MT Project

There’s just something about being on stage that I can’t really describe. It’s almost like being transported to this magical place where nothing else in the whole world matters. You know when you see something or hear something, and it just feels like perfection? It’s like that.

All I know is that I want to do this for the rest of my life.

There’s just something about being on stage that I can’t really describe. It’s almost like being transported to this magical place where nothing else in the whole world matters. You know when you see something or hear something, and it just feels like perfection? It’s like that.

All I know is that I want to do this for the rest of my life.

There’s just something about being on stage that I can’t really describe. It’s almost like being transported to this magical place where nothing else in the whole world matters. You know when you see something or hear something, and it just feels like perfection? It’s like that.

All I know is that I want to do this for the rest of my life.

Whatever your goal may be, it’s our mission to ensure that you achieve it.

And with us, advice is always free.

General questions

How much do grades matter?

 

They matter. So here’s the thing:

  1. If a school wants you badly enough and your grades are borderline, they may be able to negotiate with the admissions office to get you in (e.g. Michigan), BUT
  2. Many, in fact I would argue most, schools have a set of criteria, and if you don’t meet each item, including minimum GPA/ACT score, there’s no wiggle room (e.g. Northwestern).

The bottom line is that you have to be realistic about your chances of getting in somewhere both academically and artistically. I know a girl that thought she could slack off a bit in high school because she was an artsy kid wanting to pursue theatre, and she later expressed how much she regretted it because it did limit her choices some.

Do I really need an audition coach?

Well, you need someone. Maybe you have a stellar acting or voice coach that is familiar with the process, maybe you have a friend or acquaintance who’s gone through this a couple of times or worked with someone who can be a resource, maybe you hire an audition coach. Bottom line is that this process can be very tedious and is always stressful, so getting sound advice is key. In my experience, students that don’t work with someone typically don’t have the results they were hoping for (and those same kids that take a ‘gap year’ – see below – and get a coach do immensely better).

Another thing to be careful of: amazing coaches who say they know the audition process but don’t. Ask specific questions about their experience with the college audition process. Your voice coach may have been on Broadway and nailed a ton of auditions, but the reality is that college auditions are just not the same. Get someone who understands what you actually need.

What is a gap year? And should I take one?

Okay, so a gap year is just taking a year off in between graduating and starting college.

Reasons you might take a gap year:

  • For personal reasons, e.g. travel or save money
  • For artistic reasons, e.g. gain artistic experience or work with a coach
  • You didn’t get in to any programs during your senior year
  • You got into a program(s), but they weren’t really what you wanted, so you want to try again

Is it a good idea? Sure, it can be. It may not be an option for all students due to parental pressure or  you’ll lose a big scholarship…any number of reasons. But overall, I am actually a big proponent of gap years if you feel that’s what’s right for you, especially if those last two reasons are why you’re considering it. You will grow SO much the year after you graduate. Then again, it’s a lot of stress all over again.

I think what it comes down to is: what does your gut tell you? (And that’s coming from a person who doesn’t make decisions based on feelings. Ever.) If you get a sense that the programs you got into (or going into a different discipline) just aren’t for you, then don’t do it. If you weigh your options and think you could fit despite that program not having as much dance as you wanted or not being as big of a name as you were hoping…then go. This question is definitely not one-size-fits-all, so really do some soul searching and ask a lot of questions before you make the decision.

What's the difference between a BA/BM/BFA?

This is a huge question. Here’s what I would ask you to keep in mind: none of them are easier/harder/better/worse than the other. Hear me? Don’t try to classify them like that. Seriously.

There are differences, though, and chances are that you will have a preference. So:

  • A BA (Bachelor of Arts) program will work much more like a traditional degree program (in most cases). You’ll do roughly 60 credits in gen eds and another 60 or so in your major.
  • A BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) program is usually going to be more conservatory-based. This means that you’ll do the vast majority of your degree taking credits within your major.
  • A BM (Bachelor of Music) is similar to that of a BFA except your degree will be more music-centric, i.e. you’ll take classes like aural skills, theory, piano, etc.

While no one program can fit easily into a defined box, there’s a good chance that, with research and understanding, a specific type of degree might work best for you. This is where it’s helpful to work with someone like an audition coach (or mentor, like me), because you can share your ideas and must-haves and be pointed in the right direction.

Lastly, keep in mind that some BAs might be executed like a BFA, etc. Get an idea of want you want out of your degree, and look for programs that best fit that, regardless of what their degree program is labelled.

Can I double major?

Depends on your program. Some will let you, some will let you only if it’s in a interconnected departmental major, some will advise against it, some will straight out say no way. Some programs won’t even let you take on a minor. If it’s something you’re thinking about, this is a really important question to ask any program you’re looking into.

What does early admit / early decision mean?

Early admit (or early action) means that you apply early to a school and receive a non-binding decision early in the cycle, usually by January or so. This can be helpful if you feel you are a strong contender at that school, but it also could work against you if they like you but not enough to offer you a spot in their program without seeing everyone else over the coming months, particularly if they’re a program that doesn’t offer spots on a wait list.

Early decision means that you apply early to a school and receive a binding decision early in the year, usually no later than December. If you get in (and are offered an acceptable financial package), you must accept your admittance. This means that you should only apply ED to one school and regular admission to all others. You should only do this in the instance you have a dream school, have visited them and others, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would go there regardless of anywhere else you were to be accepted.

Not every program offers early admit or early decision (even if the school does). Consider your options very carefully before applying EA/ED anywhere.

Before you apply

Do summer programs really matter?

 

 

Certainly. A good summer program can be invaluable. Getting any extra training is going to be a great experience, and if you can get into a big program (e.g. Interlochen) or something ran by a college or university’s theatre department, you’ll really develop a feel for whether or not you want to do this in college and how get a feel for that program.

The downfall is most programs are expensive. But if you can afford it or get scholarships, I’d most definitely recommend it.

How many schools should I apply to?

Non-ethnic girls should aim for 15+. No joke. Ethnic girls and all boys could shoot for 10+.

Why so many? It’s really, really, really competitive. Totally understandable if you simply don’t have the resources to make it happen, but if you can, do it. And if you go to Unifieds, do extra at drop-in auditions. The more, the better.

What should my audition list look like?

Let’s use 12 as your number of programs. It’s nice and round. I would advise you shoot for 3 super competitive schools, 6 mildly competitive schools, and 3 safeties (with at least 1 of them being a non-audition program). That’s a pretty good mix.

As for what schools to actually put on that list, there’s no way to answer that without talking to you individually. Ask yourself the type of school you want to be at (things like: how large of a campus, extracurriculars offered, size of the city/town, etc) and the features you definitely do and don’t want in your program (e.g. definitely need to be able to minor in dance, definitely don’t a program with a cut system), and start to build your list based on your preferences.

Working with a coach (or mentor, like me) can further help you build your school list because, ideally, they will understand your strengths and opportunities and can make recommendations based on what schools fit you best artistically. A good coach will be able to look at you, listen to a monologue and a cut of a song, and say: X, Y, and Z schools will love you; don’t waste your time with these others.

Do I need an acting coach / voice lessons / dance classes?

In a perfect world, all of these things would be great to have under your belt. If you have the financial resources to obtain this type of help, they will absolutely be beneficial to you.

However, auditors aren’t necessarily going to be looking for the student with the most training; they look for who is the most castable and who has the most potential. When I hear a kid sing for the first time, I can tell within 10 seconds what potential they have. I would bet that auditors do the same. The same goes for dancing.

The same goes for acting, but I’d argue this is more important. A musical theatre degree is still a theatre degree, so you must be able to act. If you’ve never had an acting lesson, that’s fine. But you must be able to communicate. A school will take the honest, clear performer over the one who forces the text or falls flat every. single. time…regardless of whom they’ve worked with or how many years of training they’ve had or how many shows in which they’ve had a lead. A large majority of programs will also take the student who nails their monologue over the one who has excellent vocal technique or could out-dance any kid in the room. There, of course, are exceptions to that, though.

What I’m getting at here is that, once again, there is no simple answer. Get someone to help you, yes. If you feel like you need voice lessons, go for it. If you’ve never taken a dance class and are super nervous that you’ll be under-prepared for your dance audition, absolutely take them (dance is also great exercise, so that’s always a win). If you think you’d like an acting coach, this could be a huge help to you in the long-run. (As a side note, don’t use any of these people to be an audition coach unless they have specific experience in the college audition process.) Do what you feel is best and will most help you throughout the audition process!

Why do I need to know my type?

Oh, boy. This is the most important thing you could possibly know. I’ll say it again. This is the most important thing you could possibly know. Your type is your brand; it’s what sells you. Knowing what it is and choosing material that best fits you is absolutely, positively what will get you into school.

More about type…

Do I need a professional headshot?

No. But you do need a good quality photo, and preferably something that reflects your type. When you take your senior pictures, you may be able to tell your photographer that you need something that will function as a headshot, and they can give you a professional photo that’s workable. Perhaps you have a friend or family member with a great camera and a decent eye. Doing a Google image search for ‘theatre headshots’ will give you an idea of how they should look. Alternately, if you have the money to spend on a professional headshot, it IS an investment, and you will get use out of it over the next several years (getting professional headshots re/done when you graduate / go to senior showcase is a good idea).

Whatever you choose as your ‘headshot’ should be formatted properly (8×10, include your name, attached to your resume).

What is Unifieds?

Unifieds (the Unified College Auditions) is an event that gathers a large collection of schools under one roof over several days where students can audition. They’re helpful because they can save you the expense of traveling to 12 different cities for separate auditions and knocking many of them out all at once. Only a handful of schools participate in Unifieds, though, so it’s helpful to know who will be there and who won’t so you can make the best plan for you.

Your audition day

 

What should I wear?

For girls, a solid coloured dress, preferably not black or white. Don’t wear anything revealing or distracting. As an added bonus, purchase a leotard in the same colour as your dress; it will help you stand out and be more recognisable for your dance audition!

For boys, dress slacks or khakis and a button down shirt with a tie, vest, or sweater works well. If you opt for the vest or sweater, a solid colour will be best for you, too.

Will I have time to rehearse with my accompanist?

Not likely. That being said, working with your accompanist efficiently is very important. Things to keep in mind:

  • Be extremely polite to him/her. Say hello, say please and thank you, and smile! Your accompanist is likely a part of your program in some way, and if s/he says that you were rude, unpleasant, or difficult to work with, you’ve likely just ruined your chances of getting into that program.
  • Make sure your book (your music binder) is prepared. The more organised you are, the better. Have your cuts clearly labelled and make sure the piano line is fully legible (that includes making sure the bass clef doesn’t get cut off while copying). And for heaven’s sake, make sure your music is in the proper key, and do not supply a lead sheet.
  • Proper etiquette with your accompanist is to sing a few bars of your song to set tempo. Do not clap, tap on the piano, or snap your fingers. You may only have seconds to accomplish this, so be prepared and efficient.
  • You may get an accompanist who plays for Broadway auditions, is a professor of piano, or is, perhaps, a student. Be prepared that s/he could play at a number of different skill levels. There’s a good chance that whatever you’re singing, they’ve played or at least heard before. But again, perhaps they will not have. You need to be prepared for anything. If they play at the wrong tempo or mess up the accompaniment, just go with it. You have 16 or 32 bars to make an impression and communicate the text of the song. Don’t let the piano get in your way. And please don’t stop them or ask to do it again- you will only look like a diva.
Are there songs that I shouldn't sing?

Most definitely. Don’t sing…

  • Anything that took you and your own accompanist a few tries to put together properly. If the piano line is that difficult (e.g. music written by Stephen Sonheim or Jason Robert Brown), don’t take it to a college audition accompanist.
  • A song that is meant for someone older/with life experience you don’t have/of a diffierent ethnicity. Again with knowing your type.
  • That is overdone. Gimme Gimme, On My Own, etc. I don’t care if they’re the highlight of your repertoire. Keep them in your book, sure, but do not – for any reason – sing them at your audition.
My monologue/song swears? Is that okay?

You need to use your judgement here. If your character curses someone out, or drops a bunch of f-bombs, it’s probably not a good idea. (The same thing goes to something that is highly sexual- subjecting your auditors to this material will likely make them feel uncomfortable.) If you have a random swear word, it’s probably okay. Consider the context.

Here’s something important to keep in mind, though. If you do have one of those random swear words, and you’re uncomfortable, don’t do it. And by don’t do it, I don’t mean change the text. Absolutely do NOT change ‘damn’ to ‘darn’ because you’re uncomfortable. Simply don’t do that song/monologue.

After the audition

Should I sent thank you notes?

Definitely, yes. Write down the names of your auditors as soon as you’re able to and send notes to whomever you can find contact info. Keep it short and sweet. Thank them; introduce yourself and mentioned where/when you auditioned; mention an anecdote from your audition/interview; state why you’re interested in their program; thank them again. I’d recommend sending the thank you note no sooner than than the next day (you need time to process and don’t want it to look generic or unthoughtful) but no more than 2 or 3 days after your audition (so you’ll hopefully still be fresh in their mind).

My audition was amazing / was terrible. Now what?

Don’t even think about it. If you auditors seemed to completely fall in love with you, don’t get your hopes up. (Seriously. You never know.) Remember that only a tiny percentage of students that apply for any given program are actually accepted. If you think they absolutely hated you, move on. Maybe they hadn’t eaten lunch yet; maybe that’s just their schtick; you never know.

Regardless of how your audition went, your best bet is to just move on once you’re done, and don’t look back unless you get an acceptance.

How long do I have to wait before I find something out?

Could be a while. Some schools have rolling acceptances (and their website will likely state it if they do) where they’ll take the kids that they like as they see them until their class is fully built. Most schools don’t do this, though, and send all of their decisions out all at once or in waves at the very end of the process. Most schools will begin sending decisions out in late March and continue into April. I’ve heard of students not hearing a yea or nay until late April, which I agree is kind of absurd, but it’s what some programs do.

If you get into mid April and haven’t heard anything, it doesn’t hurt to do some research. A great resource would be your audition coach, as they’ll likely know what schools routines typically are. Alternately, you could call the office of the department to which your child or you’ve applied and ask if they’re still sending decisions. Be really careful with that, though, because you don’t want to be a pest.

What does it mean if I've been wait listed?

It means they like you and think you’d be a good fit for their program, but they’ve already offered all of their spots, and in the event that less students accept their admittance than what they anticipated (or some other factor that involves someone not coming into their program), you may be moved from the wait list to being offered a spot.

Don’t get your hopes up of getting off of the wait list, as it’s more likely you won’t than you will. Feel free to send a follow-up (once…only once) with your auditors re-thanking them for the chance to audition and give a brief explanation of why you’d be excited to study with them should you move off of the wait list. It may not help you at all, but there’s a small chance it may, and as long as you’re careful, it shouldn’t hurt you.

I'm positive I did everything right. Why didn't I get in?

Most of the time, it’s not about you, and it’s not about how talented you are. You might be the most talented kid they saw all audition season, but they happened to have offered their only spot for a tall, dark-haired baritone to another guy early in the year, and he accepted. Or any other various, random combination of factors. Don’t take it personally, because unfortunately, this business that you want to enter involved a lot of rejection. Be confident in yourself and your abilities, and don’t let rejection or others’ opinions hold you back.

I've been accepted to a program and know I don't want to go there. What do I do?

Tell them immediately. It doesn’t matter if you decided that program wasn’t for you during your audition or if you’ve already gotten into your dream school, it is good etiquette to send a note thanking them but declining acceptance. Telling them right away means that they can offer your spot to someone else in a timely manner.

I got an acceptance letter from the school but then a rejection letter. What happened?

This is fairly common, unfortunately. Some schools offer acceptance independently from the program, so that initial letter meant that you were academically accepted, but the rejection means that you weren’t artistically accepted. You might even get offered financial packages and then receive a rejection. Read the wording of your acceptance carefully, and consult with your audition coach (if possible), as they will likely know which schools do this and which don’t.

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