Walking into a college audition or portfolio review is scary- you feel like everything you’ve ever done is being judged, and everything you might do depends upon your performance in that moment. No, it’s not just you, everyone who has gone to a performing arts school has felt that way at one point or another- including the people sitting on the other side of that table. The most important thing to remember: you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
Here are 5 tips for choosing the best performing arts college or university for you.
1) Be yourself
When you go into audition or interview don’t try to be someone that you’re not or make yourself look like you’ve done things or have skills that you don’t. The professors want you to succeed as much as you do, and to do that they are trying to get a real understanding of what your starting place is.
They aren’t looking for perfection! If you were perfect, then what would they be able to teach you? Professors want students with potential, who want to learn, and they want to see your passion and willingness to take direction.
Someone once told me they had embellished half the things on their resume and in their portfolio to get into college. This person was proud that they had been able to “pull it off” and get into school anyway. This person also dropped out of school at the end of their sophomore year because they weren’t prepared to handle the program they had gotten into. The people who are interviewing you know their program, and they want you to succeed. If their program isn’t the right fit for you that doesn’t mean they don’t think you are worthy- just that there are other options out there where you will be more successful.
2) Know your goals… Or know that you don’t know them!
There is no right or wrong type of college, but there are right and wrong fits for your goals. Do you want a college experience that lets you explore your interests and learn lots of different and interesting things? Liberal arts degrees will give you the ability to explore your interests, and often give you an overview of lots of different areas in the performing arts. Do you want to concentrate on one very specific field in the performing arts? Conservatory degrees will give you intense training in your specific area of interest, with a little bit of training in other areas. Do you want to explore different interests but also get the intense training of a conservatory? Some programs act as hybrids between these two methods. If you know for a fact that what you want to do is in one specific area of the performing arts, then find a conservatory and use your four years to really dig down and learn as much about your craft as you can. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do, or you want to do more than one thing, a liberal arts or hybrid program might be a better fit for you. Either way- don’t try and get into the #1 school for this or that if it doesn’t align with your goals.
3) Talk to current students
Current students are your best resource for knowing what your life would be like if you go to that school. They were in your shoes only a few years ago so they know the types of questions you have and what might be helpful to know before coming to school. If the school offers you an opportunity to shadow a current student- take it! Get the chance to talk with them away from professors and parents so you are able to get a real understanding for what day to day life is like for them at this school.
4)Get to know the professors
Most performing arts departments are small and you will be working with the same handful of professors throughout your 4 years of school- so get to know them! Are these the type of people you feel you can learn a lot from? Do you trust them? Can you see yourself growing under their guidance? When I was applying for schools as a stage management student I went to visit one of my top schools and meet with the head of the stage management program. The professor was late to our meeting, her desk was a mess, and she couldn’t find my information that she had been sent for our meeting. Being late for anything makes me anxious, so I knew right away that this wouldn’t be a good fit for me and I chose a different school where the stage management advisor was someone I felt I could trust and would show up when I needed her to.
5)Follow your gut
The most important thing to do is pick the program that feels right to you- if your gut and heart are telling you that a specific program is right for you, then go for it! If you wanted to love a school but you didn’t get the feeling when you were there- that’s ok to. Just never forget that you aren’t just looking for a school to pick you- you’re picking the best school for yourself and your goals.