Updated: Feb 9, 2020
As acceptances begin to arrive, for us, the deep dive must begin. Once again, some students/parents might have done this work early-on, but alas, we didn't. When making her short list, though we looked at the programs, we essentially focused on the program basics, confirmed they had the degree and most of the musical theatre elements she needed, considered their location (this was very important to her) and their reputation. Just as we tried to wait until after acceptances to do on-site visits, we also waited to go deep on the curriculum side of things. Now that we're further into the process, I'm so glad we didn't go visit some of the schools that said, "no". She would have been heart broken, out even more cash and she would have felt even more pressure than already existed.
As an educator, I geek out over curriculum. It actually makes me happy. I love to compare courses, programs and requirements against one another. In my undergrad, I distinctly remember friends who didn't know what classes they needed to take the following semester, I knew what mine were, kept track of them and was able to plan if certain classes would only be options every-other year. When I chose to pursue a graduate degree several years back, the program options had to meet my specific criteria: accredited, viable schedule for a working mom with two kids, not online, had to be in education so my school would pay for it, had to be courses I WANTED to take, and must result in a Masters degree. It took some deep diving into a lot of graduate programs, but I ended-up with one I was quite happy with and didn't have to pay for!
To that end, we have officially entered into full-out program comparison. I find it ironic that as these programs go out of their way to advertise themselves and the schools build their websites, why on earth is the course catalog hidden in the furthest depths of the website? I mean, the degree is the actual stuff you'll be studying. Why wouldn't people want this right next to the audition information? Be forewarned, you'll have to dig because it's usually not attached to the program's webpage. But, a simple search for "course catalog" or "undergraduate bulletin" on the school's website should get you there. Then you get to scroll through a 150-350 page document and find the actual courses necessary to graduate. Oh yeah, the liberal arts course requirements (40 credits or so) will likely be somewhere else in the catalog, so enjoy that part of the hunt as well.
Though I'm relatively tech savvy and happy to work digitally, I actually moved to an old-school binder for this step. For one thing, the amount of mail your student will get their senior year will undo any recycling you've attempted to do throughout their lifetime. Those unsolicited acceptances/offers, acceptances from schools she actually applied to and their financial aid letters are hole-punched and living in the binder organized by school. I created an excel spreadsheet that I update as acceptances come in. We've listed the school name, the cost (tuition & room/board), the financial aid amount offered (minus loans) and remaining balance.
To each section, I have added the program pages from the school's catalog. Micah and I have already sat down with these and talked through the pros and cons of each program. If we haven't heard from a school, they aren't in the book...yet. If she gets an offer, it will be added.
She hasn't said, "no" to anyone yet. She really doesn't have to until May 1st. We're anticipating final results from all of her schools by April 1st, so this book will help keep everything front and center as she makes her final decision during the first part of April.