This time last year, the college process and my current senior daughter's high school graduation seemed an eternity away. Colleges and programs were on my daughter's radar, but we hadn't really dug-in-deep by any stretch. If you are a junior or parent of a junior in high school, and interested in the performing arts, your checklist starts now...and you might actually be a little behind in some areas. But don't fret, it's not too late, but it's definitely time to start thinking about and starting the process so your senior year doesn't creep-up on you.
If you haven't signed-up for the SAT or the ACT or both, now is the time. Haven't studied or completed a prep course? That's okay. Taking the tests now will give you a baseline score which will help target your areas of focus for improvement--and the testing websites can actually help with this. Many people take their "favorite" of the two tests up to three times. Yes, I know that's daunting, but don't focus on that right now. This whole process is daunting if you look at it all at once. Just take one step at a time, and each step will help you navigate more clearly the steps that follow.
Now is the time to start writing essays. You can edit them later, but at the very least begin the writing process. Get something down in a soft copy even if the topic is something along the lines of, "What inspired you to pursue the performing arts?" or "Describe a challenging experience you've overcome". Keep it to 500 words for a first swipe. Becoming a good editor is key, and you can put it away for awhile and revisit it again, making edits, revisions and additions. Once you feel one is presentable, give it to your favorite English teacher--you know, the one you treated SO well this year, because you knew you'd need their help editing your college essays? Ask them to proof it and share their feedback with you.
Now is the time to start exploring. For musical theatre programs, Playbilledu.com used to have an awesome tool that I can't seem to find anymore (if anyone knows were it went, feel free to comment at the bottom of this blog, I really want to know because it was GREAT!). Otherwise, a great starting point is to look at the College Board's college search webpage or our friends at acceptd.
It's not too late to book a summer gig. There are plenty of options for dance, theatre, vocal and instrumental music. The summer page on my site has some links to great musical theatre summer programs.
Build Your Rep
Ideas on how to find repertoire for all disciplines:
Vocal & Instrumental Musicians: Your task is to find material that is challenging and shows off you at your best, plus practicing your scales/expanding your range. Speak with your private lesson instructor about repertoire they would recommend. Don't have a private lesson instructor? Get one. Everyone else planning to major in music has one.
Dance: Work with teachers or choreographers on pieces to prepare for college auditions. And, of course, keep training.
Theatre: Best way to find monologues? Read plays. Don't like to read? This field pretty much requires it, but seeing plays can be an okay alternative, especially if you keep in mind you need to pay close attention to the scenes and monologues and purchase the script afterward. Also, read a few acting technique books over the summer.
Musical Theatre: Best way to find songs? Listen to musicals. You digital natives are so stinkin' lucky compared to the library visits, checked-out LP records and record store purchases that your forefather and mother's research entailed. The world is at your fingertips, so put on those Beats and get to work.
High School sophomores and juniors, It's not too soon, and current seniors, not too late to begin or continue to scholarship hunt for private money. I mention this to the seniors because we found many with May deadlines! After doing some thorough searching, some of the best starting points I've found that DON'T require you sign-up for anything are: College Board Scholarship Search and US Dept of Labor Scholarship Tool.
Of course, my MTguide website has a nifty, realistic timeline that helps to outline a viable process you can follow. Getting a jump on some of the summer items on the checklist can't hurt!