Updated: Apr 10
My daughter has made her decision but I have students, friends and cohorts that are using every available moment to compare, contrast, deliberate, finalize and, ultimately, decide before May 1st (or June 1st in some cases). The desire to not only make all this audition work, time and money worthwhile is surpassed by the desire to "get this right". Being a part of the 37.5% of college students who transfer during their 4 years is something most students, and their parents, would like to avoid. Side note, transferring isn't necessarily a bad thing and could happen with any of us, but, it is cumbersome if your student sticks with this major. The Washington Post published an interesting article on transferring, "Why So Many College Students Decide to Transfer".
The following steps may help with decision making during this pivotal time. If you have options, the tables turn from a sellers to a buyers market. One of my audition parent comrades endearingly referred to it as "the catbird's seat".
My daughter had a total of six options to which she could give serious consideration. She was adamant about not going further south, so the two invites from unsolicited schools in south Florida moved to the back burner. However, as a mom, I did pull their numbers and look into their programs just to make sure we weren't missing a gem...and the in-state tuition that would go with them. Another school just didn't have the degree or program she wanted, so it was dropped. The last three became the focus of our final-round research. The following sites are favorites when making a decision:
College Board's College Search site This site provides many pages of information on each school and highlights factors that may bring further clarity.
The Princeton Review's College Rankings You may find your school on an interesting or not-so interesting list. Worth a look if you're unsure about where to land. Their "What Students Say" sections were especially enlightening.
College Confidential Reviewing the Musical Theatre Major Forum on the revamped College Confidential website is much easier than in the past and could provide additional insight into potential schools. We read some student feedback on CC that was dated, but particularly helpful.
Yelp.com It's not just for restaurants and services. Take a look at the reviews for the school you're considering. Feedback from this site pretty much ruled out one of our choices as many people said you'd need a car to appreciate the location.
Google Maps With the advent of reviews on Google Maps, you can search the name of the college and see what you learn from comments posted about the school.
For those who waited until they were accepted into programs to make the trek to the schools, April is the time. The sense of "I could go to school here", when your student spends time on campus, is real. Our daughter had campuses she walked on, students she interacted with, and programs she evaluated that rubbed her the wrong way. A "Mom, I couldn't go to school there" vibe immediately receives a caution flag.
Current students and folks from the industry can be very helpful. That friend who is a former dean of a top 15 school gave some input that moved here away from at least one of the top MT programs she applied to before auditioning. Not derogatory, but rather, he let us know what she might be up against. From my experience, I've used my musical theatre major in every job I've had since college, so I'm a big proponent that a musical theatre degree is quite a nice, practical, double-degree to hold. I cringed at the idea that one might be asked to leave the school if they weren't up to snuff. Totally okay if you get bumped from a competitive, performance program, but to tell them they are out of the school and can't move to a different major? Nope.
In addition, I reached out to industry friends and asked, "Which of our final schools has the best reputation in the Musical Theater Industry?" I got an honest answer, and that helped drive her decision. That same contact has also provided leads on voice teachers at her school of choice.
This is where the spreadsheet I mentioned in a previous blog post, Diving Deeper, comes in handy. Looking at the schools' actual costs helped us to make a solid decision. One of the schools that she added late in the game offered no financial aid at all. Not worth it, especially when other programs offered plenty.
Pros & Cons
I also mentioned the idea of a rational, pros and cons list. These are very helpful to create a side by side comparison, and the College Board website allows you to compare three schools side-by-side within their site. Very helpful.
On a side note, now is also the time to inquire about additional financial aid. The schools offered the bulk of their money back in January or February, and some of those students who received their offers and funds aren't attending their school. To that end, they may have more money available for the asking. I inquired with my to-be advisor in April of my senior year in HS about further assistance in order for me to attend my undergrad, and he found me more money. It really happens!