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Help Your Theatre Students Prep for College Auditions

Photo credit George Pak Pexels

Helping your students succeed is at the heart of all you do; thank you! Here are ways to help your seniors stay on track with college auditions and participate in their senior year activities. (Plus tips to help younger students get a jump on the college audition process.)

I’ve seen it happen too many times that a senior misses college audition deadlines because their senior year is just so busy! As the school year begins, students should be working on their college essays and getting applications completed. Meanwhile, auditions for their senior shows start happening. Then the whirlwind of rehearsals for the fall show begin. However, the college audition timeline is steadily ticking away

Here are three ways to help your students prep for college auditions:

#1 Help Them Choose Wisely

With so much information available online it’s easy for students to get overwhelmed by choice. So, to combat the tidal wave of info they might be drowning under, students sometimes defer to “Top 10 Theatre Programs” lists, a viral video on TikTok, or fixate on going to the school of their favorite Broadway actor.

Sure, there may be good info at their fingertips, but you can help them turn down the noise of too much info to find meaningful opportunities.

What’s most important is the student finding a school and a program where they feel comfortable. Ideally, they’ll find a place that feels like home for the four years they live and learn there.

Yes, some students will transfer even after doing a thorough search. But I believe many transfers happen because students focused their school choice more on the prestige of the program rather than deciding whether the school was an all-around good fit for them.

How to help students expand their research and choose wisely:

  • Review the Musical Theatre Common Prescreen. There are more than 40 schools on the list. There’s a downloadable spreadsheet of requirements, too. This site is a great place to start. 
  • Check out the schools participating in the National Unified Auditions. These universities do simultaneous auditions at three different locations across the country.
  • Remind students that in-state schools are options. Though the student may dream of being “far away from home,” it’s amazing how many students realize that a 3-hour drive might work just as well to feel more on their own.
  • Add university representatives to the school’s career event. Also, a local working actor at career day can be a valuable source of firsthand information for students.

#2 Sort the Double-Major Issue

Many students and parents want to know if it’s possible to double major in Theatre (or Acting or Musical Theatre) and something else. There are a variety of reasons to seek a double major, but the bottom line is that every school is different.

Explain this to your students and encourage them to search the program department’s website for information about double majors. Emailing the school is another way to get details. And rolling old-school and making a phone call could connect the student to a helpful contact at the school.

If double majoring is your student’s goal, have them include this question with their prepared questions (in a notebook or on a phone) for every in-person school tour they take.

I’ve found that if a student is a BFA musical theatre or BFA acting major, it might be tricky to double major because of the course curriculum and track that students need to follow. Minoring in a field might be more doable in a high-intensity major program.

#3 Set Realistic Expectations

Clear communication is key throughout this whole college audition process. Reminding students that it’s okay to stop and ask questions whenever they are unclear helps them have a kind of permission to not know everything already.

Senior year is especially full of activities, obligations, and emotions. Miscommunication can get students flustered; they don’t want to let anyone down (parents, teachers, their friends, themselves). And once flustered, the college audition process can begin to go sideways.

As adults, we know that if students communicate their needs that most things can be worked out. And we also know that this process of clear communication is fragile. I like to remind students and their adults that college audition prep is like adding a part-time job to the students’ lives!

Here are my tips for the students I coach through the college audition process:

  • Use a paper calendar (yes, an old-fashioned paper calendar with lots of room to write on). Write down all commitments, rehearsals, voice lessons, dance classes, coaching sessions, deadlines, major school assignments, must-attend fun activities, etc. Then post the calendar where the student and their adults see it daily. Yes, the visual is an accountability tool. (Digital calendars are fine for backup, but seeing everything written down tends to make it more real for everyone.)
  • Put your high school audition dates on the calendar ASAP. If you get into one of the high school shows and then find out later that you have a college audition date that conflicts with a rehearsal date (which you’ll have on your master calendar), let your director know immediately.  Teachers, your students don’t have much control over college audition schedules. If/when a student comes to you with this conflict, please be prepared. Try to work around the missed rehearsal. If necessary, let the student kindly know that missing won’t work. It’s a dose of reality to be told they simply can’t do it all; and yet you can help them process their disappointment and prioritize what’s best for their future education. Your clear communication will be a gift.
  • Ask for help gathering all the necessary college audition application information. Yes, this is a chance for students to practice independence. And it’s also a huge undertaking that their adults and teachers can assist them with. When a student asks for help, the adults can guide how to prioritize efforts and even lend a hand by taking on a task. You know that students continue to need guidance even as they are spreading their wings to fly!

Teachers, you are an integral part of the Educational Theatre Association’s effort to make #TheatreInOurSchools a program that helps students succeed. Your passion and support make profound differences in the lives of the students in your classrooms.  

If I may be of any support to you with college auditions, let’s connect. Email me at laura@auditionwell.com.  ♦

Laura Enstall is the founder of Audition Well and a regular contributor to Educational Theatre Association. 

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