Knowing what to do, and when, are details that you can understand to help your students with their college audition process. As an audition coach, I tell my students and their adults that this process is unique. “You’ve never done anything like this,” and then I try to assure them, “and you’ll never have to do this again!”
There is a distinct timeline that is important to know and follow if your students are planning to audition for musical theatre or acting programs across the country or even in state. While some programs do not require a rigorous audition like we will discuss, many of them do. Remember that every school is different. This fact is one of the biggest issues for students to learn and accept. What your students did for School A will likely be different for Schools B, C, and D. It can be daunting!
Even though you, as their teacher, may not be as involved in the college audition process as the student’s audition coach or their adults, understanding the timeline is one way you can empathize with what they’re attempting to accomplish. If it’s within your bandwidth, you can also be one more adult supporter on their audition team.
College Audition Timeline
JUNIOR YEAR is when preparation for college auditions begins in earnest. I’ve found that the best time to begin college audition prep is at the start of second semester of the student’s junior year. In this early stage, the student begins gathering audition material and finding songs and monologues that are age appropriate.
You can remind the student that they might already have material in their audition book. A lighthearted “no need to reinvent the wheel” may help them see they have already done some good work toward their college goal.
BONUS TIP: If you have younger students who already know they’re interested in college theatre programs, a friendly suggestion to them and their adults to begin looking at schools even in the freshman and sophomore years is wise. I encourage families to consider incorporating a college visit if they’re on a road trip. Or they can check out local schools during those summers. Usually there is information on the school’s website about summer tours. Be sure to check if you need reservations or if you can just show up.
SUMMER PRIOR TO SENIOR YEAR, which is now for rising seniors, is when applications open. In most cases the application open date is August 1. What the student needs to be working on prior to the application date are:
- Filling out the applications. These applications are often long, time-consuming, and tedious about details needed. Starting this summer gives the student time to go about the process calmly and accurately. And to gather any important info they need to get from their adults.
- Writing essays. Yes, many students think they do their best writing under a deadline. However, the reality is that there will be the writing of the essays, and then the revising to polish the essays. Start now.
- Continue working on audition materials.
- Continue going on college visits.
- Get headshots taken. The student needs headshots for prescreen submissions in the fall. Don’t wait until the start of the school year. Just don’t. Do it now.
IN SEPTEMBER OF SENIOR YEAR, students are preparing for prescreens with the hope of passing to get an audition slot. If the prescreen is passed, the student will have the opportunity to schedule an audition with that school. Remember that not every school will require a prescreen; find out which ones do.
OCTOBER is a great time to film prescreens. Filming earlier is fine if the student’s material is film ready. A few programs might have an early decision deadline in October; I can’t say it enough: check each school’s particular requirements and deadlines.
NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER are when most prescreens will be due. Many schools follow the Musical Theatre Common Prescreen. Check each school’s website for requirements. Common deadlines are November 1st and 15th; December 1st and 15th.
LATE DECEMBER AND EARLY JANUARY are often quiet because of winter break.
MID-JANUARY is when most students will begin (if they haven’t already) scheduling their auditions. Some auditions might be virtual. Virtual auditions are acceptable and can be scheduled, too.
LATE JANUARY AND FEBRUARY are when students audition for school programs. The National Unified Auditions are held in New York (January 2024), Chicago and Los Angeles (both in February 2024). These unified auditions allow students the opportunity to audition for many schools in one weekend. In 2024 there are currently 25 schools involved. Be sure to check out the link.
MARCH may still offer some audition times. Some students will hear back from schools this month.
APRIL is when the final schools may notify students of admittance or denials. Now is the time for the student to review all the options they have been offered.
It’s important to remind students they are within their rights (with regard to the school) to decline any offers they do not wish to accept. That is, an offer is just that. The student is not obligated to accept it.
MAY 1st is decision day! Students should commit by May 1 to the program of their choice.
Is a BFA degree better than a BA degree?
No, it all comes down to training. Ultimately, whatever your student puts into a program is what they’re going to get out of it. The letters on the paper, BFA or BA, do not matter in the professional audition room. What matters is proof of solid training and honed technique.
Where does my student begin? First start by researching programs. Have the student make a preliminary list of schools they’d like to learn more about. Second, suggest that they begin working on songs and monologues that are age appropriate. This dual assignment “start” helps them begin to understand that there are going to be a lot of moving parts during college audition preparation.
How can I best help my student? Review the above timeline and mark key deadlines and to-do items for each month. Provide the student with this same information in whatever way best fits their processing and planning method. Let them know you’re willing to be their accountability partner and check in with them on key dates (if this is something you have time to do).
HELPFUL LINKS TO EXPLORE
CommonApp is a platform students use to apply to multiple programs: https://www.commonapp.org/
Musical Theater Common Prescreen has a lot of important info for the prescreen process in one place: https://getacceptd.com/musical-theater-common-prescreen
National Unified Auditions landing page has details about all three major cities’ auditions: https://unifiedauditions.com/
Come follow me on Instagram for free audition tips: @auditionwell ♦
Laura Enstall is the founder and owner of Audition Well. She’s a regular contributor to Educational Theatre Association.