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5 Do’s and Don’ts of College Performing Arts Auditions

For college-bound high school students, choosing where to spend the next four years of your life might seem like an overwhelming decision. After all, college is a major investment of both money and time—and that investment already begins as you go through the application process.

If you’re planning to pursue a degree in music, theatre, dance, or another area of performing arts, this process is even more involved since you typically have to submit an application to each college and audition for your major program. However, your college audition success isn’t just dependent on how much you practice—it’s also about the quality of your preparation.

In this guide, we’ll look at five do’s and don’ts of college performing arts auditions to help you get ready more effectively. Let’s dive in!

Do: Research Each School Thoroughly

At its core, your college decision is about finding the right fit for you—both as an artist and as an individual. Before you submit an application or schedule an audition for any school, take a deep dive into each college’s website and make note of the following:

  • The type of school: public/state school, private/liberal arts college, or performing arts conservatory
  • Majors, minors, and concentrations offered both within and outside of the arts
  • The type of degree your intended major leads to: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Music (BM), or Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Student opportunities available to you: performances, internships, study abroad programs, student organizations and clubs, on- and off-campus jobs, etc.
  • The cost of attending: both the basic tuition and fees required as well as the scholarships or financial aid you could receive
  • Where alumni end up after college and whether you could see yourself following a similar career path

Try to take a tour of each of your top schools’ campuses before you make your final decision to get a better sense of what it would be like for you to attend. If you’re auditioning in person at the college, see if you can book a tour while you’re there to save time and money on travel. If you audition online or at the National Unified Auditions, you’ll either need to find a separate time to visit the school or see if they have a virtual tour option.

Firsthand student perspectives can also be helpful in the decision-making process. Many schools post videos of students talking about their experiences on their websites or social media as a recruiting tool—watch a few of those if they’re available. Even better, find out if any alumni of your high school attend the colleges you’re considering and set up a time to talk to them.

Don’t: Use the Exact Same Materials for Every Audition

When you’re auditioning for multiple programs, it’s tempting to simply pick one set of audition materials and reuse them for every single college. However, most schools have specific requirements for both prescreen and live audition materials that you have to follow, and they typically won’t consider you if you break those rules. So, although you can reuse a few audition materials if you’re sure they align with several schools’ guidelines, you’ll likely need to find a wide range of repertoire for your auditions.

Besides the additional time it takes to practice more materials, the costs can quickly add up. Fortunately, Acceptd’s guide to finding college audition repertoire recommends several places where free materials may be available, including:

  • for theatre monologues
  • Videos of senior showcases on the college’s website for song inspiration
  • YouTube dance tutorials in a variety of styles
  • Your local library

Consider creating a folder (either physical or digital) where you can keep all of your materials organized, both by school and based on whether you need them for your prescreen submission or the live audition. That way, you can always pull out the correct repertoire for the correct college and make sure you’re following the requirements.

Do: Ask for Feedback Throughout the Process

As you prepare for college auditions, your arts instructors will be invaluable resources. The best instructors truly want to see you succeed, so work with them both to choose materials that play to your strengths and rehearse them to the best of your ability. Additionally, consider performing some of your audition repertoire for trusted friends or family members to get an outside perspective.

To get a better idea of your progress, periodically record yourself practicing. Then, watch the video back with your instructors so you can understand in-depth what you’re doing well and where there is room for improvement. Additionally, for virtual auctions, My College Audition recommends making your practice self-tapes in the space where you’ll do your actual audition so you can check that it’s comfortable and well-lit.

Don’t: Neglect Self-Care

College audition season is a busy time. It’s especially important to take good care of your body and mind so you can show up to every audition feeling calm and ready to perform. Some aspects of physical self-care to focus on include:

  • Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule
  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating nutritious meals
  • Cutting back on your caffeine consumption
  • Exercising regularly—both to keep your body in shape (especially if your auditions involve dancing) and to relieve stress

To prioritize your mental well-being during a season when it can be hard to relax, try to build time into your schedule for journaling, meditation, yoga, or other mindful activities. Also, don’t be afraid to rely on your support system—remember that your friends, family, and coaches want you to do your best!

Do: Be Yourself

Although the quality of your audition matters, college performing arts programs also want to see what makes you unique. There are several places where you can let your personality shine through during this process, including:

  • Your application. Tell the school about your background and interests in your application essay, artist profile, and portfolio.
  • “Wild card” prescreen submissions. Programs that require these want to see a talent or hobby that makes you you. Sing your favorite pop song, read a poem you wrote, showcase your storytelling skills, or demonstrate anything else you want the school to know about you.
  • Your audition outfit. If you’ll have to dance during the audition, wear something you feel comfortable moving in. If not, choose a nice outfit that expresses your personality.

At some schools, you might also have to interview either with a faculty member in the performing arts department or an admissions official for the college as a whole. If this is the case, you may want to do a few practice runs, but the most important thing is to relax and be yourself.

No matter what area of performing arts you plan to pursue in college, the tips above can help you turn your passion into a degree and future career path. Keep in mind that the exact strategies that work for you might be different from what works for your peers, so test out a variety of ideas to create the audition preparation process that empowers you to do your best.

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