The audition for an arts and performance college can be the most nerve-wracking and stress-inducing period of a high school student’s life.
After tirelessly combing college brochures, visiting campuses, editing personal statements and training, training, training, the big moment comes. You, on a stage. Lights up, admissions panel below. And there is nothing between you and your dreams except a handful of minutes and one song, monologue or dance piece to get you there.
It’s hard enough having your future hinge on just a single performance that can either earn you a slot in your dream school’s freshman class or send you and your hopes packing out the back door. But it’s even harder when you aren’t properly prepared.
Like standardized testing, essay writing and sit-down interviews with the dean, a college audition for arts-based schools and conservatories should be approached with a mix of strategy and determination. This is not the moment to wing it or hope your talent gets you by. A college audition requires preparation, knowledge and of course, a lot of practice. The best and most-prepared students arrive at the auditorium on audition day armed with a slew of skills and tools.
Audition prep is like college prep, and should be looked at the same way. First of all, home in on the right schools for you. What are your safeties, and what is your reach? At Polish Your Passion, we help you curate a short, targeted list of schools all of which can nurture your talents and propel you forward, and we make sure the list includes a range of schools so you can aim high while still guaranteeing acceptance somewhere great.
Next, it’s important to remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your headshots, audition style and even the words you use to introduce yourself at your audition will immediately define who you are to the admissions committee. Choose them wisely, and don’t rush the process. Take the time to find a photographer who makes you feel comfortable and who can give you headshots that put you in your very best light – both literally and figuratively. When it’s time to go prepare your outfit and overall look for the big day, enlist someone you trust, be it a friend, mentor or family member, to help you choose clothes that both flatter you under stage lights and are easy to move in. Women shouldn’t be afraid to style their hair and apply makeup, but make sure you look like an authentic version of yourself. Remember, you’re auditioning to be YOU, not to play a character. This is an audition for college, where you will be the star of your own show. Dress the part, and look sharp without overdoing it.
The meat of your audition, though, is of course that moment when you finally are able to perform. This is your ‘atbat’, your true chance to stand out from the crowd, your one chance to give it your all and show the committee what you’re made of. While your time on stage may only last for 30 seconds, the preparation that this audition requires is substantial.
It’s helpful, with so much on the line, to bring in professional help to get you and your audition into tip-top shape. Dancers can benefit from choreographers who will work with them to select moves that highlight their best talents. Singers gain a great deal from consulting with vocal coaches both on breath and range work, and also on that simple but utterly serious task of song selection. Students with immense vocal talent but a poorly selected tune can crash and burn in the audition process faster than those with mid-level pipes equipped with the perfect song to help them shine.
For students prepping their college auditions, however, there is one piece of advice that is more important than any other. Whether you’re reaching for Juilliard or Broadway; for the University of Cincinnati Conservatory or for a slot at NYU Tisch, you should always act as though you’re aiming for Carnegie Hall. And how do you get there? We all know the answer. Practice, practice, practice.