22 Things I Wish I Knew Before College Auditions

An Actually Helpful Guide To Be Successful During College Auditions

From Someone Who Just Did It.

I am an incoming freshman into a BFA Musical Theatre program, so I just recently went through the college audition process and I know how stressful it is. Before my audition season I read probably a hundred articles just like this one. But, after really experiencing it myself, I feel like most of them weren’t honest or helpful. I have a lot of friends who are about to go through this process, so I wanted to make a list of everything I learned and everything I wish I knew going into college auditions, to hopefully help them out. Enjoy!

Here is a pdf version of this outline, for printing or sharing purposes.

Auditions neon sign on brick wall background

Preparing Before Auditions:

  • 1.) Get Help
    • Voice Lessons
      • If you can, get voice lessons and a coach who will help you prepare for auditions. Even if you think it’s “too late in the game” for you to get lessons, it’s not. Even just a few months of lessons can make a world of difference 
    • Dance Lessons
      • If you are going into Musical Theatre and are not necessarily a dancer already, get someone who is one to help you out. Have them teach you basic moves and combinations, and get your body in shape. It will help a lot. 
      • I do not recommend joining a dance class, unless you want to be learning the five Ballet positions with a bunch of 8 year olds. Instead, get a private dance coach who can give you a crash course. 
      • If you’re not able to get a dance teacher, go on youtube and try to follow along a dance combo tutorial. Actually, you should do this even if you DO have a coach. Practice being able to quickly pick up on moves and to learn a routine in minutes, since that’s what you’ll have to do in the audition room.
  • 2.) Research & Reason
    • Start Researching- And Don’t Stop
      • Compile a spreadsheet of programs you’re interested in. Make columns for things like program size, acceptance rate, number of shows they do a season, tuition, location, etc. It’s a great way to compare your options.
    • Be Realistic 
      • Now, it’s very easy to google, “Top 10 Musical Theatre Programs in the U.S”, add those 10 to your spreadsheet, schedule auditions and leave it at that. That’s totally fine, however a lot of those programs have less than 1% acceptance rate, so it helps to have other options. Dig deep around the internet to find great programs that perhaps you’ve never heard of before. If you look up “performing arts college fairs” and look at the participating schools, that’s a great place to start. 
      • Another good place to find good schools that you’ve never heard of before are Unifieds. I highly recommend going to Unifieds if you’re able to. I could write an entirely different survival guide on Unifieds, but I won’t. (I mean I could If you wanted me to). Even if you can’t go, again, look up the colleges who will be there and, you guessed it, do more research.
    • Things to look for
      • A great thing to look at when college searching is the Alumni, and what kind of work they’ve been doing. Do graduates of this program constantly go on to be successful? 
    • Professors
      • Additionally, look at the credentials of the professors. Do they have professional experience? Have they worked on Broadway? What kind of credentials do they have listed in their biography on the school website?
  • 3.) Pick Your Materials Early
    • Start Early
      • Like, months and months early. Ideally you should start thinking about auditions the summer before your senior year of high school. You will most likely start hating your selections around Christmas, but don’t succumb to the temptation of changing them.
  • 4.) Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
    • Be Decisive & Consistent
      • Rehearse exactly how you’re going to slate yourself (also, learn what slate means). Decide where you’re going to put your hands on each sentence of your monologue. Be very specific in your choices to move during your songs. Rehearse until you get to the point where you could perform your entire audition in your sleep and you’ve memorized every movement, line, and note to a T. 
    • Perform 
      • Perform your material for your parents, your friends, your directors, and anyone else who will listen. The more experience you have performing your audition material in front of an audience, the better off you’ll be.
  •  5.) Become Knowledgeable 
    • Know Your Pieces 
      • Read the play that your monologue comes from. Watch the show your song cuts come from. Know the context and backstory of what you’re performing. 
    • Know Your Type
      • Know what kind of shows you’re attracted to and what roles you fit. Having a type is actually very beneficial, so don’t be afraid to own it and let it show through your material.
        •  If you walk into an audition room not knowing who you are as a person and performer, they’ll be able to smell it a mile away.
  • 6.) Stay Organized.
    • Scheduling Auditions
      • Start scheduling auditions as soon as you’re able to, and pick the earliest audition dates that you can. Colleges will deny it, but the earlier audition days do have more of an advantage. 
      • If they let you pick your own time slot, always. go. first.
      • In my opinion, on campus auditions are a lot more personal and aren’t usually as rushed. Also you get a better sense of the campus and the program. 
    • Dates, Deadlines, & More Dates.
      • Audition dates, prescreen deadlines, application deadlines, and more deadlines. Get a calendar and put every date in it. That’s your bible from now on. The worst feeling is missing out on an opportunity because you missed an audition or deadline.
    • Conflicts
      • Here is a link to a printable blank calendar. https://www.calendarlabs.com/blank-calendar/ This helped me a lot. Print it out and write down all of your show dates if you are in a winter show, or any other events you absolutely cannot miss, like show choir competitions, ISSMA, choir concerts, or Spring Musical auditions.
      • Then, add in all of your audition dates. If you have conflicts with auditions, contact the school. There are almost always alternative audition dates or other ways to submit an audition.
  • 7.) Keep your options open.
    • Cast a Wide Net.
      • It’s okay to go into college audition season with a “dream school”. However, do not let your 1-2 “dream schools” be the only schools you audition for. Go on as many auditions as humanly possible, because you never know which program is going to be right for you.
    • Audition, Audition, Audition 
      • Even if you’ve never heard of that school, or you think you’re “too good” or “not good enough” or it’s “too expensive” or “too far from home,” just audition anyway.  If you’re at Unifieds, do as many walk-ins as you can. You will most likely end up somewhere you didn’t expect at all.
6109-08396089 © Masterfile Royalty-Free Model Release: Yes Property Release: Yes Students at a casting call for a play

During Auditions:

  • 8.) Be Nice to Everyone.
    •  And I Mean Everyone.
      • The person who walks you to the audition room. The people collecting your headshots. Current students who are just there to answer your questions. The person who teaches the dance audition. Your fellow auditionees. Be nice to everyone. 
      • You never know who knows who, and who has a say in casting a program. Audition days can be very draining, and it’s easy to let your tiredness and stress take over and snap on someone, but just don’t do it.
  • 9.) Be Yourself. 
    • Personality Matters More Than You Think
      • Nobody tells you this about college auditions, but the auditioners genuinely want to know you. A theatre program is such a small, tight knit group of individuals that spend a lot of time together, and the people auditioning you want to make sure you’re someone who is pleasant to be around and work with, and will fit in.
    • Conversation
      • Don’t be thrown off if after you perform your material, they actually make conversion with you. Just relax, and be yourself. The hard part is over. They will be able to tell if you’re not being genuine. 
      • It’s very common for them to ask you specifics about your resume. 

Example: “Oh I see here you helped assistant direct ‘Searching for David’s Heart’. Did you enjoy doing that?” or “What was your experience being President of Highland Theatre Company?” Just relax and speak truthfully.

  • 10.) Make an Impression
    •  Be Memorable.
      • When making conversation in the audition room, bring up unique specifics about you that they will remember. Consider putting something goofy and funny under “special talents”, for example, “Has a really good Brittany Spears impression” , “Can wiggle my ears” or “Can quote any amount of Harry Potter.” These pretty much serve as conversation starters, and allow the auditioners to remember you.
    •  Conversation
      • Don’t be afraid to make bold conversation. When they ask you questions, expand on them. The longer you’re in that audition room, the better.
  • 11.) The people behind the table are rooting for you.
    • Remember This. Always.
      • This goes for any audition that you’ll ever go on. Always keep in mind that the people behind that audition table WANT you to do well. They are not the enemy. At the end of the day, they are the ones who need to fill the spots in their programs. They need you more than you need them.
  • 12.)Talk To The Current Students 
    • Impress Them
      • 9 times out of 10, the college will have students who are currently in the program you are auditioning for at your audition. Most likely working it, or even just there to answer your questions. Take advantage of that! Make lots of conversation with them, be funny and nice.
      •  If you make a bad impression on these students, it’s easy for them to relay that information back to their professors behind the table.
  • 13.) Stay Healthy 
    • Physically
      • It’s winter. You’re probably traveling. You’re stressed. Your health is CRUCIAL. Get enough sleep, eat breakfast, do a face mask or two. Cough drops and throat coat are your friend. 
    • Mentally
      • My friends and family told me I was a walking shell of a human during audition season. Try not to lose yourself. 
  • 14.) Don’t Compare Yourself 
    • Easier Said Than Done
      • Mark Twain said, “comparison is the death of joy” and in this case, comparison is the death of success. You cannot focus on what other people are doing. It will only mess you up.
      • Don’t let it get to you when your fellow auditionees are making small talk bragging about all the shows they’ve done, the fancy performing arts camps they’ve been to, the people on broadway they’ve trained with, and literally anything else. Everyone is on their own path, and you have things that are unique about you. 
  • 15.) Be Patient With Your Parents
    • Not much else to say on this.
      •  They are doing a lot for you from traveling, to paying for every application fee and so much more. This is just as hard for them as it is for you.

After Auditions:

  • 16.) Send Thank You Emails Or Notes.
    • Following Up
      • Send thank you emails or notes to everyone in the audition room. Ask the student running the room their names, and look up their emails on the website. Include your accompanist, and even the student running the room. 
      • When writing a thank you, be short & to the point. Chances are, they get a lot of these. However, be sure to mention some of the specifics things you talked about in the room. Below is an example.
  • Hello! This is Kennedy Vernengo, and I auditioned for your Acting & Musical Theatre programs on Saturday. I just wanted to shoot you a quick email thanking you for letting me share my work with you. It was so great discussing with you what it’s like being on the other side of the audition table, my thrifted blouse from Goodwill, and how football can sometimes make us cry! You all were incredibly welcoming and made my audition experience an all around positive one. I hope the rest of the audition day went well! Best wishes, Hope to hear from you soon, -Kennedy.
    • Most likely, you will not get a response. That’s okay. It’s the thought that counts.
  • 17.) Trust The Process
    • Also Easier Said Than Done. 
      • It will feel like the longest six weeks of your life waiting to hear from colleges. Just relax and be glad it’s over. 
      • Yes, you will have friends who have known where they are going to school since October. Yes, you will have to explain to every adult that asks you where you are going to college that you don’t know yet. Yes, you will feel like you are making a decision at the very last minute, but you will get your admissions decisions in time, you will sign a housing contract, and yes, it will all work out.
  • 18.) Ask Questions
    • Reach Out. 
      • If you’re confused about anything, like you don’t remember when you’ll get a decision, or you want to know more about the program, do not hesitate to call or email the department. They will most likely be happy to help. Additionally, the more you’re in contact with professors and other people within the department, the better you’ll be remembered. Don’t worry about being “annoying”.
  • 19.) Don’t View The Waitlist As A Rejection
    • The waitlist isn’t a rejection. It’s just not. Nothing else to say.
  • 20.)Take Action
    • Visit Campus & Observe Classes
      • After you have received all of your admissions decisions, and have narrowed it down to 2-3 schools, it’s a good idea to visit the campuses again (even if you’ve already been) and get a more in depth look at the program. I highly highly recommend sitting in on an actual theatre class that you would be taking if you decided to go there. 
    • Meet With Professors
      • If you decide to visit campus after you’ve been admitted to the program, try to meet with a professor or two if you can. They have already chosen you, so now you need to decide if you should choose them. Don’t be afraid to ask real questions like, “What kind of connections do you have?” or “How will you help me find employment after graduation?”
    • When You Know, You Know. 
      • It’s like getting married. Joining a performing arts BFA program is kind of like joining a family. When you’ve found the right school for you, you’ll get a feeling, and you’ll know.

To Keep In Mind All Season:

21.)It’s Really Not As Scary As You Think.

9 times out of 10, the people behind the table are VERY nice. Because at the end of the day, THEY want to leave a good impression on YOU. All you’re doing is sharing something you’re passionate about with other humans. That’s it.

22.)Words Have Power. So Manifest. And Lie.

My voice teacher told me this once and it helped me immensely throughout the audition process. This is one of the best pieces of advice I have. 

The more you say how nervous you are, the more power those words have. So don’t say it. Just don’t.

  • Anytime anyone asks you, “How are auditions going?” or “How are you feeling about auditions?” the answer should always be “Amazing! I’m doing very well.” or “I have great pieces, I’m very excited, and well prepared.” 

EVEN IF IT’S A LIE, AND YOU’RE NERVOUS AS ALL HELL. 

  • The more you convince others that you’re prepared and confident for your auditions, the more you will convince yourself. 

And the more you tell people how nervous and stressed you are about auditions, the more true that will be.

  • As performers and artists we believe that words have power. And this is especially true here. Tell yourself everyday that your auditions are going to go well. This sounds overly cheesy but look in the mirror and say, “I am prepared. I’ve put in the work. I am going to do well.” The more you do this, the more you will believe it. 

I promise you.

Break A Leg! 

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. These are great points – thanks for sharing – FYI there are a few typos you should correct “processor” should be “professor” good luck with you first year.

    Like

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