Don Kruszka | March Consulting Arts Specialist

I never liked auditioning. In fact, I hate it.  Especially when that audition involves contrasting monologues. Preparing an out-of-context speech for strangers who have never seen you before and will judge your worthiness in five minutes or less always seemed fraught with peril.  There is a reason auditions have been dubbed “cattle calls.”  You feel like you’re a piece of meat being appraised for slaughter.

But, in order to pursue our passion as performers, auditioning is a necessary evil. And, to enter a prestigious college drama or music program, auditions are often required.  Admissions directors wants to know who they’re getting.  

So, with that in mind, how do you prepare an audition piece that will impress the admissions people?  A number of directors from various drama programs offer the following helpful advice:

First, choose pieces that work for you.

For drama majors, choose pieces that you would realistically be able to play right now.  It’s good to make bold choices, but try to keep them age-appropriate. For musicians, pick pieces that speak to you, that you enjoy playing. That tip also applies to drama majors, as well.

Next, research your piece.

You’ve got your monologue, now read the entire play, get to know who your character is, and the context of the scene you have chosen. Characters don’t start the scene when they get on stage.  They are coming from somewhere and going somewhere. Keeping this in mind will help further define your role. For musicians, learn everything you can about your piece: who composed it, what time period it’s from, what style is it typically played in? The more time you spend studying a piece, the more you have internalized it and made it your own.

Then, practice, practice, practice!  

Get to know the lines and the character as if you were putting on a comfortable shirt.  Lack of preparation not only leads to nervousness, it becomes apparent right away to the people conducting the audition, and it can severely hurt your chances.  If you can, work with a trusted mentor (this is good advice for all performers) who can give you constructive criticisms and help you find your choices.

Don’t be afraid to own this character or this piece.

As you are rehearsing your dramatic or musical pieces (or dances or songs),  remember that this is YOUR part, driven by YOUR talent, and the people controlling your fate are looking for performers who can tell a story with what they present.  They aren’t looking for perfection.  They’re looking for the passion that you bring to the table, the potential you offer that will enhance their program with your presence. That being said, remember that passion does not necessarily translate to screaming the lines or playing fortissimo.  Watch your volume.  Often the most intense lines can be more effective in a whisper rather than a roar.

It’s all about presentation (and not just on the stage).

At the audition, it is important to dress appropriately, be respectful to other performers and the people in charge and present a confident and comfortable bearing.  SMILE!  Speak clearly.  You’ve got this.  Remember that nervousness is normal and understandable.  There’s a lot riding on this, and you will sometimes be auditioning for a number of schools at the same time. So, admissions directors advise that you take time to BREATHE. Find some centering exercises that will help calm your nerves and put you in the moment.  It’s alright to take a few seconds to center yourself before you begin your piece.  Don’t rush in.

Keep in mind that you are performing for a friendly audience.  

The people who are evaluating you WANT to see you succeed, and if they see something they like, they will give you ample opportunity to do so.  

Their final piece of advice is to have fun.

This is your chosen field. Your idiom. Your calling. Be strong. Be yourself. Be the character. Break a leg.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

{ 0 comments }

Jordan Fulmer | March Consulting Educational Consultant

There are thousands of applicants each year with the perfect unweighted 4.0/weighted 5.0 GPA, the 1600 SAT/36 ACT, and the robust list of community service/academic achievements. Tough advice I received back when I was applying to colleges: when it comes to admissions, there is always someone academically better than you. Moreover, when it comes to service hours, someone always has more than you.

That might sound cynical or disconcerting but trust me, it’s not supposed to be. Rather than alarming or discouraging you, this news should bring some relief. Let me clarify: despite having perfect academic and/or service requirements, many students still get rejected from universities. In fact, other students with less impressive academics get accepted over the so-called perfect achievers. Why? First and foremost, universities want an individual. That is not to say that you shouldn’t have a competitive academic and community service resume (you 100% should), but rather you should also have unique, innate qualities that no other prospective college student could emulate.

Of course, there are universities out there that simply go off of your academic achievements. Yet a majority of universities (including every Ivy League school) requires you to write an essay. This is where your individuality shines through.

In short: be weird.

I’m aware there are preconceived notions of college essays being “difficult,” “anxiety-inducing,” and “downright torturous.”  The funny thing is they don’t have to be. If anything, an essay is a playground for your mind. It’s creative problem solving: what can I share about myself that would inspire an admissions officer to take a chance on me?

For example, there was a student (we’ll call her “Anna”) who hit a roadblock with her essay that she couldn’t seem to pass. My friend who was working with Anna at the time started brainstorming before asking, “What’s your favorite Disney film?” After long deliberation, Anna settled on Inside Out (a film which highly resonated with her). For those who don’t know, Inside Out is a film in which a young girl’s personified emotions help her maneuver her way through life. Anyways, my friend and Anna then started to wonder: if Anna’s own mind was personified, which emotions would lead her? This led them to mimic the conceit of the film (personified emotions), and together, they created a play of Anna’s emotions leading her through high school. It was wondrously creative, strange, non-traditional, and, ultimately, successful.

Anna was granted admission from an Ivy League university for being, above all things, uniquely herself.

To reiterate, important aspects of your academic/community service careerGPA, SAT/ACT scores, academic competitions, volunteer hours—should never be ignored; they matter greatly. However, when applying to a university, these statistics should not be your only be-all and end-all. There has been many a student who was granted entrance to a top tier universally mainly on the strength of their personal essay. Essay writing is a key way for universities to get to know you in all your splendor: your hobbies, your struggles, your victories, your doubts, and, most importantly, your personality. Ultimately, this is one of the few places where there are no formulas or set guides, just the unbridled you.

Want some focused attention crafting your unique application essay? Join us for our workshops Aug 10-11 and Aug 19-20.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

{ 0 comments }

Sophia Caputo | Contributing Writer

 

Do you have $8.09? Oh, perfect! You can afford a planner to keep your life in order.

That’s right, it’s time for you to buy a planner (you too, dudes!). If the extremely basic Mead pocket planner is unexciting to you, try Kate Spade’s website or take a trip to Ross or Burlington. (I got one for $4!) Still not thrilled about buying an empty book to keep your life organized? Then use your phone’s calendar– easy peasy.

So you say you hate planners…

Coming from someone who perceived all organization tactics, especially planners, to be Satan reincarnate the first three years of high school, I can assure you I survived many deadlines and due dates all thanks to my trusty Target planner I purchased a month into senior year. This year is filled from top to bottom with obligations and assignments, with applications for both college and scholarships– and unfortunately neither the University of California Los Angeles or the Coca Cola Foundation are too forgiving on missing those deadlines.

….because it’s so tedious….

Believe me, it takes a serious adjustment period to get into the habit of writing down the mundane tasks we’re required to do each day (homework, laundry, ASB meetings, etc.), but it helps in the long run. Avoid turning in assignments late or begging your classmates for due dates and details by keeping tabs on your own. By jotting down important things, you’re deeming them important– and you’re not simply affording yourself the excuse of “I forgot” anymore.

….and you’d just end up forgetting to actually write things down.

Like I said, using your phone calendar or reminder app is just as good. One of my best friends set reminders on his laptop– one time I was at his house and we were studying for the AP Environmental Science test and a reminder to “GRIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” popped up. If something was super important, I’d take the time to utilize the “remind me at a location” feature on the reminder app.

 

Senior year will be epic for you, and it’ll be crazy stressful, too. You’ll be wishing for more hours in everyday; you’ll soon become painfully aware of the fact that, in a year, your siblings and parents won’t be down the hall from you. You won’t be able to just hop in the car and grab a Dewar’s milkshake before heading to your best friend’s house. Every single moment is valuable– try to make the most of every one.

So dig up $8.09 and get ready for an unforgettable senior year.

 

The second step to conquering senior year? Adding The College Application Essay Workshop to your planner.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

{ 0 comments }

The SAT. The ACT.  Does just the mention of standardized testing send a slight shiver up your spine? You know the drill: wake up early, grab some pencils and a snack, and drive over to the testing center. You have around three hours to bubble in answers and maybe write an essay, and then the waiting game starts. After several weeks, emails and envelopes arrive bearing news that will alter the course of your life. FOREVER!

Just kidding! Yes, ACTs and SATs are important. Yes, your score can affect your admission chances at many colleges, but this isn’t always the case! Admissions officers at a growing number of schools are starting to realize that they’ve been emphasizing these standardized tests too much. And they’re doing something about it. Prestigious universities, colleges, and research institutions are announcing themselves as test-flexible, test-optional, or in one case, test-blind.

Test-Flexible

Colorado College, New York University, as well as over a hundred other well-regarded schools are in this broad category. However, what the term test-flexible means is, well, flexible. It also can depend on your history, expected major, and school. Out of all your tests — AP, IB, SAT, ACT, and SAT subject tests — each school lets you know which ones to submit. If you plan on majoring in chemical engineering, for example, and you’re acing your STEM classes, then you might not have to submit SAT math scores. Do some research! Digging around admission requirement websites can save you time, money, and most importantly — stress!  

Test-Optional

These schools let you decide whether or not to submit ACT and SAT scores at all with your application. So should you? Well, that depends. If you have testing anxiety, are applying after taking a gap year, or feel that your scores don’t — or can’t —  describe you accurately, then these schools just might be your solution! Otherwise, seriously consider sending them in as they could give you a slight edge over other applicants.

Wake Forest University, Bowdoin College, University of Rochester, and dozens of other high-caliber institutions are test-optional. If you plan on applying to one of them, carefully look through their test policies a few months ahead of deadlines so you can plan accordingly.  

Test-Blind

As of summer 2017, one school has gone completely test-blind. Hampshire College of Massachusetts refuses to look at any ACT and SAT scores. But before you even think about cancelling any test dates, finish reading this! Hampshire places extra emphasis on transcripts, extracurriculars, and work experience to get a better idea of who you are.

This school — like the test-optionals and test-flexibles — receives higher amounts of applicants than the average colleges and universities. In other words, every piece of your final application will be studied in greater detail than if you added test scores. Don’t worry —  all this calls for is taking a little more time in making yours stand out. Tips and tricks that kick applications up a notch (or three!) are our specialty!

However…

Still take a test. Yes, right now it might sound easier to blow them off — but that is definitely not the best way to go. You don’t want to end up discovering your dream school a month before apps are due, only to find that you can’t apply without submitting SAT or ACT scores.

If anything else, you get the peace of mind from taking the tests and knowing that you have scores if they end up being necessary. Whether or not you end up submitting them is a decision best made with the help of parents, college counselors, and other people who know you really well. As that old cliche goes, you never know how well you will do until you try!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

{ 0 comments }

Call me overly-cautious, but I’m one of those people who has to think through every single option before making a decision. Which ice cream flavor? Give me five minutes to contemplate the pros and cons of each flavor in regards to my current taste cravings. I want to order what I will enjoy most. Which essay prompt? Let me think through an argument for each one, start writing, second guess myself, and then pick a different one. I want to pick the one I can do my best on.

When it came to visiting colleges, I took a similar approach. I labored over which colleges I was interested in. Constantly scrolling through university websites, I thought if I got all the information, I could choose the best places for me to visit… eventually. Let me double check. Will this be the absolute best school for me?

My uncertainty and indecision prevented me from setting up any campus visits early in high school, though I knew I should start exploring my options. Thankfully my band conductor intervened. Every year my high school’s band went on tour to a different part of California. And every year my conductor scheduled us a campus visit to a nearby university.

Visiting Fresno Pacific University confirmed my desire to study at a Christian university. Walking around Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo showed me I needed a small to medium size school. And participating in Biola University’s high school music festival revealed to me the possibility of pursuing music without it being my major. (Though music did end up being one of my majors… but that’s a story for another time!)

Eventually, campus tours didn’t seem intimidating anymore. I took note of good questions my bandmates asked and started preparing to visit other schools on my own.

I didn’t end up attending any of the universities we visited on tour, but what I learned prepared me to embark fearlessly on my own visits. I knew what general type of school I wanted. I knew what to expect during a visit. And most importantly, I knew what questions I needed to be asking.

So don’t worry. Campus visits don’t need to be stress-inducing. If you don’t know if you prefer public or private, large or small, visit a variety of schools as you have time (I’m looking at you sophomores and juniors!) The best way to know what type of school suits you is to get your feet on campus.

 

“From the Desk of a Dorm Room” is a series of posts from current college students. Victoria Bruick is a recent graduate of Valparaiso University.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

{ 0 comments }