For many students applying to BFA musical theater and acting programs, college auditions will be their first major audition outside a high school or community theater environment. Some audition days will feel quick; others will require you to spend a full day on campus.
To be frank, the waiting room can be terrifying. When I walk through the hallways of NYC Unifieds every January, I feel my own heartbeat skyrocket and I’m not even auditioning. The excitement, nerves, crippling terror, and ignorant bliss can be overwhelming, to say the least. But how you handle the waiting room experience can have a direct impact on your focus and readiness in the room. Follow these tips to conquer the college audition waiting room to leave the best impression on audition day.
1. Treat everyone with respect.
From the moment you walk into the building, handle yourself professionally and treat everyone around you with kindness (including your parents!). In most cases, you have no idea what the faculty on the audition panel looks like and you don’t want to create a sour first impression.
It’s a safe assumption that anyone you encounter on audition day is a current student, administrative staff member, faculty member, accompanist, etc. So whatever drama has led up to you walking into the audition venue (i.e a fight with your mom about forgetting to pack your steamer or your flight getting delayed), let it all go. Greet the audition day experience with positivity. A simple “hello” and a smile can go a long way to not only leave everyone you encounter with a positive impression but also to keep yourself in a great mindset as you go through your audition day.
Pro tip: Always thank your audition monitor before you leave the audition!
2. Put your phone in airplane mode.
When you’re waiting around for hours in a holding room before an audition, you’re going to be tempted to turn to your phone to pass the time. Although it might seem helpful, you never know when you may receive a pre-screen or college admissions decision from another school by email or a text about the latest drama within your friend group.
Any interaction with the outside world can throw you off. So it’s crucial that you avoid any activity on your phone that will distract you from staying focused on your job that day: bringing your best to your college audition.
Pro tip: Create a mega playlist of music that helps you stay calm, focused, energized, and determined. Books, crossword puzzles, even knitting can be welcome distractions. Whatever works best for you!
3. Keep conversations to a minimum.
It’s inevitable that you’re going to see friends from MT, pre-college, and summer programs, or past shows at your auditions. And it’s natural for you to want to catch up; doing so may even help calm you down, knowing you have a support of friends who believe in you close by.
Just make sure these reunions don’t hijack your audition experience. Some people love to chat before auditions. Some people don’t want to lose focus. Don’t take it to heart if someone doesn’t want to have a conversation. Also, if someone won’t stop talking, feel free to tell them politely that you’d like to take some time to focus before your audition.
Pro tip: If you know a friend is going to be at the same audition as you, schedule a time before or after to grab lunch or dinner somewhere off campus.
4. Learn your audition material before you get to the audition.
Believe it or not, I see this happen a lot at Unifieds: Applicants shaking nervously as they attempt to cram monologues into their brains or read the play for the first time. It always breaks my heart to see this because there’s no way anyone can present their best work if they’re under-prepared.
The key to remaining confident in the waiting room is excellent preparation. You can’t be sitting in the waiting room freaking out (“What if they ask me for another song? Monologue? AHHH! I never read the play! Did I mark my music correctly?”). Self-doubt will creep in and you’ll question everything about yourself and your talent. The college audition waiting room is a place for you to breathe and trust your hard work; it’s not a place for you to doubt your preparation.
Pro tip: Make sure you’ve learned and memorized all your audition material at least 2-3 weeks before any live college audition. That includes any back-up songs or monologues!
5. Don’t compare yourself to others in the waiting room.
The difference between many professional auditions and a college audition is that you’re not auditioning for a specific role. Rather, you’re auditioning for a spot in a BFA class. Which means when you look around the college audition room, you won’t find a sea of the exact same look, type, and experience level.
Although other auditionees might look like you, everyone has different strengths, areas where they excel, and different parts of their technique that need more work. If you’ve selected audition material that showcases who you are, what you have to offer, and allows the faculty to see what makes you uniquely you, you have nothing to worry about. The audition process is not about perfection so much as it is about getting schools to know you and determining whether the training methods at the program you’re auditioning for will be the appropriate fit for you.
Pro tip: There’s no way for you to know how many blonde sopranos or 5’6” tenors any given program is going to accept, so don’t waste your energy playing the part of the casting director.
Bonus tip for parents: Stay under the radar!
College auditions are nerve-wracking for parents, too. It’s tough for parents to know how hands-on or hands-off they should be at college auditions—the fear of being labelled a “stage parent” is legitimate. I’ve seen moms listen outside the audition room and talk to the audition monitors about how much better their child is than everyone else at the audition...not ok.
Allow your child to take the lead (signing themselves in, asking questions, etc.). Be kind to everyone around you and avoid the temptation to discuss the audition process or experiences at other BFA programs with parents in the waiting room. You have no idea who’s listening.
Pro tip: Ask your child how they want you to support them on audition day. Don’t get offended if the answer is “stay in the hotel room.” For some students, having a parent in the waiting room can be calming; for others, it can be a stressor.
It may be an eye-opening experience to see the sheer number of students interested in pursuing a BFA track, especially at National Unifieds Auditions, but don’t second guess your passion. You deserve to be there, so seize the opportunity to shine!
Check out Backstage’s theater audition listings!
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.