How to Make the Most of Your Pre-College Summer Training Program

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Photo Source: OCU Summer Music Programs ("The Pajama Game," Summer 2016)

Summer will soon be here! You’ve worked hard this year to keep up your grades, prepare for the ACT or SAT, go on college visits, study and train, and perform as much as possible. As you’re putting together your performing arts college list and preparing for auditions, you may have decided to dedicate your summer to training in a pre-college acting or musical theater program. If you have, you’re about to have the summer of a lifetime.

Whether you’re super excited about the program or nervous to be away from home, your pre-college summer program will go by fast, so use the following tips to make the most of it.

1. Try everything.
You might be asked to try something in class that’s outside your comfort zone. You might be asked to volunteer for a cabaret. You might be asked to perform in a master class. Don’t hold back. Don’t wait to dive in. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t fight notes or adjustments given to you. Pre-college summer programs are short and the experience will be over before you know it, so say Yes! to every new learning and performance opportunity presented.

2. Get your audition book together before you start.
Work with an acting coach to select and prepare monologue material and/or a singing coach to select and prepare song material. Some programs will give you scenes or songs to work on in class, but you should have your book ready to go with material for master classes and cabarets.

If you’re at a pre-college program that offers a chance to audition at the end of the summer, make sure you have selected and prepared the appropriate monologues and/or songs before you head off. You’re going to be incredibly busy and will have a hard time finding extra time to work on this material once you get there.

3. Turn off your phone for a few hours.
It might be hard for you to spend part of the summer away from your friends and family, but use this opportunity to make new friends and learn what it's like to live away from home. Of course, it’s important to update your family and let them know how you’re doing and what exciting (or challenging) new experiences you’re having, but try to limit the check-ins. (Note to parents: This might be hard at first, but it will make the transition to college much smoother and ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth).

4. Don’t complain and stay positive!
JoBeth Moad, assistant dean of the Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University and director of the Performing Arts Academy and Summer Music Programs suggests, “Come with a willing attitude and a brave spirit! Leave your ego and expectations at home and don’t bring any negativity into the new experience. Use the experience to ‘practice,’ not complain!

“The ability to be a positive person who doesn’t spend their time complaining will be a valuable asset if you continue in the world of performance. It’s like a muscle you have to build...practice being positive! If other people are complaining, avoid their company and conversations–and realize that people may be avoiding you if you are engaging in negativity. Your positive attitude will enable you to learn and grow from new teachers and new situations.”

5. Follow the rules.
You want to be remembered by the faculty and staff for the right reasons. You’ll be asked to follow certain rules and guidelines for your safety and the safety of others and while the newfound freedom you have by being away from home on a college campus might be exciting, leave the risk-taking for class.

6. Take your homework seriously.
Whether you take drama, choir, or dance classes or go to a performing arts high school, in a fast-paced pre-college summer program, you’ll be asked to complete college-level assignments much quicker than your high school assignments. By working hard and setting aside enough outside rehearsal time, you’ll be able to make the most progress on your technique over the course of the summer.

Of course, the faculty isn’t looking for perfection (if you already knew everything, then why would you have to continue your training in college?), but they are looking for you to maximize your potential and make the most progress you can over a short period of time.

7. Show up early to class.
This is a habit you want to get into right away. If you arrive 10 minutes early to class, you’ll have time to settle in, make sure you’re warmed up and ready to go, and make a great impression. If you’re late or “right on time,” you won't get the chance to settle in before class starts. The faculty will notice and this isn’t the impression you want to leave them, especially if you plan on auditioning for the BFA program.

8. Have fun!
You get a few weeks to enjoy doing what you’re most passionate about. You have the rest of the year to worry about grades, test scores, and college auditions. Enjoy this experience!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Tom Morin
Tom Morin is a professional actor and NYC-based acting coach and co-founder of Polish Your Passion, an online-based training company for actors, singers, and dancers across the country via Skype/FaceTime and in-person during NYC-based studio lessons.
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