Teen Actors: How to Find Balance as You Prepare for College

Photo Source: Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

High school can feel overwhelming, especially during college application season and even more so if you’re balancing school work and applications with a professional acting career. Kudos to you for making your education a priority! Many of the greatest actors we know also have college and even postgraduate degrees.

As we enter the final round of deadlines for college applications, it’s very important that you rest, prioritize, and use your time wisely. Here are some tips for teen actors on how to balance both school and acting priorities:

Be selective about your acting projects.
Your time is precious. As a professional actor and student with a personal life, you’re already learning big lessons about time management. One of the most important thing that we can do as actors is learn to be selective about what projects we choose to take on. Not all projects are worth our time; we have to prioritize. Does that no-budget student film shoot on the same day as your chemistry exam review? You have a decision to make.

Where you choose to be is ultimately up to you, but I always lean toward education as a priority. How you decide to spend your time depends on how far along you are in your career. How much do you really need the footage from the student film? Sure, there’s always the chance that the student director is the next Steven Spielberg. Do you have an A+ in chemistry and totally understand everything that will be on the test? Maybe missing the review could work for you. The decision is yours to make; choose thoughtfully and wisely.

Stay focused on your long-term goals.
When you’re swimming in college application deadlines, academic deadlines, auditions, and projects, you might feel a bit crazed. I invite you to take a timeout and think about what really matters to you, what you’re passionate about. Is a college education important to you? Is there a subject other than acting you’d like to learn about? Is there another career you’re interested in? Would you one day enjoy getting an MFA in acting and even teaching acting at the university level? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then I invite you to truly prioritize your academics and college applications.

When you focus on the long-term goal—what you truly care about—it’s much easier to feel good about the work that’s directly in front of you. SATs and ACTs, for example, aren’t fun for anyone. However, it’s necessary that you take them in order to attend most four year universities in the U.S. (there are some “test optional” schools, but they’re few and far between). As long as you stay in touch with what you’re working towards—that college degree!—the steps in front of you will feel a lot more enjoyable.

READ: What to Expect in the First Year of a College Acting Program

Prioritize your personal life.
I’m pretty sure that every single actor I know has canceled or rescheduled a vacation in order to take on an acting project or attend an audition. Sometimes, this is necessary. But having a personal and family life should always come first. Spending time with the people you care about should be a top priority! Before you cancel your trip for Grandma Jane’s 80th birthday party, think for a moment about what matters most in the long run: seeing your beloved grandmother on her only 80th birthday or filming a commercial? It’s a tough decision because, of course, commercials pay quite well and money is always nice, but milestone moments with family are invaluable.

Get support.
Many actors benefit from having a private academic and/or college application tutor outside of the classroom. There are plenty of resources for this type of support and chances are if you ask some of your actor friends and classmates, you’ll learn about some great academic tutors. If having a private tutor isn’t financially feasible for your family, check to see if your school offers any after-school tutoring programs. You can also look into peer tutoring options and make regular one-on-one appointments with your classroom teachers and college counselors. Most teachers are happy to help; all you have to do is ask.

Beyond meeting with a teacher, tutor, or counselor, it’s ideal to have someone holding you accountable for school and college application deadlines. You could pair up with a classmate and support each other with weekly check-ins or make a schedule with your parents. Whatever plan you decide on, be sure to stick to it.

Enjoy yourself.
Your teenage years are meant to be fun. Trust me when I say that they fly by and when you look back, you’ll cherish the fun times you had with friends and family, as well as the sense of freedom you felt before you became a legal adult. Enjoy the small moments as you build your acting career, prepare for college, and plan your awesome future!

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Mae Ross
Mae Ross has directed and produced one of Hollywood’s most celebrated talent agent showcases for over 15 years, guiding thousands of aspiring young actors to agency representation and career success. In 2006, Ross founded 3-2-1 Acting Studios in Los Angeles, which garners consistent recognition as one of Hollywood's finest on-camera acting schools for children and teens and young adults.
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