“If you have children, you want to do everything you can to help your child get into the school of their dreams,” says Mary Anna Dennard, founder of College Audition Coach. “Most of the parents have no background in performing arts, so they’re feeling pretty overwhelmed and frightened. They don’t wanna drop the ball, so they’re really looking for help and guidance.
“And as I tell everyone,” she adds, “if this was easy, I wouldn’t have a job.”
Launched in 2000, College Audition Coach is Dennard’s answer to the countless questions parents and teens have about auditioning for theater and acting programs in the form of two comprehensive online prep courses.
Developed from her book, “I Got In! The Ultimate College Audition Guide for Acting and Musical Theatre” (written in 2010 and updated yearly), the online prep classes, available for straight acting as well as musical theater, are two “miniseries versions” of the book, which include 14 hours of instructional video, examples of dance combinations, monologues, and more.
“With the help of Carnegie Mellon representatives, University of Michigan representatives, Texas State reps, and the University of Cincinnati, we go through every single detail of the process,” says Dennard.
“In addition to the videos,” she says, “there are audio podcasts where I interview the heads of the most popular programs so you can hear from them firsthand and they can give you an overview of their programs and talk about their audition processes.”
Additionally, Dennard’s done plenty of legwork for stressed-out parents and teens; the online prep course separates schools by region and audition statistics, and even provides organizational tools, so that a student’s “parents and college counselors can all get online and make sure the student is on task and all the requirements are met.”
But if you’re not ready to invest in the full prep course, the Dallas-based coach offers à la carte videos on her website and does consultations online via FaceTime to allow step-by-step preparation.
Beginning in the second half of a student’s junior year of high school, Dennard says there are a few first steps to take to ensure a smoother college audition process.
“The first thing you need to do is figure out your must-haves—the things you’re looking for in a program and the things you’re looking for in the university—’cause you’re traveling down both roads at the same time but they have different components, so you want to be sure your needs are being met in the program and that the university component is there as well. You’re also getting a college degree at the end of the day.”
Next, she says students will want to begin compiling a list of programs that meet their desires, and this is where a coach can be helpful. “But be sure it’s a coach who has experience in college auditions,” she encourages. “It’s very specific and it’s different from other kinds of auditions.”
And last, acting program or not, students should make sure their lists are balanced. “If you were only gonna apply to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, you might be disappointed at the end of the day,” Dennard says.
An advocate for the student and a realist about the arduous process, Dennard notes that during auditions, colleges typically decide within two and five minutes whether or not they want to work with a student for the next four years. “The college just wants to get to know them as individuals,” she says.
So when you step into that audition room, “Be joyous, because this is what you love to do; be brave, because you’re fierce; and be yourself, because you are enough.”
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