6 Tips for Picking the Perfect College Acting Program

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Applying to college can be stressful. Relatives want to know where you will go, as if you (and not an admissions committee) determine whether you will be accepted. Parents and guardians talk about the increasing cost of tuition and sometimes drop hints that your school choice better be worth the money. There’s also the fact that you only recently got the hang of high school, and now you’re being ushered out.
The following tips can help you to better prepare for the college application season and may lower your stress.

Ignore The Cost of Tuition
The biggest mistake that applicants make is that they allow the cost of tuition to determine where they apply. Many schools—and most of the more recognizable ones—offer need-blind admission, which means that they admit applicants solely based on their academic credentials without considering the size of their bank accounts. Need-blind schools commit to making sure that college is affordable—through a mix of scholarships, work-study grants, and loans—for everyone admitted.

Identify The Best Schools For You
Ask yourself the following questions: How far away from home am I willing to travel to go to school? Would I prefer to go to college in a major city, a midsize city, or a small college town? How important is it for me to be in an LGBT-friendly or a racially diverse community? Would I prefer a broad-based liberal arts education or something more specialized, like a conservatory? Do I absolutely know what my college major will be? Or would I prefer to choose one (or more) after having taken classes? Answering these questions will yield better results for you than simply applying to the top schools in a college rankings magazine.

There Is More Than One "Perfect" School For You
We trick ourselves into believing that there is only one college for us and that if we fail to get into that one school (or do not enroll there), then our life goals will never be realized. There are probably a half-dozen or more schools that are perfect matches for you. Apply to all of them with the belief that admission into one of them, any of them, is all that you need. If you get into more than one, that’s a bonus.

Pay Close Attention to Application Requirements
Colleges differ. They have different names, mascots, and application requirements. Even schools that use a “common application” can vary in their requests for supplementary material. To avoid making mistakes, learn the application requirements as soon as possible. For example, some theater departments require interviews and auditions, which entail creating a portfolio and booking transportation to one of a limited list of interview/audition cities.

Consider Applying Early
The perk of early acceptance is that you’ll know where you could or will go to college when most people are sending out their applications. Even if you elect not to apply early, solicit letters of recommendation as soon as possible. Give recommenders ample time, at least four weeks, to compose their letters. A rushed letter (like a last-minute application) almost always is not a good one.

Visit Campus Before You Commit To a College
An in-person visit can be eye-opening. Stay overnight in a dorm, eat in the cafeteria, attend classes, watch a student performance, and talk to current students to get a glimpse into campus life and whether you’ll be happy there.

Harvey Young is a professor of theater at Northwestern University. His most recent books include “The Cambridge Companion to African American Theatre” and “Theatre and Race.”

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Harvey Young
Harvey Young is President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and Dean of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.
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