For prospective theater students, college and university auditions can be rewarding—and overwhelming. Traveling to different schools all around the country and preparing audition materials that meet each program’s requirements takes a lot of time, resources, and effort.
Fortunately, there are several options available to help streamline your college audition process, and one of those is attending the National Unified Auditions. Some students find unified auditions extremely helpful as they can travel to one place for two to four days and audition for many programs at the same time. But to make the most of unifieds, you’ll need the right mindset and a lot of preparation.
In this guide, we’ll walk through all you need to know about unified auditions, including:
Unified Auditions: An Overview
Should You Go to Unified Auditions?
6 Tips to Prepare for Unified Auditions
When you’re working to land a spot in your dream theater program, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the audition process, including what unified auditions are and whether they’re the right choice for you. Let’s dive in!
Unified Auditions: An Overview
Before you start preparing for unified auditions, or even consider if you want to attend unifieds, there are a few important things you should know. Some frequently asked questions about unified auditions include:
What are unified auditions?
The terms “unified auditions” and “unifieds” are both shorthand for National Unified Auditions. At the National Unified Auditions, representatives from theater programs at multiple colleges, universities, and conservatories come to one audition location. Prospective students can then audition for several programs over two to four days.
Which schools participate in unifieds?
Twenty-five total colleges and universities send reps to the National Unified Auditions. Some of the theater programs you can audition for at unifieds include:
When you identify schools you’d like to audition for, check the requirements for each one, as different schools might have different preferences and processes. Also, you’ll need to contact schools individually if you have any questions. The auditions themselves may be unified, but preparing for them isn’t.
Where are unified auditions held?
There are three cities in which unifieds take place: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Some schools may allow students to audition in other cities, but those three are the only official locations for National Unified Auditions.
What does the National Unified Audition process look like?
As we said before, the audition for each school attending unifieds can vary. So, the first thing you’ll want to do is choose the schools you want to audition for and make a detailed list of their requirements.
The first major difference you’ll likely find is that certain schools allow walk-in auditions and others don’t. If any schools you want to audition for have walk-ins available, make sure you get your name on their audition lists as soon as you arrive at National Unified Auditions. If your preferred programs require all prospective students to schedule auditions, you’ll want to register and ask any questions you may have well in advance.
Once you’ve scheduled auditions ahead of unifieds, you’ll likely need to submit prescreens. Your prescreen and audition materials will likely vary by program. Many schools ask to hear two contrasting songs and two contrasting monologues, but some have additional rules about which specific materials you can and can’t present.
Since you’ll be going through a lot of auditions in a short amount of time, you’ll need to keep both your schedule and your materials organized—folders and spreadsheets will be your best friends. Auditioning back-to-back in this way can be very stressful even if you’re organized, so make sure you take care of yourself as you give your all in each performance.
Should You Go to Unified Auditions?
Although unified auditions can be very useful for prospective theater students, they aren’t the best option for everyone. To decide if you should go to unifieds, consider these pros and cons:
Pros of Unified Auditions
Convenience: Auditioning for several programs one after another instead of going to individual school auditions over multiple weekends is a major time saver and may be easier to work into your schedule.
Centralized travel: You’ll save some money by only traveling to one location instead of many, and you’ll get to visit one of three major cultural hubs.
Meeting others in your field: You’ll meet a wide variety of other prospective students in addition to the faculty representatives for each school.
Cons of Unified Auditions
Fierce competition: Meeting lots of other prospective students can be just as overwhelming as it is beneficial because of the highly competitive atmosphere of unifieds.
Applying sight unseen: You’ll be auditioning for programs without visiting the school’s campus, so you’d have to attend a separate campus tour or event outside of unifieds.
Travel cost: Flights and accommodations to the audition locations can still be expensive, even if they do cost less than traveling to many individual school auditions. The most cost-effective way to audition for college theater programs is to do so virtually, using tools like Acceptd’s virtual walk-in auditions.
If you’re considering attending the National Unified Auditions, weigh these pros and cons to determine whether they’re a good choice for you. We also suggest doing further research and asking for outside advice from your instructors, family, or audition coaches to make an informed decision.
6 Tips to Prepare for Unified Auditions
Once you’ve come to the conclusion that unified auditions could work well for you, it’s time to start preparing! Being successful at unifieds requires thoroughly rehearsing your audition materials, of course, but you’ll also need to be prepared logistically and mentally. Also, the preparation process often isn’t linear—don’t be surprised if you have to juggle multiple activities at the same time or revisit an earlier step before moving forward.
These six preparation tips are a good place to start:
1. Identify which programs you’re interested in.
To plan your auditions most effectively, you’ll need to know which programs you’re auditioning for well in advance. This tip may seem intuitive, but it’s essential for a few logistical reasons:
Organizing your schedule for both advance auditions and walk-ins
Preparing the right audition materials for the right schools
Becoming familiar with each program so you have an idea of which ones are your top choices
The main concern with identifying programs, though, is whether attending unifieds is really worth it for you. If you can only see yourself attending one or two of the participating schools, it’ll likely be easier and more cost effective to audition for those programs individually. But if you’re interested in multiple programs and several schools approve your prescreen materials, unified auditions could streamline the process.
2. Choose your audition materials.
As we said, you’ll likely need to prepare multiple songs and monologues for unifieds since you’ll be auditioning for a variety of programs. The easiest way to make a poor impression at an audition is not sticking to the school’s requirements, so make sure you check:
Where you can pull material from
When your material was written
What styles you need to show
How long each piece needs to be
However, you’ll also want to work with your coaches to choose materials that highlight your strengths. And don’t be afraid to be yourself! Although you need to show your range as an artist, you can still let pieces of your personality shine through in your auditions, from your prescreen wildcard video to your song choices to your audition outfit.
A last consideration here is that unified auditions typically take place in winter—the peak of cold and flu season. Naturally, this means you should take special care of your voice and skip the audition if you’re extremely sick (especially if you test positive for COVID-19). But you may also want to choose one audition song that still sounds okay if you have to sing it when you’re slightly under the weather.
3. Submit your prescreens.
Since only a few schools at unifieds will allow you to do a walk-in audition, your prescreens are the first order of business to attend to as well as the last factor in your decision to attend the National Unified Auditions at all. If several of your prescreens are rejected, you might reevaluate whether participating is worthwhile.
Prescreens typically require you to present songs and monologues like at the actual audition, and many will ask for a dance video as well. Some prescreens, including the Musical Theater Common Prescreen, will require a fourth “wildcard” submission. This is your chance to show what makes you unique, like your own original materials or special talents, so get creative!
In addition to sticking to the time limits and other outlined requirements (styles, slating, etc.) as you make your prescreen videos, you definitely don’t want to miss the submission deadline. Plan out when you’re going to film each submission well in advance so any unexpected conflicts or technical difficulties don’t stand in your way.
4. Make travel plans at the right time.
Another logistical issue that often comes up with unified auditions is booking accommodations and transportation. Since unifieds attract so many students, you’ll need to make your plans far enough in advance that the hotels near the audition site won’t fill up before you book a room. You’ll also want to have a contingency plan in case your flight gets delayed or you run into problems on the road if you live close enough to drive.
However, you don’t want to book too far in advance—that is, before you hear back about your prescreens. It’s generally more convenient and less expensive to make arrangements for other auditions than to cancel your travel plans for unifieds once you’ve booked them.
Once you’re completely set on going to the National Unified Auditions, you’ll want to double down on your preparation. Besides practicing your material until you could act and sing it in your sleep, you’ll also want to make sure your accompaniment tracks are in order, as you typically won’t be allowed to sing a cappella and you may need to play your accompaniment from your phone or a portable speaker in the audition room.
Many students find mock auditions to be an effective tool for practice. This way they get the feel of what auditions will be like and can work out any difficulties in their material or technology before the pressure is on at the real unified auditions.
6. Work on your mindset.
Practicing singing, acting, dancing, and other performance skills is only one part of preparing for a college audition—you also have to work on your mental game. This is especially true for unified auditions, where competing against a massive group of prospective students and auditioning multiple times per day can be very taxing both physically and mentally.
As unifieds approach, you can prepare mentally by:
Identifying any mental obstacles and their causes.
Practicing techniques to manage stress and anxiety.
Considering working with an audition coach.
Having the right mindset on the day of your audition is essential—your confidence will fuel your ability to perform all the pieces you’ve worked so hard on to the best of your ability and impress the faculty from your dream school.
Wrapping up: Additional College Audition Resources
The college theater audition process can be tough no matter how you approach it, and the National Unified Auditions are a unique beast within that process. Once you’ve determined that unifieds are the right fit, you’ll need to get ready physically, logistically, and mentally. But with the right preparation and support, you can make unified auditions work for you.
For more information on college auditions, check out these resources:
The Musical Theater Common Prescreen: Criteria & Tips. Do the programs you want to audition for at unifieds use the Musical Theater Common Prescreen? Learn about the requirements and strategies for success.
Finding the Free in College Auditions. Are you looking for ways to make your college audition process more cost effective? Get started with these tips.
Acceptd Profiles: Tell Us About Yourself! Do you want to learn more about what performing arts programs would be right for you? Create an Acceptd profile to start exploring opportunities and connecting with organizations.