Want to pursue a degree in the performing arts?

Published June 24th, 2016

Want to pursue a degree in the performing arts? Ask yourself these questions first.

Summer is the perfect time to start to get organized for college applications and potentially, college auditions. Maybe you have already begun prepping and are completely sure this is the right career path for you – or maybe you are toying with the idea of getting a fine arts degree but aren’t completely sure. Maybe you want the performing arts to be a part of your college career but are not positive in what capacity.

Either way, making this huge commitment to get a degree in theatre, music or dance takes some serious soul searching. Here are some questions I recommend asking yourself to help determine what you’d realistically like to pursue in college:

Is this something I want to pursue full time or is this more of a hobby?

If you attend a conservatory for performing arts, you can guarantee you will be working on your craft 24/7. There will be little to no time for anything else. If you attend a Liberal Arts school and pursue a BFA/BM, you will still take general education classes but will have very little additional room for anything outside your major. If you know that nothing would make you happier than performing and training and you want little to no outside commitments – this is definitely a major you should pursue. If you know you love to perform but have an equal interest in another field, maybe a minor in Theatre/Music/Dance or a school where you can double major is right for you. You don’t have to be set on a having a “career” in the performing arts to enjoy doing it. They can always be a part of your life – it’s the capacity of how much you want it to be in your life that is up to you.

Can I handle rejection?
Not only is this an essential question to ask yourself when looking at colleges for performing arts, but it’s something you should be prepared to answer for the rest of your life. It’s no secret that this business is filled with rejection and it’s how you handle that rejection that will determine your success. Of course, being rejected is not something anyone particularly enjoys, that’s for sure. However, do you think you have a thick enough skin to brush off rejections without taking each one personally? If this is something that you think you will struggle with – and trust me, many, many people do! – this might not be something you want to create an entire life around.

Am I comfortable with the unknown?

If there is one thing that is certain in the performing arts, there is no set path and no guarantees. One month you may be touring the country performing in a national tour and the next month looking for your next gig. Are you comfortable with not knowing what your next gig might be? Or when? If the idea of not having a set schedule unnerves you, this career might not be ideal. However, if you’re comfortable with the idea of a constantly shifting and changing schedule (who likes monotony anyway!?) then you are making the right choice to follow this dream.

Are you organized and a self-starter?
If there is one thing you should always keep in mind while pursuing a career in the arts, it’s this: you are your own business. No one is going to go to auditions for you, or update your website or contact agents. You have to have a very strong work ethic and be very organized to be successful in this business. If you are the type of person who would rather show up to work, do your job and leave work behind each day – this is not the career for you. This is an all-consuming job that requires constant attention. No one can sell you better than yourself!

If you’ve answered these questions honestly and are certain that heading to college for the arts is for you – congrats! Welcome to an exciting and challenging next chapter in your life. For those who may have realized that performing is important to them but maybe not career worthy – congrats as well! Discovering this before college is fantastic. You can now pursue multiple interests for four years.

Whichever path is right for you, as Henry David Thoreau would say, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

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