If you’re prepping for a college arts program, or have had the joy of receiving that acceptance letter, the recent scandal about bribery in college admissions probably struck a chord. How could something as manipulative and deceitful as this be so widespread? How can I be sure that when I’m applying to colleges I have a fair shot? Who can I trust in all of this?
We at Acceptd work directly in the college admissions industry, and we want to make our stance clear: we believe that every student–and every artist in particular–should have equal opportunity to follow their dreams. And an important part of that is having access to resources and support throughout their journey. That’s where we come in.
Every artist belongs somewhere, and we want to make sure they are able to discover their perfect fit. If they have to use cheating, bribery, and high-stakes manipulation to be considered for acceptance into a school or program, it probably isn’t the right fit. That’s another aspect of this whole scandal that’s really devastating: students ended up in an institution their parent had to bribe their way in to, when they might’ve been able to thrive and flourish in a different program naturally.
We understand that college admissions is high-stakes. Every day we come to work and help tens of thousands of students search, find, and apply to arts programs so they can achieve their dreams. Some have been preparing for years to showcase their talent to schools, others are just learning what it takes to follow their passion. That’s exactly why we remain committed to partnering with arts programs and coaches in the higher education space that uphold fair and ethical admissions practices.
To solidify our commitment, we’ve turned to two of our dedicated partners for their response. The first, from Chelsea Diehl at My College Audition, provides commentary from the angle of a college coach in the arts. She helps aspiring artists prepare for the competitive college audition process. The next, from Patrick Zylka, Assistant Dean for Admission, Financial Aid and Graduate Services at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, provides perspective from someone deeply entrenched in the college admissions process who is passionate about higher education.
Our ultimate hope is that if you’re preparing for your next step in applying and auditioning for college, you aren’t discouraged by the recent scandal. We at Acceptd still have a lot of faith in the college admissions process, but even more faith that each student and artist who wants to pursue higher education has a place to do so.
This week’s news about the admissions scandal felt like a sucker punch to the gut. It is especially unsettling to learn that people who already have every advantage in this world at their fingertips would still decide to stoop to this level, and in the process undermine hardworking and deserving kids that are playing by the rules to achieve their dreams.
The component to this scandal that troubled me most of all is the lack of faith these parents had that their children would find a program that fits them (like all of you wonderful artists) based on their inherent gifts, talents and who they are as a human being. Putting aside the pain and embarrassment that these kids will now have to endure as a result of this scandal, whether they were aware of the scheme or not, their futures have been forever tainted and altered because their parents decided to take this egregious step on their behalf. Imagine arriving to your first ballet class at a top tier, supremely rigorous Musical Theatre program and not knowing what an arabesque is? Sitting in a high-level math course (because you “scored” extremely high in that section on the SATs) and not understanding one term or concept being thrown your way? This may be the reality for these students. Instead of celebrating where they are in their journey to their dream career, they are going to feel less than. Feel like they have to continually prove their worth. Be afraid to take risks and try new things for fear of judgment. It’s one thing to feel challenged, it’s another to feel less than and inferior.
Isn’t that the whole point of college? To take where you are today and nurture, mold and identify the parts of you that need work to be better for tomorrow? College is just the starting point, friends. Not the end game.
But what does that mean for the kids who play by the rules? Who work tirelessly day in and day out to be the best artist, student and human they possibly can be in an honest way? What it means is this: you are going to rightfully earn your spot in a college program meant for YOU. You are going to KNOW that you have been admitted to your program because of the honest, hard work that YOU put in. The temptation to do whatever it takes to get into your “dream” program or your child’s dream program can be overwhelming, I hear you. But I encourage you, instead of looking for shortcuts, take the long way home. Improve your skills, use your resources, mentors and teachers to make a “you” that you are proud to showcase. When you do this, you’ll ultimately find the program that deserves you and that works for you.
And when you do find that special program that deserves you, you are going to care. You are going to care so deeply about your program and all that it has to offer because you know what it took to gain this coveted spot. You are going to get to class on time, soak in all that your professors give you and remain thankful for an opportunity that not everyone is lucky enough to have. You won’t ever take for granted the gift of being able to study what you love. You can’t buy gratitude.
If you can take anything away from this, try to turn the anger you have into sympathy for these students. Remind yourself that rejections make you stronger. Remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be. Remind yourself that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
And if you are one of the brave ones, the honest, hardworking, humble ones – remind yourself most of all to give yourself a pat on the back and your parents a hug. You both deserve it.
Like many who work in college admissions, I was deeply saddened by the recent news regarding the college advisory scheme. I find it troubling that individuals conspired in this way to cheat a system that I hold so dear. Because celebrities and other people of great wealth and influence are involved, there will be many scandalous newspaper headlines and breaking news alert graphics on cable news. But in all this I do not want the conversation on ethical admissions practices to be lost, nor the conversation that should – and must – occur between college applicants, their families, and professionals engaged to provide assistance in the college admissions process.
The vast majority of us who work in college admissions do so because we firmly believe that there is a perfect institution for each young person who wants to attend college. We see it our role to determine who in our applicant pool will fit best on our campus, thrive in the environment that we offer, and successfully navigate the requirements on their way towards graduation. There are no side doors or back doors – only front doors. There are no “spots” that belong to anyone in advance of the process. We look at each individual applying, and take great care in examining their strengths, while keeping in mind the overall class that we are aiming to enroll. This is critically important to the work that we do. We want our admitted applicants to know that they are being admitted on their own merits. We also want those not offered admission to know that we gave them fair and equal consideration in our process. This week’s news has made it more difficult for everyone in my field right before admissions decisions are to be released by many institutions.
In speaking with thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of high school students and their families about college admissions, there are a few themes that remain consistent over time. One of these themes is that all young people need to construct their own ranking of institutions. Colleges and universities are proud of their rankings, and indeed I work for one that is rightfully very proud of the international reputation that we have. But ultimately each individual applying to colleges must determine which institution is the best fit for them as an individual. Perhaps colleges with great name recognition. Perhaps colleges that you’ve never heard of before. By constructing this individualized and personal list, each young person is setting himself or herself up for a successful admissions experience.
I hope that there will be continued conversations on these and other related topics. College is meant to be one of the best times in one’s life – a time of learning, curiosity, growth, and discovery. It is my hope that this will continue to be true, and this will not be tarnished by a small percentage of individuals who have traded their integrity for an unfair advantage.
Interviewer: “So, tell me about yourself!”
Has this happened to you? Have you been asked the hardest question known to man? For some reason, answering this simple question sometimes proves to be the most difficult. How exactly can you sum up everything about yourself in one teeny tiny answer?
Before you head to campuses to scope out potential colleges and go on interviews (don’t forget to brush up on our blog post: 4 Great Questions for your College Tour Guide) be sure to come up with what we like to call your 30 Second Story. Whether you are a musician, actress or visual artist – you are ultimately your own business. You are the CEO of your own brand – so you better be able to describe it!
A 30 Second Story is a chance to reveal a bit about yourself and your passions in a concise and compelling manner. Here are some keys points you should be sure to hit:
Choosing the perfect college is a hard enough task as is. Add the undertaking of picking the ideal performing arts program housed within your dream college and it can be enough to make your head spin! Summer is the time for students entering their senior year to solidify their college list and start to get organized on each school’s academic and artistic requirements. So, here are some of our top tips on how to narrow down a performing arts college list that will make you happy as both a human being and an artist! Read more
September is known as the unofficial start of college application season. Suddenly everything becomes real: college visits, applications, gathering references, transcripts, and digital portfolios, all with the anticipation that over the next several months, you will be deciding on a college.
The fall of your senior year in high school can be a busy time, especially if you’re planning to go to college, especially especially if you’re planning to study the arts. Music, theatre, dance, and visual arts programs often have a more rigorous application process and can be much more competitive than general admissions to the university. But when you want to study the arts, choosing the right program can be a huge part of getting your career off on the right foot, so you want to get everything right.
If you’re pursuing the arts at a collegiate level, you know that college application season is going to be a busy time for you. Between visits, interviews, applications, portfolios, auditions, and (gasp!) final decisions, the life of a soon-to-be arts major can be crazy. It’s easy to think of the summer before your senior year as a time to relax before the craziness. And while you can definitely still enjoy some pool time, there are a few easy things you can do during the summer that will give you a huge head start in the fall.
Summer is a great time to get a head start on college visits. Campuses are pretty quiet during the summer months, so you can get a feel for what it’s like without all the hustle and bustle and have some coveted one-on-one time with a tour guide or admissions counselor. You should still plan to visit colleges in the fall, which is a great time to sit in on some classes and maybe attend a student panel. But using your summer months wisely can help you make the most out of your fall visits and application season as a whole.
If you’re a high school senior approaching graduation, you’re probably used to fielding a lot of questions. Where are you going in the fall? and What are you studying? probably pop up most often. It’s about that time of year when you’ll start being able to answer at least that first one with confidence and (hopefully) excitement. Usually, everyone will be happy to hear your college choice, smiling and nodding politely. When you tell them you’re studying the arts, however, you could face some blank stares or, even worse, negative opinions you didn’t ask to hear.