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.
In a dream world, you pass every single pre-screen and receive a yes from every school on your list. In reality, chances are you won’t pass every pre-screen and you most likely will receive a handful of no’s from dream schools. While these rejections can sting – sometimes more for the parents than the students – I encourage you to find each silver lining. After all, you can only attend ONE school at the end of this process.
Well, it’s time to face the facts: your child has decided to pursue their dream and audition for college! With this decision comes a tremendous amount of trepidation and anxiety in the planning and preparing for both the student and parent. You may have had a child already apply and attend college for a different major, but believe me when I say this is unlike the process you have previously experienced.
While this most certainly needs to be a journey that your talented child spearheads, I wanted to offer some suggestions on ways you can help (without causing tension or stress.) This summer is the perfect time to get organized and excited for a crazy journey ahead.
First things first: you need to have a frank conversation about finances. This should happen before you finalize a school list. What are you willing to spend yearly on a college education? Are you willing to let your child attend a school that requires a flight to get to? Before they get their heart set on a school that has a tuition of upwards of $70,000 a year – it’s important to set limits. I think people can fall into the trap of “well, we can audition and see what scholarships you get and go from there” for every school on their list. It’s okay to have a few programs that might be just out of reach financially (but feasible if aid comes through), but you need to make sure you have options that will absolutely work as well with no financial aid. And if they get into their dream school but the money isn’t there, they need to know that it isn’t doable.
While you are chatting about finances, be sure to let them know what you are willing to spend on the actual audition circuit. Applying to schools, sending in pre-screens, booking hotels, traveling, food – you get the idea – really adds up. If you know you’ll be limited to schools that attend Unified Auditions, be sure to let your child know that on-campus auditions might not be a possibility. This conversation can be very helpful in solidifying a college list.
Were you ten when you took your last headshot? Has your hair color changed? Sporting a new look? Well, summer is a great time to update your shot! Headshots are to performers like a suitcase is to a lawyer. You should never leave the house without them as they are your personal business card.
I don’t think you need to spend a lot of money on headshots for college auditions. After all, you are going to grow and change tremendously over the next four years – ask for the super fancy, luxury headshot session for a graduation gift before you head off to the real world! For now, find a local photographer who might be running a deal or if you have a family friend who has an exceptional camera and eye – see if they’ll snap some shots!
Primary Basic Headshot
Actors, Dancers and Musicians all need a headshot that best represents them and looks like them on their best day. All performers need one basic headshot that follows these guidelines:
Additionally, here are some qualities that make up an excellent headshot:
What happens when you put your heart and soul into preparing for college auditions and then end up with a pile of rejections? Everyone told you how talented you were and that every school would be lucky to have you – so, what do you do now?
I understand that you feel very defeated right now. It’s normal to feel let down and a little lost. One thing is for sure: this process is confusing and often times, very unfair. You have to remind yourself that you are talented and obviously quite driven to have pursued this in the first place, so all is not lost.
However, now you have some thinking to do. If you got rejected from every school or ended up with acceptances you weren’t completely excited about, there are a few things I suggest doing (and not doing):
You may have heard someone mention the phrase “Gap Year” somewhere along the way and never really considered it. Gap years can be a truly fantastic idea if you approach them the right way. This would mean you take a year away from school and reapply and audition for programs this coming fall. In order to have a productive gap year, here are some suggestions on how to fill your year:
You made it through! There is a light at the end of the tunnel! While you are currently weighing options and deciding where to spend your next glorious four years, it’s important to take time and reflect on how much you’ve grown over the audition season. While it wasn’t easy, you are on the other side of it now and you deserve a pat on the back! Here are a few things you may have learned about yourself that deserve some kudos:
You Are An Audition Pro
Sheet music packed? Check. Audition outfit ironed? Check. Dance clothes and shoes laid out? Check. Snacks and water in your audition bag? Check. You’ve now got this down to an art. This is great preparation for life after college where most of your days will be filled with back-to-back auditions. Learning how to leave one audition behind you to focus on the next can be challenging – however, after roughly 10-15 auditions over the course of a few weekends, you now know you are up for the challenge! Read more
Feeling a tad overwhelmed with college decisions looming and the responsibilities that go along with Senior Year? It’s important to keep your sanity and remain calm to best deal with important decisions that are coming up. Here are some tips to help maintain the calm in your life:
Go to Bed
Seriously, get some shut-eye! Instead of staying up and scrolling endlessly through Instagram or constantly checking your email for college decisions, put your phone down and snuggle up early. Some experts suggest that you shouldn’t use your phone for at least an hour before bed as staring at your screen prevents your brain from releasing melatonin – a hormone that is necessary to fall asleep. There is nothing better for your health or sanity than a good night’s sleep. Start each day fresh, alert and calm with the help of some necessary Zzzzs.
Write it Down
Can’t seem to shake the nerves or negative thoughts from taking over your headspace? Grab a journal and write it down. Have an upcoming performance or audition you are stressing over? Write down what makes you nervous. Seeing it on paper tends to help you put it in perspective and combat the negative thoughts. Not into journaling? There is a cool app called The Worry Box that you can download on your phone. Plug in those worrisome thoughts any time of the day and get them off your chest. You can also plug in a positive mantra that will pop up when you need some extra solace in your life.
Still having fun, Acceptd fans? As college audition season winds down, I thought everyone could use a good laugh to survive the next few weeks. Friends and family who have never been through the college audition process most likely have no idea just how truly crazy and time consuming the process can be! With the best intentions, sometimes you can be asked repeatedly the same questions that unfortunately, you just can’t give a straight answer to.
Here are the top 5 things you could do without hearing right about now:
Where have you been accepted?
“Well, I’ve been accepted academically to a dozen schools! But you see, when applying for my major, I have to audition as well and those are two separate decisions. So, I am accepted academically to my top school but waitlisted for the performing arts program. I found out I got into the music program at another top school, but have yet to receive an official acceptance academically. I know some phone calls have been made for my other schools but I haven’t heard….so, let’s just say it’s complicated. Ugh.”
Getting a rejection early in the college audition season can be a huge blow to one’s confidence, ultimately leading you to question your ability and destiny. Many thoughts might begin to run through your head: If this school doesn’t want me, will any others? Am I really good enough to be doing this? What if I don’t get in anywhere?
What I would first like to say is: it’s okay to be sad! Take the necessary time to feel a bit sad about the outcome and then when you’re ready, pick yourself up and move on. As you know, this career choice will come with lots of rejections – so, now is as good a time as any to start to develop that thick skin! Read more