Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I was trying to come up with some good titles for this blog, and a couple that occurred to me were:

Ask and you shall receive

Or

Be careful what you wish for.

If you are an applicant to Juilliard this year in the Music Division, you have recently been asked to complete a survey for us. This is pretty standard for Juilliard Admissions – we like surveys! We are dedicated supporters of Survey Monkey, and collect lots of good information that help us understand how to improve our processes, from how we recruit to how we run auditions to even how we inform students of their admission status (that’s how we knew that our applicant pool was ready to go paperless – from responses on surveys saying that we should get the audition results up online!).

In this year’s survey, we included an open comment field, and asked everyone to give their thoughts on how we could better inform prospective students about the School, and/or improve the application process.

Well.

Ask and you shall receive.

And hey – be careful what you wish for!

But also – tidings of comfort and joy.

We got such great responses. I would estimate that half said that their experience with us was very good – and many that said that our application was one of the easiest that they had done.

As for the other half – it wasn’t bad news, or bad comments, or in my opinion, bad anything. I’ve gotten such great ideas already for how we can do things next year! We heard a lot about our website (we’re working on it, folks!), and that it would be helpful to have checklists, everything in one place rather than in multiple documents or web pages, clearer instructions – and these are things we can do. But we needed to know that these things were needed – otherwise, we would have gone on thinking that everything was perfectly fine.

In fact, that’s part of the reason that this blog exists – in fall 2007, when I was applying to nursery schools for my daughter, I realized how little information I had about nursery school – and more than that, how little information I was actually getting from the schools themselves! We (the Admissions staff) have a wealth of information about Juilliard and our admissions processes that is in our heads – we think that we are explaining things in our print materials, website and application, but perhaps we only think that because we are so intimate with it. And perhaps, to someone who hasn’t done this before, the whole thing seems completely mysterious and vague and unclear and confusing. I think that our blog helps (oh, and we got some comments on the survey that said it does!), but we can do more.

So, while I am comforted that many are having a good experience applying to Juilliard, I also find joy in the many comments that will help us do things better.

Thank you to all who responded – I hope you in turn will find comfort and joy in knowing that you will make the Juilliard application experience better in the future.

It’s that time again…

After an extremely hectic September and October, with tons of on-campus events and lots of travel, it’s hard to believe that the December 1 application deadline is fast approaching!  In fact, we’ve already had one application deadline – for the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies – and we’ll be reviewing pre-screening recordings for that shortly, since the Opera Studies applicants audition in December.  Despite how crazy it is to have that earlier process for one program,  it’s actually a good warm-up for the big deadline and hundreds and hundreds of recordings we get for the classical and jazz degree programs.

Anyway, the hot topic on almost all music applicants minds right now is pre-screening.  Since I’m a big believe in “reduce, re-use and recycle”, I though I’d send everyone reading this blog to one I wrote two years ago on pre-screening.  It’s quite detailed, and only one thing has changed since then – we don’t send out pre-screening results by mail any longer – only by email (if you’ve been reading our blogs,  you know that we went completely paperless last year).

So, here is Pre-Screening – putting your best musical foot forward!

See your application before December !

Back to Application Tips for a second!

As part of your search for the right school, you may be considering attending a “College Fair” – an event with dozens (sometimes well over 100) colleges/universities/conservatories in attendance. At a college fair, admissions representatives have materials available on their school, and answer any questions you may have. I like to call them “one-stop-shopping” – you’ll speak to representatives from schools you may already know, but may also discover many other schools that you had no idea about. There are so many fantastic schools around the country, and often you may only be aware of those with the biggest names, or perhaps only those that your teacher/counselor have told you about – the right school for you may be on the opposite side of the country, and outside of your sphere of awareness.

Juilliard will be at many Performing Arts College fairs around the country this fall – visit our Web site page “Admissions Events and College Fairs: Off Campus” for more information.

There’s a great presentation available on the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)’s web site titled: Making the Most Out of Attending a Performing and Visual Arts College Fair. This webinar was offered just a couple of days ago, and is available for viewing simply by creating a login. While the entire presentation is about an hour long, it’s great practical advice for you (and your parents if they are taking you to the college fair!) on how to really get the best information you can on the right schools for you.

So, get some popcorn, curl up on your couch with your laptop, and enjoy!

We’ll be back after a short commercial break

We’re taking a break from Application Tips blogs, because this week, I received this email:

Date: August 31, 2009
From: Monia Estima
To: Admissions Staff
Subject: Idea for Blog

Genius doesn’t come when it’s called, it just stops by on its way back from Starbucks.

How about we each write a haiku about the start of the 2010 application season? A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 syllables in three metrical phrases of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each.

Here’s an example:

Summer yields to cool (5 syllables)
Application’s up online (7 syllables)
It begins again. (5 syllables)

Here’s another:

Start application
Phone rings, forget to click “Save,”
Blackout! Bitter tears.

And one more:

Pre-screen recording
Microphone’s too sensitive
Feedback deafens me.

I think you get the picture. OK, I challenge each of y’all to write one for September’s blogs! Do it, do it, do it!!! (Assuming Boss Lady likes the idea, of course.)

Monia

(P.S. Clearly Boss Lady liked the idea! All of the staff did write haikus, so check back! – Lee)

Application Tip #3 – Copy and Paste

My last post was about finding similarities in audition requirements, so that you are preparing and really focusing on the smallest amount of repertoire possible.

This one is about doing the same with application requirements. Important note: the title of this blog does NOT mean I am advocating copying and pasting your college essay into multiple applications!

By “copy and paste,” I mean go to every school’s website and get their application requirements, and put them all in one place – such as a spreadsheet or document. I like spreadsheets, because you can do a row for each school, then fill in columns for things like:

Application deadline
Application fee
Pre-screening required?
Pre-screening deadline
SAT’s required? Due?
Essay required? Due?
Transcripts required? Due?
Letter(s) of recommendation required? Due?
Repertoire list/resume required? Due?

Line’em all up. Then go down the line. When are applications due? When is the earliest one due? Try to get them all done by the earliest deadline!

Same thing with pre-screening (for certain music majors) – you may only actually record once (recording all of the repertoire that is required for all of the schools – see my previous blog!), and then burn numerous CDs or DVDs. Send them all early, and send them at the same time. (And don’t forget to label them clearly, and send them by a method that can be tracked!)

Transcripts? Letters of recommendation? Sit down on a weekend and fill out all of the requests at once, even if some schools (such as Juilliard) don’t want them until January or February. Just get all that paperwork out of the way! Remember, if you are asking recommenders to do online letters through an online application, you can also usually check to see if they’ve submitted them (at least, you can on Juilliard’s online application!).

There are a few things, however, that you will literally “copy and paste” (or at least photocopy multiple times!) – your repertoire list, and your resume (usually a performance resume). Take a look at the application requirements for some schools you are considering – if these are required for one or more, now is a good time to start working on them. Knock them out early – so they can be the least of your worries!

Now, about that essay – do look very soon at the topics asked for each school – and yes, most schools require an essay. Again, I think you’ll find some similarities – questions about artistic influences, about why you are interested in pursuing a career the arts… But please, don’t just write one and send it to all the schools – I say this because the essays can be very important, even for a conservatory! But maybe, if you start seeing all the similarities in the topics, once you’ve written one for one school, the others will come easier.

Application Tip #2 – Reduce, Re-use and Recycle

By now, you are really honing in on a couple of different things – where you will apply, and your audition repertoire (solo, monologue).

In both cases, your life will be made infinitely simpler if you can start out this fall figuring out what the application and audition requirements have in common – I think you will find more similarities than differences, and that is what is going to reduce your workload and also allow you to focus and prepare a reasonable amount of repertoire.

Let’s start with repertoire.

Last year, I asked a Juilliard voice student to research the audition repertoire at 12 different undergraduate vocal programs. Then she did an Excel spreadsheet (I LOVE these – a great way to get all of the information in one place, easy to read and compare). By filling in “an additional work of your choice” requirements with pieces that were required at other schools, she found that a voice applicant applying to music programs needed to prepare only 4 audition pieces.

By lining up all of the audition requirements for your schools of choice in one place, you can start with the school with the most requirements, and see where those fit in with other schools. For example – in Classical piano, Juilliard requires a Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart or Schubert sonata for one category, but has a relatively short list of acceptable sonatas for each composer. Another school (or schools) may require any Mozart sonata. Another may require any Classical sonata. Choosing one of the Juilliard options of eight Mozart sonatas will fulfill all of these requirements!

This holds true for dance and drama as well – most programs have a solo requirement (dance) and monologue requirement (drama) – who has the most? Who is the most specific? Can those specific requirements also apply to schools with more general requirements?

It will be to your benefit to be preparing the least amount of repertoire possible – it will give you more time to polish, to get every piece to 150% – so that even taking into account nerves, stress, and the numerous other audition variables such as bad weather, strange locations, exhausting travel – you’ll be able to audition at 100%.

Application Tip #1: File Sharing

This is one of the absolutely best tips that I received from a parent after Juilliard went paperless with the application process -

Set up an email address and login that is only used for online applications, and that both the student and parent(s) can access.

All of us in Juilliard Admissions were totally happy going paperless – the amount of time spent printing applications, sorting them, filing, printing letters, making copies, signing letters (talk about repetitive stress syndrome!), filing those…a huge amount of administrative hours. However, there was something lost – the hard copy that arrives at a house, that the parents can read in addition to the student, so the parent can keep a file of information on each school – we heard frequently that parents didn’t know their child’s application status, audition date…lots of important information when the parent is doing stuff like making audition travel arrangements, etc.! Although we knew that we were sending out that information, it was landing in the student’s inbox and not going any further.

Since you’re applying to college and will be treated there as an independent adult, we do the same throughout the application and audition process. We don’t send copies of information to parents and we don’t send duplicate emails to parent email addresses – we only communicate with the actual applicant. So it’s up to you to make sure that the folks who are helping you get through this year have all the information they need!

Application Tip #1B – remember that the schools can see your email address, and don’t use anything silly (like [email protected], or [email protected]).

Summer Series – getting the ball rolling

So, guess how much time I’ve spent on applying to kindergartens so far this summer?

Just about as much time as I have writing blogs about it – pretty much none. I think it’s good ol’ procrastination. The whole thing seems really daunting, so I just keep putting it off.

But remarkably, the summer is almost over. We’ll be starting school in two short weeks, and summer Fridays are over (staff gets Fridays off in June, July and most of August). I’ve taken vacation, visited family, and cleaned out some closets at home. And this weekend, I actually spent some time with a friend whose son just finished kindergarten – basically a one-on-one counseling session!

It’s time to take a deep breath and get started. So check back – there’s a lot more to come!