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.