By: Grantham H. Coleman II, First Year Actor - Group 41, Drama Division Senior year was by far the busiest year of my life. With shows, competitions, scholarship applications, college applications, and school work on top of that, finding the balance between all of them was absolutely necessary.
A guidance counselor's job is to help you with this especially. They are there to guide you; take advantage of that. When I was deciding on what schools I should apply to I made a list and showed my counselor. She asked if there were any I left off because I didn't think I could afford to go to them, and I replied yes. She then told me that at this point, money doesn't matter. "What?" I said. "How could it possibly not matter?" But she explained to me that I shouldn't limit myself from schools based on money matters before I even apply. I also learned about fee waivers, little gifts from heaven that (if you can't afford to pay the fees required to apply and audition) waive the required payments of schools.
The next day, I applied to schools like there was no tomorrow, thanks to common apps. The Common Application is an application accepted by nearly 350 colleges and universities. All I needed to do was fill out one application, and send it to as many schools that I wanted to apply to out of the schools that accept the common app. Granted, not all schools accept it, and there are additional requirements from several schools that are members with the common app, but the amount of work it saved me from doing gave me time to focus on the those other important senior year events.
As drama students, we are usually required to do auditions for the schools we want to attend. When I realized the number of schools I applied to, and the number that required me to fly from this city to that city for auditions, I almost began to cry. But then another little birdie, who I am gratefully indebted to, told me of Unifieds. Actually, I believe it's called National Unified Auditions, which are auditions held in New York, Chicago (I went to the ones in Chicago, I think the most theatre schools come to NY or Chicago), Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Students come from all over to audition at these events. You have to set auditions up with your schools for when and where you will audition, but hopefully you can schedule them for the same city in the few days that the auditions are there. But still, don't worry if you can't schedule them all in one city. Judging by where you live, schools might come to the largest city near you for auditions. To know this, it is a matter of researching and asking questions, which you should do about any of the schools you plan on attending.
Next came the actual audition itself. The best thing to remember when auditioning for a school is that they want you to get in. They want you to be good. No school wants you to come in and not do well; they would be wasting their own time. Even though you are portraying characters during your theatre audition, there might be an interview session, and it is best to be yourself during this. The schools want to see who you are, and if you would make a good fit to their program.
As important as auditions are, it's good to remember that you are auditioning the school just as much as they are auditioning you. Find out if they're a good fit for you. Research the faculty, and ask questions during the interview. Not only does it show you're interested, but you can find out so much more from the people who would know the program the best. You are picking a place to learn from for the next 4 years of your life, just as they are picking a pupil.
When it came to deciding what school was right for me, I chose the best fit for who I am now, and who I want to be as a professional. I began with ruling out the schools that I didn't learn anything from at an audition. Even though auditions can be as short as 20 minutes sometimes, to not take something away from that reflects on either the effort I put in, or the effort provided by the faculty. Then came the financial aid aspect of selecting a school; once you're in, money matters again. There are tons of scholarships offered by schools, and millions from outside sources. Government grants and loans are other options from which money can flow. As the price of education rises, so does the value of a good education. The amount of people who graduate without debt is few, and it is not worth it to sacrifice a substantially better education over taking out loans. After that process, I visited the schools on call back weekends and spoke to students who attended them, who are also a great source of information. Parents, teachers, and counselors are all tremendous helps in making the decision of which school to attend, but in the end it was my choice, as it will be yours.
I chose The Juilliard School because the discipline I want to have when it comes to approaching work and the discipline they instill in the actors they train go hand in hand. And as a conservatory, I am doing what I love everyday of the week. In the BFA program, the liberal arts courses are as intense, if not more so, than classes you would find at other colleges and universities across the country. Located in New York, NY, the epicenter of the arts community, every day I'm exposed to what it means to be human, and what it takes to present that through my craft.
Editor's Note: The Juilliard School does not accept the Common Application, but we do offer fee waivers to qualified applicants. The Juilliard School does not participate in the National Unified Auditions; however, our New York and Chicago Drama audition periods overlap with the Unified dates in those cities.