College Timeline for Acting and Musical Theatre Majors: Condensed for Seniors
Ideally, a student will start this process junior year. If you've waited until senior year to start this process, don't give up. While it is possible to start this process late, it is INTENSE and not for the faint of heart! Basically, you will have to cram all the junior year and summer-before-senior-year tasks into August-October. Aim to get all your applications in by the end of September and all your prescreens in by the middle of October. You may be able to turn them in later, but the chances of getting an audition slot that works for you will get much slimmer. Many school deadlines for acting and MT majors are in early November.
SENIOR YEAR: AUGUST
Make Your College List
Create a balanced school list that includes safety, fit/target, and reach schools is key to a successful college audition season.
Reach schools accept less than 5% of those that audition and typically have an incoming freshman acting or musical theatre (MT) class size of between 12 and 30 students.
Fit, or target, schools accept 15% or more of those that audition and accept an incoming freshman acting or MT class size between 40-60 students.
Safety schools are schools that have solid theatre, acting, or MT programs that don’t require an audition.
You want to cast a wide net! MT schools can be very selective, so make sure you have a broad range of schools, at least one safety, and mostly fit schools. Many students apply to 20-25 schools to cover all their bases.
Choose Your Audition Materials
Most schools now follow the Musical Theatre Common Pre-Screen Guidelines on Get Acceptd. Check these guidelines in the summer prior to senior year – they may adjust them slightly.
In 2023, Acting and MT applicants will need:
- Two contrasting 60-90 second monologues: one should be contemporary (written after 1950) and one should be classical (written before 1950)
- Wild card video showing off your personality or additional talent (for most schools this is listed as optional, but it is a chance to show schools who you are as a person – don’t pass up that opportunity!)
In 2023, MT applicants will also need:
- Two contrasting 60-90 second songs: one should be a ballad, and one should be uptempo. In addition, one should be published before 1970, and one after 1970.
- A 60-90 second choreographed dance combo
HOT TIP! Not sure where to look for monologues? Besides the internet, you might want to subscribe to the New Play Exchange and get access to tens of thousands of plays for a $10 annual subscription.
Create your Common App account and fill in the basics. It will take longer than you think.
Create your Acceptd account. This is where you will submit most of your prescreens.
Ask academic teachers and artistic advisors to write reference letters for you – do this before summer so they have time to think about it before they have to actually write the letter in the fall.
Finalize your audition materials, memorize, and block them.
Find recordings of your music to use as a backing track – many recommend hiring a pianist to record the track for you in your preferred tempo.
Learn your dance combo and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
You can use a piece from a previous show you've been in, choreograph something of your own, or hire someone to choreograph a piece for you.
Generate ideas for what you will do in your Wild Card video.
Write Your Essays
You will need one general one for your college applications, and one that answers the question, “Why MT or Why Acting?” which you will adapt for certain applications. Common App will list the topics that are for that particular year over the summer, but they don't tend to change much. Generally, a student can write pretty much anything and afterwards make it fit into one of the prompts because they are very general. In addition, some schools will have supplementary essays for you to write. Check their websites to see what the topics will be or were in the past.
Create a spreadsheet of application and audition requirements for each of your schools. Include application deadlines and prescreen deadlines. Make an additional column to jot notes on what makes each school special to you – this will come in handy with some of the supplementary questions.
SENIOR YEAR: SEPTEMBER
Film your prescreens and wild card video. Give yourself plenty of time to create multiple takes over the course of several days. Do not wait until the last minute to film! This is a stressful time and you may have to do many, many takes. Give yourself time to take a break, walk away, and start fresh on another day. (Save the outtakes for later – you will want them after the process is over and you can have a good laugh.)
Submit the Common App (or similar) to the colleges on your list. All of your applications should be submitted by the end of September. In addition, the earlier you apply, the better chance you have of scooping up scholarship money and other perks, like first pick of on-campus housing.
HOT TIP! On your spreadsheet, collect the general admissions email address for each college on your list. Once Common Apps open August 1, email the admissions address and ask for a fee waiver. While the rules say that students must work with their counselors on whether they should receive a fee waiver, many schools just give them out. You can save HUNDREDS of dollars in fee waivers this way. If they do not offer a fee waiver, that is ok. The schools will not hold it against you for asking!
HOT TIP! Block all of Labor Day weekend on your calendar so you can concentrate on knocking out your applications or recording prescreens if you're not completely done with them.
SENIOR YEAR: OCTOBER
Finish editing your prescreens and film anything you haven't finished.
Submit your prescreens by October 15.
The earlier you apply and submit prescreens, the better chance you have of being asked back for an audition date that works well for you. Some schools even close their audition bookings by late October.
Schedule your auditions
This is where you have to do what’s best for you and your family. Most, if not all, of your auditions will happen in January and February. Most schools offer both in-person and virtual audition opportunities. Schools do not have a preference. Many students are chosen based on live virtual auditions.
For in person auditions, Unifieds is the most well-known gathering of colleges auditioning acting and MT students. There will be about 25 official Unifieds schools, but there will also be about 25 or more additional "non-official" colleges that will hold auditions in the same hotel or surrounding hotels at the same time. This makes it very easy and economical to attend one Unifieds session and knock out most of your auditions at once.
HOT TIP! Chicago Unifieds features the most schools in one location. NY Unifieds is often in two locations nowhere near each other, so schedule accordingly. Many East Coast schools do not attend LA (Anaheim) Unifieds.
SENIOR YEAR: JANUARY/FEBRUARY
Get ready for auditions
- Practice your prescreen materials
- Add one more monologue and two more songs (including one pop song) to your book so you are ready if the schools want to see more
- Prepare your book
- Prepare your music
SENIOR YEAR: MARCH/APRIL
Most schools will make their decisions between March 1-April 1. You may be placed on a wait list for some programs.
This is a great time to decide with your family how you are going to receive the news about acceptances, deferrals, waitlists, or rejections. Most notifications will come via email or phone call, or you will have to check the school's website. Decide who is going to do that. If it's the student, make sure parents honor that plan and don't sneak a peek prematurely.
Visit any schools where you have been accepted.
SENIOR YEAR: MAY
You must put down a deposit on a school by May 1.
Some families may wait to see if their student is taken off the wait list for a certain school. This is super risky if you don’t have a backup that will admit them after May 1.
Families and parents of non-MT/Acting students have no idea how crazy this process is. Your student is doing more than twice the work of other students applying to college. Surviving this season is a huge accomplishment!