Are you a freshman, sophomore, or junior in high school having trouble deciding between applying for BA or BFA programs? Do you want to take your training to the next level? Does the idea of spending the summer with other talented students from across the country who share your same passion sound so much better than waking up at 6am for a lifeguard shift?
If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, then a pre-college acting, musical theatre, voice, or dance summer program is a perfect choice for you. It may still be winter, but it’s time to seriously consider how you are going to spend your summer!
1. Test Drive the BFA before you Commit
The age-old BFA vs. BA debate. A BFA will allow you to focus on your craft for four years; a BA will allow you to double major and pursue many passions. How can you decide if a BFA is truly the right path for you?
A pre-college program is the best way to make absolutely sure that a BFA is your college path. You want to be 100% positive before you commit to the college audition process, dedicate your college career to this course of study, and pay for four years of a college education (seriously, you wouldn’t buy a $200,000 car without taking it for a test drive first). Because pre-college programs mimic the intensive training-focused BFA course of study, you will spend 4-6 weeks, 7 days a week, sometimes from 8am-10pm, eating, breathing, and sleeping your passion. If you love it, game on. If you miss science, history, or other liberal arts classes, then maybe another degree option is a better fit.
2. Get the Extra Edge in College Admissions
Whether you come out of the summer deciding that you definitely want to apply to BFA programs, BA programs, or a combination of both to keep your options open, spending your summer training in a pre-college program will help you no matter which track you ultimately choose.
Let’s pretend you are an admissions counselor. If you had to choose between Candidate A (who dedicated the summer to intense performance training) or Candidate B (who spent the summer lounging by the pool and having fun with friends), who would you choose? It’s a #NoBrainer, right?
A pre-college training experience also provides you with great material to discuss in college interviews and even in supplemental essays that will set you apart from the average high school musical lover. At many summer programs, you are even allowed to audition at the end of the program for the BFA degree before the department officially begins their college audition tour. If you are a perfect fit for that college and the summer program faculty has responded positively to your work, then this special end-of-program audition has major potential to seriously increase your chances of getting accepted.
3. Get Used to Living Away from Home
When I attended my pre-college summer program (many, many years ago), I had never spent more than a week away from home. At first, I had a great deal of anxiety about being away from my family and friends. How was I going to do my own laundry? Who was I going to sit with at the dining hall? How was I going to keep up with all of this work? About halfway through the program, I adjusted and got used to the intense schedule and newfound freedom. When I went away to college (farther away from home than my summer program), I discovered that I was able to adjust to college life very quickly and make the most out of my first semester.
A pre-college program can give you the experiences and confidence to make a seamless transition between high school and college. You also can use this opportunity to help you decide if you want to spend 4 years in a big city like New York City or a smaller town like Ithaca.
4. Take Your Training to the Next Level
Imagine being in a classroom where everyone is just as serious, dedicated, and passionate as you are about getting on Broadway someday or starring in a film or TV show. Add a world-class faculty that is serious, dedicated, and passionate about helping you take your technique to the next level. What you get is a wonderfully collaborative, exciting, and challenging atmosphere where you will be pushed in ways that you may never have been pushed before. Whether the techniques you learn in your summer program are brand new to you or you have been exposed to them before, your time there will undoubtedly lead to breakthrough moments in your training. What an exciting way to start the next school year!
5. Get a Head Start on Your College Applications
The pre-college admissions process mimics the college admissions process. Like college programs, pre-college programs will ask you to create a theatrical resume, submit a headshot, write a statement of purpose and supplemental essays, send transcripts, and ask for recommendations. Many programs will ask you to send a video audition or schedule an in-person audition. Senior year can be one of the most hectic and stressful times of your life; you will definitely be glad that you already have a bunch of requirements that just need that extra polish.
Check back next week for Part 2: Musical Theatre Pre-College Summer Programs for a list of our favorites and important application and audition details.
Want to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to discuss pre-college options and determine which programs might be the right summer fit for you?
Sign up here.
Tom Morin is an NYC-based acting coach, co-founder of Polish Your Passion, and a professional actor/singer. He holds a B.A. in Theatre & Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.F.A. in Acting from Ohio University and has been teaching for the past 9 years, advising and coaching students through the college audition process and beyond. He loves coffee, Shakespeare, and YouTube.