College BannersThe Admissions deadline for most colleges and universities falls between December 15 and April 1. Some of you are probably still in the feverish state of requesting applications and writing essays. Some of you will have completed the application process and have moved on to the preparation of your audition material, if it is required, and some of you are waiting to hear whether you have been accepted.

As daunting as the college process seems to be, ultimately you have the choice and the control. It is you who decides to which schools to apply and it is you who ultimately decides whose offer to accept. Therefore, in order to give yourself the most choices, the “homework” portion of the selection process is one of the most important. This major step in your life is probably your first really independent “adult” decision. Like all decisions we make as adults input and research is crucial to the process. Although it is paramount that you “take charge,” keeping your parents in the loop is extremely beneficial to the ultimate outcome.

Unlike the majority of students beginning this process the student in the performing arts and media usually has a clear goal in mind and the passion to back it up. More than likely you’re that student. Even with this conviction firmly in mind there are choices that need to be made. Do you want a BA program, which is a strong mix of liberal arts courses along with a concentration in your art form, or are you ready for a more intense and rigorous BFA program which leaves very little room for courses outside your craft? Is there a program that offers a hybrid of the two? Whichever you choose, your parents can rest assured that the education you will be receiving in the arts (theater, film, television, music) will give you life skills…transferable skills.

I recently spoke with a friend of mine, Martha Quirk, M.A., former Dean of Admissions at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, and an independent college counselor, about the advice she gives students applying to college. Here are 10 points she shared with me:

  1. Figure out who you are and what you want. What size college do you want? Over 10,000 students or under 1500 students or somewhere in the middle? Close to home or hours away? Rural or urban? With or without sororities and fraternities? Small classes or large classes? A regional college or one that draws from all parts of the country and the world? A school that focuses on training in specialty professional areas or is a liberal arts college? A school that offers athletics, arts, film, theatre or musical opportunities for you?
  2. Find out answers to these questions by using the Internet to search college websites. Write, email, or call colleges for more information.
  3. Keep your parents informed of your progress; ask them for suggestions; show them you are taking charge of the process.
  4. Visit as many college campuses as you can. Start with a couple of schools that are within driving distance to give yourself some practice in visiting schools, in asking questions, and “checking it out.” You will be more aware of things to look for and to ask about when you visit schools that are farther away. Now you’ll have a point-of-comparison when you visit other colleges.
  5. Don’t miss the application and financial aid deadlines for each college.
  6. Complete each application thoroughly and neatly, and write a dynamite essay.
  7. Don’t limit your search to only one college. Apply to a couple of “reach” schools (those you would like to attend but may have only a 50-50 chance of getting in), a couple of “safety” schools (those for which you are a strong candidate and are likely to be admitted and would be satisfied with if you aren’t accepted at your first-choice college) and a couple of schools where your chances of acceptance are better than for your “reach” schools, but not as certain as your “safety” schools.
  8. Give advance notice to each of your references who will write your recommendations, so they can meet the college’s deadline for mailing or submitting these forms online.
  9. Complete every part of the application yourself, including your essay. Proofread each word, and photocopy everything you send to a college. If you apply online, be sure to print a copy of your application for yourself. Stay in touch with the colleges so you will know the current status of your application.
  10. Remember, the four semesters in your junior and senior years are important academic terms. Don’t slack off! It will make (or break) your ability to get into the college of your choice.”

Good luck. The right school is waiting for you!