Savvy Arts Students Prepare Early for College Admission

College Admission

By Lucia Tyler Ph. D., Tyler Admissions Consulting
05/06/2015
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Would you stage an art opening with one piece to show?

Would you take the stage in Man of La Mancha unrehearsed? “No way!” is the response I have heard from students. Excellence in the creative arts takes effort. This is especially true in planning for college or conservatory. This means that if you are thinking about majoring in the creative arts of dance, film, theater, music or fine art you should start preparing for school admission no later than the fall of your junior year of high school. Many of the arts colleges are not members of the Common Application group because their process is so individualized. You need to allow yourself extra time to research the different requirements as a prospective student in the arts.

Art schools and many college fine art departments require portfolios of work. A portfolio is generally a body of work in different media such as drawing, sculpture printmaking, etc. There is no standard portfolio requirement, so you will need to research the specific requirements of schools you are interested in. Some colleges have specific requirements such as portraying a bicycle (Rhode Island School of Design). College or conservatory websites generally have the most up-to-date information concerning requirements. They want your best work. Your best piece will not usually be the first produced so you want to give yourself plenty of time to create. Taking a photo of each piece when you complete it is excellent insurance against damage or loss.

Early in the process of preparing your portfolio or audition you should identify a mentor or coach.  This can be a trusted teacher or professional artist.  Ask them if they are willing to advise you regularly and give you honest feedback on your work.   They can help you decide which is the best work to include in your portfolio or the best take on your CD/DVD.

If you are passionate about music, theater, or dance you will have to audition and sometimes interview as well. Your coach or mentor can help you prepare for the audition. Some selective conservatories require you to prepare a specific music or theater selection, so be sure to find out about that on the school’s website well in advance. Some programs require an initial submission of a CD or tape prior to scheduling an on-site audition. In this case you may need to arrange for an accompanist and the use of professional recording equipment. Some of the local high schools and colleges have this type of equipment available for little cost to you. On the day of recording you should perform a number of different takes to be evaluated later by you and your coach.

Audition times at conservatories or colleges are sometimes difficult to coordinate around a busy high school senior’s schedule, that also fits in with their parent’s schedule. Planning the logistics of the audition trips will be easier if you start early. You should try to plan your trip so that you are rested and ready to give the audition your best shot.

In general, creative arts students can remove stress from the admissions process by early planning. As a bonus, your can enjoy your senior year, knowing you have taken the steps necessary to continue creating in college.


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