Attending one of the nation’s most prestigious performing arts colleges is your greatest passion, and after years of preparation and hard work, you’ve decided to apply. Based solely on geography, reputation or a recommendation, you’ve enrolled in what should be a challenging program. Fast-forward several months and you’re miserable, tired, broke and completely ready to start the application process all over again through another school. Don’t make this all-too-common mistake; instead, learn how to choose the ideal performing arts college for you.
What Is the Best Type of Institution for You?
Before determining which performing arts college fits your needs and budget, you must consider your academic goals. In general, you have two choices: attend a BM or BFA program through a traditional four-year university, or earn your degree in a stand-alone school or conservatory. A traditional college provides you with a broader education, while a conservatory allows you to completely immerse yourself in your craft. If a conservatory or art school is your preference, it’s important to realize the top institutions are highly competitive, and the academic rigors are not for everyone.
Academics vs. Your Portfolio and Audition
The admission requirements vary greatly depending on the institution but, in general, the majority of traditional four-year universities place just as much emphasis on your grades and test scores as they do your portfolio or audition. Creating an impressive portfolio or nailing the audition is important, but to be admitted to a BFA or BM program at a top university, you must possess the total package. Conversely, getting into a reputable art school or conservatory will often rest solely on your portfolio or audition and have little to do with your academic past. Before applying to a university or conservatory, inquire about its admissions’ guidelines, and don’t be afraid to ask about the role your SAT scores, high school grades or the audition will play in the institution’s final decision.
No matter if you’re earning a Bachelor’s in Communications or a degree in interior design, a college’s reputation plays a huge role in your future success. Research the university or conservatory’s reputation, including their past alumni. Is the faculty impressive? What is the post-graduate job placement rate? In addition, don’t be afraid to ask an admissions counselor about the university’s philosophy. If you’re a classically trained pianist, you don’t want to attend a conservatory that is renowned for producing jazz musicians.
As an emerging artist, you want to attend a university that provides you with access to a multitude of galleries, theaters, concert halls and museums. This often means attending school in a metropolitan area, but this might not always be a great fit. Aside from allowing you the opportunity to showcase your art or craft on a larger scale, attending one of the top conservatories or universities is extremely stressful. Before making a final decision, you must weigh the pros and cons of attending a larger, urban-based school versus a smaller, more isolated college.
Visiting the School
The most effective way to find the ideal fit is to tour the campus. While there, don’t hesitate to ask every question imaginable and keep a mental checklist. Are the facilities impressive, or outdated? Is the staff friendly and helpful or do you feel like another face in the crowd? Sit down with an academic adviser and inquire about future opportunities for internships and if the school partners with local museums, galleries or theaters. If you don’t feel comfortable with the campus or its philosophy, continue the search. Eventually, you will find a conservatory or school that meets your needs and can help you achieve your dream of becoming a professional artist, dancer, singer, interior designer or photographer.
When choosing the ideal conservatory or institution, don’t forget to factor in the cost of tuition. Are you able to receive financial aid or support from your parents, or will you need to work three jobs in order to afford a top university?
Image provided by Suman Chakrabarty from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Margaret Sampson is a guest blogger and photography student. She toured 13 different campuses before she found the perfect fit.