We’re officially at the point of the year where the senior class is making college decisions. Letters are coming in and the class of 2023 Instagram page is frequently being updated with my classmates choosing where they’re going to spend next few years of their lives and what they’re going to study. I like the posts as they show up in my following feed, leave a nice comment and keep going about my day. I’m genuinely excited for all of them, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t help but feel a little bitter knowing that even though I’ve submitted all my applications and applied Early Action to all the schools that offered it, I won’t be able to make a decision until March or April.
Here’s the thing- I’ve known basically my entire life what I wanted to study: Theatre, specifically acting. What I didn’t realize, though, is that getting into school for theatre means taking A LOT of extra steps. Beyond the CommonApp and heaps of supplemental essays that all college applicants need to do, I also have monologues to prepare, prescreens to film, auditions to schedule and attend, headshots to take, resumes to revise, interviews to do, and of course, even more waiting. It’s painful. I love the theatre, but sometimes I wish I was as excited about another, more conventional field of study that wouldn’t entail all this extra effort.
I regularly vent my frustrations about all of this. But as I complain and complain about my theatre kid trials and tribulations, I realize that most people don’t understand a word coming out of my mouth. And if they do, they probably have no idea how to respond. In case you’ve heard me complain and wanted to know what on Earth I’m talking about, I’m taking it upon myself to create a simple guide to theatre major terminology and how to respond as we complain. Note that some of this is subjective, and the advice that I give about how to respond to our complaints may not apply to everyone.
Without further ado, I present to you: How to Support Your Performing Arts Major Friends in These Trying Times.
1. If I’m mumbling to myself, please ignore me. (Especially if I have an audition coming up.)
Chances are, I’m just running down my monologues to make sure that they’re memorized and ready to go. Yes, I have been working on these monologues for months now, but if I don’t run them right now and make sure every word is perfect, I might go insane. Please ignore me until I’ve finished running something, it throws me off my rhythm when I’m interrupted.
2. Expect complaining. A lot of it.
Like I said, a lot goes into applying to college for a performing arts major. Every time you think the ranting is over, some audition is in under a week and your theatre major bestie is stressed about something else. Though I’m not expecting you to listen closely, it’s nice to know that people will let me vent my frustrations.
3. If you catch me panic-checking Acceptd, tell me to stop.
If you’ve applied to college, you know how tempting it is to constantly refresh your applicant portal the day you’re expecting a decision. Us performers deal with that too, both for academic applications and prescreens. Acceptd is the website that most schools have us upload prescreen materials to, and the temptation to check it obsessively grows every day when you’re expecting results. Most schools don’t tell us a specific day we’re getting artistic decisions, so I just have to check every day just in case. If you catch me staring down Acceptd and frantically refreshing the page hoping that a result will be there, tell me to stop. More importantly, remind me that I have email notifications on for Acceptd and will get an email whenever a school sends me a decision, therefore there’s no need to check the website that often. As of writing this, though, I’ve gotten all my prescreen results. Chances are, you won’t have to tell me to stop checking Acceptd, but you never know.
4. Know the different types of degrees.
The way I explain it, there are two different flavors of a theatre degree: A Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). A BA is a more holistic theatre degree, meaning I would be studying multiple disciplines of theatre, including acting, set design, directing, costuming, and any other theatre-related field. On the other hand, a BFA is a more conservatory-like style of education, where I would be focusing exclusively on acting. There are also other theatre related BFAs, such as musical theatre and technical design. The BFA programs are the ones that require auditions. Though BA programs don’t require auditions, a lot of them give me the opportunity to audition for scholarships, meaning I’ll be auditioning anyway. If you understand the basics of how studying theatre works, my rants make a lot more sense.
5. Don’t let me forget that BFAs are hard to get into.
I applied to 5 BFA programs, and I only get to audition for 2. The other three rejected me, and one of them was my top school. To be fair, said top school said they would still consider me for their BA, but it still hurts. But the thing with BFAs is that they get thousands of prescreens and can only take about 20 people at most in their program. I didn’t go into my BFA applications and prescreens expecting anything because acceptance rates are so low. However, sometimes it gets to me and I feel like I just got rejected at an Ivy League school because I submitted a bad test score. If I start sounding like I’m talking down on myself (which I don’t do often, but it still happens), tell me to shut up. It has nothing to do with me being a “bad actor” or whatever I’m spewing and everything to do with the program not being right for me. Besides, I’ve gotten into a couple BA schools now, so even if I don’t get into a BFA program, I have some pretty great options to get excited about.