Jill Haley: Applying to college as a performing arts major | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: Applying to college as a performing arts major

Jill Haley
Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

Our community and Nevada County schools are rich with music, dance and theater programs. It should come as no surprise that many students here go on to study performing arts in college.

Students planning to major in the preforming arts must first decide what type of college they will apply to. Generally, there are two choices — a conservatory or liberal arts college that offers degrees in the performing arts.

A conservatory, such as Juilliard, offers students a focused immersive training in performing arts. For example, an acting major would take acting courses all day, all semester long. Conservatories take very few students, making competition for the open spots very fierce.

At a liberal arts college, students would take general education courses, along with acting, music or dance courses to graduate. Here, students would need to be able to manage both academics and arts training.

What is the better course depends on the student. If the student is strong in the arts, but not interested in pursuing academics, perhaps a conservatory would be better. If a student is strong in academics and the arts, but not sure if the arts will be a lifelong career goal, a liberal arts college might be better path.

There are a number of different degree programs offered to students including a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Music. Some colleges also offer dual degrees or double majors.

Conservatories require an audition to be accepted into their dance, music or theater majors. Conservatories use the audition as the primary vehicle for admittance into their programs. High school grades and SAT/ACT scores may be of little importance for admissions into a conservatory.

Liberal arts colleges will have academic admission requirements as well as require admission tests. Many top-notch programs will also require that students audition in order to be accepted into the major.

Also, don’t forget about public universities such as the University of California. UCLA’s music and drama departments are some of the best in the country. CSU Northridge has a strong music program with ties to the recording industry.

An emerging trend is the use of the arts supplement imbedded in the college application. Here students can provide a link to their actual music, dance or theatre performances posted on their websites or YouTube.

Are there advantages to attending a well-known high-profile arts programs, such as Juilliard or UCLA? Yes. Alumni networks can be extremely valuable when trying to find your way after graduation. Schools with good reputations for training can also open doors to employment.

But, smaller programs may allow students to have more opportunities to participate, giving them more experience and a fuller resume. Wonderful programs at less known schools such as Puget Sound University, which has a music conservatory, have produced many successful students going on to careers in the preforming arts.

A student serious about pursuing a career in the preforming arts should look at the various options available and plan ahead as auditions are time consuming and require time to prepare. Also think outside the box when applying to schools to give yourself the best opportunity for admittance.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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