Advice from a College Freshman and Thespian

Ellie Olsen, Reporter

As an incoming freshman in college, I know how stressful it can be to balance college applications with work, school, activities, and social life. In fact, my college decision process is still in the works, because the nine different college programs I applied to involved essays, auditions, interviews, and more. After going through this process that is made so much more stressful than it has to be, I want to share my top eight tips on college in general, but ESPECIALLY if you are going into an artistic field.

  • I cannot stress this enough. Take care of yourself!! Especially if you are a performer, your voice and energy often depends on your diet, sleep schedule, and the amount of water you consume. Hold yourself accountable for these things. About two days before auditions, I don’t eat much because I get so anxious, but salads (with light dressings) and granola bars are the way to go. As for sleeping, it can be difficult during auditions (trust me I know), but I meditate for ten minutes the night before, and especially after a long day’s work, it makes me really tired and ready for bed. Drink as much water as you can throughout the day, and track how much you drink. Once you start seeing improvements, it will make you want to drink more! These are three simple ways to take care of yourself, but in my personal opinion, the best way to do so is to carve out downtime during your week. This can be anything you want it to be, but make sure it’s outside of work and school. A few things I scheduled as downtime for myself throughout this year were ski days, collaging, painting, and spending time with my dogs.
  • Spread out your workload. As an example, you don’t want to wait until Halloween at midnight to get in all of your things you need for college. Personally, the application I would say I worked my hardest on was Chapman. It was one of my top schools, but I also had a lot to do for that specific school. Let’s say, it’s to the point where you have five days to send in an application, an essay, and a video audition. On the first day, get the application done and decide on audition material. On the second day, write a rough draft on the essay and memorize your audition pieces. On the third day, get feedback from people you trust on your essay and auditions. On the fourth day, finalize your essay, send it in, and film your video audition. On the fifth day, submit your video audition and get anything else that hasn’t been done, in. This is a very cramped timeline in the first place, so you don’t want to be in this scenario to begin with either. Something that has helped me balance everything is that I have three planners: one for homework, one for after school activities and social events, and one for college. By having one planner (and a different notebook as well) only associated with college, I can make my own deadlines and hold myself accountable. P.S: To-do lists are your best friend!
  • Get pretty much everything in sooner than later. Not only will this relieve a lot of stress for you, but you will have some time to deal with any issues with the schools receiving your items BEFORE the deadlines. This also makes a good impression for schools, knowing that you don’t make excuses and you’re on top of your game. Also for prescreens (audition prerequisites if you will), there will be more availability to you in a theatre program! For example, I submitted my prescreen video for Montclair in early November and got called back. I submitted my prescreen video for PACE in late December and didn’t get called back. Punctuality isn’t everything, but your chances of getting into a school or a program will be much higher if you submit a week before the deadline, as opposed to someone who does it the night of.
  • TALK TO YOUR COUNSELOR, (and get as much help as you possibly can!). This is probably the most important step in your college application process. Personally, my best resources were my school counselor (Mr. Baker), my college counselor outside of school, and my theatre teacher, Mr. Brooks. These resources are provided to you, so please use them as much as possible. If there’s one thing I regret about this process, is that I didn’t use my resources enough. I wish I would’ve, because when it comes to this process, like a lot of my classmates, I was just thrown into it and expected to just apply to college. That being said, I hope in future years we can make post-graduate planning much more accessible for students. I feel that I was so lucky to be given the resources that I was. For example, Mr. Schjodt has just started a class called Studio in which you have to choose four different styles of songs for a repertoire book. This class was so helpful for the sake of all my prescreen videos and in-person auditions I had last semester and this semester. This class gave me the time and energy to start building a rep book, as well as getting voice feedback from Schjodt without having to schedule something outside of class like I had to do before.
  • Get as much feedback as possible. My college counselor, Louise, was someone who I signed up to go see to help improve my standardized test scores. Louise was able to help a lot of my friends from Cherry Creek High School, and I figured this was something I could benefit from. She helped me so much with that, but she also edited each of my college essays and helped me grow as a writer and an editor. Along with that, she was one of the reasons that my college list ended up the way it did. She gave me school recommendations to look into, and asked the hard questions about why certain schools were on my list. Also, Mr. Brooks and Mr. Schjodt were always willing to give me feedback on acting and singing for professors. I’m so grateful to have teachers like Brooks and Schjodt, because as long as I put in the hard work, I know they will be proud of me no matter what happens, but they still push me to be the best that I can. They’ve helped me grow into the best performer that I can be, along with giving me the confidence to continue in the performance fields.
  • Don’t be intimidated by your environment. This is something I still struggle with so much, but you have to remember that you come from such a different place (physically, emotionally and mentally) than the person next to you. The only call you can make is how much of yourself you put into a project. The auditions I felt most content with during high school (Treasure Island, School of Rock, Company class, and Seussical) were the ones that worked out the best for me.
  • Remember that it is okay to transfer schools or change majors. If you think about it, you really won’t know the school until you actually live in the environment. Being in high school, you’re still young and trying to figure out who you are. The nine schools and programs I applied to had literally nothing in common, because I didn’t know what I wanted out of a college or its programs. Personally, I used the college application process to figure out what I wanted out of a school instead of trying so hard to figure it out beforehand. Change is inevitable and the truth is: you will change in college. What you wanted your senior year in highschool doesn’t have to be the same as what you want your freshman year in college. IT IS OKAY TO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. As long as you have drive and ambition throughout your application experience, you can make it in whatever you want to.
  • College decisions are up to the universe. I solely believe that everything happens for a reason. You don’t have to agree with me, but I must say that it’s therapeutic to think this way, instead of getting caught up in why your top college didn’t choose you. Maybe that was the universe’s way of saying that you shouldn’t go to that particular school, because later in life you’ll need opportunities, people, etc. that are at a different school. Go to a place that you want to go to, and a place that wants you there too. With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Sun Tzu: “Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.”