So your kid wants to go to college… for theatre. This is either incredibly exciting for you (I always knew that they were special and belonged in the spotlight), incredibly terrifying (How in the world are they going to get a job when the graduate?), or a combination of both (I am so happy they are following their dreams- but I wish they would be a little bit more practical).
Now that you have this information- what do you do? This isn’t like finding out they want to go into “normal” careers. Pursuing an education and then a career in theatre is a whole different ballgame.
Why do you want to do this?
Let’s start with what your child is about to get themselves into. Being a theatre artist is equally one of the most rewarding and the most grueling career paths that anyone can choose. So let’s find out why they want to do this.
If their answer is anything like the following…
“I can’t picture myself doing anything else.”
“Making it to Broadway or Hollywood would be nice, but I just need to be working as an actor.”
“I need to be doing this. It is what makes me, me”
… then relax, because they are in it for the right reasons. They understand that what they are about to endeavor is not easy. They understand that not everyone becomes a superstar. They aren’t doing this just to become famous- they are doing it because they have a passion for the craft. They feel as strongly about what theater can do for people as lawyers do about the justice system. It sounds corny, I know, but it is true. If this is your child- breathe. They will do whatever they have to, to have this career.
If however, they respond to that question like this…
“I want to be on Broadway.”
“I want to be the next Sutton Foster.”
“I want to be in movies.”
… then maybe it’s time to really talk to them about the career they are pursuing.
Working With Your High School
A lot of people have a sort of love/hate relationship with high school guidance departments. On the one hand, these professionals are really wonderful at what they do. They help students through some of the most difficult times in life. They help put together schedules, are there to listen to when students have problems, and help put together all of the information needed for the college application process.
On the other hand, most high school guidance departments don’t truly understand the application process for theatre. They will be a huge help in terms of all the paperwork that is needed. However, they probably won’t have a good grasp on how to handle setting up auditions, finding out what is needed for these auditions, putting together a theatre resume and headshot, and many other things. This can be frustrating.
Don’t get mad at them. Getting angry or frustrated with the guidance office will do no good. It won’t make them pay more attention to your child. It won’t make them get back to you sooner. It won’t give you any positive results. But most importantly- you getting mad at the guidance department will only stress out your child more.
Go into the process with your guidance department knowing the following:
-Your child is not the only student that they are working with.
-Applying to college for theater is not as common as applying to college for other majors. This process is not the norm for them.
If you constantly remember these two things, I can almost guarantee that your child will have a smoother process.
Another way to help the guidance department is to pass on information that you gather from the theater programs to your guidance counselor. Or an even easier way is to get them a copy of “Admit One: Ten Steps to Choosing Your Acting or Musical Theatre Program” (shameless plug). This will not only help smooth out the process for your child, but make it easier for future students.
Supporting vs. Smothering
No other career is as subjective as the arts. I mean, does any other profession ask you to share a part of your inner most self and then decide if it is good enough? Or does any other job decide on whether or not to hire you based on how you look? No. In fact- if any other career besides the arts hired people in this way- there would be a million discrimination lawsuits.
During this entire process, your child is going to be putting themselves on the line. They are going to be asking people to judge their talents and decide if they fit each institution.
So what do they need from you?
Honesty- They don’t need you constantly telling them how amazing they are. Let them know that you believe in them… but don’t overdo it. They know when you are being a parent, showing them unconditional love, and when you really mean that they are doing great work.
On the flip side- don’t be overly critical. You may think that you are helping, but constantly critiquing their work does NOT help. Give them feedback when they ASK for it. Much like overdoing praise, if you are constantly giving feedback on what they are doing… they will eventually tune you out.
Assistance- Applying for college is a crazy process. Trying to keep everything straight can be unbelievably hard. It’s a lot like trying to run a business… when you are 17 years old. No matter how organized your child is, there will be moments where they will get overwhelmed by it all. Be ready for these moments. Check in every once in a while to make sure they have everything they need. This does not need to be every day. Maybe set aside a time once a week that you can sit down and check in on everything. Even if it is a 15 minute conversation, it will be helpful just to check in on the progress of everything.
Understanding- Applying for college today is not like applying for college 15, 10 even 5 years ago. It is a different, more stressful, more intense process. Your child has been told since they were in grade school how important getting into a good school would be. Now here comes the moment of truth. Needless to say- they are going to be freaking out a little bit. Do the best you can to not add to that stress.
Keep it up!
I hope that this has been helpful. A lot of it, I am sure, seems like common sense. However, sometimes common sense can go out the window during this process.
I would like to leave you with one final piece of advice- Keep being you. Your child has gotten this far in life because you have supported them. You have encouraged them to listen to their hearts and to follow their dreams. They are about to enter a time in life when they need you more than they know. You have done a heck of a job so far. Keep it up!
My College Audition
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