May 26, 2020

Applying to college as a performing arts student: another perspective on the college application process

Ian Lei ’21, Co-Features Editor

The college application process is challenging for everyone who choose to go through it, but for performing arts students, a whole extra layer of difficulty is added. “In addition to the Common App, every school has a separate music application, and then also auditions, so it’s like three application processes for each school,” said Sydney Braunstein '20. Photo courtesy of Sydney Braunstein.

To say that the college application process is demanding is an understatement. Requiring the utmost creativity, students must write numerous essays for multiple schools while balancing schoolwork, extracurricular involvement, and a social life.  

There is, however, another aspect of the college application process that demands more from applicants: applying for a specific performing arts program. It’s a process that Sydney Braunstein ’20, a performing arts applicant, describes as stressful.

Braunstein participates in three of the choirs at the high school: Keynotes, Rice Street, and Song Sisters. She is also one of the music leaders of the Renegade Acapella group and takes Music Theory and Aural Skills 9. Outside of the high school, Braunstein sings in the Handel and Haydn Society choirs. 

“In addition to the Common App, every school has a separate music application, and then also auditions, so it’s like three application processes for each school,” said Braunstein.

The separate music application is essentially what Braunstein describes as a “music resume.” Depending on the school, this separate application can also require pre-screening videos — videos of an applicant performing a full-length musical piece. 

Braunstein also says she had to complete a separate portion because she wants to enter the field of music education. 

Once an applicant submits their pre-screening videos to their schools, the schools have to preliminary accept them before they can audition. Braunstein passed the pre-screenings for all the schools she applied to and will audition at each school every single week for the next month and a half. 

“I have to stay after school basically every day and keep up with the work because falling behind is definitely a concern of mine, especially in AP Calculus,” said Braunstein. 

Braunstein says that applying for a specific performing arts program is more competitive than applying to college as a normal student. 

“There are fewer spots for basically the same number of applicants. I know some programs, especially musical theater programs, get hundreds of applicants, but only take about sixteen people, so it’s definitely a lot more stressful and competitive,” said Braunstein. “You have to pick your schools wisely.”

Despite the competitive nature of the application process, Braunstein says that the environment at the high school, particularly with other performing arts students, has been supportive rather than competitive. 

“I don’t think the environment is necessarily competitive because we all know what our strengths are, and we know that we’ll all end up somewhere where we want to be. We’re all definitely friends because we hang out so much together in rehearsals, so I think that it’s definitely more of a positive environment than a competitive one,” said Braunstein. 

Braunstein says her biggest piece of advice for prospective performing arts applicants is to “do what you really want to do.”

“Don’t second guess yourself. If you know that music or performing arts is what you want to do, definitely try and apply… It’s such a competitive and stressful world and you won’t make a whole lot of money doing it… but don’t let that discourage you,” said Braunstein.

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