Get your “Glee” on with tips for how to apply to college in visual or performing arts

The subtitle for this show could have been “So you think you can Dance? Sing? Play an instrument? Draw?” Or another subtitle could have been “It’s more than a Youtube video.” We discussed “How to apply to College in the Visual and Performing Arts.”

Many families may not realize until right before the admissions deadlines that the process for applying to major in the visual or performing arts or even if you want to participate in those areas as extracurricular, is a bit more nuanced. For example, the Common Application has a place where you can indicate if you’re applying to a college and want to pursue those interests. Some colleges even have special deadlines and regional auditions for those who want their talents to be considered in their admissions portfolio.

My guest featured in this segment is Halley Shefler, who formerly served as Dean of Admissions for the Boston Conservatory, played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and recently founded ArtsEdge, which counsels students on visual and performing arts admissions. Halley shares with listeners those nuances and insider tips on how to apply to college in the visual and performance arts.

Please listen to this show BEFORE you even think about applying to college in the visual or performing arts!

How to Apply to College in Visual and Performing Arts

How to Choose the Colleges that fit YOU with “Colleges that Change Lives”

High school Juniors, have you listened to our podcasts focused on you? We have broadcast three prior shows as part of our Junior Series. The previous show has discussed campus visits, the SAT, ACT, and AP. A third show delved more into the SAT Math section since that part of the SAT often gives students a lot of grief!

In today’s show topic, we discussed another aspect of the college admissions process that is top of mind for many high school students and juniors especially. Whether you have done campus visits, taken the SAT, or asked your recommenders, the more critical question will be . . . “How do I choose the right colleges for me?” I use the term colleges as plural, instead of college singular, because I want to dispel the myth that there is only one college for a student.

There are about 3,800 colleges and universities in the US and several could be a fit for you in different ways. For example, a campus may have appeal because it’s near your favorite city or perhaps another college has a professor who is focusing on your area of interest. They can both be great colleges that match you academically, socio-emotionally, and financially. As students consider all the various options available, there are steps that students can follow to determine which colleges could be right for them to apply.

The other data point or research that I want to insert here is that studies have found that the breakdown in college graduation happens in the application process. Did you know this? So it behooves students and families to think through this process of choosing the right colleges in an informed and strategic way. Although there are many parents who are supporting their student with college selection, I can’t stress enough that the “You”  in this case, refers to the student. Parents may mean well but it really does a disservice to the student if the parents choose where the students apply! Strongly suggesting that a student applies to college because the parent is an alum is risky and likely to backfire. The parents can help but they must be careful about not doing and actually choosing the colleges where their son or daughter will apply. I do realize the parents are footing the bill but this process of choosing the right colleges that will be a fit starts with the student.

In this show, Marty O’Connell, Executive Director of Colleges that Change Lives shares some great steps that students should take towards finding those great matches. Prior to CTCL, Marty served in college admissions for twenty-eight years, most recently as vice president for enrollment and dean of admission at McDaniel College (Westminster, Md.), Now she has devoted herself to the Colleges That Change Lives mission: helping students and families better understand the college admissions process to find the best college fit possible.

As we warmly welcomed Marty to our shows, we also want to invite YOU to download the podcast and hear what Marty suggested. The steps we discussed may change the way you’re thinking of approaching this critical component of the college admissions process.

How to Decide Which Colleges

Your state has a drop-out problem!

Many of us have heard about the high number of students who drop out from high school. It’s a growing, shameful trend in our country. Did you know that that we also have a college dropout problem? When I mention this data to people, they are often surprised.

If you attended college 20+ years ago, you were keenly aware that college was a 4-year endeavor. Even for students who transferred, the plan was to attend one school for 2 years, then move on to another campus for the latter 2 years. Today, we often hear the college years discussed as a 6-year cycle. I don’t know about you . . . but the thought of paying for 6 years of college sounds even more daunting than paying for four. That’s a deep-pocket investment. A protracted college experience can be expensive for families and fellow taxpayers.

In too many cases though, students are dropping out of college, particularly after freshman year. A new study by American Institutes for Research finds that states are losing millions of dollars due to college dropouts. The table below, adapted from shows the rankings for all states.

Some critics of “college for all” policies argue that these low graduation rates prove their case. There’s some merit in their proposition. The other issue that we don’t acknowledge enough is that the breakdown in college graduation begins in the application process. Students are not spending enough time and consideration in the college selection process. There are far too many instances of students choosing colleges for these reasons:

  • Location – For no other reasons, it’s either near home (within comfort zone) or far enough that parents can’t drop-in.
  • Friends – An over-reliance on opinions of peers cloud ability to compare campuses fairly.
  • Parents – Parents often choose the colleges for the student. (Risky for parents and often leads to resentment by the student.)

The college selection process, instead, should start with students considering those schools that will be a good fit for their own needs, whatever those may be. There are over 3,800 colleges and universities in the US. Some campuses are very rural while others are in the heart of major urban centers. Other campuses may offer tremendous support for students with learning differences while others do not even acknowledge students outside whatever is considered the norm. Several campuses offer unique scheduling options. There are college campuses that are defined by their Greek life participation or perhaps their great food. For any college being considered, students should ask, “Is this a place where I can thrive?”

Freshman year of college is a challenging year and many colleges do their best to assist students with their transition. In some cases, though, students may need more that 2-3 months in between senior year of high school and college. Taking a year after high school to pursue other interests, mature, or travel can make all the difference that a student needs to be able to fully engage in college the following year. Many colleges will support a request for deferred admissions. In hindsight, I could have had a richer college experience if I had deferred a year. Back then, the support wasn’t there. Today, however, there are numerous structured programs that offer meaningful year-long experiences for students to pursue.

Freshman retention rate College Graduation rate Cost to taxpayers (in Millions)
Alabama (AL) 76.40% 47.40% $69.90
Alaska (AK) 70.70% 25.00% $11.90
Arizona (AZ) 77.70% 54.70% $54.30
Arkansas (AR) 69.60% 41.20% $34.40
California (CA) 84.30% 62.00% $228.80
Colorado (CO) 76.30% 53.40% $79.00
Connecticut (CT) 83.70% 56.20% $24.80
Delaware (DE) 85.10% 70.70% $14.80
District of Columbia (DC) 39.50% 17.20% $6.70
Florida (FL) 85.60% 59.20% $57.30
Georgia (GA) 80.80% 51.00% $60.00
Hawaii (HI) 75.10% 50.90% $11.10
Idaho (ID) 63.50% 32.70% $24.50
Illinois (IL) 80.20% 59.50% $78.90
Indiana (IN) 77.10% 52.50% $110.30
Iowa (IA) 83.30% 65.70% $25.70
Kansas (KS) 74.90% 54.80% $38.20
Kentucky (KY) 72.30% 46.30% $64.20
Louisiana (LA) 71.50% 39.80% $71.80
Maine (ME) 72.40% 50.60% $14.90
Maryland (MD) 82.30% 63.00% $46.80
Massachusetts (MA) 79.00% 52.70% $50.00
Michigan (MI) 80.30% 59.10% $124.50
Minnesota (MN) 78.50% 53.20% $57.40
Mississippi (MS) 75.20% 49.30% $25.50
Missouri (MO) 76.00% 53.80% $56.50
Montana (MT) 69.30% 41.10% $17.00
Nebraska (NE) 77.10% 54.30% $20.00
Nevada (NV) 75.10% 43.10% $20.60
New Hampshire (NH) 83.90% 65.40% $10.40
New Jersey (NJ) 84.70% 63.60% $43.80
New Mexico (NM) 71.30% 41.00% $19.80
New York (NY) 82.50% 56.80% $117.40
North Carolina (NC) 81.20% 58.80% $102.80
North Dakota (ND) 77.00% 47.00% $14.20
Ohio (OH) 79.20% 56.10% $123.50
Oklahoma (OK) 70.60% 46.10% $42.50
Oregon (OR) 76.70% 54.10% $27.30
Pennsylvania (PA) 81.10% 61.70% $133.40
Puerto Rico (PR) 83.50% 42.70% $29.30
Rhode Island (RI) 79.20% 53.60% $10.90
South Carolina (SC) 78.80% 59.50% $47.30
South Dakota (SD) 73.90% 46.40% $11.60
Tennessee (TN) 72.00% 44.20% $79.60
Texas (TX) 74.40% 48.90% $238.00
Utah (UT) 73.40% 47.70% $24.50
Vermont (VT) 86.00% 71.60% $7.80
Virgin Islands (VI) 72.80% 29.20% $1.70
Virginia (VA) 86.10% 67.30% $60.20
Washington (WA) 83.50% 66.40% $50.00
West Virginia (WV) 72.30% 45.10% $29.00
Wisconsin (WI) 79.30% 58.60% $65.20
Wyoming (WY) 72.50% 56.90% $7.70