Admissions Advice: I Want to Teach You More About Performing Arts

admissions counseling speech May 29, 2022

Many families who aren’t familiar with competitive speech and debate come to us with the preconceived notion that debate is more prestigious and rewarding than speech. While the benefits of debate are well-documented, including improved research and critical thinking skills, our hundreds of speech students can attest to its advantages. Speech teaches important lessons, including the value of diligent rehearsal, creative expression, and performance techniques. Some of our speech students, still, aren’t sure if speech—and, by extension, performing arts in general—is a legitimate path toward success in a highly selective college or university.

Today, we’re writing to set the record straight. Performance-oriented speech and performing arts overall are both useful for college admissions and portable skill development. Let’s dispel four myths and misunderstandings.

MYTH #1: If you pursue the arts, that’s all you’ll study in college.

Many applicants aren’t clear on the distinction between a conservatory and a non-conservatory program. A conservatory focuses solely on developing one’s artistic craft; for example, Julliard’s acting conservatory requires students to take classes about the performance arts but not mathematics.

A non-conservatory program requires students to fulfill other general education requirements; for instance, Northwestern offers a BA in theater and asks their theater students to complete liberal arts courses as well. The College Musical Theater Guide hosts a big list of highly selective, honorable mention, and consideration-worthy programs (both conservatories and non-conservatories).

MYTH #2: Success in the arts is about talent, not work.

It’s true—just like some people have a natural advantage in basketball because of their build, some people have a natural advantage in art because of how dexterous their fingers or melodic their singing voice might be. However, the best of the best commit to arts training with as much rigor as ambitious sports recruits or Science Olympiad competitors. Watch this interview with UCLA’s Laura Young, the Director of Enrollment Management at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, as she describes the painstaking portfolio and audition processes involved in applications.

If you want to follow this passion, you need to develop a plan. That’s what we can help you with—interview prep, performance training, and admissions planning.

MYTH #3: An arts degree doesn’t prepare you for a career.

SNAAP, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, tracks data from arts-focused graduates to understand career outcomes. They’ve reached conclusions some find surprising, including that 74% of those surveyed who wanted to find work as a professional artist did so. Most fine artists, dancers, craft artists, actors, musicians, photographers, directors, and producers reported being very satisfied with the opportunity to do work “consistent with their personality, interests, and values.” Moreover, over half of arts graduates who now work outside the arts reported their arts training was relevant to their primary occupation.

In a quickly changing field where many careers may be destroyed by fast-moving automation, training in a major that demands innovation, iteration, and teamwork can develop the skills necessary for long-term career security. The “starving artist” trope isn’t supported by this more recent evidence.

If you have a debate-oriented concentration, we’ll support you in that journey. If you want to pursue a more performance-centered passion, we’re here for you, too. Competitive speech is one of the best ways to get consistent, constructive, and credible feedback on your writing and presentation. Not enough performance majors take advantage of its offerings in high school. We don’t want you to make the same mistake.

Sign up for a free consultation today to see which program is best for you.

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