Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Prepare Your Audition Materials this Summer

This article first appeared on on June 24, 2015.

Summer is officially here and by now you have had a few weeks to decompress from a hectic school year. Maybe your summer plans include a job, internship, volunteer work, travel or plenty of chill time with friends. Perhaps you have a long list of books you hope to read just for fun, or a goal to watch every movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. If you are a rising 10th-12th grader with an interest in performing arts, your summer should include dedicated time to work on your audition materials.
The admission process for performing arts majors often has an added layer of complexity. You have to submit the same application for academic admission as every other student, and then you need to prepare audition materials that showcase your talent. The process of putting together this portfolio is time consuming (often 50-100 hours of effort), so it is best to tackle it in the summer when you do not have an overlay of homework and school-year extra-curriculars.
If you want to know more about some of these performing arts programs, read prior GoLocalPDX articles on conservatory dance programsnon-conservatory dance programsmusic productionacting, and liberal arts colleges with music conservatories.  
If you are a rising senior with a solid list of schools you are applying to, the best way to get started is to create a document where you compile the exact audition requirements of each school. This saves you time and money in the long run. For example, if you are recording songs or monologues and need to arrange studio space, equipment and help, it is most cost-effective to record everything all at once.
If you are a rising sophomore or junior you probably don’t yet know where you plan to apply. That’s okay! You can still work on elements of your portfolio, although you probably won’t finish until the summer between junior and senior year.
Below is a list of the most commonly requested components for highly selective (BFA) performing arts programs. Please note that many highly selective performing arts require a Pre-Screen which is usually open to submissions by September 1 of your senior year. You must make it through the Pre-Screen process in order to be eligible for live auditions, either at the school or at the regional Unified Auditions.

Musical Theatre

  • Resume
  • Headshot
  • Video with high-quality audio recording of two songs (one ballad and one up-tempo)
  • Video with high-quality audio recording of one monologue
  • Dance technique video showing competence in assorted genres (ballet, tap, jazz, modern)
  • 1-3 recommendation letters from voice teachers, drama directors, dance masters


  • Resume
  • Headshot
  • Video with high-quality audio recording of two age-appropriate monologues (one classical and one modern)
  • 1-2 recommendation letters from acting coaches/drama teachers, stage directors

Vocal Performance

  • Resume that includes language skills, contact info for voice teachers, competitions won and knowledge of music theory
  • Headshot
  • Video and high-quality audio recording of three songs (one classical song in a language other than English, one art song in English; and One selection of the applicant's choice)
  • 1-3 recommendation letters from vocal coaches/music teachers

Instrumental Performance

  • Resume that includes contact info for instrumental teachers, competitions won and knowledge of music theory
  • Headshot with your instrument
  • Video and high-quality audio recording of three pieces in assorted genres (sometimes a specific piece is required and you get free choice for the others)
  • 1-3 recommendation letters from instrumental coaches/music teachers


  • Resume that includes contact info for music teachers, competitions won and knowledge of music theory
  • Artist’s statement (your vision for the type of compositions you plan to contribute to the musical cannon)
  • three or more scores in various media and a recording (audio or audio-visual) of each score
  • 1-3 recommendation letters from music teachers

Music Production

  • Resume
  • A self-produced recording of an original work (can be made using any combination of acoustic and virtual instruments)
  • Artist’s statement (your vision regarding the intersection of music and technology)
  • 1-3 recommendation letters from music teachers


  • Dance resume that includes height and weight measurements
  • Headshot
  • Dance/body shot 
  • Artistic statement that addresses academic, artistic, or professional goals that you believe could be accomplished in that school’s dance program
  • Video of  dance technique (to musical accompaniment):
               - Grand Adagio with développés in each position, promenades, and pirouettes;
               - Petit Allegro, including jumps on two feet, jetés, temps levés, assemblés, and beats;
               - Grand Allegro including grand jetés and tour jetés, and either balancés or waltzes.
               - Men, please include simple tour en l’air
  • Video of improvisational or choreographed dance 1-3 minutes long (solo - must be in modern, contemporary or ballet style)
Note: some programs require a black leotard and pink tights
Remember that the above-listed elements may not be the exact components required at each of the schools on your list. You must check the requirements school-by-school to be sure you submit everything that is requested.
Many colleges ask you to submit your pre-screen materials through Acceptd. There will be a link to the college’s Acceptd portal from the college website. It is important to understand that each school has customized the Acceptd requirements, so you will have to upload your audition materials multiple times.
Many people don’t realize that the odds of getting into an audition-based program may be extremely low. I often see shocked faces when I tell a family that the student’s chance of being admitted to the program in Musical Theatre at the University of Cincinnati is less than a student’s chance of being admitted to Harvard. If you are applying to an audition-based performing arts program, use your resources to prepare your audition materials. This is the time to call upon your acting, music or dance teachers/coaches/directors for advice and support.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Athletic Recruiting TIps

This article first appeared on on June 17, 2015.

Article writin by Kathy Smith Connor

September 1st or July 1st are big days for many student/athletes. For most sports, September 1 at the beginning of junior year is the first time that a coach can proactively contact them. For Swimming & Diving, Track & Field or Cross Country, the big day is July 1 after the junior year has been completed. Athletes can contact college coaches prior to these dates, of course, via email, by calling with the hope that they pick up the phone, and through unofficial campus visits, but after either date (sport dependent) coaches can officially and proactively show their interest in a student/athlete. It's an exciting time and depending on how strongly an athlete is being recruited, the phone should be ringing during this first week, as well as subsequent months. One of the biggest goals during this time is to get your official recruiting trips lined up for the fall. How well this first week goes depends on several things.
The first, of course, is how "in demand" you are as an athlete –the faster your swim or track times, the more years on an ODP (Olympic Development Program), the farther you throw—the more you will be pursued by coaches.
Just how much the phone will be ringing will depend on how aggressively you have promoted yourself and how strongly you have established relationships with coaches. Writing, emailing and calling coaches is the best way to get on a coach’s radar. Having done your homework prior to this is very important as it shows a coach there are legitimate reasons you want to attend that school. This is the biggest and best way for an athlete to get ahead in the recruiting game and it's never too early to start.  Many schools have small recruiting budgets and it's not always easy for coaches to be aware of prospective athletes. Proactive contact in your freshman through junior years is the key to getting on a coach's radar.  Registering for the NCAA Eligibility Center during sophomore year is also helpful.
I was initially surprised to find that most coaches feel short video clips are helpful in the recruiting process. Sure it’s clear that these clips are useful for the more subjective sports (soccer, basketball, etc) as these sports are harder to "measure" and the videos are one way to show technical and creative moves. I was very interested to find that “timed sports” coaches, such as swimming and track & field, also find video clips very useful. For example, if a coach sees on your video that you currently only take three dolphin kicks off a wall, she may believe you have great room for improvement if she can train you to take six dolphins off the wall instead or make other technical adjustments to improve your stroke.
I am constantly amazed at how late in the recruiting process athletes get started.  If you are serious about pursuing your sport in college, I strongly suggest you start your recruiting campaign in freshman and sophomore years. Here’s what you can do: 
  • Research colleges based on academic, social and financial fit—for example, do you know your estimated EFC?
  • Research the athletic fit. Can you realistically compete at a DI level or should you be looking at DII or DIII? Do you understand the difference in level of competition as well as level of commitment?
  • Research what collegiate conference they could potentially score in. Coaches in timed sports in particular are largely looking for athletes that can score for them in their conference, as well as go on to compete at the NCAA national level.

As you can see, there’s lots of research to be done to maximize your chances for a great fit college, as well as maximize chances for merit and athletic aid.
Coaches are looking for top students who can earn merit aid to supplement the athletic aid they have to carefully manage due to their limited budgets. Beginning freshman year, you need to carefully choose classes to make sure they are NCAA compliant, as well as take rigorous courses while still maintaining a solid GPA. Careful course planning, as well as strategically taking standardized tests, and applying to colleges where your test scores are in the top 25% of the pool can maximize your financial aid packages.
I am often asked if I recommend student/athletes sign up for a recruiting service such as BeRecruitedNCSA, orCaptainU. These services have a role in recruiting and some are better suited for certain sports than others.  They cannot hurt and if you want to spend the time and effort to create a profile and continue to keep it updated, then it is fine to utilize them. I have learned by talking to many, many coaches, however, that most of them prefer direct contact from the student/athlete vs. working with a service as an intermediary. They often do not have the time to research such databases and most prefer to recruit those athletes that contact them directly. So again, the best way to get on a coach’s radar and make them aware of you is direct contact!
Bottom Line: Start early, do your research, focus on your grades and the rigor of courses you take, compete at the highest level possible in your sport, and then assertively promote yourself. These actions will maximize your chances to compete and secure athletic funding at a right-fit college.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Key Steps to the Athletic Recruiting Process

This article first appeared on on June 10, 2015.

Article by Kathy Smith Connor

Athletic talent can provide wonderful opportunities and open many doors for student/athletes in the college search process. While it can present unique advantages, it also poses its own set of challenges. 
The athletic recruiting process must be approached in a realistic and systematic manner. A good understanding of the NCAA recruiting rules and how to conduct a proactive and healthy recruitment campaign are key to an athlete’s success, not only in making a well-suited team roster but in obtaining the best scholarship possible.
Your first step is to find the right college fit for your academic and social needs. You are a student first and must develop the foresight and vision to understand that while playing your sport in college is an important highlight of your college years, your education is a lifetime tool. Student/athletes who do both their academic and athletic homework, followed by a proactive approach to recruiting, have the most success in getting college coaches to consider them for admission, as well as making a team roster with athletic funding. 
Here are a few guidelines to a successful approach to the athletic recruiting process. 

Be Realistic About Your Level of Play

If you are an athlete that wants to play your sport at the collegiate level, you must talk with your coaches about your ability. Ask them for an honest and realistic assessment of your prospects in collegiate athletics. At which level (Division I, II, III, or NAIA) does he or she believe you can compete?
If you participate in a timed sport, there are various websites and other tools you can look at to determine in which conference you would be most competitive, which is generally what coaches want in order to provide you with athletic scholarship funding.
Use this information as a guideline for targeting schools at which you can realistically compete in your sport.

Create a Realistic College List

Create a balanced preliminary list of schools that incorporates academic interests and abilities, social needs and athletic ability. This list should be driven from answers to questions including:
  • Could I realistically get accepted and thrive at this school based on my academic record?” 
  • “Do I like the campus, its students, its location, etc?”
  • Can I play/compete at this level in both its Conference and Division?”
  • Is the college affordable taking into account any potential academic and athletic funding I receive?”

Assertively Work to be Recruited

Often, athletes expect coaches to come knocking on their door. This is unlikely unless you are competing at a national level - which most athletes are not. 
It is important to understand the “rules of the recruiting game” in order to maximize your chances of playing – and receiving athletic money –at your preferred colleges. This takes time, effort and good communication to make sure coaches know you and want to recruit you. Many universities have very limited recruiting budgets and therefore, if you can proactively get noticed and make it onto a coach’s “list” (the earlier, the better), it makes it easier for everyone. And it increases your likelihood of being brought onto the team and receiving athletic funding. 

Key Steps to the Athletic Recruiting Process

1. Proactive Contact: Assertive communication is the key to success
The majority of athletes who want to participate in collegiate athletics need to be very proactive in searching out and pursuing all possible opportunities. There is no magic formula that can guarantee selection to a college sports program. 
Fill out the school’s recruiting questionnaire to get on their mailing list; write to the coaches and introduce yourself with a letter and athletic resume (filled with GPA and SAT/ACT scores and sports accomplishments) and explain why you think their school is for you; let them know any tournaments, showcases or meets you will competing in and ask them to come watch you; follow up with any new best times, achievements and stay in touch.

2. Get Seen: It’s all about exposure!
Especially for subjective (non-timed) sports, a very important aspect of recruiting is being seen and getting exposure on a fairly regular basis. 
For sports such as soccer, you will need to be on a club or high school team that gives you maximum exposure to college showcases, tournaments and camp opportunities. This is where college coaches will have the best chance of seeing your athlete in action. A note of caution – very rarely is an athlete first noticed from a college showcase. Coaches attend college showcases to watch and evaluate athletes that are already on their list. It is very important to have communicated with coaches prior to showcases so they know you are interested in being evaluated.

3. Understand all NCAA rules and regulations
NCAA policies govern how coaches can recruit college-bound student/athletes. The rules specify when and how coaches can contact prospects, what materials can be sent and when student-athletes can visit campus. The rules differ slightly from sport to sport and Division to Division. It is critical that student/athletes understand these rules so as not to jeopardize their eligibility.

The student/athlete must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center for compliance approval. The Center also administers the National Letter of Intent program as well as the Amateurism Eligibility and Certification. Details can be found in The Guide for the College-Bound Student/Athlete which contains detailed information about academic and amateurism eligibility.
Being involved in athletics can be a tremendous benefit to students regardless of whether a student receives a scholarship. The life-skills and lessons learned along the way are priceless and will aid the student/athlete in any future endeavor. A young person contemplating college attendance should use high school for legitimate academic preparation then do their college “best-fit” homework and athletic homework to find just the right place.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Can You Play Your Sport in College?

This article first appeared on on June 3, 2015.

Article written by Kathy Smith Connor

Sometimes my job involves being a “dream crusher”. It’s not a part of the job I like. 
I often have parents come into my office with the expectation that their son or daughter will be able to play his or her sport in college.  For some, this is a realistic option.  For others, not so much. 
To start off, here are some facts about collegiate sports and athletic scholarships:
1. A lot of athletes contend for limited opportunities.  There are 7,400,000 high school student athletes and 460,000 NCAA student athletes.  Statistically, about 6% of student athletes will end up being able to compete in college.
2. The odds of winning an NCAA sports scholarship are long. Only about 2% of high school athletes win sports scholarships every year at NCAA colleges and universities. For those who do snag one, the average scholarship is less than $11,000.
3. Full-ride sports scholarships are in short supply. There are only six sports where all the scholarships are full ride. These so-called head-count sports are football, men and women's basketball, and women's gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis. In these Division I sports, athletes receive a full ride or no ride.
4. Scholarship amounts can be modest. Beyond the head-count sports, all other sports are considered "equivalency" sports. NCAA rules dictate how much money a program, such as lacrosse or track, can spend on scholarships. Coaches can slice and dice these awards as they choose, which can lead to smaller scholarships than you might expect.
5. Take flattery with a grain of salt. Coaches may tell teenagers that they have lots of scholarship money to divvy out, but prospective student athletes shouldn't assume that they will be the recipients. A coach might not know whether he really wants a certain player until he finds out what other prospective players want to sign on to the team, and then he may drop the player with whom he had been in discussion.
6. A verbal commitment is meaningless. There is no guarantee that an athlete who verbally commits to a team will end up on it. A coach can change her mind about a prospect.
7. Playing high-level college sports will be a full-time job. Division I athletes may as well be called full-time employees of their schools because of the long hours they “work” to fulfill their sport commitment.  According to an NCAA survey last year, playing football required 43.3 hours per week; college baseball, 42.1 hours; men's basketball, 39.2 hours; and women's basketball, 37.6 hours. Because of the huge time commitment, as well as time away from campus, Division I athletes will often find it extremely difficult to major in rigorous disciplines, such as the sciences and engineering. If this is the case, having the ability to play a Division I sport does not always mean that one should.  Division III schools should be under consideration in certain scenarios.  
With all of this in mind, here are some ways to determine if your student/athlete can compete in college.  Keep in mind that you are working to determine if he can compete collegiately as well as which NCAA Division (NCAA Division I, II, or III or NAIA) is the best fit for his abilities.   
Timed/measured sports are easier to discern.  For swimming or track & field, one can look at a “time” (distance, etc.) and know whether the student will be able to compete collegiately by comparing their times against how fast the student/athletes are swimming, running, etc. in college.  Generally, coaches want to see that a student/athlete can “score” for them in their Athletic Conference to determine if they will make the roster and/or receive some sort of athletic scholarship funding.  Obviously, the faster they are, the more money they may receive.  We can look at, for example, and see if a swimmer’s current times could score in any particular conference as well as where her times would place her on a given college roster.  In this way, we can tell if the student has a realistic chance of competing for that college, or any college.
For “subjective” sports (soccer, softball, basketball, etc.) it’s a bit harder to determine whether an athlete could compete collegiately, as well as which NCAA Division she is best suited for.  This is done through a series of steps such as communicating to coaches, followed by sending video of her play, and participating in ID Camps and college showcases to get “exposure”.  As the student starts writing to coaches, she notes which college coaches are writing back with possible interest, which helps direct the search towards the best athletic fit (Division I, Division II or Division III or NAIA).  If no coaches write back, this is an answer as well.  For certain sports, it’s also telling if an athlete made their Varsity high school team freshman or sophomore year rather than in later years. 
While I don’t want to discourage student/athletes from pursuing their dream of playing collegiate athletics, it’s important to be realistic about their chances of competing at this extremely competitive next level.