Audition Song Selection, What to Expect, Tips, and More!
Everything You Need To Know About Unified College Auditions
What are college unified auditions?
Unifieds (officially National Unified Auditions) are a musical theatre audition held every year in several cities around the country where multiple colleges, universities, theatre programs and conservatories hold auditions over two to three days for their incoming classes. Most schools require students to apply for slots ahead of time, or to submit pre-screens (a taped audition submitted to secure an in-person audition), but some also leave room for walk-in slots.
Should I go to a unified audition?
There are definitely pros and cons to attending Unifieds and only you can decide if the environment is one where you feel you can present your best self. Here are a few things to consider:
Why you should go to Unified Auditions
Cost & Convenience: With upwards of 30 schools in attendance, Unifieds can be a cost-efficient and convenient way to audition for a lot of schools in one place at one time. While you may need to travel to the Unified location and pay the application and walk-in fees, the cost will still be significantly less than making multiple individual campus visits (which can still be done later).
Discovery: Because so many schools attend Unifieds, it can be a great place to discover programs that may not have been on your radar. Most of the schools have alumni sitting outside the room as monitors, so you can ask questions of someone who actually attended the school.
Faculty on Hand: The adjudicators at Unifieds are all current faculty. They are eager to talk about their programs and what sets their school apart. Some even offer information sessions for parents and students.
Why you shouldn't go to Unified Auditions
Chaotic: Unifieds are a mad house. There are lines, it's hot, and there are people EVERYWHERE! It is definitely not the kind of environment where all young performers can thrive. But if you're well organized and a little chaos doesn't throw you, Unifieds can be an efficient and productive choice.
You Don't Get to See the Campus: Being in an audition studio with faculty is not the same as being on a school's campus and going to campus auditions. You won't get a feel for the school community or get to see the facilities.
All or Nothing: The compressed time period of Unifieds can be a blessing or a curse. By cramming in so many auditions in such a short time period, nerves and illness can easily get the better of a performer and the whole weekend can be a wash-out. On the other hand, you can get multiple auditions over and done with in a just few days, which can be great. It's important to make sure you plan for the intensity of the day and pace yourself in order to get the most out of it.
How to prepare for Unified Auditions
There is talk of standardizing college audition material. For now, however, there is still a lot of variation in what schools require. You will need to check each school's website individually for audition requirements and be very organized when preparing (we are a big fan of Excel spreadsheets). Most musical theatre programs want to hear two contrasting songs and two contrasting monologues. But some ask for material from specific time periods or styles.
Most schools now have students audition with accompaniment tracks played from their own phones and portable speakers. This means creating an audition playlist and testing equipment as part of your audition prep. And of course, making sure your phone and speaker are well charged up (and that you bring your chargers).
Know Your Type: When looking for audition material, know your type and find material that is age, gender, and racially appropriate. If you're a transgender or agender young artist, present material that feels most appropriate to you.
Ask Yourself What You Do Well: Ask yourself what you do well and show that off. If you have a strong legit sound, pick material that showcases that. If you've got great comic timing, perform something funny.
Find Material That "Feels Like You: Your time in the audition room is short so if you can find songs and monologues you can identify with, they will be that much easier to learn and make your own. Adjudicators are trying to get to know you at a college audition so picking material that is closely aligned with who you are is a really great way to do that.
Avoid Obscene Material: Keep away from material that contains cursing, racial epithets, or overt sexual content. No reason to potentially offend anyone and there's plenty of good material without it.
Choose at Least One Song You Can Sing Sick: Unifieds are in January, the height of cold and flu season. It's very tempting to choose audition material that's flashy and demanding. But what if you get sick? Choose one song that isn't as rangey in the event you're vocally compromised.
What happens at unified auditions?
Someone (either a monitor or a faculty member) will call your name and invite you into the room. The faculty members will probably introduce themselves. They may chat with you while you set up, or they may ask you to go right into your material. Don't rush. For singing and acting auditions, you will have just three to five minutes in the room. That's your time. If you are asked questions, try to stay as calm as you can and listen to the questions they ask. Adjudicators just want to get to know you a little to see if you might be a good fit for their school. Remember that they are current faculty, so they are eager to talk about their programs. Show that you've done your homework and be prepared to ask them something specific about their program.
Don't rush out of the room as soon as you finish with your audition. They may want to talk to you or ask you for other selections. Wait until you're excused, then just say, "thank you" and leave. Do not discuss how the audition went as soon as you get out of the room. You don't know who is listening. Tell mom and dad you'll talk about it at lunch (10 blocks from where the auditions were held!).
Unified Audition Tips
Pace Yourself: Unified days are long. Keep your body and voice warm. Keep hydrated. Eat enough to keep your energy up.
Be Yourself: You don't know what the adjudicators are looking for. Honestly, neither do they! You are auditioning them as much as they are auditioning you. They want you to succeed. One school told us they get at least 25% of their incoming class through Unifieds.
Take Notes: You're going to see a lot of schools in a short amount of time. They are all going to meld, and you'll have trouble remembering who said what at which school. Just jot down anything that stood out. Was the faculty welcoming? What questions did they ask? What schools told you about scholarship opportunities? What did you learn about a school that you hadn't heard about before Unifieds?
So, to Unified or not to Unified is a question each student and family will have to answer for themselves. If you do decide to go, spend plenty of time preparing and doing your research and the process will (hopefully) run smoothly and be productive. Good luck!