BWW Blog: Word to the Wise: My Road to College
"How to Get to Hadestown:... Ain't no compass, brother- ain't no map. Just a telephone wire and a railroad track. Keep on walking and don't look back 'til you get to the bottomland." Huh. This sounds a lot like the treacherous journey that is the college application process!
There's a moment in your junior year of high school where suddenly, everyone is asking you, "So, what do you wanna do when you grow up?" "Where are you going to go to school?" "What are you going to study in college?" The questions get even worse and more frequent when you're an artist. "Are you gonna do that in college too?" "Isn't that just a hobby?" "How are you going to be able to afford to live?" (Bonus points if you've ever heard the mildly sexist and old-school, "You better hope you marry rich!" joke). The truth might be that you don't know what you want to do, and that's okay. But it doesn't change the pressure we feel at such a young age to make a life-altering decision, and it can be crippling.
That being said, in my first post on BroadwayWorld, I want to walk you through my college application experience, share some things I wish I'd known beforehand, and tell you to take a breath and remind yourself that it's all going to be okay.
I'm from a small town in Florida, so I knew from the beginning that I wanted to get away from 90-degree weather year-round and crazy FL tourism, and be in a major city where theatre was thriving. My first thought was, of course- New York City! From that day on, I lived my life like it was "Broadway or Bust": if I'm not in "the greatest city in the world", then what's the point?
I applied to five colleges. I know. You must think I'm crazy. "Only five?!" Yes, only five. It was incredibly nerve-wracking, hearing my other friends had applied to 15, 20- 25 different schools!- but I couldn't afford to travel for multiple in-person auditions, and I didn't know what Unifieds were at the time, so I settled on two schools in Florida and three in New York. Long story short: I didn't get academically accepted to either Florida school, and I was artistically denied from all three New York schools. When I tell you I cried, I CRIED. So hard. For so long. I thought, Am I not good enough for this? Will I ever be able to make it? What am I going to do now? Watching all my other friends be accepted into their dream school didn't help the heartache, but I promised myself at the beginning of high school: "Broadway or Bust". Bri, you're getting to New York.
So, while I was artistically rejected from the school, I was academically admitted and had to follow that dream little 13-year old Bri crafted for me- being in NYC- so I submitted my housing and tuition deposit and started getting ready for the big move! I'd figure out how to do theatre once I got there. All was going well!
Until the worst happened.
My divorced parents sat me down in my dad's living room with my billing statement and how much I'd owe the university, after all the scholarships and grants and awards: $36,000. At that age, I had no real grasp on how much money that really was, and how much interest it would accumulate as a loan, which I'd have to pay back someday. My parents told me, "You just can't go. We can't afford it." I was absolutely crushed. I had no idea what to do now. I was going to have to watch all my friends pack their bags and head off to start the rest of their lives while doing what they loved, and I was going to have to get a retail job and live in my childhood bedroom again. I had truly lost all hope. I thought about giving up theatre entirely. I believed that I was just one of those people who had a pipe dream, but it was always too out of reach.
Then, I found Point Park.
I knew some friends who'd already gone there and I reached out to them, asking a few questions about the program. They were so enthusiastic and helpful, and their excitement reinvigorated my love to create. So, I decided, Let's apply to Point Park, go there in the spring, get some core classes under my belt, and then audition for the conservatory. Let's see what happens.
So, I submitted my application a few days later and I was academically accepted! I worked my retail job as much as possible to save up for my plane ticket to Pittsburgh, and left Florida behind in the beginning of January 2018 to finally start my college career. Keep in mind: I'd never been to Pittsburgh until the day I moved into my dorm, and I really didn't know much about the city or the university, so I was basically going into this whole new environment totally blind. Fortunately, Point Park offered me enough scholarship money to cover tuition, so although it was terrifying, nothing was going to stop me this time.
Fast forward two and a half years later, and I'm about to start my senior year at Point Park. I've learned so much about myself as a performer here. Befriended some of the most talented artists I know. Learned from the most visceral and impactful professors in the country. Created a student-run theatre company. Originated a role in a world premiere musical. Found my passion for making theatre again. This is why I believe everything happens for a reason; had I gone to that New York school, who knows if any of these things would've happened! Although it was one of the worst times in my life, it paved the way for some of the best times.
Now that you know my story, I leave you with my "little snippet of advice", as one beautiful Fate, Jewelle Blackman, in Hadestown would say.
1. You don't have to apply to 20 different schools. It's not a competition on who can
apply to the most schools. Really sit down and evaluate what you like about each school and decide which ones to apply to from there. "How is their program?" "What is student life like?" "How is the local/regional theatre?" "Do I like this city?" "What non-theatre clubs/organizations can I potentially be a part of?" If you find that you like 20+ schools, then great; apply to them all! But don't apply just because you feel pressured by others or because you're scared you won't get in anywhere, so you want to overcompensate. You will end up where you're meant to be. I promise. 2. Just because you don't get in, does not mean you're not talented. This took me a long
time to understand. It's kind of like dating: if someone you like politely says they don't like you in return, that doesn't mean you aren't pretty enough, or funny enough, or [insert adjective here] enough. It just means they aren't meant for you! And that's okay! You are going to find the right person for you, just like you'll find the right school for you. Segue into... 3. Don't go to the best school, go to the best school FOR YOU. Being from Point Park, I do take pride in the fact that we are in the top 10 best musical theatre programs in the country. I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't. But that's not the reason I chose Point Park. I picked Point Park because the minute I got here, I knew there was a feeling of "home" I'd never felt before, not even back in Florida. When I walked into my audition, the adjudicators made me feel so welcomed and calm, like I deserved to be here, and every day I walk into class, I feel like I was meant to be at this exact school, in this exact class, with these exact people. It is my school and I love it so much, and I promise that you will get that same feeling when you first step foot at your school. 4. Be secure in your gift. Not everyone is born to sing and dance and act and entertain and emotionally move people. You were born with such a special talent that only a small number of people have! That's so cool! The theatre world can seem so vast, but in the grand scheme of things, we are a small group of people in our own little corner, and you are a part of that. That is so, so special. Be confident that you have something special to offer, because you do. 5. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. This industry is all about perspective. It's not, "I didn't get the part". It's, "The universe is paving the way to a better show for me!". It's not, "I can't sing the high note the way I want at the end of this song". It's, "I really know how to convey this story at the beginning of this song!" It's not, "I'm so nervous I'm going to bomb this audition". It's, "I'm going to share my gift with these people for a few minutes and have fun!" There is so much you can't control, but you can control how you respond to these things. So respond positively! I know it's easier said than done, but once you have a hold on this mindset, it will change you forever.
I know this post didn't ease every single one of your worries, and honestly- good!- because those nerves you have show just how passionate you are about your craft. I hope my journey and tips give you some peace of mind. I believe in you, and I'm excited to "see what the world could be", with your art in it.