My College Audition Tips and Stories

Christel Deskins

Ultimately, you can only control what you bring into the room, and perfection is unachievable. With the start of the new school year comes a new generation of passionate high school seniors getting ready to audition for the top BFA Musical Theatre programs across the country. While I’m certain that […]

Ultimately, you can only control what you bring into the room, and perfection is unachievable.

With the start of the new school year comes a new generation of passionate high school seniors getting ready to audition for the top BFA Musical Theatre programs across the country. While I’m certain that this year’s auditions will be nothing like we’ve ever seen, I thought that I’d share my college audition horror stories and triumphs, and a few tips to make your college audition count.

I applied to 14 of the top programs around the country. One of those was a non-audition program, so I ended up scheduling 13 auditions total. I only attended 11 because by the time of my last two auditions, I had already decided on attending CCM. The application process was tough, and I put my all into every bit of it-the prescreens, the essays, selecting and editing sheet music, picking out outfits, scheduling each audition: the whole shebang. With a lot of hard work and luck, I ended up passing my prescreens and I was ready to take the next step to audition live, which leads me to horror story number one.

My first auditions were in New York, and my very first audition was for a prominent school in New York (~who shall not be named~), and needless to say, I was stressed. So stressed, in fact, that I was making unnecessary edits to my sheet music up to an hour before the audition.

TIP #1: Don’t stress about making every little thing perfect.

Ultimately, you can only control what you bring into the room, and perfection is unachievable. Just do the best you can in the moment! (And check your sheet music well before the hour leading up to your audition. Make the edits in advance so you actually know what your accompaniment may sound like.)

While that wasn’t necessarily the horror story that I had in mind, it preceded it. So, fast forward to the actual audition. Monologues are first. I go in, do my monologue, and I’m asked to sit down. I’m asked about what the monologue means to me, and I completely blank. In an effort to bullshit my way through the question, I think of the saddest thing I most recently experienced, start explaining that as my motivation, and I just start sobbing. Crying so much to the point where I cannot form words, and the adjudicator just looks so uncomfortable. He then proceeds to have me hold a chair over my head and do the monologue again. Meanwhile, I’m still crying hysterically. And then, I leave. Totally embarrassed and confused about what on Earth I just did. That being said, I then went in and sang, and shockingly enough, I got waitlisted.


While the stakes are high, the world doesn’t have to stop turning. I was a total mess in my audition and still got waitlisted. They want you to succeed just as much as you want yourself to succeed. Everyone is rooting for you! Don’t psych yourself out!

BWW Blog: My College Audition Tips and Stories
Cassie Maurer at
college auditions
in New York.

TIP #3: Getting waitlisted is a GOOD THING.

Receiving a waitlist status means that they could see you at their school! It’s just an acceptance in a different order. Get excited about the opportunity to maybe still go to that school! That door is not closed!

One of my next auditions in New York was at the New York Unified Auditions. I remember it was early in the morning, snowing, and my wool coat got stuck to my tights (it began with a dance call, and back then, I always wore tan tights for dance calls). Long story short, my tights got a run in them, and I was immediately bombarded by stage moms “trying to help” me by hairspraying my tights and offering loads of unsolicited advice. Once again, you guessed it, I was stressed.

TIP #4: Though I suspect most, if not all, auditions this year will be conducted virtually, claim your own space and take care of you.

Don’t let other people intimidate you or get in your head. Ignore everyone else and just focus on you! (Also, you don’t have to wear those tan tights…)

The final horror story I’ll share (but certainly not the last I have) is from my audition for another big-name school. To say I was nervous is an understatement. We began with a dance audition, which went rather well, and then I returned for the singing/acting portion. My monologue was fine, and my song went well. The accompanist then went through my book, selected a different song and said, “Oh, I music directed this on Broadway. Let’s sing this.” This was the only college audition where I was asked for other songs from my book, and the fact that the accompanist music directed the show on Broadway?! Terrifying. But I sang the song, and it was okay. And then I was given a vocal adjustment where the adjudicators asked me to sing it while touching my tongue to my palate and basically making this crunchy hissing noise. I didn’t really understand how to do what they asked, they never explained why they had me do this, and in that moment, the fact that this was how I was being evaluated seemed so silly to me. “My acceptance into this college depends on how well I can do this song while making this weird crunchy hissing noise that, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to hold a pitch on?” The vibes that I was giving did not match those that I was receiving. As much as I thought I had loved this program and wanted to be a part of it, I knew right then that it was not for me.

TIP #5: Really look at the schools that you’re choosing to audition for.

Research them. See what they’re about and what the people there (both students and faculty) are like. Really try and feel out whether or not you’d be happy spending four years training there. For me, it took going and auditioning for me to realize that this school wasn’t for me, but if you can save the time and money beforehand, definitely do. While these colleges are auditioning you, you are auditioning them, as well. You ultimately decide where to spend your time and energy.

BWW Blog: My College Audition Tips and Stories
The Robert J. Werner Recital Hall
at the University of Cincinnati College
-Conservatory of Music.

And, lastly, we arrive at my audition for the BFA Musical Theatre program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. I auditioned on campus in the beautiful Werner Recital Hall. This was by far the best college audition experience I had. Not only did I perform well, but it just felt so right. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but I suppose sometimes we experience those moments where you think, “I’m right where I’m supposed to be.” Walking out of that recital hall, I remember feeling that and telling my mom, “I think that’s the best audition I’ve ever had.”

TIP #6: Trust your gut. In the same vain, trust the process.

I’ll leave you with this. At an audition for a school that I did not end up attending, the program head spoke some of the most comforting advice I’ve heard. He said, “Every pot has a lid.” As you enter this uncertain time that is sure to be one of the most interesting college audition seasons yet, just remember that: “Every pot has a lid.” One school that seems lovely on paper may not be the right place for you, but there is a place that when you go that lid will fit just right, and you will know you are where you belong. Take these tips with a grain of salt (as well as any other advice you may receive), and just be you. That’s all these colleges want to see. And I can guarantee, you will end up wherever you are meant to be.

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