Transferring from One Theatre Program to Another: Some Tips and Tricks

Sabrina Koss

I spent my freshman year after high school in a BA program. I loved the school and the people, but it just wasn’t the right program or intensity for me. I wanted to pursue a BFA but I didn’t know where to begin. Most of my friends used MTCA or similar services as audition help, and I was doing this completely on my own.

Since many friends have come to me this year for help with transferring to another theatre program, specifically for BFA MT programs, I decided to put together this list of some tips/tricks I picked up along the way.

1.     DO THE RESEARCH. Find out what schools you’re interested in, what their program specializes in, if they even accept transfers. Find out if you’d join them as a freshman or a sophomore (hint: most BFAs only accept transfers as freshmen again). Find out their audition requirements, pre-screen dates, audition dates. All the info you would need to apply and to potentially get in.

2.     GET ORGANIZED. Make a spreadsheet of all the information you have gathered. Make a game plan and even research when their auditions are so you can plan classes around them. Most schools audition on Fridays, so try to organize your second semester classes (if you can) so that you Thursdays and Fridays are light, so you won’t have to miss much class and risk failing the classes you’re currently taking.

3.     BE HONEST/TALK TO YOUR PARENTS. Parents want their kids to be happy, they really do. But a BFA can be scary for a parent who is worried about future job prospects. So it’s up to you to have the research and organized reasons why you want to transfer and where you want to transfer to! If you present to your parents all of your valid reasons for being unhappy where you are, and all of the cost/time commitment/research you have discovered, they are much more likely to say yes and help you fund your second (or third) college switch. It’s an expensive process and you want them on your side.

4.     GET IT DONE EARLY. As soon as you and your parents come to a decision, start working. Reopen your common app, find out how to apply and get it done. Transfer apps are way easier than first-time applications so try to get them out ASAP. Film your pre-screens as early as possible. They don’t have to be fancy to be good. I filmed my pre-screens in a practice room at school, using recorded accompaniment on my laptop, filming with the Photo Booth app on my laptop. I passed 10/11 pre-screens. It’s about the quality of you, not the quality of the video.

5.     BE SMART. Plan your auditions wisely!! Try to get as many done early and during your breaks as possible. I live near NYC and did 4 auditions at Unifieds, which was over my winter break. That prevented me from missing more class than I had to. However, it’s inevitable to miss some classes, so make sure you inform your teachers! No program or school wants to accept a transfer who is failing all their classes at their current school.

6.     PICK MATERIAL YOU LOVE. No one wants to sing a song 300000 times that they don’t absolutely love. Find repertoire that you connect with and will not tire of quickly. Make sure you have: a contemporary uptempo, a contemporary ballad, a legit/classical ballad, and a legit/classical uptempo. Have both 16 and 32 bar cuts of each. Also helpful to have a pop song, and an art song/aria in your book as well, but having four main songs with different available cuts is basically all you’ll need for most auditions. Plus at least one contemporary monologue and one classical, and one of those should be comedic and one dramatic.

7.     BE CONFIDENT. Having done college for a year, I felt so much more prepared for what was ahead, and that allowed me more confidence and maturity than most other people auditioning. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but the head of MT at Baldwin Wallace specifically mentioned that I had more maturity and confidence walking into the room, because I am a transfer. I chose to think of it as I had a year more of life experience, of growing and learning than almost everyone else. I was not at a disadvantage for being older, I was in a better place because I knew how to handle college already and was therefore a more prepared student to potentially accept!

8.     HAVE FUN. It sounds weird to say, but I had so much fun auditioning. I got to travel to parts of the country I’d never been to, I got to fly alone for the first time, I got to visit some friends at these schools and make new ones everywhere I went. I made connections with so many people who I’ll be seeing again in future auditions and shows. I got to share dance calls with people who will win Tony awards someday. I got to learn new songs and dance combinations and take new adjustments on my monologues. And beyond that, I got to practice auditioning, which is most of what my post-college life will be. I felt like an audition PRO by the end of the season, and it’s given me more confidence when auditioning professionally, because I know more of what to expect.

Transferring is hard. I had no one to help me through the process. So I made it my job to work my little booty off and get what I wanted and needed. I found old music directors who were willing to record my accompaniment. I put together spreadsheets of dates and requirements and mapped out the costs. I booked a practice room to film prescreens. I begged a dance teacher to help me learn dances. I studied plays to find monologues and bought sheet music. I kept all my teachers in the loop, so they knew if I would have to miss any class for auditions and worked with them to ensure I didn’t fail any classes while I was gone every weekend.

Transferring is a lot of work, and it’s not much easier than applying and auditioning the first time.

But transferring is brave. You are so brave for putting yourself out there, for going to get what you want. You are brave for working hard and doing the research and risking failure. You are so brave, and these schools will see that.

Just remember to keep your head up, to ask for help from everyone, to contact current students, to stay organized, and to try to have fun with it. It’s a tough process, but when you walk through the halls of your new home, you’ll be so grateful you went through it. I know I am.

Photo: Bethany Lutheran College