The “Dream School” Myth

  • Genna-Leigh Williams

Everyone dreams of finding their dream college. Often, finding that, “perfect school” is the first step in the college application process. You research which schools may be a good fit, maybe you go and tour them, and then you apply. For theatre students, an audition is thrown in there too. As a Junior/Senior in high school, I remember being told the “one” would, “just feel right,” and it would be the school I could “see myself thriving.” Now, these statements aren’t entirely incorrect; however, they set me up to expect this magical feeling when I stepped foot on the campus where I should spend four years of my life. 

I toured, was accepted, and auditioned at several schools in the Southwest region, and while I liked some schools more than others, there was no “magical feeling” though. Was I doing something wrong? Had I just not found the right fit? I knew that wasn’t the case. I loved some of these schools, so did that make them my “dream school”? If I had found my “dream school” did that not make my choice simple? 

Even after I had decided which school was my favorite, and deliberated that it was my “dream,” I couldn’t make my decision. The school had a great program, was in the middle of a thriving city for the arts, and seemingly was everything I wanted. The crux was, it was $10,000 more than any of the other schools I had looked at. I had received academic and departmental scholarships, but it would not be enough. I held out until the last minute, waiting for more funds to miraculously appear, but it didn’t happen. 

Another school (my third choice) had given me full tuition, which is incredible, but it wasn’t my dream school. I thought, “isn’t this career about pursuing your passion, and going for your dream?”. Was I failing somehow by not doing whatever it takes to go to my “dream school”? At the last possible minute, I placed the enrollment deposit at my third choice school.

Very reluctantly making the “practical” choice. 

I’ve been at that school three years now and am now entering my senior year as a BFA Musical Theatre major. This school was not my “dream school” when I was in the midst of the college search, but it has exceeded any of my hopes and fulfilled my dreams even more so than I think they would have been fulfilled at my original “dream school.” This school is a hidden gem with a thriving fine arts program. It is small, but I have gotten one on one attention from professors who are still performing at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and in the film industry. I truly believe I wouldn’t have gotten this one on one attention at any of the other schools I looked at and although this school wasn’t my first choice, it became my perfect choice.

By choosing the practical route, I found my dream school even though it wasn’t what I thought I wanted or needed. By all means, go for your dreams, but don’t let this myth of having to find the “dream school” that “feels right” blind you from some schools that might truly fulfill your dreams.