Coming into college, I saw several articles of what freshmen should know, but being a freshman in a musical theatre program is its own battle. Thankfully I had several people step in as mentors to guide me along the way, but still, there are some lessons I had to learn on my own. I wrote down some of my top lessons learned along with asking on my Instagram story what my friends would tell their freshman selves. Hopefully, the following can aide those of you getting ready to brave the world that is college theatre.
1. You may have been the top "theatre kid" in high school, but now everyone is the "theatre kid."
You probably were the Dorothy, Millie, Pippin, or [insert lead character in a popular high school musical here] at your last school, but here everyone around you probably was too. Once you get to college, the shows you did in high school don't really matter much anymore, and they DEFINITELY don't make you better than anyone else in your department. It is time to focus on who you are now and let your current talent speak for itself.
2. Get involved as soon as you can; it will help you transition. (Aka college is what you make of it) -@em_elisabeth
As an incoming freshman in college, I was not cast in the first show. I was not cast in the second show...or the third. Your experience may be different, but odds are you're not going to have the lead role in the first few college productions you audition for! This does not mean you can't get involved, however. See if your program offers any work study in the scene or costume shop, volunteer to do props or be a director aide! Getting involved early on shows that you're willing and able to jump in. Getting busy as quickly as possible helps the transition and may help you not be as homesick!
3. Time management is everything -@mtbreford
*Says every college blog ever* but seriously, you don't realize how important it is until you're not doing it right. In a performing arts program, you're going to have a full load of classes; both fine arts classes and your core subjects, voice lessons, dance classes, rehearsals, choir concerts, and performances. A fine arts program is no joke, and everyone is expecting you to do you're best in everything. It is possible, but not without time management! I like lists so I make a to-do list starting with the things that are happening/are due first. It helps me stay organized, and I feel accomplished by checking the items off the list! Another lesson I had to learn with time management may sound contradictory to my last point, but it is ok to say no! My freshman year, I jumped right in and got super involved, and it was great, but it did get to the point where I had to say no. Please do get involved, but ultimately you are here for your degree. Take care of what is required for that first and then do everything else ONLY if you have time and if it won't make you crazy stressed and overworked. You cannot succeed and do your best if you're burnt out.
4. Never feel like you have to know everything (or be the best!). We are all learning differently. -@majorminus_
You're in school for a reason, and that is to learn. As a freshman, you're not expected to know everything; in fact, it's best if you don't even act like you know everything. Freshman year is our time to be a sponge and soak it all in. The time will come when people are looking to you for answers but just enjoy this time with fewer responsibilities. Freshman year is a huge learning curve, so sit back, be humble, and soak it all in!
5. Your time will come, don't push anything but yourself.
I remember coming into college, feeling like I had so much to prove. This need to impress everyone else took a huge chunk out of my confidence. As soon as I stopped comparing myself to my peers and just focusing on honing and improving my talent, my confidence began re-emerging, and I started to see the fruits of my labor! Trying to prove myself and "be better" than others only made me discouraged in my abilities. When I began focusing on my own growth, I began to see the strides I had made, and others (who may not have recognized it when I had been trying so hard) began to see my talent speaking for itself.
6. Try new things, college is the time to learn, and it will show everyone how versatile and willing you are!
Back to my earlier point about getting involved, this not only shows your work ethic, but it's a great way to network! Even if a director doesn't cast you, they will see the work you put in behind the scenes. Once they see you are willing just to be there and learn new skills, they will realize that you are also direct-able, and it may help with their future casting decisions.
7. Trust the process
There's a reason the program your in works the way it does, and there's a reason its graduates are (hopefully) getting jobs and succeeding in the field of fine and performing arts. You may not understand your professor's crazy demands, but if they're good teachers, then they know what they're doing. Trust that if it has worked for others, it more than likely will work for you.
8. When you feel like giving up, or that it's too much let others in the department know, they've been there.
After my first semester, I was ready to either transfer or change majors. I had not gotten cast in anything, I didn't feel like I had grown much, and I was not sure if I would ever be given a chance. I decided to finish out the year and see how it went and wound up loving the second semester of my freshman year. I'm glad I pushed through, but I also wish I had reached out to the upper-classmen and professors I had who would have been happy to share advice and encouragement and may have helped me feel better about my decision while I was making it instead of having to wait and see how it all played out. The upperclassmen have all been where you are before, and sometimes just hearing you're not alone is all you need.
9. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Your professors if not also your peers, want you to succeed and do well.
This goes for being versatile and trying new things but also for classes, friendships, and extracurricular activities. Going into a new environment like college sometimes requires you to dive headfirst out of your comfort zone. I was so scared and nervous to try new improv activities in classes or to approach and talk to people I didn't know, but I would never have gotten where I am without doing that. No one is going to judge you if you wind up making a mistake or looking awkward. You're a freshman; awkward comes with the territory.
10. These four years are the training ground and launching pad for your future. Do your best but enjoy this time to learn and grow in the safety of an educational setting. Don't rush the real world... it will come soon enough.
The real world is exciting yet daunting and will be here before you know it. Enjoy this time to try new things and become the artist you want to be without the stresses that come with being a "real" adult. Youll have the rest of your life to deal with that stuff. Enjoy these four years because they will get away from you before you know it!