What to Expect from an Arts High School

  • Emma Stimpson

Arts high schools. Many people have given their opinions as to what to expect from these institutions: long days, stress, and an outrageous amount of hard work. While all of this is true, there is so much more to this kind of education than just the high stakes elements. I went to an audition-based Visual and Performing Arts school for the last three years of high school, and it had a vast and fantastic impact on who I am today. Because of this experience, allow me to set the record straight for you on some of the great things you'll experience:

First off, there will be High School Musical moments. Lots of people will tell you that arts school is nothing like High School Musical/Victorious/Fame, and they are 50% correct. They are also 50% dead wrong. Sometimes someone will start humming, then someone else will start singing, then someone else has done a community theatre production of the show and will bust out their choreography. All of a sudden, the entire room is singing "You Can't Stop the Beat" at full volume with full choreography. It absolutely happens, and you should embrace it when it does.

While most schools talk about the sporting aspect of homecoming week, at an arts-based school this week will become the most outrageous campaign for homecoming court you have ever seen. You will be bribed with chicken nugget trays, full-sized candy bars, and some of the most fantastic flash mobs you'll ever see. Pro tip: promise to vote for everyone and take their bribes. You'll hardly need to pack lunch for the week.

As far as stress goes, If you are not already good at eating fast, you'll get very used to it very quickly. In my day, if you were in a show, there were 2.5 hours of rehearsal every day after school. Jimmy Johns and their fast delivery saved my life because I had 20 minutes to get and eat my meal. However, all of my friends were also rushing to eat. When you have ten tired theatre kids all trying to scarf down sandwiches faster than each other, laughter always occurs. These were often the best 20 minutes of my day.

Finally ...You will learn to start thinking for yourself. When I first entered my arts high school, I took everything everyone said to me as the gospel truth. As a young actor who has trusted teachers to guide you, this makes sense. However, at the end of high school is college, and no matter what you're planning on doing afterward, you cannot let anyone else make those decisions for you. They have got to be yours alone, or you will find that you lose the drive to do them accomplish those goals very quickly. Take advice and take opinions, but at the end of the day, make the choice for yourself.

My time in art school was the best of times and the worst of times. When I look back on it now, a lot of the good has remained while much of the bad has lost its sting. With all this in mind, if you decide arts school is for you, look forward to your next four years and get ready for an experience you'll never forget.