Your First Five Steps to College Auditions

I absolutely love singers. Helping singers reach their goals is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.  Many of my clients are high school/gap year singers who are hoping to audition for college musical theatre/theatre/vocal performance/singer-songwriter programs. The competition and strain of this audition process, led me to found another company, College Audition Project (CAP) with a few of my best friends and most respected colleagues. We train students, help them choose audition material, hone their audition skills, assist parents with questions and provide the largest private audition event in the world for musical theatre and theatre college auditions. I’ve helped thousands of students find the right college program to grow their musical skills. After 25 years of teaching, these are the First Five Steps every potential college students needs to do in order to prepare for the musical theatre/theatre college auditions:


  1. Discuss as a family what the budget is for your college education. We think of your performing dreams and the wonderful artistic moments you’ll get to enjoy on stage, but we cannot forget the “business” part of “show business” and that involves making sound financial decisions before your ever film your pre-screens. Taking on mountains of student loans can derail a professional career before you’ve even begun. If you have a large student loan payment due each month, you will be forced to spend most of your time and energy making that payment each month, which means that money and time required for continued training (you will train for the rest of your life as a performer) and the costs of auditioning (travel, time away from work and miscellaneous expenses). Please apply to several programs where you can receive academic awards (talent scholarships are severely limited and usually reserved for minority students) or programs that offer in-state tuition to musical theatre majors. I want you to have great financial options for college so that your professional careers has a great foundation!
  2. I know that I’m biased in this advice, but I created CAP because I’ve put two of my own children through the college audition process and I know the pitfalls and expenses associated with it. Join CAP. I know it feels like a big financial commitment (and you know that I value your financial health), but let me explain while you’ll come out better for joining CAP. With CAP you will get one-on-one training in voice, acting, auditioning, marketing yourself and navigating the communication with schools. There is no other college audition coaching service that gives you this intensive, individual and cutting-edge guidance. Period. Now add to all of that incredible value, the incredible experience of CAP United Auditions. This is the largest private college audition event in the world and we work hard to make sure that you save thousands of dollars in travel expenses and fees. In one weekend, you will be guided through auditions and callbacks for 60 – 80 college programs! There’s no one that offers you more value. College faculty trusts CAP to prepare you and many of these programs bypass the pre-screening process if they know they will be seeing you at CAP. CAP also offers monthly Town Hall Meetings on Zoom for all our students and their parents where we can update you on the latest college news and answer any questions you’ve had come up. The CAP Team is 100% on your team and are there for you into your professional career. Get more information at
  3. Know your type. “Type” doesn’t only refer to your physical characteristics. It has more to do with the energy and personality you bring into any room. Some of us are naturally comedic and full of energy. Some of us are naturally dramatic and pensive. Some of us are naturally quirky and sarcastic. We need all “types”, but knowing what your type is and what strengths you have to offer, helps you navigate the college audition process with authenticity, confidence and a professional demeanor. Once you’ve got a foundational idea of your type, then you’ll need to choose material that really shows that type. This will help college faculty see who you really are and exactly where you would fit in their program. College auditions are far more about who you are as a person than any other audition process you will go through. The faculty really want to understand your personality, your learning style, your sense of humor, your thoughts and goals. They want to know you as an individual, because if you are accepted they will need to build you up as a performer from the ground up, train you in the professional industry, put the stamp of their program on you and send you out to represent them in the industry. They’ve got to make sure that they know how to help you and that you are going to be happy and thriving in their program. Know who you are, so the right people can recognize you!
  4. Research audition material. You need to look for material that fits your type, fits your voice and gives college faculty a good understanding of what your voice is capable of doing. You’ll need a variety of contemporary songs and Golden Age songs, in addition to a few pop/rock/country songs. Read my article about finding good songs. It’s a great place to start. Each of your songs will need a 16 bar cut and a 32 bar cut, along with piano tracks that match those cuts exactly. You can use the tracks to film pre-screens, but most college auditions will provide a live pianist so it’s important that the tracks you’re practicing with are an exact match to what the pianist will play live. Avoid songs that are overdone or that have notes that are difficult for you to sing. Don’t show them what you’re working on. Show them what you’re really good at!
  5. Prepare early. I mean, really early. More and more schools are accepting pre-screens as early as August of your Senior year. If you’re not ready in August, then definitely do not submit in August but you really need to have pre-screens filmed by mid-October at the latest because scholarship money is given out first-come, first-serve in many cases. While some pre-screens will be accepted all the way up to January of your Senior year, a lot of spaces will already be filled and scholarship money will already be awarded to other students. You want to find that sweet spot of being fully prepared and also not too late in the process. I usually recommend that rising Seniors spend their summer before Senior year, fully focused on the college audition process. This is not the summer to travel, take an extra job, enroll in summer school or just lounge by the pool. This is the summer to focus on preparing for pre-screens and auditions by training with qualified, experienced college coaches/dance instructors, choosing good material, preparing that material and honing your marketing (headshot, resume, audition outfits, etc).

If you take these First Five Steps for your college auditions, you will be so far ahead of the game! This comes from 25 years of guiding students and parents through this process, so take it and run with it. Reach out with any questions and let’s make sure that your college audition experience is joyful and successful!Sterling McClary

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