I did the whole Unified Auditions thing. 22 schools. Chicago and LA and some on-campus. Thousands of dollars on hotel rooms, audition and application fees, headshots, outfits, airfare, and countless hours of time in preparation on monologues, pre-screens, homework, and applications.
And then, I was denied from every one of my dream schools. All "Top 10" universities that boasted the smallest number of acceptances and illustrious alumni. I thought my world was ending, that those schools were the be-all-end-all of acting training.
Then I was accepted to Missouri State University's BFA Acting program. I was so prepared to turn down the offer and go to the most prestigious school I received an acceptance from, placing more value on the name of the school than the people there.
After I visited Missouri State, I knew it was where I was meant to be. But I still felt conflicted; Would people judge me for not going to the prestigious and competitive school I got into? Would they think I wasn't talented? Would people assume I didn't have a future in my chosen career just because I wasn't going to a school that made a list of most competitive acting programs?
I chose Missouri State anyway, and let me tell you, I am so glad I did.
Here's what I've learned at my amazing, but not Top 10, School:
Great training doesn't, and shouldn't, cost more than you can afford
More expensive does NOT = better
Great training doesn't mean having the most famous alumni
More alumni on Broadway does NOT = better
Great training doesn't mean smallest acceptance rate
Fewer acceptances does NOT = better
Great training doesn't come from the university's name
More recognizable name does NOT = better
Great training DOES come from where you are happiest
You are going to be the most successful in the place where you feel nourished and supported, even if that isn't the school you originally anticipated
So, to every high schooler who has been a mess with the onslaught of every denial and acceptance: it's okay to not attend the most famous school on your list. You are going to get amazing training no matter where you go, but particularly at the place that supports and encourages you just as you are.
You are talented no matter how many acceptances you got, no matter the name of the schools you were accepted to, no matter how many denials come your way.