An Artist’s Application: Senior Tori Dedo’s Journey to Collegiate Theatre Programs

The staccato melody of her keyboard resonates throughout the library. It’s 11:46 P.M. The tapping pauses. “What sounds better? Should I use the word ‘hum’ or ‘buzz’?” Senior Tori Dedo asks herself, scanning her Boston University supplemental essay for any last minute adjustments. At 11:57P.M., three minutes before the deadline, Dedo takes a deep breath. There’s nothing left to change on her Common Application. All the hours studying for the ACT and SAT, all the long nights cramming for tests and writing essays, all the weekends dedicated to equestrianism, all of her tears and all of her laughs and all of her dreams are condensed into a 10 page PDF file. There isn’t a magic formula to ensure an acceptance, but Dedo is content knowing she poured her heart into this application. At last, she can press the glowing green button. Submit.

While November 2nd generally marks the conclusion of Early Action and Early Decision college applications, Dedo’s college admissions process is actually far from over. She’s applying to acting and musical theatre programs across the country for a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree. As the vast majority of these programs can only accept 20-40 students, an admission to any theatre program is as competitive and difficult as admission to most Ivy League schools. Dedo’s rigorous course load, strong GPA, and high test scores make her a competitive applicant, but she still has to prove her artistic capabilities. Theatre programs require “prescreens,” or electronically recorded auditions, to assess each artist in a more holistic fashion. Dedo’s prescreen portfolio includes everything from songs to dance pieces to monologues. If the college is impressed, they will invite Dedo to audition in-person.

For the past year, Dedo has been preparing for her auditions. She works with ArtsBridge, a college consulting company tailored towards the collegiate art scene. Their professional acting coaches push Dedo beyond her comfort zone and address any weaknesses in her application. ArtsBridge provides written feedback for Dedo’s performances as well as her essays so that she better understands what each college wants. Dedo also participated in a two week ArtsBridge summer program. While there, she focused on improving her technical skills in ballet and singing. With this assistance, Dedo will stand out in the crowd of equally qualified actors and actresses.

Of course, Dedo’s artistic prowess was cultivated in part by Detroit Country Day’s classroom opportunities and extracurricular activities. The core of Dedo’s vocal practice stems from choir classes and the prestigious Bella Voce, where she has achieved both solo and ensemble “Excellent Ratings” at the district competition. She has also explored theatre from a literary perspective with courses such as AP Shakespeare. Meanwhile Dedo’s theatrical expertise has been honed through school productions. She has had many lead roles including Paulette Bonfonté in Legally Blonde, Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, Amanda Wingfield in Glass Menagerie, and Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. Additionally, Dedo receives annual acting lesson from Mr. Salamin. Together, they strive to hone Dedo’s improvisational abilities to “wow” the college admissions officers. With the admissions officers watching or listening to the same piece over and over again, it’s important to take a unique approach for every song and dance. Mr. Salamin has helped Dedo film her prescreens and increase her overall stage presence.

Dedo has already received an invitation to audition at Boston University, her Early Decision college of choice. While Dedo continues to practice and perfect her skills, she reflects on her college admissions journey with advice for those on a similar path.

“First of all, don’t procrastinate!” said Dedo. “Try to get a rough draft of your Common App essay done before senior year starts. You’ll probably be busy with school and extracurriculars, so there really isn’t much time to work between September and November 1st. Also, colleges will ask you to list up to 10 of your activities, but I highly recommend that you focus on depth over breadth. Instead of participating in activities because ‘they’ll look good for college,’ try to find things that you’re actually passionate about. For me that was theatre, but for you it could be basketball or chemistry or bird watching. No matter what it is, pursue it unapologetically. Top colleges want kids who stand out and have a unique perspective. It’s such a personal and subjective decision that all you can do is be yourself. I believe that if you don’t get into the school or program you want, it probably wasn’t the right place for you anyways.”

The clicking of Dedo’s laptop resumes as she types a final message for future applicants, “If you try your hardest and prepare in advance, everything will fall into place.”

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