I first thought about applying for Grad Schools in 2015, after obtaining my BFA degree. It seemed like the logical next step as I had no plans to move to a bigger city and pursue life as an actor. (I’m from Minneapolis so it made sense to either move home until I figured my life out or go to grad school.) I auditioned for three schools back in 2015 and had no success. I am thankful everyday for that outcome. I came back home and fell into the wonderful groove of being a Twin Cities artist. It’s not what I had planned but it was what worked-- I love it! Had I gone to grad school back then, I would not have appreciated it. The choice to apply the first time was not backed by proper reasons, whereas now I am more than certain that it is the right next step for me. That’s the first tip I will give about doing the MFA thing. Really want to go!
Now, I understand that it is a hefty length of time (most places take 3 years), and for many people, a hefty amount of money. Spending time to really work on yourself and your craft is what you’ll have when in graduate school. That’s important to understand when you are making the decision. Ask yourself, is 3-4 years worth it for your craft? If the answer is yes, then you are on the right path.
This time around, I chose to look for schools that would not leave me in a sea of debt. That’s the second tip, look for programs that will GIVE YOU MONEY! I know that there are benefits to getting an MFA in acting from particular schools. But ask yourself if it is really worth it? There are plenty of programs with the same level of education and curriculum that will PAY YOU to be there. They may lack the location appeal and some amazing connections but you’ll be a not so starving actor. In my audition process I tried to stick to schools that I knew could give me a great financial package (come on--they had free walk ups!). However, I did not fully eliminate schools that cost a pretty penny. Ultimately, it’s a large list of pros and cons whether or not you choose a program that fits in your wallet (and if they choose you)! You can always do your FAFSA and wish on a star.
After you’ve done your research (and really do your research), you will start to prep for the ever so fun and lovely process of auditioning. This is not only your chance to prove what you’ve got but to also give each university the chance to prove themselves to you. Prepare to advocate for yourself by coming up with questions about the programs you are interested in. Ask to speak to current students to gain some insights about the schools. That’s tip number 3! Interrogate the HELL out of them. Once you’ve narrowed your search and have chosen the schools you will apply for, start the process of developing a list of hard questions. A good school should have good answers. As a Black woman I asked questions that pertained to me and my experience: “How does your theatre history teaching go outside western and eurocentric standards?” and “How am I celebrated in your curriculum and season planning?” You are your own person and you will find the questions that pertain to you. Any great school will appreciate you for this effort.
My final tip on preparation is GIVE A SHIT, but don’t give a shit! When I say give a shit, I mean to treat your preparation process with respect. Get outside eyes on your audition materials. Have your friends interrogate you about why you want to go to grad school. Have multiple people look over your letters of intent. You owe it to yourself to put that care into the work and preparation. When I say “don't give a shit”, I mean that LIFE WILL GO ON! Grad school is not the end all be all. Your life will have plenty of great opportunities that will happen even if you don’t get into a program. Had I gone 4 years ago when I first applied, I would not have met the amazing people I know today or started the companies I care for, or play roles that I adored. It truly does not matter--training can come from many avenues--and grad school is just one of many.
Stay Tuned for Doing the MFA Thing Part 2: The Auditions, a recounting of my experiences auditioning for programs!