Auditioning for College: A Friendly Guide to Help You Feel Your Best!

Auditioning for College: A Friendly Guide to Help You Feel Your Best!

1. Sing what makes you feel the best, first! 

  • Trust the advice of those who know you best.
  • Sing the song that makes you feel the most confident first or if you get a choice between starting with a monologue or a song, do the thing that will make you feel like a star, or at least more comfortable. Auditioning is hard. You are not alone in feeling this way. Remember this!
  • The “no-no” list is there because some songs have become overdone or annoying over time for those who listen to auditions, but the truth is that we will see your potential no matter what you sing, and if a school doesn’t let you in because of song choice, you weren’t meant to go to that school!
  • Make sure you are telling a story with your song. Give your song an emotional journey: a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is especially important for cuts. Hint: you can usually apply the storytelling arc of an entire song to the smaller cut version.
  • Don’t have anything in your book that you aren’t ready to sing if asked.
  • Have cut versions ready to go: clearly marked and highlighted.
  • A table of contents at the beginning of your folder makes the process easier for your pianist.

2. Wear what makes YOU comfortable and what makes you feel like you look good.

  • We want to get to know you, so dress like yourself but elevated to impress.
  • Practice in the shoes and clothes you are going to wear. This will tell you if they are comfortable enough to handle the rigors of an audition day.


3. In a live audition, get to the school a day early, or stay a day after, if possible.

  • Check out where the audition will be.
  • Find the bathrooms.
  • Take a school tour.
  • Ask admissions if you can sit in on some classes and rehearsals.
  • Do some research and find a voice teacher or two with whom to have a trial lesson.
  • Check out the city to see if you can see yourself living there for 4 years.

4. At the actual audition don’t perform until you are ready!

  • Breath! This is the number one thing people forget to do and it is essential for singing and talking and for regulating your nervous system.
  • This is your audition time. You paid a lot of money in fees and travel. Own the time. Don’t let anyone rush you. If you have to go to the bathroom first, go. They can let someone else go ahead of you. It’s ok. Do what you need to do.
  • Don’t forget to breathe, You already forgot, didn’t you?!
  • There are differing opinions about centering yourself by looking down before you sing. If your head is up the pianist and the auditors assume you are ready, but if you aren’t ready, look down, then breathe. Recall that you have feet and hands and a whole body, and lungs, and that you love to sing! Then, look up and go for it!
  • Two awesome tools to help regulate your nervous system:
    • Check out this video on “Power Pose” by Amy Cuddy. Do this backstage before your audition!
    • Breathe in slowly through pursed lips for 5 counts, suspend your breath for 5 counts, and then exhale for ten all while standing on one foot. This will slow down your heart rate and lower your center of gravity! Hint: doing balance postures lowers your center of gravity and helps you breathe low.


5. In a video submission or live virtual audition, practice everything about the audition a couple of weeks before the audition.  If you are stressed or rushed in the process, you will not make your best recordings. We want to see you at ease doing what you love to do!

  • Set up a camera and go through the whole video or audition process until it isn’t stressful: you know where to set up the camera, the sound equipment, how you want the room set up, and the ring light if you have one. Hint: having two sources of light, especially natural light will make you look amazing, but if you can’t swing that, it isn’t that important! We will see past good or bad lighting, a wrinkly backdrop or less than ideal sound quality. but if you have the time, make the space look as nice as possible.
  • Know where you want the camera/phone and the sound source positioned. Hint: It helps the sound in a video call if the piano track is further away from the video recording device. This is true if you have a really big voice as well. Set the camera further away from you and zoom in. The sound quality will be better. Phones and video equipment weren’t designed with big voices in mind. Experiment with recording and zooming with a friend or teacher to figure out what is best. Take your time.
  • Zoom: make sure you click “Original Sound,” otherwise Zoom will try to mute background noise, a.k.a. your track.
  • Practice acting to the corner of your computer, camera, or phone. Put the person to whom you are singing your song in this spot. You can look away, but always return to that spot if you are intending to talk directly to them. Hint: tape a picture or put a sticky note on this corner so your eye gets drawn to that spot.
  • Watch your recordings and make a plan for changes at the next video practice session. You do not need to practice 1000 times and over-analyze.
  • On the official recording day give yourself a time limit. You have practiced and prepared for this day!! You are ready. Hint: 3-5 tries should be all you need if you have practiced ahead of time. Too many tries will not improve your performance as you will get vocally and mentally fatigued.

6. If you travel to a school and get sick and don’t perform your best, ask if you can submit a video or do a live virtual audition at a later date. We want to hear you at your best.

7. Hints for a hotel room:

  • If you have bad allergies, consider bringing your own pillow or a pillowcase allergy cover.
  • Hotel rooms can be dry. If you don’t have a travel humidifier, just soak a towel and hang it over a door or chair. As the towel dries out it will moisten the room.

8. Hints for hydration:

  • If your pee is light yellow, you are hydrated.
  • It takes 4 hours for water to make it through your system to the tissues of your larynx. Drink water before you go to bed especially if your audition is early in the morning.
  • If you need caffeine, drink ounce for ounce water to caffeinated drink, plus more to get hydrated.
  • Don’t drink caffeine while traveling if you can help it. Traveling is very dehydrating.

9. Audition guidelines vary from school to school, but many are utilizing the Common App and have very similar guidelines for repertoire. If you aren’t sure about cuts or whether your songs are contrasting, reach out to your trusted teachers, or even call the schools and talk to the admissions counselors. They are there to help!

Courtney Crouse

Dr. Courtney Crouse is a Professor of Voice at the Wanda L. Bass School of Music teaching advanced vocal pedagogy, vocal performance, opera, and musical theater majors. Crouse received her DM and MM from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and her BA from Texas Wesleyan University. She is also an active performer of operatic, musical theater, and jazz repertoire. IG: drcrousewillseeyounow