Getting into drama school is ridiculously difficult. Even if you're very good, the chances of getting in are... low.
But how could you improve your chances of getting in the acting school of your choice?
I've helped hundreds of students to attain a place at a professional drama school - but how did they do it? Here's what I've learned:
ONE: IT'S GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN ONE ATTEMPT
If you are going to only have one attempt - if you are planning one big ALL OR NOTHING run at drama school auditioning - save your time and money. Don't bother. It takes almost everyone two attempts at least. And I know people who it took six attempts. Those people with the ego to believe they are going to get in first time and then run away from it to some half baked university course afterwards - they are wasting their time.
So, if you want to get into drama school, think of it as a process of applications, rather than an all or nothing hit and run event.
TWO: APPLY TO AS MANY SCHOOLS AS YOU CAN
All the schools have different personalities, styles and methodologies. Most people apply to one or two, maybe three - possibly 5. The trouble is that when there's over 20 great traditional schools and probably 20 more non-traditional schools, applying for 5 seems like a lame effort. Save the money and throw yourself at as many of those schools as you can afford to improve your chances.
THREE: KILL THE PERSONAL STATEMENT
Oh dear God, people's personal statements are dreadful. I mean they are God-awful. It says 'Personal Statement'.
It does not say tell us about every show you've ever been in. It isn't a personal biography. Write a statement. And mean it. Don't talk about 'using theatre as a vehicle for social change' unless you mean it.
FOUR: DEAL WITH YOUR NERVES
If you are nervous, it's because you are making this one shot far too important. There are no consequences of failing to get in the first time. If you are making this an all-or-nothing event, you will be nervous as hell. Breathe. This is a process. Focus on what you have to do in your monologues. Breathe. Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep for the week leading up to the audition. Try to develop a slight 'fuck it' attitude to the audition itself. Prepare like heck for it, but after that - let it go how it goes.
FIVE: DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ACTING?
I've noticed that there are a lot of young people who know NOTHING about acting. Sure, they say the words 'feeling, acting, emotion, character' in some coherent order. But do they know much more than that? No. You need to take the time to explore the life of the actor, their real - not your imagined version - of their job. Read actor's autobiographies, in their own words. Read books on acting history and techniques. Know something more than 'I just want to act'. Because that just means you did it once and you want to do it again.
SIX: GROW UP
Okay, this one you can't do much about. It is and was and probably always will be that the drama schools prefer students who are a bit older or more mature. Patience will be your friend if you want to improve your chances.
SEVEN: TOTAL CONFIDENT - ZERO COCKY
You won't get far without total confidence. The kind of auditionee who will get in - they've got to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. But don't be cocky, they'll be put off by your arrogance and swagger. Confidence good, cocky bad.
If you didn't get into drama school first time, what will you do with your year? Work in a shoe shop? Go traveling? I would strongly suggest you fill that year with the most acting, theatre and film experience possible. Make a plan. Seek out opportunities where you are from - but don't sit around waiting.
I strongly advise you to audition for the National Youth Theatre - they'll give you a fantastic experience, and you'll learn a ton of important stuff and get the kind of experience that will give you confidence in yourself and your acting abilities.
TEN: DON'T GO
There are a ton of alternatives to traditional drama schools. Now that Drama-UK has folded and there is no NCDT Accreditation, then the choice of acting school has opened. But look for one with a range of stage and screen opportunities and lots of contact hours. We have a one year acting course at ACS, I'm sure you can find out more about it if you're interested.
To You, The Best
Mark Westbrook is the Senior Acting Coach at Acting Coach Scotland - he has written a guide to drama school auditions that's free to download right here.