Putting together a college audition screening video

This is new for many people.  Thanks to the internet, we are now able to easily screen applicants online and invite only those who are interesting to us on campus.  So why do we do this?  Time and money – and not just for us – for YOU.  Students spend thousands of dollars doing college auditions because of the massive amount travel it often entails.  Because it costs so much, it really limits how many auditions some students can apply for.  However, with pre-screening auditions, students can apply for 20-30 schools for around $1000, and then know which one are actually interested BEFORE spending money to travel.  This is good for the schools because they can spend more time with the most competitive candidates instead of rushing everyone through in order to see 300-700 people in person.  This is also better for you.  Its been said many times before on this site, there is no secret method for getting in anywhere.  The only secret is that you have to plan ahead, honestly assess your talent, and apply for at least 7-10 schools.  Video pre-screening auditions are not meant to be unfair or hurt students who interview better than they audition, they are meant to save time and money for the student who clearly does not meet the needs of a particular school.  Most schools invite a fair amount of students to campus after the videos, often half or more of the applicants.  But for the other half that get cut loose, its an opportunity to add other possibilities to the list while there is still time.  Here are a few tips:

1) If you can’t afford it, don’t hire a professional

Most people will do these on their own.  A professional recording can be good, but in many cases HD flip cameras work just as well.  Many times its all about the lighting.  If the space you are going to use has bad lighting, see if your dad or any of his friends have portable work lights (the type used in home repair and construction).  Use them to bring in light from the front and sides and experiment with your camera setting.

2) Go for the highest quality settings possible

On your camera you will have an option for high or low quality.  Choose high.  It will take up more space, but you’re end result will look and sound better after it is compressed to fit online.

3)  Get several takes

Do your package 3-5 times and then pick what you want to use.  Its not going to be perfect, it never is.  Pros have wonderful editing tools for video and audio that make them look and sound perfect.  You do not have those tools, we get that.  So don’t worry about it.  Just pick what seems to be the most accurate depiction of you.  Its probably also a good idea to have others help you make the final decision.  You more than likely rarely watch and/or listen to yourself.  If that’s the case, you probably will not like what you hear and/or see no matter how good it actually is.  Others see and hear you all the time and will be able to help you pick what is the best representation of your talent.

4)  Edit it 

Using either iMovie or another video editing program, add a few transitions and titles to your video.  For example:  Have a title screen at the beginning with your Name and Hometown.  If you have time, personalize it by listing what the audition is for under your name and home town.  For example:

Mary Alice Performer

Maple, OH

BFA Audition for MT University

It adds a little bit of “I really care” to the package.  If you want to splice together several takes to make one video, go ahead.  Just put in a fade out/in.  Keep it quick though, we don’t have a ton of time to watch long pauses.  Some may advise that you do one straight take with no breaks in the taping.  If you can do that, great.  If not, use transitions.  At the end leave a little personal message, zoomed in more on your face.  In this message, just say a quick thank you.  For example:  “Thank you for watching my video.  I’m very interested in MT University and I hope to get a chance to sing for you in person.  Enjoy the fall and I look forward to hearing from you soon”.  This is your chance to show a little personality.  Its not required, in some cases it may never be seen, but its a chance to show the human side of you which is always good.

5) Don’t over edit it

No auto-tune, don’t add reverb, no compression, and no sound boosters.  I can usually hear them, especially the reverb.  We’re not interested in your editing skills, we’re interested in the raw talent and you never know what part of that raw talent is interesting.  That little gritty sound on your high belt may be exactly what we want for our Rock/Pop rep, then again for others it might be a turnoff.  If its who you are, it who you are.  Don’t change it, we’ll hear it when you arrive in person and if its new and we don’t like it, you just wasted a trip to the campus that could have been used to go somewhere where they loved that little part of your voice.

6) Read the guidelines

If the school posts guidelines, follow them.  Yes, some schools may have different guidelines than others.  Yes, its annoying.  Yes, you have to do it right.  Its part of the business, everyone wants something different for every audition.  Sorry, but get used to it.

7) Have fun

This is not the most important moment of the rest of your life.  College auditions and the application process as a whole get blown way out of proportion.  There is more to life than this.  You may not think there is, no offense, but its because you’re young.  There are plenty of people who were rejected time and time again and STILL made it.  And they exist in every part of life.  Read about Walt Disney, he faced an enormous amount of rejection and failure and today, even after his death, he is remembered for having an impact on almost every child’s life since his first cartoon.  Audition over and over again, pay attention to your rejections (i.e. learn from them if you could have controlled something better than you did) but don’t dwell on them.  Don’t dwell on this tape either.



  1. Hi Professor Edwards! Thank you so much for this blog; it has been very helpful! I actually saw you recently at NATS in Charlotte, NC! Your master class was wonderful!! I’m auditioning for the musical theatre programs at Elon and ECU and both require these videos. I was just wondering if an iPhone is an acceptable recording device? I don’t have any other recording devices at the moment. Also, where can I find acceptable contemporary monologues from plays? I’m having trouble finding monologues online, which is understandable because of the publishing rights involved. Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks so much!

    1. Great to hear from you and glad you enjoyed the masterclass! An iPhone is just fine. If you have an iPhone 6 or can borrow one, you will be very pleased with the results. The camera is absolutely incredible. There are several tripod adapters on Amazon such as this that will help you keep the phone steady and set at the perfect angle. Lighting is usually the biggest problem to deal with. Make sure the light coming towards your face is stronger than what is coming from behind your head. If you can find a room with wall to wall windows to record in, the natural light will often give you a better image. As far as monologues are concerned, you really need go to the scripts themselves. Check out this post by Jonathan Flom.

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