BOSTON: Survey data from the consulting firm ArtsBridge shows that students interested in pursuing the arts in college are cautiously optimistic about the future despite the educational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February, ArtsBridge surveyed 149 high school and college students, 157 parents of high school students, and 433 educators about their attitudes and experiences navigating the college admissions process during the pandemic. Student responses show that their biggest concerns are the high cost of tuition for remote classes and the changes to their social lives on campus. But students interested in the arts say they have embraced the difficulties of virtual arts learning by pivoting to digital showcases, as well as platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
“In my 30-plus years of working in higher education, I never would have thought we’d see students auditioning for their dream school from their kitchens,” said Halley Shelfer, the CEO of ArtsBridge and the former dean of enrollment for the Boston Conservatory and director of admissions for the Boston University School of Music. The survey found that 34 percent of students have participated in virtual readings with friends and teachers, and 87 percent have created digital content for social media to stay on top of their craft.
The survey also found that while the majority of high school students are not adjusting their post-graduate plans, 30 percent are considering taking a gap year, and 17 percent are planning to pursue a Bachelor of Arts or Science rather than a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Music. Meanwhile 16 percent are considering attending community college for their first year of undergraduate study as a result of the pandemic.
One of the biggest challenges facing both students and parents in the 2020-21 school year has been the lack of opportunities for in-person learning and growth across multiple areas of life. Fewer than 5 percent of students and parents have physically visited college campuses since March 2020, and 38 percent of students list the lack of in-person visits as a top concern when choosing a college. Parents and students are also concerned that the rescheduling or cancellation of many in-person recitals, productions, and art shows will hinder admissions to high-caliber arts programs; 70 percent of students and parents are worried that students will not be able to build adequate arts résumés for program admissions.
While the majority of both parents and students fear that students will not have the ideal college experience due to the pandemic, 82 percent of surveyed college freshmen say they would still have attended college this year, despite a nontraditional experience, had they known that the majority of the academic year would be remote or otherwise limited.
Further, parents and students remain hopeful about future career prospects in the arts: 46 percent of parents are moderately or very worried about their child’s future job prospects, while only 34 percent of students share the same level of concern. And 69 percent of high school and college students in the arts have not seriously considered changing their major or career plans.
ArtsBridge is a college arts admissions and consulting firm that works with students who aspire to study and pursue careers in theatre, music, dance, film, and visual arts. ArtsBridge pivoted its training programs to a virtual format at the onset of the pandemic, and recently launched a virtual actor training and admissions guidance program for students who are taking a gap year before collegiate study.
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