Advice from a college freshman: theater major Jenna Meadows gives adivce to college hopefuls
By Sam Goodman
We are reaching the end of the dreaded Junior year: the year when grades mean the most, schedules are packed with extracurricular activities, and your whole life is consumed with impressing colleges. With the need for independence and pressing desire to kick your mom out of your room because "YES I AM GONNA BE AN ART MAJOR", sometimes the best advice about the college season comes from a college freshman who just went through the process themselves. Musical Theater Major at University of Arizona Jenna Meadows sits down with Editor in Chief Sam Goodman to give advice to Juniors beginning college applications. (All quotes by Jenna Meadows).
In High School...
When you first entered high school, what were you like academically?
"The academic transition into high school required more adjusting than I had anticipated. For the most part, high school was academically challenging. I like to think that I have always had a good work ethic, but high school forced me to start some new habits and kick some old ones. It really took getting in the right mindset and looking at the bigger picture to be self-motivated. There was no longer room for procrastination – something I had previously become very fond of. I soon found that the amount of effort you put into your work was ultimately what you were going to get out of it (believe me I had the A’s and the C’s to prove it)."
How did you first get interested in musical theater?
"Well this is kind of a funny story. When I was younger I was terrified of being on stage, in fact I hated it– absolutely hated it. I cried, no not cried– sobbed, at my preschool graduation. Though I always showed an interest in musicals, I think "West Side Story" was actually one of the first movies I ever saw or at least paid attention to. Well long story short my Kindergarten lunch lady, Trudy, suggested I be in the school’s musical revue that year. And while I was reluctant at first, I ended up performing in the show- LOVED IT- and I have been doing musical theater ever since."
What would you recommend for young students looking to take art-style classes? Anything they should know?
"Do it! Even if you’re unsure [if you want to take art classes] or on the fence– just try it! You don’t need any prior experience to be successful. You just need to go in with an open mind and embrace everything that is thrown at you. These classes still require a lot of work, again, you are only to get as much out of them as you put in. Art-style classes provide a great outlet and allow you to connect with other like-minded classmates. 10/10 would recommend!"
As you moved into Sophomore and Junior year, and as you were more academically challenged, how did you manage to continue art and theater?
"It was hard finding a balance. At first, I struggled with putting too much on my plate, but eventually I learned that saying no is okay. You can’t do everything. Calendars and to-do lists became my best friends. Seriously, they helped me create a schedule and stick to it. I found that writing things down really helped me get stuff done. Besides, I always say that if it something you really love and want to do, you’ll make the time to do it. Of course, the process of making time involves making sacrifices, but there comes a time – probably multiple times— in every young adult’s life when they must decide what is really important to them."
"Even if you’re unsure [if you want to take art classes] or on the fence– just try it! You don’t need any prior experience to be successful. You just need to go in with an open mind and embrace everything that is thrown at you."
When first beginning the college application process, what was your mindset and if you could go back how would you change this mindset?
"I honestly knew very little going in to the college application process, and that is probably the first thing I would change. I did a lot of research, but knowing what I know now– I would have done a few things differently. First, I would have started my applications MUCH earlier, the summer going into Senior year, maybe even end of Junior year. The earlier the better. I would also like to emphasize that for personal or supplementary essays, you should write what you want them to know not what you think they want to know— be yourself and show your personality. They are reading so many essays, you want them to enjoy reading yours! Also, if you are looking to do theater in college, there is a whole other application process on top of the academic application process. It seems overwhelming at first, but if you know what you are looking for in a school and you lay out several options, things shouldn’t get too stressful.
What are you majoring in and how did you choose this major?
"I am majoring in Musical Theater. I didn’t really decide until the summer before my Senior year of high school. Musical theater was always something I really enjoyed doing, but never something I really considered pursuing. Ultimately it came down to the fact that I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else. [Through] theater [I can] fuse together my interests in writing, social activism, and more."
"High school might seem like an eternity, but it’s not. There is life after high school. Pretending to be someone you’re not and sacrificing four years of growth to 'fit in' isn’t worth it. Art is cool. Theater is cool. Being different is cool. Don’t be afraid to do what you love. If it makes you happy – that is all that matters."
What advice can you give to someone who is still unsure of what they want to pursue or can’t find something they are passionate about?
"Try anything and everything you might be interested in. Don’t be afraid of commitment. Many people think you HAVE to know EXACTLY what you want to do for the rest of your life when applying to college, but that is crazy and just flat out unrealistic. It is okay to be unsure or to have doubts. There is so much time to figure everything out....There is no ONE WAY to do anything. Take what you might be feeling passionate about today and run with it, and if you wake up tomorrow and find your passion has changed– run with that."
What is something you care deeply about?
"I care deeply about society at large and using theater as a means for social change. There is this really great quote from William Finn that says, “Art cannot change events. But it can affect people so that they are changed.” And I think that really resonates with where I am right now both in my artistic journey and my educational journey. Having an enriched life makes you a more insightful performer. Theater really requires you to be a student of the world and to be socially aware and to have knowledge extending outside that of your own little bubble."
What is one thing no one knows about you that you want to share now?
"This oughta lighten the mood– I found out recently that when I was born my family (Mom, Dad, and my three older brothers) wanted to make my middle name Talia so they could call me Jenna Talia. JennaTalia. Like Genitalia. Thanks family!"
"It is as a young artist-in-progress that I am beginning to acknowledge my duty to educate, advocate, create awareness. I really aspire to be not only a storyteller, but also a communicator that is able to fuse together their passion for performing with their worldly ambitions in hopes of effecting people and creating change."