The elusive MFA audition tips


Anyone prepping to go to Grad School is a brave, fearless little trouper, in my eyes.


I’ve done a slew of MFA grad school prep with actors over the years. I enjoy it most because it’s in support of an actor pursuing the BIG VISION. It’s not just another monologue. The goal of getting into Grad School is certainly to go deeper as an actor and to give yourself the foundations to make you a solid working actor. I admire the actor pushing hard for this! Your monologue is a chance to go deeper as an actor, in your own ongoing process.


I’m very excited that I have some insider scoop tips for your auditions. And from an Alumna!


I had a recent conversation with an alumnus, Carly Zien, and unearthed that SHE actually knows tons of insider scoop secrets about how to manage those tricky grad school auditions. She’s a grad school audition coach AND grad from Yale MFA program. She’s got some insights, y’all!

Carly is hip to the “whole” package that you need to have ready. In particular, how to manage the actual day.

Check out Carly’s tips below and reach out to her if you are in the midst of auditioning for MFA programs and seeking some support on the process.

Enjoy and soak it in!


The Top 5 BIGGEST MISTAKES Actors Make When Auditioning for Grad School


by Alumna Carly Zien

Hey y’all! I’m super-psyched to be guest-blogging for Heidi. We’re going to be talking about auditioning for grad school, and the top five faux pas that an actor can make on the big day.

When I was getting my MFA at Yale, I watched A LOT of auditions for the program. Our acting teachers would invite us to watch and learn as they searched tirelessly for the next class of incoming actors. What struck me was this:


Many actors made mistakes that had NOTHING to do with their acting.



These mistakes were so easy to fix with just a little know-how.


It broke my heart, because so many of these people were genuinely talented. But something about their presentation was just….off.

That’s when I realized that the MFA audition is about the whole package. After all, these programs aren’t just auditioning your talent, they’re auditioning you.

So, without further ado, I present to you…






From formal dresses to character shoes, I saw a lot of fashion emergencies. Here’s what I always tell my students:

For an MFA audition, dress like you’re going out on a first date. 

Because you are! You’re presenting your best to the program, so wear what makes you feel confident, comfortable, and, most importantly, like YOU.




I know I told you to dress like you’re on a first date, but don’t, repeat, DO NOT, talk like you’re on a first date.

You’re there to do your best audition, be confident, and get outta there. If they want to have a conversation with you, they’ll call you back for an interview.

Trust me, if you’ve done the work, the work will speak for itself.




There are going to be A LOT of distractions when you’re waiting to go in the room.

My advice?

Keep the focus on yourself.

Stick in your headphones and listen to your favorite song. Step outside and call a friend. Meditate. Keep your flame of inspiration kindled; don’t let the nervous energy of the other actors blow it out.




It’s gonna be a long day at your MFA audition, and you need to bring a survival kit. This can include water, warm-up clothes, a book, your scripts, your phone charger, and, most importantly, SNACKS.

All that adrenaline burns up a lot of energy. And the last thing you want is for your blood sugar to take a dive right before your audition. Granola bars, nuts, fruit, and string cheese are great choices to toss in your backpack.




Take a note from Scar in the Lion King and BE PREPARED.  “Prepare for a chance of a lifetime,” sings Scar.

The best auditions may seem spontaneous, and I can assure you that the bulk of the work happened in the weeks and months leading up to the big day.

It sucks to watch an actor who is genuinely talented blow their audition simply because they didn’t give themselves enough time to prepare.

Most programs want you to prepare four different monologues. Don’t wait until the last minute to get to work, start TODAY. If you do, you’ll have more freedom, fun, and success in your grad school auditions.


There you have it!


Now go forth and conquer those MFA auditions!

With love,

Alumna Carly Zien

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