Letter: Not Accepted To Arts Magnet? Don’t Despair

If yours is one of the hundreds of Palm Beach County families to receive a rejection letter this week from the middle or high school of the arts, do not despair. It is not a reflection on you or your child. With so many students applying, and so few spots available, it all comes down to a numbers game — no matter how well your child did at his or her audition, there are only so many seats available.

Scoring well on the audition is only the first step to landing one of the highly coveted spots at these schools. After that, it’s all about the luck of the draw. Students are selected, at random, by lottery, to fill the available seats. Your child’s bad luck should in no way be seen as an indictment of his or her abilities.

Let me repeat that: Your child’s bad luck should in no way be seen as indictment of his or her abilities. I speak from experience. Neither of my daughters made it into the high school of the arts, but we knew how talented they were/are, and took the rejection with a grain of salt (albeit with a few tears mixed in at first).

And how did they turn out?

My oldest, while a senior at Wellington High School, won the Pathfinder Award for Art in 2012 — meaning she was considered the No. 1 art student in Palm Beach and Martin counties by the Pathfinder committee. That is a tremendous honor, and one made possible in part by her amazing art teacher at WHS, Barbara Brubaker.

My youngest, who also failed to win a spot at the high school of the arts, was one of 100 dancers chosen recently — from a pool of 6,000 — to apprentice with Broadway professionals this summer. At 15, she is the youngest to receive such recognition. Her dreams of becoming a Broadway star have not been dampened in the least by attending Wellington High School, rather than the big high school of the arts.

Don’t get me wrong: I have tremendous respect for both the middle and high school of the arts and their approach to education. In fact, I wish all schools did the same thing.

Through my work with ArtStart, a Palm Beach County nonprofit, I help students prepare for their visual arts auditions. We also work with students who are applying for a seat in the communications department at the two schools; and we are ways thrilled when they or their parents call to let us know they were selected.

We also feel the pain, however, in their voices when they call to tell us they were not selected.

Even though we stress the fact that it is a numbers game, and passing the audition is only the first step, the pain and disappointment in their voices is still palpable when the rejection letter arrives in the mail. These students work so hard to prepare for their big day, and when they do well at the audition but still do not land one of those few seats, it hurts.

As I said earlier, however: do not despair. It’s not the end of the world (though it feels like it for a few days). And do not let those dreams die!

Feel your pain, then get over it. Get mad if it helps. I know I did. But my anger was more about why we can’t have 100 schools of the arts, instead of one or two.

Next, focus on the future. Support your child and make sure he or she does not give up art or dance classes, does not stop writing, does not stop dreaming!

Students: continue working to perfect your photography, your poetry or prose. Dance like there is no tomorrow! Prove to those schools of the arts what you and your parents know already: that they let a good one get away when they sent you that “no” letter. It’s their loss, not yours.

Jeannette Pomeroy Parssi, ArtStart Inc., Wellington