The Cost of Auditioning for Grad School

One of my favourite blog-type websites is The Billfold.  In its own words, the site is:

The Billfold is not another personal finance site. A personal finance site is a site for people who have decided to overhaul their financial lives, and want help doing it. We are a site about money. We are interested in people’s lives and how funds make those lives awesome, and not-so-awesome.

The Billfold aims to do away with the misbelief that talking about difficult money issues is uncomfortable, and create a space to have an honest conversation about how we save, spend and repay our debts. We are going to break one of the last taboos in our culture—talking about what you earn, what you spend, what you owe.

One of the ways they do this is with a series called The Cost of Things, in which a large variety of writers explain the costs of various things they did. Some of them are things that sound expensive in the first place, like The Cost of Crossfit/Lifting. Some of them are things that sound expensive and scary but you would have no idea what all was really involved before actually going through it, such as The Cost of Getting Settled in the U.K. And a lot of them bring out into the open expenses that might not be considered strictly relevant on a more finance-y website, but that are still expenses incurred by individuals that should be recognized as part of the cost of something, like the fee paid for streaming Korean dramas in The Cost of Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed at 30.

So, here is my own version: The Cost of Auditioning for Grad School. This was just one school--Rice-- and I'm including basically everything even tangentially related to it, so of course this is not  "The Cost of Auditioning for Grad School For You." Obviously if you are more frugal or more selective of what costs you choose to include in your tally of audition-related costs, your final number will be significantly less (it will also be less if you avoid having to pay almost all costs in a currency suddenly and inconveniently worth a bunch more than your own...) And if you audition for a whole ton of schools and have to fly separately and stay in a hotel for each one, it'll be more. (But use airbnb, guys, I promise you will never want to stay in a hotel again.)

Okay, here we go:

Application fee, the one you pay for the privilege of filling out a lot of online forms: $85 US,  $99.49 CAN in December 2014.

Accepd fee, payed to the third-party website that handles the uploading of prescreening videos: $19 US, $22.32 CAN

Bottle of wine for accompanist who refused to accept money for recording the Elgar romance for my prescreening video: $39.95 (this was the most expensive bottle on casual display at the super sketchy LCBO closest to my apartment)

Trip to Minnesota to have a lesson with John Miller on my prescreening rep (closest major symphony orchestra to Thunder Bay!): $319.85 Gas: $85 (approx.) Lesson: $100 US, don't know exactly what the exchange rate was on the day I got the cash but guessing around $115 Lodging: Free, stayed with a friend from McGill who I honestly though I would never see again once she got married and moved to rural Minnesota, but life is good at proving you wrong sometimes. Minnesota Orchestra ticket: $19.85 Misc. cash spent on food for me and wine for friend I stayed with: $100

Trip to Montreal to have last (I think?) remaining owed lesson of my undergrad with Stephane: $188.16 Bus: $111.05 Lodging: Free, stayed with a friend and hostess gifts consisted of cookies and wine from party the day before, and a Liddell and Scott Ancient Greek Lexicon I had from my past life that she needs for her current one. Lesson: Free, or rather, already paid through tuition to the school I no longer attend. Food: $71.11 JAYSUS CHRIST. This was not a long trip, either. Thank goodness the McGill music school never had that awesome new Asian place in the basement while I was there, or else... this. STM tickets: $6

Plane tickets to and from Texas: $655.24 (I went to Austin first and hung around Texas for a bit longer before the audition, both for funsies and for my reeds to spend some time with the temperature and humidity difference between northern Ontario and Texas in February.)

Airbnb from Feb. 2nd to 7th: $484 (The Austin one was fairly cheap, but I went all out and booked a $100/night airbnb in Houston because I wanted to be walking distance from the music school, which it turned out I wasn't, because it seems like pretty much nothing is walking distance from anything in Houston, but it was still a super swell airbnb.)

Megabus ticket between Austin and Houston: $3.50 US, $4.17 CAN ($1 ticket, $1 prime seat reservation because I was so pleased about finally finding a $1 megabus ticket after FIVE YEARS, $1.50 "Booking fee," as if there's some other way to acquire a ticket besides booking it and being able to book it is some special extra service.)

American cash withdrawn before I left: $200 US, costing me $261.76 CAN ($#*%@!)

Realizing that my airbnb in Houston was not in fact walking distance to Rice, trying several buses, giving up on the bus system, realizing I wasn't going to have enough cash to take taxis everywhere, and discovering Uber, which I used liberally for the remainder of my time in Houston:  $101.12 US, hasn't come through on my credit card yet but probably about $127. A good chunk of this was transportation to and from the Johnson Space Centre, which was far away (and thus expensive) but totally worth it. And, just like I will never use a hotel again now that I have airbnb, I will never take another taxi in a city that has Uber.

Money lost from TBSO services missed: $1155. Ouch.

GRAND TOTAL: $3357.06

Obviously, there's a lot to quibble about in what I chose to include. The single largest cost on the list was the cost of not being at work-- is that an expense? (The main reason I went down to Texas so far in advance, besides the reed thing, was that the TBSO was playing a ballet the week before, so my only choices were a) play the ballet and fly to Texas the day before the audition, or b) book off from the entire ballet and have a ton of free time to go down early. As it turned out, it would have been moderately disastrous if I had chosen option a, since my luggage was delayed and although I got it back fairly quickly as these things go, if I had gone down the day before I wouldn't have had any reed tools, nice clothes or clean underwear in time for the audition.) Then, not all of the actual outgoing dollars were necessary expenses related directly to the audition. For instance, the trips to Minnesota, Montreal, and Austin were only about half audition-related, and practically speaking, a ticket to a Minnesota Orchestra concert or pho lunch in the McGill music caf have little to do with an audition at Rice. And maybe me factoring in the costs of the lessons I had and the travel expenses incurred for them is inaccurate anyway, in the same way that it would be inaccurate for someone in school to factor in the amount of their tuition money that went towards degree lessons in which they played audition repertoire-- it's not really a direct expense, more the result of your choice about where to direct money in general, in your life. However, whatever you choose to include, I think it illustrates well the same thing that the Billfold articles of this nature illustrate, namely, trying to do things that benefit you or your position in the world is expensive, which is obvious, but sometimes it is expensive in unanticipated ways.

So that was my Cost of Auditioning for Grad School. I had a lot of fun in Texas as well, and I have pictures and stories for another post!