For hundreds of thousands of 16- to 29-year-olds across the country, the next six weeks will be spent chasing a simple yellow sheet of paper.
As fans of a little show called "American Idol" know, that's a wannabe star's golden ticket to Hollywood, and it's harder to come by than front-row seats to Madonna. Fortunately, MTV News was able to gather some advice from those who know "Idol" best -- former contestants.
So with auditions for the sixth season of "Idol" beginning Tuesday (August 8) in Los Angeles, here are some words of wisdom to help potential Taylors and Katharines get through the initial rounds:
Taylor Hicks, fifth-season winner: "You really have to sell the song and get into the lyrics. And the song that you choose, you really have to stick with and really have to rehearse well. And conserve your energy, because if you don't conserve your energy, it doesn't look good on camera and it affects your performance."
Ayla Brown, fifth-season semifinalist: "My advice to people who are trying out for 'American Idol' is to know who you are as a person and it will get you further than you ever think it will. If you go in there thinking you are someone else or trying to be another person, you won't get to the place where you really want to be."
Mandisa, fifth-season finalist: "Bring a sleeping bag when you audition because you're gonna be there all day long!"
Lisa Tucker, fifth-season finalist: "Just go for it. When I auditioned, my thought was, 'What have I got to lose?' And now I'm way better off than I was before."
Jon Peter Lewis, third-season finalist: "Find out what it is that you do best and stick to it. ... If you're boring, that isn't going to help you. 'American Idol' is a TV show, and they need characters that America can latch onto. You might try dying your hair pink -- that's worked [before]. Or you could rat your hair up and be the token 'big-hair' person on the show."
Carmen Rasmusen, second-season finalist: "It's all about picking the right song for your voice. Pick something that you sound good singing, not something you necessarily like listening to."
Stevie Scott, fifth-season semifinalist: "If you are going to audition, you need to build a tough skin. This industry is a tough one, but if you can stick it out, then it's worth it."
Patrick Hall, fifth-season semifinalist: "You've got to be very careful with song selection, and follow your gut on what you are and try not to take too much advice from outside sources."
[This story was originally published at 6:00 a.m. ET on 08.08.2006]