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The College Application Process; Dancer Edition

Are you a junior or senior in high school getting ready to apply to colleges as a dance major? If you are, I have some insight on what to expect and how to prepare!

1. Academic portion

Applying as a dance major does not change what will be expected of you in the academic portion of your application. You will still fill out the long and grueling portfolio section and be asked to submit a given number of essays. As dancers, it’s really easy and tempting for us to write about dance. Indulge, but provide variety. Maybe allow yourself one essay about dance and write the rest about other topics. Show there are multiple sides to you. Dancers are such complex humans, dive deep into who you are!

TIP: Remember college essays are supposed to be all about you! Don’t wander off too far into other subjects. Maybe you really like sharks… don’t write an essay about sharks, write an essay on why you connect to sharks! Understand the difference?

2. Portfolios

Applying as a dance major means your application process is going to be about 3x the length of a normal applicant! Typically speaking, dance major’s academic portion of their application is due before everyone else's- so be aware of your due date (typically sometime in November)! Most schools will then have you complete a portfolio (typically due in December). They will ask for a combination of videos, photos/headshots, additional essays, and/or a resume. Some schools will review your portfolio as a first cut and then invite you to a live audition, some schools simply use the portfolio as a supplement to your live audition, and for other schools, the portfolio is your whole audition! Don’t underestimate the importance of these portfolios!

3. Live auditions

Applying as a dance major means for most schools you will need to travel to the campus for a live audition. Typically speaking, auditions will be held in January and February and they will have a variety of dates for you to choose from. This is a super important part of your application process as it will determine if you are going to be considered for the dance program or, if they don’t think the program is right for you, for your second choice major. Keep in mind that being accepted into the dance program and being accepted into the school are two separate processes, and if you are not accepted into the school then you can’t be admitted even if you were accepted into the dance program… which is why academics are equally important to your dancing abilities! Most auditions will have a class portion with 2-3 different styles and then a solo portion. Some schools will ask you to self choreograph a solo, others won’t specify. Some schools don’t do cuts at all during the audition and others will cut between classes and solos… it all depends on the school! Live auditions are also important because they give you the insight you need to really figure out whether or not you connect with the program/faculty!

TIP: Your dancing abilities can always be improved upon and the auditioners understand this! What they really want to see is if you have positive energy that would be an asset to their program. Smiling EVEN during barre combinations and ESPECIALLY when you mess up will make all the difference. Remember they’re trying to decide if they want to spend the next four years teaching you!

4. Digital auditions

If you REALLY cannot attend live in person auditions then schools will offer the option of a digital audition. Be warned- your chances of being accepted are much higher when you audition in person! Digital auditions also mean you don’t get to the chance to see if YOU fit well into and enjoy the program. Most digital auditions will have you submit a combination of videos of you doing a ballet barre, center, jazz technique, additional styles, and a solo. It all depends on the school and the variety of styles they provide training in.

5. How to prepare

The best thing you can do is start early! Get on Common App and start working on your portfolio and essays. Another great way to prepare is to record yourself doing combos in class! There’s nothing worse than getting to the portfolio section and not having any videos of yourself dancing that you’d want to submit. Start taking videos now so when the time comes you have a variety to choose from.

I hope this helped and best of luck to you as you embark on this long (but totally worth it) journey!

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