Are you ready for college dance?
By Alli Esposito
Our talented assistants, Alli Esposito & Natalie Peterson, entered Chapman University in California this year. Here Alli talks about her process of applying to college.
What are the schools with the best college dance programs?
There are so many great dance programs out there, it’s really just about finding the right one for you. When I was looking at programs, I limited my choices to schools on the West Coast with a strong academic program, and that offered a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. My top options were: USC, Chapman University, UCI, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, and University of Arizona. Some other schools I looked into with great dance programs are NYU, Ailey/Fordham, Julliard, SMU, North Carolina School of the Arts, Marymount Manhattan, and Pace University, and there are many more.
What is the college application process like?
The application process is very different for each school. For dance majors it is often a two-part process. You must not only be admitted academically through the school, but also through the dance department.
The first step is to visit each school. Meet with the dance department and find out all the requirements and deadlines, and also if it would be the right school to help you reach your career goals. Many schools have a day with master classes and information sessions in which you can try out their program, meet their faculty, watch their performances and see if you like it. It is a good idea to start doing this early.
College To Do List
- Meet the college admission counselor for your area.
- Take a tour of the school.
- Sign up for their email list so you will be informed when they have events.
- Meet the person in charge of the dance department and inquire about trying a class.
- Study a lot in school. Even dancers are expected to have an excellent GPA!
- Study and practice for the SAT/ACT. The more you practice the better you will do, especially with the speed. Also plan ahead, these tests are offered on Saturdays and only a few times a year! I had a dance performance on two of the days the tests were offered. Trust me you do not want to miss a performance to take one of these tests!
- Get letters of recommendation from your dance teachers and academic teachers. One or two of them may need to upload the letter directly online. You will want to make sure you give them plenty of time to come up with the very best letter of recommendation.
- Photos! You will need a headshot and dance shot. Plan ahead with this too. Learn from my mistake, you do not want to be frantically printing photos on the way to the audition!
Is there an audition? If so, what’s it like?
Yes, there is always an audition in dance! Each college handles their admission and audition process a little differently. Some require a video submission “prescreening” process in order to get invited to the live auditions. Some you just schedule an audition but you may also have to submit materials online ahead of time. My best advice is to be prepared. If the audition has a solo component, have your solo done and cut to the right length well ahead of time. If there are classes, make sure to bring all of your dance shoes. You never know what you might need! Then just relax and have fun. After all, the people making this decision are dancers just like you. It is different from an audition in Los Angeles where you have to have the right look or you have to fit the brand. In college, they’re looking for approachable dancers that have the right training and are willing to learn new things.
While the audition process varies, here are some things you need to bring to each:
- Dance/Body shot
- Letters of Recommendation
- ACT / SAT scores
When are the auditions? When should I start applying for college?
Most auditions are in January of your senior year, but there is so much to prepare ahead of time. Make a list of colleges you want to look into and start to research and plan visits to them, ideally before or early in your junior year. During your junior year, try to get your testing done and keep up your GPA. During the summer before your senior year make sure you have a solo that is ready to go and fits all the time requirements for your auditions. This is also a good time to get your headshot, dance shot, dance resume, and letters of recommendation ready. Senior year get ready for all the essays, applications and scheduling. This process can get really stressful but just try to enjoy it. You will meet so many amazing new dancers through this journey and know that you really will find the perfect school for you!
How important are scores to get into college (GPA, SAT/ACT)?
Even dance departments look at GPA. During one of my dance auditions they actually referenced my GPA and test scores and said they were glad I had good scores because it was hard for them to turn away good dancers with test scores that did not meet their requirements. I have heard from many different colleges that they are looking for “smart” dancers.
Colleges are very competitive. Your GPA and SAT/ACT scores need to be within the acceptable range for each school that you apply to. It is definitely not impossible to get into a school for dance that would be a reach for you academically, but your chances would be much better with higher scores. Being a dancer with high test scores and GPA shows the college what a dedicated student and dancer you are!
Why choose a dance major and what can I do with it?
First of all, I love dance. With dance being such a big part of my life, I could not imagine college without it. Being a dance major could be an end in itself. However, after college it allows you to apply for teaching positions that require a formal dance education. In college you also learn about the academic side to dance with classes in dance history, teaching methods, kinesiology, and more. Additionally, getting choreographic and performance experience while being under the direction of top industry professionals is an absolutely amazing opportunity.
How many schools should I apply to?
I would start with a list of ten. After you start visiting the campuses and learning more about the programs, you will probably like a few favorites. I ended up applying to eight. Once you are accepted into a school you like, you can compare each school to that the others on your list. Eventually you will narrow your list down to just a few schools. Maybe a top three. These schools you put all your energy into. You visit and research and really imagine yourself there. By the end of the process, you will have a feeling of which school is right for you.
Should I apply to a college even if I am not sure if I can afford it?
Yes, don’t let price deter you from a school. Many schools offer scholarships or financial aid that can help supplement the cost of your college education. Once you have narrowed down your choices to your top three, evaluate the cost, scholarship/financial aid, and the dance/academics offered. I was very surprised at the academic scholarship offers, and was very excited to receive one.
Dance College Website