Of the many moving parts of a college application, the essay might be the most daunting. But consider yourself luckier than other applicants, because your dance experiences can only help you craft a winning essay—whether or not you're planning to pursue a dance major.

If You're Going to Major

If you're gunning for a highly focused dance program, you might think that the audition is the most important component of your application. But don't neglect to express your dance goals clearly in a general admissions or scholarship essay, says Megan Slayter, chair and associate professor of dance at Western Michigan University. "Just like any department across any university, we're looking for good grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure," she says. "Beyond strong written communication skills, we're looking for your sense of identity as a dancer—that you know who you are and who you want to be as an artist, and why you think we can help you achieve that."

Cite specific aspects of the college's dance department that excite you—unique artistic or research resources, or a particular emphasis in the dance major that intrigues. But don't just tell a university what you think they want to hear. "Over-the-top language that compliments our school doesn't tell me about you," Slayter says. "I question the authenticity of a student who tells me, 'This is the best dance department ever and I can't imagine being anyplace else!'"

If You're Not Going to Major

Even if you don't plan to major in dance, your years of dedication in the studio can show an admissions department why you'd be a great addition to their student body. "Your experience in dance has shaped who you are," Slayter says. "Dance is a unique voice you can share with an admissions officer to talk about overcoming adversity, working hard to achieve your goals, and sharing a part of yourself with others."

If you choose to focus on dance in your admissions essay, consider who's reading your words—usually, non-dancers in the admissions department—and take care to translate your dance life to the language of college life. "Dance builds leadership skills, communication, collaboration, and creativity," Slayter says. "For example, think about any time you've had a large, traveling spatial pattern onstage and have had to figure out who's crossing up- and downstage. That's problem-solving!" Brainstorm the skills you've built onstage and in rehearsals, and use your essay to prove how those experiences have prepared you for a successful college career—in or out of the studio.

A version of this story appeared in the November 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Essay All Day."

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