Applying to colleges is beyond exciting. But it can also be beyond stressful, especially once you and your family start looking at tuition and room-and-board costs.

Many factors affect how much you and your parents will ultimately contribute to your education—and what your financial aid packages might look like. To help you understand your options, Dance Spirit asked a couple of experts to weigh in.

(Photo by ZimmyTWS/Thinkstock; Michael Quirk/Thinkstock)

Pre-College Prep

Setting aside money for college should be a cumulative effort made over many years. Talk to your family about what they’re willing to contribute. When you begin high school, start saving for all the fees associated with college applications. “Travel, auditions, head shots, dance photos, school and financial aid applications themselves—those things add up,” says Heather McCowen, PhD, the post-secondary counselor at The Chicago High School for the Arts. Application fees vary by school. And McCowen notes that conservatories tend to charge higher fees than colleges and universities—often between $70 and $100.

Early in your junior year, start seeking private scholarships—merit- or need-based awards that are offered through businesses or nonprofit organizations. McCowen suggests looking in your hometown and into organizations related to the arts. Service clubs, like Rotary or Kiwanis, are great places to start. Investigate dance-related options, too, like the scholarships provided by the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation.

Figuring Out FAFSA

As your senior year approaches, make sure your parents have their tax returns in order, so they’re prepared to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The application becomes available January 1. Roberta Daskin, from the financial aid office at Sarah Lawrence College, advises high school students to fill out FAFSA as soon as

possible, since, for those who qualify, funds for college may be limited.

Colleges (especially liberal arts schools) might also ask you to fill out the College Scholarship Service CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. The PROFILE requires your parents to specify what type of tax return they file, along with information on whether the family receives certain forms of government assistance, their housing status and whether they’re self-employed. “The CSS PROFILE allows the college, rather than the federal government, to determine the student’s financial need,” McCowen says. “And schools are a lot more flexible than the government.”

Adding Up Your Aid

There are three major types of aid: grants, work-study jobs and loans.

Grants are basically free money—they’re gifts you don’t have to pay back. Some grants, like the need-based federal Pell Grant, are offered through the government and are determined by the FAFSA. Colleges and universities can also award other need-based and merit-based grants at their own discretion.

A work-study job means that you work a certain number of hours (about 10) and the school pays you a wage. “It’s a great way to get work experience while you’re in school,” Daskin says.

You are required to pay back loans, which can either be federal or private. There are two types of federal student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans don’t start accruing interest until six months after you graduate and are based on financial need. Unsubsidized loans accumulate interest right away and aren’t based on need. The school and your FAFSA determine how much of each (or either) loan you’re offered. There are also federal loans your parents can take out, called PLUS Loans. For all loans, you and your parents only have to borrow the loan money you need, no matter how much is offered to you.

Private loans are another option, though McCowen strongly discourages taking them out. “Students rarely qualify without a co-signer, meaning your parent takes partial responsibility for paying back the loan,” she says. If your aid package is only a few thousand dollars short of letting you attend your dream school, a private loan should be your last option to make up the difference—but know that they come with high interest rates and no option to defer payment.

Make It Work for You

What if your aid package isn’t quite enough? Once you’ve reviewed it, don’t be afraid to ask your dream school(s) for more money. It might feel uncomfortable, but, McCowen says, the amount of money available for aid can change dramatically between March and May. She recommends asking for a hard number and making sure the school knows you need non-loan aid.

“If your aid package at a specific school isn’t enough, and the trade-off is that you’ll have to stop dancing to pay off a mountain of debt, it’s not worth it,” McCowen says. “You’ll find the right place.”

Dancers are known for being organized, driven and busy. So it’s no surprise that many who attend college choose to double-major in dance and another field. “Dancers who are serious about their art in high school are already prepared to balance technique classes and performances with academic work in a university setting,” says Lynn Garafola, dance department co-chair at Barnard College in NYC.

But double majoring isn’t for everyone, and it often comes with some difficult decisions. Read on to hear from professors and recent graduates about the ins and outs of double majoring—and to discover unique ways dancers can combine their diverse interests.

Finding the Best Program for You

Some conservatories only offer a bachelor of fine arts (BFA), which can be difficult or even impossible to balance with a second major. If pursuing a double major is a priority, you may want to consider a program that offers a bachelor of arts (BA) in dance. “If a student expresses an interest in double majoring, we often place them in the BA program rather than BFA,” explains Rubén Graciani, chair of the dance department at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, which offers both degrees. “These students will have the same performance opportunities but fewer requirements for technique classes, which frees up their schedule for academic courses.”

Due to their inherent interdisciplinary nature, liberal arts colleges can be ideal for students hoping to double-major. Rebecca Bass, a recent graduate from Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia University, chose to double-major in dance and economics. “I chose Barnard because it has a very malleable dance program,” Bass says. “You can choose whether you want your four years to be more technically or academically oriented.” She also discovered that economics and ballet are surprisingly similar. “They both have rules that you have to follow, but they also require you to bring a level of artistry to your work,” she says. Her final project was a joint written thesis on the influence of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (a nonprofit organization that seeks to revitalize communities through job creation and business development) on the Dance Theatre of Harlem. “I proved to my econ professor that dance is socially and politically relevant,” she says.

Point Park dancers performing Terence Marling's Fatum Inflictum
(photo by Jeff Sweeny, courtesy Point Park University)

Weighing Your Options

College should be a place of learning, exploration and discovery—goals that may not be achieved if a student becomes overwhelmed by a double major. “I caution students that more isn’t always better for your schedule,” Graciani says. “Sometimes your body and your brain need time to process.”

Every college career will be filled with difficult scheduling decisions. “There are tons of ways for students to be involved on campus and in the community,” Graciani says. But you can’t possibly do it all. He advises students by asking them ‘What are you hoping to achieve in the long term?’ and then ‘What are you willing to sacrifice?’ to determine what performance opportunities, internships and classes work best in their schedule.

That said, by combining two majors, you can build a more diverse resumé for future careers. Christina Cairns, a BA in dance and BS (bachelor of science) in sports, arts and entertainment management at Point Park, was able to continue her dance training while also preparing herself to work in arts administration. One of her first jobs out of school—working on a startup smartphone app—involved many travel opportunities, and the company allowed her to audition while on business trips. “At the time, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in dance or transition to a business career, but I kept all of my options open,” Cairns says. For now, Cairns is focusing on dance: In August 2015, she started a contract with a dance company in Cincinnati, OH.

Staying On Track

If you choose to double-major, be prepared for a jam-packed four years. “You have to be very organized to accomplish a double major,” Garafola says. Because you may not have time to complete internships or jobs during the school year, summer will be an important time to establish professional connections. Allocating summers to try out different potential career paths (for example, working in a scientific research lab one summer and interning at a dance magazine the next summer) will help you discover what you enjoy doing, while also allowing you to establish a wide set of professional skills.

The most important thing to remember when embarking on a double major is to stay in communication with your academic advisors to ensure you’re on track for graduating. Some programs, such as the physical sciences, will be less flexible due to their rigid lab schedules, which can limit options for dance technique classes. Bass used extracurricular dance opportunities to help maintain her dance training throughout her double major. “I only took technique classes twice a week during my final semester, but I was dancing every day due to different dance clubs and student performance opportunities,” she says.

Double majoring can be both a daunting and a rewarding experience. While parents, professors or friends may try to pressure you in your academic decisions, ultimately try to find a balance that will be meaningful to you as both a dancer and a college student.

Point Park University's Taylor Robinson and Lindsay Burke in Ben Stevenson's End of Time (photo by Joshua Sweeny, courtesy Point Park University)

Double Majors That Play Well with Dance

Sciences (Pre-Med): Dancers with double majors in

health sciences, like biology, can go on to study physical therapy, nutrition and exercise practices. The body awareness that comes with dance training will give you a leg up on the industry.

History/Anthropology: Dancers who learn research methods through these majors can later earn a master’s and/or a PhD in dance theory or history. You might end up studying the history of movement techniques, or unearthing forgotten dance rituals!

English Literature: Capturing movement through words is a technique of its own. Dancers with writing experience often find jobs and internships with dance magazines, or as dance reviewers for newspapers and journals.

Photography/Film: Dance films are becoming more and more prevalent, and dancers

are always in need of head shots! Photography can be a great source of income that allows you the flexibility to attend technique classes and auditions.

Psychology: Dance therapy is a growing field that helps patients work through physical or emotional traumas. You can attend dance therapy graduate programs to earn a degree.

Music: Dancers who are interested in choreography and music collaboration can benefit from playing their own instruments or writing musical scores. Plus, studying dance and music is a great way to work towards a job on Broadway.

Choreography

You already know that deciding where to go to college is a big deal. And finding a school that fits both your academic and your dance needs can be especially hard. But while pursuing a dance major is one option, it’s not the only one! Many colleges are also home to a bunch of impressive student-run dance companies. Why would you want to be part of a group run by your peers? The opportunities just might surprise you.

Branch Out

College is all about trying new things, and student-run dance groups make it easy to do just that. Want to explore a niche dance style, like bhangra or belly dancing? There might be a student group devoted to it. Want to experience a whole range of styles? There are companies that do it all, too. Don’t see the kind of organization you’d want to join? At most schools, you can get funding to found it yourself.

Sarabande, a student-run company at Tufts University, performing Say My Name, choreographed by Ani Loshkajian (photo by Andrew R. Schneer)

Even if you’ve only ever considered yourself a die-hard ballroom dancer, a student-run group like Arizona State University’s Free The Dance can give you the chance to set aside your heels and slip on some funky sneakers. The group, created and run by recent ASU graduate J. Bouey, holds free weekly dance classes for all ASU students. “Our most popular classes are contemporary, jazz and hip hop,” says Bouey, “but we’ll also have partnering, ballroom, tango, Latin, swing, African and belly dancing throughout the semester.”

When Ani Loshkajian, president of Tufts’ student-run dance company Sarabande, first joined the troupe as a freshman, she was a total bunhead who had a hard time letting loose and giving in to movement. Fast-forward four years: “I feel like I’m an entirely different dancer,” she says. Because Sarabande allows its members to explore a variety of styles, “my dancing has become much more personal and expressive of who I am.”

Keep the Passion Alive

If you don’t want to major in dance, student groups offer an alternative way to make it an important part of your life on campus. “I didn’t choose one passion over the other,” says Loshkajian, an international relations and French major. “Sarabande made it possible for me to continue my passion for dance, without sacrificing the other visions I had for my future. In fact, being a part of the company has served as an incredible creative outlet that’s contributed to my academics.”

And if you are a dance major, participating in a student-run group can be the release you need to make sure you don’t burn out. “It can be hard to maintain a real joy for dance when you’re studying it in an academic setting,” says Bouey, a dance major. “Free The Dance has been my escape. I can show up and just move, without worrying about homework. It’s helped me to hold on to that innocent love for dance.”

Go Beyond the Stage

Choosing to take on a leadership role in a student-run group can help you learn to shine offstage as well as on. Sarabande, for example, holds elections each semester to determine who will be a part of an executive board made up of a president, vice president, treasurer, social chair, producer, public relations manager and webmaster. For Loshkajian, serving as the  company’s president has taught her many of the skills she’ll need to thrive after graduation. “I’ve learned how to work closely with a team, and how important personal relationships are to leveraging results,” she says. “Most important, I’ve learned that no matter what, the show must go on!”

Make Moves

For those interested in making dances, a student-run group can provide opportunities to try out choreography. It’s pretty much the only time in your life that you’ll have access to great dancers, rehearsal spaces and performance venues at no charge.

Sarabande's Heather Ngai and Matt Evers in Evers' Next Chapter (photo by Kyra Sturgill)

Think choreography isn’t your thing? A student-run company could be just the environment you need to get going. “There’s a freedom that comes from being in a company with your peers that can unlock a flow of creativity,” says Nikolas Kaim, artistic director of Ithaca College’s Rock Hard Dance Company. “You don’t always find that in a professional company or at a studio.”

Student groups may offer teaching opportunities, too. While Free The Dance doesn’t currently put on formal concerts, students can audition to become instructors for the group at the beginning of each semester. “It’s a really great chance to improve your teaching skills,” Bouey says. “At the end of each class, we have a discussion where we give feedback to the teacher. It’s a good time to learn the small things, like needing to speak louder or teach more slowly.”

Ultimately, there’s a wide range when it comes to what your experience in a student-run group might look like, because everything is up to you and your peers. And as you all create things together, you’ll probably become great friends, too. “This is one of the only environments where you’re surrounded by people who love dance and are choosing to spend their limited free time doing it,” Kaim says. “No one’s making money, no one’s parents are forcing them to participate—everyone’s just there because they want to dance.”

Are those tattoo sleeves? Yes—yes they are. UNLV sure showed us that dance team girls can get funky!

Last weekend, college dance teams across the country headed to Orlando, FL to compete at the Universal Dance Association College Dance Team National Championship. And boy, was the competition tough! In the end, quite a few new names earned those coveted top spots in Division 1A, including Arizona State University and University of Nevada-Las Vegas. (But the reigning jazz and pom champs from University of Minnesota Dance Team held onto their titles—and just wait until you see their routines!)

Here's a quick look at the Division 1A results:

Jazz

1. University of Minnesota

2. Arizona State University

3. University of Tennessee

4. Florida State University

5. The Ohio State University

Hip Hop

1. University of Nevada-Las Vegas

2. University of Cincinnati

3. Louisiana State University

4. University of Memphis

5. Arizona State University

Pom

1. University of Minnesota

2. University of Cincinnati

3. University of Nevada-Las Vegas

4. University of Memphis

5. The Ohio State University

A huge congrats to all the teams that competed! I know how much time and effort it takes to get ready to compete—and you all deserve a much-needed break. Click here for a full list of results and to see video of all the teams.

Hey guys! Anyone headed to University of California, Los Angeles, this fall? How about Sarah Lawrence College? Both schools are adding amazing choreographic talent to their dance department: Sarah Lawrence welcomes prolific downtown choreographer John Jasperse as the new director of dance, while Kyle Abraham will join UCLA as a faculty member.

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion dancers in Pavement (Photo by Steven Schreiber, courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)

This is amazing news for dancers at both institutions—but it also has positive ramifications for college dance, nationwide. When departments invest in professors who can offer students a mix of theory and technique, coupled with professional experience, everyone benefits.

Cheers to everyone starting college! Tweet us at @Dance_SpiritMag and let us know how your first week has been. Curious about life as a college dancer? Be sure to check out our September issue—it's full of super helpful information, like where today's top choreographers are teaching. Not sure where to start in your college search? The Dance Magazine College Guide gives you a rundown of hundreds of options.

Happy learning and dancing!

Want more Dance Spirit?

Confident you’re going to breeze through your college application essay? On campus, you can take those writing skills to the next level. Whether you’re reflecting on a repertory class, critiquing a performance or researching a pivotal moment in dance history, in these writing-heavy dance programs you’ll sharpen your critical, technical and creative skills all at once.

Emory University

At Emory University in Atlanta, GA, every dance major double-majors in another subject—which means students can combine English literature or creative writing with dance studies. “We’re teaching students how to reflect on dance,” says Lori Teague, an associate professor and director of dance at Emory. “Every class, from ‘Contemporary Issues in Dance’ to ‘Somatic Practices,’ has a writing component.”

Sarah Freeman performs in her honors thesis concert at Emory University. (Photo by Lori Teague, courtesy Emory University)

Emory students with high GPAs can complete an honors thesis crystallizing their writing skills. “Our most recent honors thesis in dance was by Sarah Freeman and combined an academic paper with choreography inspired by author Flannery O’Connor,” Teague says.

University of California–Irvine

At UC Irvine, dance majors are pushed to apply their performance skills to their writing. “Dancers’ observational powers make them very good writers,” says Jennifer Fisher, PhD, an associate professor of dance. But she stresses that great writing requires as much work as technique class.

Students put those skills into practice in classes like “Critical Issues in Dance,” where they learn to differentiate among various types of dance writing. Students also learn why dance writing and criticism are important elements in a performance career. “It’s a way to engage with the public and be recorded in history,” Fisher says. “Choreographers need to be able to solicit and facilitate that kind of writing to survive in the dance world.”

Barnard College

Dancers at Barnard College in NYC have many opportunities to stretch their writing skills. Mindy Aloff, adjunct associate professor of dance—and noted author, editor, journalist, essayist and dance critic—teaches classes like “From the Page to the Dance Stage,” which covers works of literature that have been interpreted through dance but weren’t originally intended for it.

When she teaches dance criticism, Aloff wants her students to gain perspective on the role of a critic by being one themselves: “Dancers should understand what goes into that specialized kind of writing—especially if one is, someday, likely to be reviewed!”

While it may seem like four years spent training on campus means four fewer years of professional life, that's not the case. Because as college graduates Allison DeBona, Peter Chu, Cat Cogliandro and Miguel Zarate will tell you, dancing in college doesn't just give you extra technical training. It can also provide opportunities for self-discovery, networking and planning for the future. Here, they share why they chose college, and how it affected their careers.

With Ballet West's Trevor Naumann in Val Caniparoli's The Lottery (photo by Luke Isley, courtesy Ballet West)

Allison DeBona

First soloist with Ballet West; received a BS in ballet from Indiana University

College wasn’t really a choice in my family—everyone pushed me and my siblings to get a degree. Plus, I’d taken eighth grade through my sophomore year of high school off from ballet, so I didn’t think I was ready for a company contract.

I applied to Indiana University, Butler University, Mercyhurst University and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Indiana was my first choice out of the ballet-heavy programs, and I got in. It was the perfect place for me. Julie Kent came to set a lot of our classical pieces; to have her coaching me in Swan Lake was mind-blowing. And Violette Verdy and Susan Pilarre taught us so many Balanchine ballets. What more could you ask for?

When I got into Ballet West, I felt very prepared. My days at Indiana were similar to my new schedule with the company—even the rep was similar. In college, I danced from 11 am until 5:45 pm every day, but I also had academic classes from 8 in the morning until late at night. It was almost harder to dance in college! I learned how to handle stress, which really pays off now that I’m dancing with Ballet West and juggling extra benefit performances, teaching appearances and even starting a summer program.

 

(Photo by Michelle Novak, courtesy Peter Chu)

Peter Chu

Director of chuthis.; received a BFA in dance from The Juilliard School

I graduated from a high school with top honors. At the time, I was really into cheerleading as well as dance, and I thought I might want to end up in sports medicine. I was set on going to Ohio State University, but at the last minute, I realized I wanted to dance, so I applied to Point Park University and got in with a scholarship.

A year later, I transferred to Juilliard, though I had to retake my freshman year. The first four semesters at Juilliard were very intimidating. I went through a lot of ups and downs—I felt like a child at the beach, riding the waves for the first time. I learned how to take initiative for my own career and work really hard.

I also made a lot of professional connections. (So far, I’ve only been to one cattle call audition in my life—and I’m very grateful for that.) I worked with a huge range of choreographers, from Ohad Naharin to Jacqulyn Buglisi. And when I graduated, I took a contract with another company I’d discovered while in school.

 

(Photo by Joseph Spelman, courtesy Cat Cogliandro)

Cat Cogliandro

Freelance choreographer; received a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase

Growing up, I never considered not going to college. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class. But I also knew I wanted to dance, so I auditioned for several conservatory programs, including the University of Arizona, Fordham University and, on a whim, SUNY Purchase. I was only accepted to Purchase.

The first two years of school were difficult for me. I was never chosen for any of the main-stage performances. I always felt overlooked. That said, not being cast in the school’s concerts did help me mature. I had more time to devote to my own choreographic process, and I learned how to deal with heartbreak and disappointment—a skill that comes in handy after graduation when jobs aren’t easy to get. Rejection is difficult to deal with. But I learned how to get let down, get back up and just say “OK, it’ll happen the next time,” or, “I’ll get the next one.”

My junior year, I got to work with Sidra Bell, and she reignited the fire in my gut. Her work showed me choreography could be something other than “Hit this movement on this note,” “Hit that on that note.” Her gestures were so intricate—she forced me to be more creative. I’d always known I wanted to be a choreographer and it was amazing to be in the studio with her.

 

(Photo by Rob Daly, courtesy Miguel Zarate)

Miguel Zarate

Choreographer and faculty member at The PULSE on Tour; received a BFA in dance from University of California, Irvine

I was very active in high school and took academics seriously. In my senior year, however, I asked my parents if I could move to L.A. to take part in EDGE Performing Arts Center’s scholarship program instead of going to college. My parents said absolutely not. So I looked for a school with a great dance department.

I applied to University of California, Los Angeles, and UC Irvine, and I got into both. UCI offered a better ballet program, and at the time I was a really technical dancer. I saw myself performing with a company like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater or the Limón Dance Company.

That changed in college. One night I went to a house party, and when I heard a Kylie Minogue song and started freestyling, something clicked. In that moment, it felt like I’d discovered my voice. Soon after, I began experimenting with my own movement style in the dance department’s student choreography showcases, and I joined a dance team on campus, Kaba Modern. It introduced me to hip hop and breaking, and I felt encouraged to blend my technical background with funkier movements.

The technical training I received in UCI’s dance department sticks with me, and it’s a huge asset to my work as a jazz-funk choreographer. College also empowered me to be a better teacher. I’m able to connect with the whole class and articulate the movement. When students ask me about their next steps, I’m a big advocate for college. NYC and L.A. aren’t going anywhere. There’s no rush.

 

Juilliard dancers in Nacho Duato's Gnawa (photo by Nan Melville)

If you’re planning to dance in college, chances are you’ve been pondering life after high school for quite some time—and that’s a good thing. “It’s never too early to start thinking about college,” says Alison Green, an advisor at Minnesota’s Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. Many collegiate dance programs require an extra application step—that dreaded audition—and waiting until the eleventh hour can add extra pressure to your decisions.

Not sure when to do what? Follow this timeline, which starts your freshman year of high school, to help you stay on top of college prep and keep the process as stress-free as possible.

Your freshman year:

• Start forming a general list of schools that may interest you. Then, look at those schools’ academic requirements, says Kate Walker, dance department coordinator at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. If one university requires its applicants to have taken three years of a foreign language, for instance, it won’t be too late to fit that third year of French into your schedule.

• Start a running list of activities and accomplishments, including any major performances, awards, summer intensives and master classes.

Your sophomore year:

• Look back at your preliminary list of schools, and start thinking more deeply about your interests and what you’re looking for in a dance program. Do you want to cross off any schools? Add new ones? Now is a good time to fine-tune the list.

• Start planning college visits, which can begin as early as your sophomore year and continue until the fall of your senior year. If possible, drop by college campuses when school is in session and students are around so you can get the most out of your trip. “Ask if you can watch dance classes, and definitely go see a student performance,” says Donna Faye Burchfield, director of the School of Dance at the University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, PA.

• Many colleges ask for teacher recommendations with your application. Green says that sophomore year is a good time to start developing relationships with dance instructors or your favorite academic teachers whom you might ask to write those letters of recommendation. “Be a leader in class and ask for their advice,” Green says ”You want to make sure they get to know you.”

The summer between your sophomore and junior years:

• Many college dance programs offer summer intensives for prospective students. Attending one can be a great way to determine if you like a particular school—and keep up your training during  the summer break. “You can get a slice of what life may be like at that college or university,” Walker says.

• “Start doing some research on what the curriculum looks like at your prospective schools,” Walker says. Do you want a school that focuses on a certain technique? One that gives students opportunities to choreograph? Ask yourself if you’re leaning toward a conservatory program (with a BFA track), or if you might want to double-major and focus on schools with BA programs.

Your junior year:

Fall:

• Remember that list of activities and awards you started your freshman year? Now’s the time to transform it into your college-application resumé. Be sure to include your academic and dance achievements, along with any clubs, volunteer work or part-time jobs you do outside of school or dance.

• Attend college open houses and fairs—you may discover programs you hadn’t previously considered.

Spring:

• Take the SAT and/or ACT. If you wait until senior year to take these tests, Green warns, you’ll have fewer early-application options. This also gives you time to retake the test if you’d like.

• Study! “Many schools will make admissions decisions based on junior grades,” Green says.

• Research scholarship opportunities. Find out each scholarship’s specific requirements.

• Ask teachers for recommendations—and give them a deadline of at least two weeks before they’re due. Walker advises asking teachers in person and then following up with an email that includes your resumé. Having that information handy will make it easier for your teachers to write personalized recommendations.

The summer between your junior and senior years:

• Choose a solo you’ll use for college auditions and start polishing it. It can be something you’ve already performed, or you can choreograph one yourself.

• Write the first draft of your application essay(s).

• Finalize the list of schools you want to apply to and take note of each program’s application deadlines and audition requirements. Don’t forget about the documents you’ll need, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and income records (for financial aid packages).

• Try to take a few master classes in unfamiliar techniques, like modern or African dance. These new experiences will give you a leg up before auditions, which can often include styles you might not be comfortable with.

Your senior year:

Fall:

• Schedule auditions. If the school allows, Burchfield recommends taking a class with current students while you’re on campus. Some programs will even count the class as your audition.

• Present yourself professionally online. This might include limiting public access to your social media accounts or adjusting how others can tag you. “You should always be the one in control of your internet presence,” Green says—not your friends.

• Complete and submit all applications, and make sure your transcripts and recommendations are in order. If you’re applying to conservatories, keep in mind that there might be a supplement to the Common Application (or even a supplement to a school’s individual app) where you’ll be asked about your dance training. Don’t procrastinate! Walker says students often underestimate how much time these additional applications can take.

Spring:

• Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available January 1.

Post-application:

Congratulations—you did it! Beware of falling victim to senioritis, though: Colleges will still look at grades from your final semester. And remember to finalize your plans quickly. Most final decisions are due by May 1, the national college acceptance deadline.

 

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