Taking a campus tour is an integral part of your college decision-making process. But what if you're already super-serious about one or two schools, or your guide doesn't know very much about the dance department? You may want to consider taking your daytime tour one step further by scheduling an overnight stay with a current dance major.
Overnights offer you the chance to gain a valuable “after hours" perspective on your dream school(s)—and to walk through a day in the life of a dance major. Dance Spirit spoke to several experts to find out how to make the most of your time.
Ask the admissions office at your prospective school to help you schedule an overnight with a dance major. “Try to make your visit coincide with a departmental performance," says Andrew Carroll, assistant professor of dance at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. “That way, you can see the kinds of dancers the department produces."
Take It All In
“Being a dance major consists of so much more than just the required classes," says Rose Flachs, professor and chair of dance at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. You'll be spending up to a full 24 hours on campus, so now's your chance to see and do everything.
Shadow your host to get a sense of what her schedule looks like. Go with her to technique classes—“You can ask ahead of time to take class with your host," Flachs says—and rehearsals. And be sure to chat her up about her experiences as a student. Your host can explain the relationship between the dance department and the school's larger community, which is something you'll want to get a feel for.
Mount Holyoke College senior Audrey Hildebrandt had an eye-opening experience during her overnight visit. “I knew about technique, but I didn't know about dance theory," she says. “I talked to my host, who was double-majoring in dance and biology, about the academic aspects of being a dance major. Spending time talking to students who weren't working for the admissions office—who weren't vested in me attending the college—was refreshing."
To round out your visit, Carroll suggests scheduling a meeting with the head of a student dance group. Pick his or her brain about extracurricular dance opportunities on campus. You can also try going to a cool event that's off the beaten day-tour path. “Our students schedule Friday-night improvisation jams," Carroll says. “They really unite the student body."
During her overnight, Hildebrandt's hosts were busy studying for midterms, so she witnessed a typical low-key college evening. But, especially if your visit happens to coincide with a big party night, be careful. While it might feel great to hang out without your parents, your visit isn't just for fun. It's a time to get familiar with the dance department and make some friends you might dance with next year.