Madeline Gambino in rehearsal for Ballet Fantastique's Short Stories (Bob Williams, courtesy Gambino)

College or Contract? What to Do When You Land a Job Offer While Still in School

For many dancers, a job offer is the end goal of attending a college dance program. But what if you land a coveted contract while you're still in school? Here's how two dancers made the tough decision between continuing college or accepting a company contract.

Making the Decision

Julian Goodwin-Ferris started in the dance program at Indiana University anxious about getting a job. "I had the less-than-accurate mentality that if you go to college, you haven't really made it—that that's your backup," he says.

When Ballet Austin offered him a spot in the company at the end of his first year, he accepted, and took a leave of absence from IU, in case he wanted to return.

After a year with Ballet Austin, Goodwin-Ferris felt a little lost. "I wasn't fully baked yet," he says. "I needed more time." The prospect of further performance opportunities, an education to support his artistry, and the chance to be surrounded by people with a range of backgrounds ultimately led him back to IU.

Madeline Gambino, on the other hand, felt her college experience at Butler University had run its course by the time Ballet Fantastique offered her a company position at the end of her junior year. "When I got the offer, my immediate reaction was to say yes," Gambino says, "which made me realize that I was no longer attached to school." She accepted the offer, confident that she could continue her education at another time.

"I knew I had had a good enough college experience at that point to leave it behind," Gambino says.

Julian Goodwin-Ferris performing La Source (Caitlyn Brady, courtesy Goodwin-Ferris)

Embracing the Emotions

Goodwin-Ferris and Gambino both admit they were afraid of making the wrong choice. "But then I realized there really was no right or wrong decision," Gambino says. "You just have to follow your instincts, and make the decision for yourself."

Goodwin-Ferris feared that after returning to school, he'd graduate with no job lined up—and regret giving up the one he'd had. "You never want to look back on a missed opportunity, but at the same time you want to think of where you're going to grow the most as a dancer," Goodwin-Ferris says. Today, he dances in Miami City Ballet's corps de ballet.

Breaking the News

"When I decided to leave, I called the dean of the university over the summer and followed protocol," Gambino says. She recommends that no matter what you decide, be sure to thank those who made landing that job offer possible.

"If you do leave a program, leave it in a way in which the door is open," Goodwin-Ferris advises. "Don't burn your bridge." Communicate with those involved, be respectful, and be open about how you feel and what you want at that time. "Sometimes, it's just not the right timing," Goodwin-Ferris says. "Know that any decision you make is not permanent."

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