Thinkstock

How to Incorporate Your Dance Experience in Your College Essays

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."

Latest Posts


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search