The Process of Getting In (for dancers): Steps 1-5

It’s that time of the year again and many high school seniors are beginning the stressful process of applying to college. As an artist and an academic this process is much more extensive than it is for those who are not. However, by following a few simple steps and guidelines, you will surely make this time of the year a lot less chaotic than it’s talked up to be.

Step 1: Keep Up With Your Resume 
If you are an active dancer in your community, you are sure to have a list of credentials that will set you apart from the crowd. Every dancer should begin their resume freshman year and keep it up to date as the years go by. Education, Training, Performing Experience, Community Service, and Awards are some of the main categories that should be included on your resume.

Do monthly checks, and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Have I had any master classes this month?
2. Was I involved in an onstage performance?
3. Am I preparing for a show?

If so, update! Keeping up with your resume will eliminate at least one of the major stresses that you encounter come senior year. Once you’ve acquired a basis of information, begin to tailor it down. By eliminating “filler information,” not only are you cleaning up, but you are also portraying yourself as a more competitive and desirable candidate.

Step 2: Solidify Your Solo
Many, if not all, dance universities, colleges, and conservatories require some physical demonstration of your dancing abilities. Whether you’re travelling to New York, sending videos to L.A., or auditioning at your local in state college, it is extremely important to have a solo on hand. Beginning your solo at the start of your junior year will surely put you at ease once auditions begin. Your solo should demonstrate the peaks of your artistic ability as well as capture your passion for dance. By performing a well choreographed and rehearsed solo dancers have the ability to draw the attention of anyone, whether it be a college recruiter or a patron of the arts, who just might be willing to offer a generous endowment to the student who catches their eye.

Step 3: Narrow Down Your Schools 
Finding a school that is right for you takes many hours of research. The first question you should ask yourself is what it is you want to do. Are you interested in dancing full time? Or, would you rather take a more academic route? Do you want to be in big city? Or, would you rather save money on room and board and live at home? These are only some of they many questions you must ask yourself when narrowing down your top choice schools.

Don’t limit yourself based on the schools price tag. Every institution in the country offers some form or scholarship, whether merit or need based, or financial aid to eligible students. In addition to this, stopping in to your high school counselor or dance directors office will surely introduce you to the surplus of monies that are there to be had. Many corporations, foundations, and businesses are looking for talented students just like you to bestow their millions upon. By going on to user friendly websites like Fastweb or Scholarships Match you are more than likely to find some bursary that fits your needs.

Some very important questions to ask yourself when narrowing down schools are the following:
1. University? College? Or Conservatory? Making this decision will help to eliminate 2/3 of the hundreds of options out there.
2. Do you want to double major or minor? By going on to schools websites you can see if any of their programs interest you. You can also see if it is possible to pursue more than one of your passions during your undergraduate years.
3. Big city? Or small town? By picking environments that appeal to you, you are minimizing your chance of becoming a transfer student come sophomore year.
4. Residential campus? Or Commuter student? Many four-year universities require college freshman to live in residents for their first year. However, knowing the proximity between the classroom and your bedroom is certainly something to take into consideration.
Once you’ve selected 10 or so schools that interest you, begin researching them in depth. What standardized tests do they require? Do you have the grades to get in? When are their deadlines? Early action?/ Early decision?/ or Regular?

Narrowing down your schools can be a tedious job. However, by researching and solidifying your top 5 choices the summer before your senior year will help to put both your mind and your schedule at ease.

Step 4: Secure Your Letters of Recommendation 
If you fail the first three years of high school and then give your teacher an apple come application time, you will surely not be placed among their good graces. Begin forming positive relationships freshman year. Although many schools request that your letters of recommendation be written by your senior year teachers, it isn’t a bad idea to acquire a broad range of superiors willing to speak in your favor. Once you’ve selected who you want to write your letter, be sure to provide them with substantial information. Teachers have a lot on their plate and might not remember every detail of every student they have. Don’t take offense to this. Instead, by gently reminding them of that time you stayed after school to help grade papers, or got extra credit points toward a highly achieved project, you might spark some positive things for them to write about.

Help your recommenders make you shine. Provide them with your latest transcript, resume, and a list of the schools your applying to, so they can note and talk about your credentials as well as see the standards you are aspiring to meet.

Step 5: Apply
Now comes the serious part. However, if you’ve spent your first three years of high school taking care of business applying to college won’t seem as daunting. Note what documents your schools require. Are they a school that uses the Common Application? Do they have any additional supplements for you to fill out? At the beginning of your senior year take note of the deadlines for both early and regular decision. Also, see what schools are visiting your area and try to attend as many information sessions as possible. See how many letters of recommendation the school requires, as well as any additional papers they may ask for. Make sure to have all your forms, documents, and funds lined up and ready to be sent off either by mail or online. If you choose to go the online route, be sure to save and print personal copies of your application for your own records. Whether you’ve elected to apply early or regular, many applications deadlines do not surpass January 1st. So, by following the steps above you are more than likely to submit your applications well before the deadline.

Take a deep breath. The hard parts are now over. Continue to practice and refine your solo and always keep up with your studies. Make sure to stay up to date with your resume even now that the application process is over. And finally, remember to get some rest, indulge, and enjoy a very festive and relaxing holiday season.

*An edited version of this article will be published in the Dance Council of North Texas Magazine, Nov-Jan 2012/2013.

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