Colleges and universities in the U.S. offer an attractive option for high school graduates interested in continuing to dance while advancing their academic credentials.
If the college route is one of interest to your dancer and your family, then let me share what we learned during the college dance audition process.
College searches, in general, are time-consuming and full of hurdles. Adding a specific focus to the search adds a layer of complexity. For our family, taking a measured approach, identifying manageable and sequential steps, helped reduce the size of the effort.
1.) Figure out the Basics
Is the dancer most interested in classical ballet, contemporary/modern dance, or another form of dance? University level programs often separate their dance majors based on style of dance, generally distinguishing between classical and contemporary options.
What aspect of dance education most interests the dancer? Again, universities often differentiate within their programs by placing dancers in tracks such as Performance or Pedagogy (which is the method of teaching dance). Additionally, programs may offer, or even require, a specialty interest in areas such as Choreography, Lighting, or Costumes.
Research the type of degree offered. Degree programs for dancers generally are a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA) or a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA), with the BFA considered the more prestigious of the two. Exceptions exist, such as the BSOF (Bachelor of Science in Music, Other Field) offered to classical ballet majors at the elite Jacobs School of Music at Indiana Univ.
Schedule a dance-related career counseling appointment. Arrange to meet with Ms. Patricia Hoffman, Founder and Artistic Director of the Colorado Ballet Society and ask for an evaluation as to future dance opportunities. Take time to understand and process the specific guidance offered as to the general level of professional direction to take as an aspiring dance professional.
2.) Determine the size of the Program
Schools vary in their level of training and instruction. Generally speaking, the smallest dance programs have a Dance Division, the medium-sized programs have a Dance Department, and the largest programs have a School of Dance.
Dancers will need to address two additional components of each program. First, does the program focus exclusively on dance and fine arts, or are students encouraged, or even required, to take general education courses. Second, will the dancer’s personality respond better to “starting at the bottom” and pressing toward growth, or would it be better to aim for the “top of program?”
3.) More than one application may be required
Universities generally require two applications, to be completed simultaneously. For universities and larger colleges, high school graduates will likely have to submit a General Application to the university/college in addition to a dance-specific application. The two applications have entirely separate components, documents, deadlines and fees. The review of each of these applications is also done separately as are considerations for financial aid. Both applications must be successfully completed prior to a final offer of admission.