College dancers
College dancers

How to Choose a College Dance Program

  • May 17, 2016
  • by Emily Yewell Volin

Enrolling in the right college dance program will empower your future. How do you find the program that’s right for you? Like all college programs, dance program offerings vary by institution. How do you ensure you will graduate with the toolbox of skills, experiences, credentials and connections you want? You have to do your homework. Here’s some advice.

Know What You Want

Are you looking for a conservatory ballet experience or training in multiple genres of dance? Is performing important to you? How about the opportunity to choreograph? Do you want to earn a BA or a BFA? Be honest with yourself and begin shopping. A simple internet search for college dance programs with kick start your research. Make a list of study opportunities that interest you and keep that list close.

Utilize Your Network

Cue “It’s a Small World.” Reach out to teachers and mentors (present and past) for program recommendations. No doubt your instructors have first or second-hand experiences with a variety of college programs. Ask them about it.

Consider Geography and College/University Size

Do you crave a city campus or a college town? Does the thought of living somewhere it snows terrify you? How about living in a desert area? Does a small college program most interest you, or do you want to experience a big college campus? Do you expect a co-ed education or would you prefer a women’s college experience? How about class sizes? You will take classes in your major and your core curriculum classes for the institution. Are you comfortable (and responsible enough) to do your best work in a big class, or will you better thrive somewhere with a small teacher to student ratio?

Bookmark Websites and Connect Via Social Media

Bookmark the site of every program you are considering and frequently visit these sites. ‘Like’ the programs on Facebook and other social media sites and closely monitor their current events. Do the activities you read about interest you?

Research Faculty

A dance program’s faculty will be your greatest resource during your years of college study and beyond. Learn about their experiences, pedagogical methodology and professional connections. Find out who serves as the advisor to first-year students and send an introductory email. Chances are there will be an information packet, often electronic, the advisor can send to you.

Find Video

Social media has made video work samples readily available. Search on YouTube for dance videos of work being done at the schools of interest to you. Take notes about what you see.


If at all possible, get off the internet and onto the campuses of the schools are you considering. It can be expensive and time consuming to do site visits. However, getting an authentic sense of the school before you enroll will cut down on the possibility of transferring, and losing course credits and lots of cash, in the future.

Understand the Application and Audition Process

Many college dance programs are “gated,” meaning an audition is required for entry to the program. If this is the case, your admittance into the dance program hinges on both your acceptance to the college/university and into the program. Some dance programs allow you to audition before you have been accepted by the school. Others will require you be accepted at the school before you will be allowed to audition. Find out the acceptance policy, dates and deadlines for every school you are considering.

Assess Costs and Consider Scholarship Opportunities

Out-of-state tuition is higher than in-state fees. Consider this as well as the cumulative costs of your geographic choices. Are first-year students allowed cars on campus? Will you have access to public transportation? How about housing, dining plans and textbook fees? Do you plan to come home during breaks? These costs add up quickly. Be realistic about your resources. Also, explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Your high school guidance counselor is a great resource for this information. Be sure to also learn about scholarship opportunities available through the dance programs of interest. Some scholarships are based upon financial needs, others upon merit. Learn about all of them and apply.

Be Organized

There is nothing haphazard about choosing a college program. Find a way to organize your research, either electronically or in a binder. Make a section for every school you are considering so you can easily and accurately compare your findings. Keep records of where and when you have submitted applications, deadlines and audition dates, and the results of your inquiries. Follow up with thank-you notes to the professors, administrative staff and students who provide resources for you.

Choosing a college program is a big responsibility. Lead the way as you research programs and you will likely land in the right college for you.

Produced by Dance Informa.

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