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lakemom

Encouragement to look outside the obvious/popular college program

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lakemom

As the parent of a freshman BFA student, I feel like this is something that parents and dancers may need to hear.  

Our daughter toured a handful of colleges with dance programs.  She auditioned for a few and ultimately felt led to a program that doesn't get much talk or recognition.  She is SO HAPPY!  So much happier than she ever imagined.  She has gotten wonderful performance opportunities, guest teachers, guidance, support, and encouragement.  She sees a true future in performing, but also is excited to learn more about choreography and entrepreneurship, along with a strong liberal arts education.

I just want to encourage people who are looking, or will be looking, for college options not to limit their dancers/themselves to certain programs that get a lot of talk.  I know some of those popular schools have gone through changes that have not been ideal, but because of their previous reputation, students think they are the best (or the only) place to go. 

Talk to current students of schools you love, but that you may be questioning; you might be pleasantly surprised.  

 

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Amie

Lakemom, it is so nice to hear this!  It is wonderful, as a mom, to know someone else's DD is so happy at a not so famous school.  DD's top choices on HER list are not the usual well known ones everyone talks about.  She found them by looking at the bios of dancers of companies she likes.  Yes some of the colleges on her initial list were the ones on everyone's, but there were some lesser known ones too.  For the most part, the well known colleges did not fit into what DD needed/wanted from her college experience.  And now when we are almost finished with auditions, I can say we have been pleasantly surprised with the lesser know colleges.  DD enjoyed the auditions and they have impressive faculty, a supportive atmosphere, and opportunities that DD could not find in the famous programs (including the choreography and entrepreneurship you referred to.)  DD likes these programs and they seem to really like her as well!   Now she just has to make a decision...

Thank you again lakemom for helping me feel a little less anxious about this process.

 

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lakemom

Amie, best of luck to your dd as she makes her choice!  The process is stressful and exciting, but is also a great life experience.  

It has been a wonderful year for us to see independence and growth in our daughter.  There is nothing better than to see your children happy!

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kiwiwdancer

Lakemom, Thanks for posting this. The  big name programs are not always the best fit. The unrecognized programs often have wonderful, caring, skilled faculty and shouldn't be overlooked. Students need performance opportunities to grow and of course good, solid instruction and guidance. The bigger programs may not be able to give that to all of their students. 

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AnnS

Thanks for this post.  As the mom of a high school junior, we are in the thick of it.  Would you be able to share, Lakemom and Amie, some of the colleges that were on your lists?

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Amie

Moderators, please edit if suggestions aren't appropriate.

AnnS, here are some lesser known schools that made our initial list (some are lesser known than others).  DD did not apply to them all.  I'm giving you the initial list because although DD eliminated some because she felt the dance program was not strong enough, others were cut because they didn't have the right mix of styles/techniques for her or just didn't fit with her personal needs. However, those schools might be right for your DK I can't remember which were which, so you'll have to do some research, but this is a good place to start:

Iowa University, University of Cincinnati, Ohio State, Ohio University, Western Michigan, Elon, Virginia Commonwealth, Hartt School, Montclair State, Towson, Muhlenberg, Vassar, Goucher, Skidmore, University of South Carolina, University of Michigan, Florida State, Barnard, Duke, George Mason, Kennesaw, Mercyhurst, Columbia College in Chicago, Indiana University (Contemporary), La Roche, Mason Gross at Rutgers, Simon Fraser, Ryerson, York University - The last 3 are in Canada.

Bolded schools I definitely remember seeing in dancer's bios.  The other schools we may have gotten from dancer bios, or from teacher recommendations/word of mouth.  Also, I'm sure there are others out there that did not make our list, hopefully others will chime in with suggestions.

Things DD and I did to narrow the field down...

  1. find videos online (some schools are more challenging than others) - try to watch various classes, performances, promo reels  
  2. go to their website and look at faculty, facilities, plan of study for a dance major, course catalogue, etc
  3. Read reviews on BT4D and college confidential or anywhere else you can find them
  4. make phone calls or emails for clarification or to answer any questions
  5. visit and get a tour (you may not be able to do this until audition day but it is the most important part)
  6. Repeat 1-5 as many times as necessary

Another very important thing...talk to your DK frequently.  What they want may change throughout this process and you will both have to adjust and make new plans.

Also, I'm not saying don't investigate or apply to the big name colleges.  DD thought a few of them were the right fit for her at the beginning of this year, however, she received a couple of rejections, a couple ended up not being what she wanted after auditioning/visiting, and only one remains on her list of 4 now (and I think it is only on there because of its reputation.)

Hope this helps.  Try not to get too overwhelmed, but if you do, there's a thread for that too!

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AnnS

Thanks so much!  I've been reading tons on these forums, and have a list, but recent conversations with dd suggest we may need to adjust that list!  Your info above is very helpful, there are few schools I hadn't looked into, and some that I will now revisit. Taking deep breaths, and trusting the process... she'll get where she needs to be, wherever that is!

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dancingjet

I'm glad you started this topic. It really speaks to the idea that if our dancers can be clear in what they need and want from a school, then the school that best fits them might not be one of the ones with 30+ pages of discussion on BT4D. Maybe it is one of those lesser-known programs, or that smaller liberal arts college. I wish more people would chime in on those less-active threads and share their experiences.

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lakemom

dancingjet, I totally agree.  I was sad to see that our dd's college page on this site had very little current information.  I will pay it forward, though, for future students.  

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Momof3darlings

Just a reminder, and so that there is no misunderstanding.  Our college forums are parent updated, if a college is not updated it is because no one has chosen to do so.  So it is up to our members with information on those colleges to update those threads.  :)

An important disclosure:  We at BTFD, have always focused on the Ballet focused College Dance programs.  Meaning Ballet is the main focus of the program, with long records of Alumni gaining jobs in Ballet.  The Ballet Focus is what was key.  This is not meant to dismiss other career paths or other schools.  This is just where we drew our line because we cannot include every college that offers dance.  We have had members in the past who have written us in pm to discuss their college and how the ballet focused changed under new Administration and we have included those colleges here.  As an example, one very well known college on the list above, a few years ago you could graduate with a Ballet focus and never put on pointe shoes.  Go figure!  A new Administration changed that and the college was added back to our college ballet focused programs.  Again though, that requires member interaction.  :)

College Confidential is a wonderful resource for College Dance as well.  We also encourage you to determine what your dancer's intent is both within a dance program and after.  Where they come from and where they expect or desire to go.  Track if graduates of those colleges match your expectations of what you want to do with your career in or out of actual performing.  That is what is key.  

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dancingjet

All good reminders. There are programs here that have active threads that are more "triple threat" (University of Arizona, for example) while other programs with a comparable amount of ballet and pointe and faculty with strong resumes have next to no activity at all. It's hard to track the program's graduates when no one says anything, ever, on those threads. That could mean no dancer ever does anything professionally with ballet unless they go to one of the "big name" schools, or it could just mean that BT4D just doesn't have enough active posters outside of those "big name" schools. No real way of knowing. Moral of the story - this site is only as good as the people who share on it!

I tried College Confidential and think it might be helpful for a general dance major, but it seemed to be lacking in content for ballet-focused programs/dancers. BT4D is still the best resource for that. :)

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ballet1310
22 minutes ago, dancingjet said:

That could mean no dancer ever does anything professionally with ballet

Hi !  I like when the school list the actual names of the dancers and where they went ( same with pre-pro schools)  That is really the best way to see  - It's harder when schools just list companies because you don't know if the alumni graduated last year or 20 years ago !

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balletgirl22sk

My middle daughter graduated from Mercyhurst a few years ago. She grew to like modern while she was there even though she had always been a bunhead. She has danced with small ballet companies and has been teaching at many ballet schools where she lives now.

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lakemom

Our dd has found it encouraging that it is becoming more common to see company dancers with a college/BFA degree.  She no longer feels that if you don’t join a company at age 18, you’ll never be a professional dancer.  

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Momof3darlings
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Moral of the story - this site is only as good as the people who share on it!

Thank you for this!  And with this, be sure to read the requirements at the top of each forum and be sure that you are able to share, but then share!!!!!  Give as much as you take!

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BT4D is still the best resource for that. :)

Thank you dancingjet.  We do try.  But as the internet has grown so has the protection factor.  So please do know that "paying it forward" does in fact help.  

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Our dd has found it encouraging that it is becoming more common to see company dancers with a college/BFA degree.  She no longer feels that if you don’t join a company at age 18, you’ll never be a professional dancer.  

In reality, it is not more common.  Situations are within the eyes of the beholder.  What you desire, you will find.  There have always been college grads who have done well as there have been those from high school who have done well.  The result depends on what each dancer brings to the table at the point they enter the game!

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