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University of North Carolina School of the Arts/UNCSA

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Could a current parent or student describe the high school academics at NCSA a bit? Does NCSA provide adequate academic preparation for students interested in the option of continuing on to college? Any insight would be appreciated by a parent whose child has been accepted for the 2006-2007 school year. Having recently heard some rather critical comments about the academics at NCSA from the parents of a current student, hearing from other parents and/or students would be helpful. Thank you.

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There have been several posts about the academics at the school on this thread. Be sure you read through this entire thread, as there is much information here from parents who have had students at the school and can provide valuable insights. Just a few that you might want to take a look at regarding academics are:


3/17/04 - Syr

3/18/04 - Karen

3/26/05 - Balletbooster


To add on to this information, I will reiterate that the school has the 2nd highest SAT scores in the state, behind the NC School of Math and Sciences and for a school of its size, has an impressive number of national merit semi-finalist, finalist and scholars: http://www.ncarts.edu/ncsaprod/academicpro...micprofiles.asp While many of the ballet students do not go on to college, but instead go to company contracts, the remainder (85%) of the student body do go on to college programs and are accepted into excellent schools all over the country. For the majority of the student body, admittance to good colleges and conservatories is their chief concern as HS seniors and the success rate is high. Check their website for a list of where their grads go to college: http://www.ncarts.edu/ncsaprod/academicpro...fferentpath.asp


My daughter was in the top HS in our state for standardized tests and considered to be top notch in both the courses offered and their teaching staff prior to coming to NCSA. She has been at NCSA for 2 years. The academics at NCSA are just as demanding and some even more so than what she experienced at her home school, while the classes are much smaller - some as few as 8 students.


It is however not ideal, if academics are your primary goal. There are only time slots for 4 academic classes each year. So, there is not the time to take many extra courses that are available in a regular HS. Course offerings are limited. AP and Honors courses are available for all core curriculum classes, but the choices are not near as broad or diverse as what is available at a large, academically challenging public HS or at most private prep schools. There is usually only one teacher for each course, each year. So, if that teacher doesn't work well with your student or is not particularly good, there is usually not another class to transfer to resolve the issue. Depending on what courses have been completed prior to coming to NCSA, there may not be time to take a 3rd year of a foreign language or some other speciality your child is wanting to pursue. The Academic Dean will make some accomodations and if the course is not available through the school or there is not a time slot to take it, he does allow coursework through Indiana University HS online on a case-by-case basis.


Teachers in the HS are also teaching in the college and I don't think that my daughter has had any teachers without advanced degrees. She has had a couple with PhDs and most with Masters degrees. Several teach part-time at Wake Forest as well. She has not liked all of her teachers, nor have I felt that all of them were particularly good teachers. She has had some that were very good teachers and a couple who have taken a real interest in her. She has had a few who really challenged her and made learning exciting. Most have been accomodating and understanding when it came to conflicts with dance. The amount of homework has been heavier for some courses than others. Some courses have numerous projects, papers and group work that can be extremely challenging, both intellectually and where time management is concerned. I think that the quality of the academics, as a whole, is on par with her home school. However, I think that the responsibility for making the teacher/student relationship work rests most squarely on the student's shoulders and there is a real mindset here that students need to be self-sufficient and pro-active regarding their academic work.


She is currently taking a 4 week Saturday SAT prep course through the school that is free to their students. Based upon the test score history, it seems that the students are well prepared for a demanding college curriculum. Their lifestyle on campus is much more like a college than a HS, with students having to manage their time around their arts, to complete projects, term papers, etc. There is a Writer's Lab open 6 days a week to assist with editing papers, but it is up to the students to take the initiative to utilize it. There is also a computer lab in the Student Union and a library in the building right next to the Academic building. This is a fully functioning college, as well as a high school, so the amenities one would expect in a small college setting are available on the NCSA campus (which is indeed a campus, with lots of ongoing building projects, not just a building or two as is the case for most ballet residency programs).


If you have a student who has any special academic needs, I would say that NCSA is not the best choice. They have one academic counselor for all the students and she is very much overbooked. There are no special needs classes or classes that target those with learning disabilities. Individual teachers are willing to work with students, but again the initiative must be taken by the student or orchestrated with the parent's assistance. Those with learning challenges often really struggle. The academic program is best suited to students who are motivated, bright and free of learning issues. For these students, the school seems to offer the right balance of academics and arts, with classes that are demanding enough to prepare them well for the SAT and college work. There are academic standards that must be met and we know one student who was dismissed mid-year after being on probation for the 2nd trimester and failing to meet that standard. There are very strict attendance requirements and tardies and absences are NOT tolerated.


But, it is important to realize that this is first and foremost an arts school. It is one of the only arts high schools in the country that provides all of the academics on campus, in a traditional classroom setting (there is a separate academic building, which is a former HS, offering traditional labs, classrooms, lockers, etc.). If you are looking for a school that will allow your student to pursue ballet seriously AND graduate a year early or graduate with many college credits under their belt, NCSA is not likely to be a very good match. Also, if your student leaves NCSA before graduation, depending upon the state and HS requirements where you go, some of the ballet electives may not be accepted, so they may have to make up 1 or 2 elective credits. If they stay at NCSA, the school is overseen by the NC Board of Regents and is part of the UNC Consortium of Schools (which includes all public state universities and colleges, as well as the HS of Math and Sciences) and the dance electives are recognized and meet the requirements for an NC diploma. Students can pursue the NC Scholar diploma (honors diploma with higher academic requirements than the standard NC HS diploma) as well, while attending NCSA.


Dance courses do receive a letter grade and are considered electives and part of your dancer's official HS transcript. Grading in dance is subjective and the way each teacher grades varies widely. There are no easy A's. Students must work hard to earn an A in dance classes and often you will see a lower grade the first trimester, with gradual improvement until the final term. The three terms are averaged for all grades into a final grade for the course. Students must make a C or above to remain in good standing in the dance department for all dance courses. A grade of B or B+ is very common for dance classes at NCSA and for students who are used to all As in academics, those Bs can be a bit disconcerting. For the most part, dance grades seem to be tough, but fair. When an A is received, students rightfully feel a real sense of accomplishment!

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Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough relpy and for guiding me to helpful threads and sites. As you state, NCSA is not a school to be attended simply for academics. On the other hand, it sounds as though the quality of academic education is exceptional for a conservatory. The dance program, discussed in detail elsewhere, is clearly excellent. In my book, this is a winning combination.

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When visiting the school- what class would you recommend we watch to get a good overall view of the instruction- any certain teacher or class?

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When visiting the school- what class would you recommend we watch to get a good overall view of the instruction- any certain teacher or class?



I don't know if there is one class that could represent the entire school of dance. I would suggest walking around the dance studios and observing as many classes as you can. I think you would be a better feel for the school by watching more than one class. What day are you coming to tour the school? You might want to contact the High School Academic Office about observing an academic class. Is there any other schools that you are looking at?

Edited by sbadesch
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Oh Hi! You're logged on! Thanks for the quick reply! We will be there on May 11, and 12th. I just saw that is the dates of "Spring Dance" When are the performances and would we be able to see those?


We are also looking at MCB and their new academic/resident program that is supposed to start this year.

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There will be performances both of those nights at the Stevens Center at 8 pm. You can buy tickets at the door. It will be a different cast both nights, but the same pieces will be performed both nights.


Be sure you attend classes for your dancer's age group next year, to get a good idea of the ability levels of students she will be dancing with. 10th graders are placed in levels B8-B5 (B5 being highest). The upper school levels are B4-B1 (B1 being highest) and are for students in 11th - college. As has been suggested, try to see more than one class. You can excuse yourself after barre and go to another class and see two during one period, if you like. All technique classes for all four levels are going on at the same time. All pointe classes are held the hour following technique. So, you could see two complete classes for different levels too. There will likely be some rehearsals going on in the afternoon for those who are not in Spring Dance, who are rehearsing for Spring Workshop. You can check the board for rehearsal schedules and then go to the studio beforehand and ask the teacher if you may observe the rehearsal. Sometimes they allow visitors to watch, sometimes they say no. Never hurts to ask! :wub:

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Thank you balletbooster! Just for info- what's the difference between Spring Dance and Spring Workshop?

We are excited that we lucked out and picked a time when we can see some performances! :wub:

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Can anyone reccommend a decent hotel near NCSA, we will be up there to see the spring dance. Also, if you wanted to attend the open audition on May 12 what is the procedure, I have heard two different things one being that you just show up and then if you pass the ballet part you are then instructed to proceed with the application process. The second thing is that you must submit the application before the audition. Can someone clear this up for me?!

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Spring Dance is the major performance opportunity in the spring, held downtown at the Stevens Center for a paying audience, with four performances over four days. Some years a full length ballet is done (last year Don Q), other years, a one act ballet is performed and then 2-3 other variations may be set by different faculty members. This year, Melissa Hayden is setting Balanchine's La Sonnambula. Those who are not in Spring Dance are in Spring Workshop, which is held a couple of weeks later on campus, in a smaller theater, for a non-paying audience. There are usually 2 shows in the same afternoon. The same format is followed in Fall, for those not in Nutcracker and in Winter, for those not in Winter Dance. Sometimes, they only do one performance of workshop.


There are no hotels within walking distance of the school. The closest is the Best Western on Cherry. It is plain, but clean and reasonable. Across the street from the Stevens Center is the Embassy Suites, which is nice. This is a good choice if you are going to Spring Dance, as it is literally across the street! :blink: There are a number of other downtown hotels which are nice and about 5 minutes from the school. There are a number of chains, such as Hampton Inn, Days Inn, etc. out by the mall which is about 10-15 minutes from the school. You will need a car, regardless of where you stay.


I don't think you need to register for the audition. YOu can just show up. YOu do not need to submit an application to the school first. Look back through this thread and there is some discussion about this. Once you are accepted to the School of Dance, then you can send in the academic application. It will then be reviewed by the Admissions Board and you get your final acceptance after that. Once you know that you are accepted to the ballet program, don't waste much time, as the school does fill up and the earlier you get in your admissions packet, the better your chances of hearing in a timely manner and not being waitlisted.

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I would recommend the Wingate Inn. It is closer than the downtown area to NCSA. They have free parking. The Embassy Suites is in close proximity to the Stevens Center which can be a plus if you are going to see the performance. I have stayed at both. Wingate offers a discount for those visiting NCSA but you have to ask for the special rate. Embassy Suites doesn't offer a special rate. I also do not like the parking arrangement the hotel has with the adjacent parking structure. I have stayed at the Wingate at a rate of $70 per night which is quite reasonable. It is nothing fancy but very convenient and clean.


I hope you enjoy the spring performance. It will be my daughter's last performances with the school and unfortunately I will not be able to see them!

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I forgot to add that when we visited the school 2 years ago, the campus tour did include the dorms. I think we saw just about everything! It was a great tour and a wonderful way to see the entire campus. My daughter also took a couple ballet clases.

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Is anyone going to the audition tomorrow? My friend is going and she was wondering if there usually a large turnout.

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This is the last of several auditions held this spring at the school. But, it is usually quite full. Spring dance is this weekend and that makes this a popular audition date. :P

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Can anyone tell me about the Spring performances? How did they go? I know a young lady in her senior year and was wondering how she and other members of the graduating class were doing and about there future plans.


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