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Ballet Talk for Dancers

College: the search, applying,

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As our son matures he is becoming more certain that he wants to pursue a career in dance. He is not very interested in applying for colleges although we have talked about having a backup plan. He will be a senior next year, and like most ballet kids, doing very well academically, so although he has choices - he just does not seem very interested in exploring them. I know it will take a lot of pushing to get him to look at a few colleges and write some applications but I doubt his heart will be in it.


I believe that we can find a good compromise (limit the number of applications and visits, apply to a local school etc) so that he has a fall back plan - we all understand that things can change - but I am interested in your thoughts on this other twist to the college decision.



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I think a backup plan is always a good plan. :) While it's easier for men to find jobs in the dance world, there's still always the possible of injury.


Daughter's plan all along for college was to apply but defer. While she was diligent about the actual applications, once commenced, she was not caught up in the college application process in the same way as her high school friends.

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Vagansmom, I'm glad you commented about the importance of "optional" interviews. I guess it just goes to show that there really isn't any such thing as a "safety school". I've heard that at a lot of the small private liberal arts colleges (those that are second choice for kids applying to the Ivies), you aren't even considered if you don't go for that interview to show them you are at least somewhat serious about attending.

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Guest Solballets Mom

Here are some additional comments to the excellent ones already made here-


As part of the college application process our dancer also had to supply letters of recommendation from three sources - academic, modern and ballet. Our dancer was required to write an essay, supply a resume and an official transcript. Most schools have excellent resources on the net. Many have online applications, dates for auditions and detailed information regarding the process.


Additional I'd like to acknowledge that the motivation for pursuing this process must be predominately in the hands of the prospective student. Through their efforts they learn much and ultimately they must direct and find their own course.


Don't be surprised with conditions that may be exhibited along the way, like a mild or major case of senioritis. They like us all have bouts of self doubt, exhaustion and confusion. Patience and small doses of parental support go a long way. Our dancer found support and advice from sources well beyond the scope of her pre-professional dance school environment (which turned out to be the least helpful for a variety of reasons and circumstances I can't publicly discuss) which were extremely supportive, beneficial and at times surprising.

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Good point, Sol. Mine also went through a bout of this, albeit much less so than her older brother when he was that age.


In her case, college was a "back shelf item" throughout the fall when she was too busy preparing for Nutcracker. She found it impossible to visit campuses during that time and still keep up with her prodigious coursework and dance schedule. If it hadn't been for our trip in the last weeks of August, I doubt she'd have made even one college visit. Somehow or other, she managed to come up with drafts for two college essays in that time.


In December, during Christmas vacation, she wrote all her applications. I remember realizing that her approach was far more organized than that of her brother 5 years before. And college meant everything to him! I think, though, that because she's had to be an efficiency expert nearly her entire life, she simply applied that skill to the college application process and methodically and independently worked through it over a period of two weeks.


A couple comments on practical issues:


Yes, Amethyst, it's really true that nowadays there's no "optional" interview at those "non-Ivy" colleges. Daughter knew that, but didn't care enough about the schools to bother. While I had a strong feeling as to the outcome (I was right) and was concerned about it, it seemed important to let her experience the results herself. In the end, she appeared a little chagrined for a day - they were "easy" schools in her mind, but then she shrugged it off and said she didn't really want to attend them anyhow. So, DO visit and interview if the school is a serious choice.


Also, college guidance dept. at daughter's school doesn't let any of their students apply online anymore. They said that every year a couple of the applications have been lost in transit and the student didn't know till it was too late. They feel it's too important to trust the online system with your application. But by all means, do the writing online and store the application online (keep a backup) while it's being worked on. But send a hard copy.


Daughter's counselor, a former college admissions counselor, also recommended that if you send a video, it should be sent to the admissions dept. with a return receipt requested. Dancer's name should be prominently displayed on the video and its case. The outside of the envelope itself should state that there's a video enclosed, as should the cover letter to the admissions dept.


Too often, daughter was told, the video is separated from the application upon opening the envelope, and it doesn't always reach the intended dept. But since the admissions dept. oversees all documents and has a checklist for them, the video does need to go through their hands first. Then, after getting the receipt, the applicant should call the dance dept. to see if they've received it themselves.

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ajg, my daughter, who graduated last week, absolutely refused to consider college. Although she had many friends, she hated almost everything about high school - she wasn't into going to football games, pep rallies, etc. She enjoys learning about many different subjects, but most of those were not offered at her school. Earning high grades did not interest her - she settled for decent. She wants to dance professionally, and, for her, high school was basically that place where we made her go before she went to the studio. She graduated with an OK GPA, but nothing that would make most colleges look at her even once. She has basically put all of her eggs in one basket. Coming from a family where almost every one of us (myself, husband, parents, siblings, children) either has a college degree or is in the process of earning one, I had a pretty hard time with her choice at first. I finally decided that I can't actually MAKE her go to college, and I'll just hope that since she at least has a high school diploma, she'll have the option later of going to a community college and getting good enough grades to be accepted to a four year school, if that's what she wants to do. I suppose that one can always go to college, but one can't always dance.


She will be an apprentice with a small company next year, so we will see how things go after that.

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Besides being consumed with finding a college program for my DD.


Just a "gentle" comment that it really needs to be your daughter who is consumed with finding a college program. I think it really needs to be the daughter or son who is "all consumed." And the partent needs to assist but not be the major force is seeking our the information. I think that this makes for more motivated children and for less disappointed parents. And with the cost of education, you really want your child to go where they are likely to want to go, and want to learn, and want to make the best use of your hard earned dollars. There will be less likelyhood of a child either not doing well, not living up to their potential, and less likelyhood of dropping out (God forbid) or wanting to transfer, etc etc.

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Guest SMSCouture

Nlkflint...Perhaps you have not been through the college process recently. It is a long, complicated, competitive and somewhat political road. Especially for young adults that posses a strong passion for the arts, are by nature extremely focused,self motivated,and have so many demands placed on their time but never seem to mind!

For this child, it is EXACTLY our family's support, contribution of information, involvement, commitment and dedication to each other in all aspects of our lives that allows each one of us to make the best informed decisions for ourselves.

Right or wrong it is better to make a decision and learn from it then to vacillate. A correction in course is an acknowledgment of maturity and Thank God it is only money and we have the ability to make more! These blessed children have an opportunity to follow their dreams...how many of us can honestly say we were able to do that?

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I also think the issue of helping or not helping our kids in their college search depends on how much help their high school is giving them. I've seen the difference between the kind of help my kids got at a private boarding school (I always feel I have to explain so folks don't think we're filthy rich: they were lucky enough to get scholarships to attend as day students) and the "help" their public school counterparts got.


Daughter's school assigned college counselors and scheduled individual spring visits with each of the students when they were juniors. They scheduled the same with each set of parents. By the end of junior year, the counselor had, with the student, compiled a list of about 8 - 10 school choices based on their meetings and a questionnaire the student filled out.


By June 1, we parents had received a 20 page-long, comprehensive explanation of the college search process and our role in it. We were told that our children would, in fact, experience what Sol so aptly described as "senioritis" and that, although school choices and essay-writing, etc., should all be left up to our children, we as parents needed to constantly generate conversation and should also set up visits if our kids were procrastinating. Basically, we were told it's OK to step in and insist our kids schedule out their application process as long as we're not doing any of the writing. Our kids continued to meet weekly with their counselors through the fall of their senior year to review their progress.


Now, I'm certain, from talks with friends, that public schools simply don't have the resources to help guide the kids this much. So parents really do need to pick up the slack when necessary. If schools aren't helping the kids choose colleges to apply to, and kids themselves seem paralyzed by the process, then it's OK for parents to get the books, look through them, make suggestions, etc. Often that's all it takes to jump-start the teen in the process.


I also determine "necessary" as meaning when a kid is procrastinating so much that they might miss deadlines. According to the guidebook supplied by our kids' high school, the procrastination is due to fear and it's normal. My husband and I had to do a lot of the guiding with our son; we had to remind him to pick days to visit college campuses and to make the phone calls for interviews. He was a bit paralyzed at the thought of doing all this. His counselor continued to reiterate this was, in fact, so normal as to be common.


This wasn't his pattern as a student by any means. In academic life, he's always been super-motivated, organized and engaged. He's had a successful college career. He was scared, plain and simple, by the prospects of applying to, and perhaps being rejected by, colleges. The rejection issue is huge for many junior and senior kids. It's hard for them to face it. Guess our dancers have an advantage there, eh? By senior year, if they've applied to SI's or had to audition for dance roles, they're used to it.


So there are all different degrees of "normal" when it comes to parental involvement and searching out schools. While it should be kept to a minimum whenever possible, it will really depend on the maturity and fear level of our kids. An immature, scared high school senior in the fall often is often a super mature college freshman just one year later. I've learned that we can't base our concerns on their ability to handle college life by how they handle the college application process.

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vagansmom, thanks for the insight into the fear factor and the acknowledgement of lack of help in many of our public high schools. My daughter's class is well over 500 and while she has a wonderful counselor, all the organizational work just to GET to a decision point is something we must do ourselves.


My very bright, disciplined daughter is definitely displaying the fear...exhibited by behavior unusual for her---not digging in, not doing the research, and being unwilling to even narrow down her list of colleges. I am actively pulling together information, reading, doing online research, etc. only to get the process started. It seems to be helping as she finally went online recently and researched Indiana's ballet program. I do believe in the back of her mind she doesn't feel she is, or maybe ever will be, "good enough" to dance professionally. So, for her, it would seem that college is an important potential path to be fully explored.


It is major challenge just to squeeze in all this extra work on top of an extraordinarily busy dancer's schedule,--another reason I feel compelled to help her.


I absolutely agree that this is her decision, her future. I'm hoping that she'll soon completely own the actual path to that decision as well.

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I pretty much stood back on my daughter's quest for colleges. A little push or shove at deadline times for tests, etc. but basically the decission was up to her and of course our checkbook. She chose not to go away but to go to the local state university for a couple of years until she makes up her mind on what to do. A junior or community college would have made more sense but she felt the JC environment would be too much like high school. I spoke with a JC teacher that I know and she agreed with my daughter and since she vaguely knows my girl she also felt the state university a better choice. Daughter is away for the first time ever at an SI this summer on a college campus and this should give her a feel about going away without the commitment of college. I've always felt that if she leads the way in her choices with a little guidance from me things will work out for the better. I have seen too many students pushed out of the nest into colleges away too soon coming home feeling a failure. Some are ready, some are not and a good indicator is the student herself/himself taking control of applications, tests, etc.

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Guest SMSCouture

I think in the big picture this is all about the path of "getting there". I can assure you that as the time grows closer, your daughter will become more invloved and as those rolling admissions and early decisions start to be heard at school she will become even more involved until she is immersed in her own decision.

We watched my middle one start the application process last August at 1/2 speed. They need to start early and slowly as this allows their own thoughts and ideas to evolve. The essays are a labor of love and change dramatically each and every time they are written and rewritten.

We again watched my son turn around 180 degrees in his thoughts of attending an "ivy".

In the end I can honestly say he was most fearful of the rejection.

We are happy to report that we followed this process down to the letter doing everything and more then the school asked. My son was accepted early decision at the U of Penn. and

couldn't be happier...by the way so are we...and this was our idea...just to begin with!


My oldest one is a drummer and just graduated from Berklee College of Music with Honors. K8smom's daughter sounds just like my son did in high school. I did not think I was ging to live through his high school years. He has had an unbelievable four years of college. It is amazing what being in the right environment does for a child whether it be college or a company. All of you mothers are doing a GREAT job and the kids all do get there...in their own time.

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Guest samba38

Okay, dance moms and dads, raise your hand if you are doing professionally today exactly what you thought you would do or wanted to do when you were 17/18.

We have to keep in mind just how much these kiddos are going to grow and change and discover about themselves, stuff they never imagined. Stuff we never imagined.

Alas, I am doing exactly what I always intended, majored in in collge and still love but... I can also see that my lifetime of tunnel vision has not always been the best for me as a person/friend/wife/parent. And my husband who drifted along academically and professionally until he was 30 --- while devoting his days to being a semi-pro-athlete for no money-- has always been a happier, healthier person.

So if my kiddo can manage to find a way -- in dance or her other interests or some new interest she has yet to discover -- to pay her bills and can become someone who loves and is loved by others, I don't care where/if/what her degree is.

Once I realized this, the year of college search/application/audition/ was no less busy but a lot more sane. (Not that I'm in any hurry to relive it!!!!!)

But you parents and DDs who are starting out, please remember, have fun and don't cross off any campus where you feel at home and intellectually intrigued just because it doesn't fit your junior year checklist.

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Originally posted by samba38

Okay, dance moms and dads, raise your hand if you are doing professionally today exactlyw what you thought you wout do or wanted to do when you were 17/18.  


Good point samba38!


I did a quick accounting of my family and that of my husband and I am the only one of the adults who can say that;) . Most are happy, but took circuitous routes to get there (and that includes others in the arts).

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