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Ballet Talk for Dancers

When to Start the College Decision Process?

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pal ... if I might offer some advice ... let this go for a while. Making a college list is really your DD's job, and it is a job she won't be ready to start until she's a little older and the process is more imminent. Of all the times for a parent to stand back and let the child lead, this is one of the biggest ... and the most rewarding.


Here's what worked really well for us: in spring of junior year, we visited some colleges. We didn't really have a "list" at that point, just some general ideas. The purpose of that trip was to get an idea of what kind of college might be a good fit: large, small, urban, rural, etc. (Of the five colleges we looked at that trip, only two ended up on "the list".) Another purpose of the trip was to develop some idea of how to visit and evaluate a college. (In this respect, it's useful to make the first colleges you visit your LEAST likely prospects.) By late summer, DD had developed a concrete list of about eight or ten places. We visted as many as we could, a process that knocked some out of contention and solidified the place of others. In spring of senior year, we made a final round of visits to the top three contenders to make a final decision. By the end of the process, DD felt she really knew the colleges, and felt settled about her decision.


If all this visiting sounds difficult and expensive ... well, I guess it is, but DD's choices were clustered in one geographical area and we were able to do most of the visiting in two road trips (and stay with friends and relatives along the way). These trips were incredibly wonderful mom-and-daughter time that I am so grateful to have had. The discussions we had helped me to appreciate the wonderful, insightful, thoughtful young woman she had become.

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Junior year is a great time to make that list-it can be narrowed down later. I did help make that list, ruling out schools which may have been on daughter's list (where academics weren't right for her). She was the one who made her decision in the end. Since we knew she wanted to be far from home we tried to plan ahead. Luckily the list shortened before we traveled TOO much! The Arco list of recommended schools was a good starting place. We were also lucky to hear about programs from dancers who went to different schools. It can be a bit confusing but it's also a fun journey. So enjoy it!

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treefrog - I have just been through the college search process w/ my older daughter, a graduating senior who will be going to Towson this fall. I found w/ my older daughter that we wished we had begun the visiting of colleges a little earlier and not have to cram it all together -- My older daughter knew she wanted to stay within a 3-4 hour drive from home - this daughter already knows of two schools she is very interested in that are out of state and looking into a few other that are also out of state which complicates the "visiting" issue. Also since she would like to be a dance major there are auditions involved. Most of her summer she will be away attending an SI which leaves a short time before school starts up again. That is why right now we are putting together a "list" of schools from which to narrow down the field of schools to visit and gather information on. I'm not making a list for my daughter right now as to where she will be applying - that will be her decision. That won't happen until after she has actually visited schools and gotten a sense of size, place, setting, student body that she feels comfortable in, and then truly figure out which dance program is the best fit for her. I don't think it's too early to research schools and she is involved in the entire process.

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I think, particularly where the child has a special interest/need, that the sooner you start looking at colleges, the better. And while this should be a child-directed process, these dance kids are chronically short on time, and having a parent or guidance counselor willing and able to download information, fill out request forms, and suggest colleges to include/exclude from "the list" is a good idea. Having helped several nieces, nephews and god-children through the application process in the last few years, I STRONGLY recommend having "the list" in almost final form before the half-way point Junior year. Another advantage to doing it early - often alumni visits to your state/school take place only once a year. If you are on the college's list by spring of junior year, you'll have opportunity to visit with alumni. If you don't get on their list till senior year, you may NEVER get to speak with someone who actually attended the school and now has a career.

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Our high school's college guidance director does recommend beginning to seriously think about schools to visit around the summer before junior year, then to spend the junior refining that list, making serious visits to the student's preferred schools that spring and the summer before senior year--and even beginning to prepare a working essay draft. That way, the student will be in a better position to apply for early admissions, if desired, or at least to avoid the last minute rush to get applications on file while suffering from senioritis. Early applications also cut down on the nail-biting during the spring of senior year.


In addition, early planning begun immediately prior to or at the beginning ofl junior year also helps with the logistics of having to achieve academic acceptance at those colleges requiring it before dance auditions can be scheduled.

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Just because of time constraints (vacations, SI's, etc.), found that peeking at schools during dd's freshman year was helpful. This occured because her older sister was going through the college acceptance process at the time. Sophomore year she did a few online searches, got a few names, visited one school because we were in the area. This past year, junior year, she's been to 2 college fairs, visited 1 school already (and she loved it) and a visit to another school has been booked for September. She has a short list of about 6 schools now AND has spoken with several college reps directly (HUGE HELP). Congrats to all of your dk's!

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From a parent who's DD pursued Plan A (company placement) and Plan B (dance major at top ballet based programs) during the senior year: I would encourage you to do as much as you can as early as you can. And use as many "family vacations" as possible during the high school years to visit colleges. Our school system has a "10 day absense rule" (we are also on a block schedule where each class counts 2 days), we easily missed that many days 2nd semester alone doing college auditions, company auditions and attending performances of her home company. We were blessed to have teachers who were supportive of her and did not give the county required "zeros" for that missed work, they certainly could have.


If I could do it again, I would also sit on her lap prior to allowing her to go to an SI the Summer prior to her Senior year and require that at least one or two essays were written and one or two applications were submitted. The month of August for Seniors is just about as busy as May. Having a good essay written, especially one of the "who are you" ones can go along way in helping out. December deadlines are here before you know it. Especially if you go from SI straight to the classroom like we've done in the past.


And then as a family, make no plans for the year. Most of the larger colleges will have posted the audition schedule during the summer. But many of the smaller colleges don't do it until after school starts. One of the colleges she auditioned for had a posted scholarship audition date but re-scheduled it one month earlier than posted. We were already admitted so we got a call. Others still "deciding" missed the date and had to audition by video. If the dancer is also doing company auditions as well, many dates will not be posted until December with the audition in January. It will be crazy at best!


And think like a dancer. Remember, many of these kids are pretty finicky about the level of instruction and dancers they see at the colleges they want to attend. That list you helped them make may be cut in half if not more once they actually get to the college and observe or take a class. Seeing the vast differences in college dance programs can make those who've always said they wanted a small college think differently mid-year and vice versa. It's not cut and dry until it's done.

vj *edited to add from what direction my perspective on this journey is coming.

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I agree with all those who recommend starting EARLY. Because of the severe time constraints these kids have in summers (attending SIs) and the normal crazy school year schedule they've always endured through junior year, senior year goes by in a flash. The best advice is that any schools seriously being considered should have the visit well before an audition if possible. As momof3darlings so aptly pointed out, these kids are "pretty finicky" about what they will expect in terms of instruction quality. You find yourself running out of time to plan for auditions in the midst of multiple college applications, their "home company" commitments, AP classes, etc. We started the summer before junior year, felt like we were ahead of the game, and STILL felt overwhelmed with the amount of planning, expense, and time involved to get everything done.


It's a whirlwind. Looking back on it, I wonder how we got through it. But somehow, you manage!


I remember thinking what a luxury it was to have a son looking at colleges a year later without worrying about the audition issue. It is a whole different and much less stressful experience. Because our dancers have such hectic schedules, the best gift you can give them is to help organize early college visits. It WILL pay off.

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I can understand how a dancer's packed schedule, the need to do auditions, and everything else makes it doubly difficult to go through this search process. But ... if it were me looking for a new job, I cannot imagine starting to search two years in advance of when I wanted to make the switch. It's just too much lead time. Who knows what I'll want in two years? It's great to start nosing around, but I think if I stretched out the process too long I'd lose drive, not gain it.


It's also interesting that college counselors have such different takes. Our counselors tell parents to "cool their jets" (their exact words) before junior year. Everything I've been saying here comes directly from them: the kids just aren't ready to consider a new phase in their lives yet. They are busy LIVING their high school lives. Yes, it's a good idea to get those visits done and essays written before the fall passes too far in the senior year. It's fine to stop in and see a likely campus if you happen to be near there anyway in the sophomore or early junior year. But they emphasized over and over: your kids are just NOT READY to imagine, let alone think coherently, about the next stage in life.


Maybe it's different for dancers, who seem to spend the whole of their young lives looking ahead to the next stage? :D

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My dd's H.S. counselors also told the parents of freshman & sophmore students to not think about college until their junior year so that it allows the students to explore their interests and enjoy their high school experiences.


But like Treefrog says, maybe it's different for ballet dks where the earlier, the better? Though I guess it would make a difference if a dk wanted to pursue ballet for their college degree, rather than taking classes on the side.

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Our counselors tell parents to "cool their jets" (their exact words) before junior year


In my post above, I was speaking of the summer prior to junior year but I can say without question that the counselors who may say this to you are not counselors who have helped walk a student through the college audition/admissions process for top dance, theatre, music or art school where auditions are required. Or those are counselors who have been lucky enough to have parents (like me) walk their own children through the process (and educating them in the process) so they are not aware of the additional needs to the process.


While I don't think you need to look in your freshman and sophomore year and agree that students do change their minds, I do believe that visiting in your junior year is the way to go and eliminating down to where you will actually will make for a less stressful year. Now with that said, due to budget constraints we did her Senior visits and auditions all at the same time, I would have rather lived a slower life for two years than this one year whirlwind we've been in anytime. And I don't get my feathers ruffled much, but this year has done it. I'm off to get my bottle of wine now! :D

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Continuing the discussion from the other thread to one with a more correct title.


vj :D

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I agree with Momof3Darlings. Start early. The summer before Junior year is not too early to begin your investigations. Senior year is intense. We survived, but I would definitely advise others to start earlier than we did. By 10th grade, we came up with a list of about 6 or 7 colleges. In junior year we investigated further but we didn't make any visits. The essays should have been written the summer before senior year, but dd was too busy dancing and she contracted a viral illness at the end of summer, so the essays were not not completed until October of senior year. Her schedule was already hectic by then. I think my own dds schedule was much more stressful than it had to be. If we were to do it again, we would definitely have started earlier. If you have the opportunity to visit some colleges in 10th or 11th grade, then definitely go for it. It will help you narrow down your list of potential colleges and alleviate some of the stress later on.

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I have to agree with those that said to get those applications sent before school starts senior year. Right after getting home from the SI worked well for us. Part of the application process is getting teacher recommendation letters so it is nice to have those forms ready to go as soon as school starts. The teachers like to have plenty of time to write and send them in and the college will not consider your application complete until the letters are received. Some schools also want a resume! Scholarship deadlines can be missed if you don't plan far enough out. Waiting until senior year starts with homework and dancing is asking for a dk meltdown!


We also saved time and money by combining the audition with the campus visit. With great college web sites and research information already explored your dks should have a good idea if they are really interested in the school. The audition and visit will let them see themselves attending that particular school.

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My daughter also sent in a couple of applications August before her senior year, and had an audition in October. Everyone was laughing when she got accepted so early but it was nice to have one in the bag. She also did her essays in the summer. Although many schools have their auditions later in the year, it's great to do those early ones. especially when you need acceptance into the school as well as the dance program. This summer we just need to figure out where to rob the bank! :wacko:

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