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High School Grades and Going to College for dance


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I looked and looked - I have found a lot of helpful info, but not the one thing I am looking for...


How important are your HS grades when applying to college for dance? Actually, more to the point, dd and I are looking at planning her course load for HS and we are wondering how much, if at all, honors/AP courses would benefit her. Her main focus is ballet and her secondary focus at this time looks like visual art/photography. So we are wondering, between a dance audition and a portfolio, will As in regular classes suffice or should she be trying to take those honors courses next year?? Her other interest is science/biology but we are finding the road to the honors math/science courses blocked because she has not yet had algebra. She is only in 9th grade in the fall but we feel like we are already behind since she didn't have algebra in 8th grade (although she certainly could have handled it - we just didn't know). I just don't want to find that we have fallen further behind if she does decide to go to college in 4 years.


I have only peaked at a few programs, but SUNY purchase has both a ballet program and a photography program. I am looking at the "top" schools - might as well start there, right? Then we'll be prepared for any!

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I'm a firm believer in ... kids should take classes that interest them and that challenge them without killing them. The point here is to get a good HS education. I really hate it that the system makes us feel as though we/our kids always have to do things a certain way. I'm probably standing in a very small crowd, but I really do believe that kids should live in the moment and be true to themselves. If they do that, the future will take care of itself.


I will add that DD -- who did not apply for dance -- got admitted to a selective liberal arts college with a mixture of A's and B's and at least one C, maybe more. She had just one AP class. She was not on the advanced math track at her school, although even the non-advanced track assumes Algebra in 8th grade and starts with Geometry in 9th grade. In other words, she was a regular kind of kid academically (although, 'regular' at her college-prep private school might already be a notch above 'regular' at many -- but not all, by any means -- public schools). What she did have is recommendations from teachers attesting to her hard work and perseverance -- in classes she did not get great grades in. And she could demonstrate an ongoing interest in and commitment to several extracurricular activities, including dance, a sport, and a club relating to social justice. Where I'm leading is that many colleges want kids that bring something undefinable to the campus. I think it's harder for kids to develop their own special qualities if they are always chasing after someone else's idea of what is 'right' to do.

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The significance to high school grades and getting into a top dance program is simply this. College dance program acceptances are first based on a audition and merit as a dancer. You do however have to qualify for entrance into the university and meet whatever requirements needed for this to finalize your acceptance to the dance degree. From my daughters experience she found AP credit to be very helpful in that it gave her college credit before she even started. She is now a sophmore dance major and with the AP credits that she recieved along with taking a couple courses at the community college, she now is only 2 courses away from having all of her core classes completed. In other words, she is head of the game and this will allow her to obtain a double major more easily.


When it came to qualifying for academic scholarships, she found it was important to have a high GPA, good class ranking and high SAT or ACT scores to even be considered. She did not take any duel credit courses because she was concerned about keeping her top 20 class ranking, but duel credit courses are really great because you only have to pass the course to get credit where with AP courses, just passing the course doesn't get you college credit. It will raise your GPA since AP courses are weighted higher than regular courses. You must pass the AP test with a 3 or higher depending on what the university accepts. AP tests can be a gamble because we have known several kids to make A's in a AP class but end up not making a high enough score to get college credit. Many colleges require you to make a 4 or better in order to get college credit and other colleges require you to make at least a 3.


If academic scholarships are of no interest to you and your daughter is not concerned about entering college with any college credits, then possibly only taking regular classes will be acceptable. If she is planning to major in Science/Biology, then she would benefit alot from taking higher level courses in the Science department. It would most definately be to her best interest to take Biology, Chemistry and Physics whether its regulars, honors or AP courses because she would be looking at taking these type classes in college to obtain that type of degree.


You are very smart to start early into looking for what is needed for the type of degrees that she is wanting to pursue. We personally found it very helpful to talk with the school counselor for advice since her counselor was one that was very knowledgeable. I would assume that Suny Purchase would be very similiar to the university that my daughter attends. Look on their website in each of the departments that she is wanting to pursue to see what courses are needed for that degree. This can help you to plan her high school course load. I don't claim to be any kind of expert on this subject so the information that I have offered to you is based on our experience. Good luck with your journey and hope this info helps you in some way!!!

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At the other end of high school (my daughter will be a senior in h.s. this fall). We've been doing lots and lots of college visits and looking at their websites, etc. (a great place to learn about requirements/options, etc). My kiddo is looking to major in musical theatre and minor in dance (and would love to do a second minor in photography...these artsy kids...). But anyway...what we're finding is that academics DO matter if a student is going to be looking into college, even a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) program. Every school is different, but we're finding that several require the students to be academically accepted to the college before they are even granted permission to audition. Each college/conservatory has different entering GPA/standardized test scores (sadly, she's not gonna get out of the SAT and ACT tests, if she's looking for college admission, no matter what her major), but all require the "standard" high school courses -- does she need honors and AP? Not necessarily, but she will need a certain number of units of math, lab science, English, foreign language, etc. Will honors/AP help her in college? She might be able to escape a freshman course or two to take more in her major/minor...but if the APs are a killer with her schedule...you've got to look at your kid as an individual (and I am so glad you are now). AP courses can also help in academic scholarships, as many colleges now "weight" GPAs -- with an AP course counting more than a standard...but artistic/talent scholarships, although few and far between, don't put as much weight on grades/courses.


Another thing to keep in mind is that kids can (and do!) change their minds over the years to come. In 9th grade, mine was a "ballerina or bust!" kid...now she wants theatre and is looking into applying for the academic honors departments at college. We had the option for kiddo to attend a performing arts school in our city, or the local h.s., which has a pretty nonexistant arts curriculum, but really excellent academics. Many people have looked at us over the years like we were crazy not to choose the arts school, but we wanted dd to have whatever she needed for whatever path she chooses.


I think it's great that you're starting to think about the many paths she might take now. Do look at colleges' web pages, especially admission requirements --they will give you GPA/test scores required, number of units in a given area, etc. Keep in mind that some weigh academics more heavily than others...and also be prepared for your kiddo to do a lot of thinking over the next 4 years about who she is, and how best to become who she wants to be. I have always figured my job as a parent is to help her keep open all doors possible -- find the very best training, a good education. Read, research, dream together...but make sure that she does keep all doors open -- and hang on -- the 9th grader that enters high school is often VERY different from the senior who emerges at the other end (from catepillar to butterfly -- it's a great adventure!)


Think of dd this year as she applies, hopes, auditions, writes essays, dreams, and waits. And have your kiddo talk to her h.s. guidance counsellor -- they may be able to help guide her toward all her passions, and also know the requirements for colleges/how well your h.s. fits in the admissions game, etc. One thing I'll say about college (and I attended a highly competitive conservatory program as a music major) -- it's gotten more challenging to get in since I was at that end of things -- more applicants, more highly qualified applicants... Feel good that you are thinking and researching now!! Don't get overwhelmed (easy to do), and do keep your mind open as your dd continues to become a young woman with many wonderful dreams and aspirations!

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Very well said "MSD". Wish you and your daughter the best of luck with senior year and the whole college application process.


One thing to ad is that most fine arts scholarships whether its in dance, music, theatre or art, the decision is base on merit. Some of the universities that my daughter auditioned for didn't require you to be accepted first before auditioning but we did come across some that required the university to accept you first before being allowed to audition. Here is a helpful tip: when your student is finished with their junior year, have them start during the summer to write the college essays required for acceptance and get applications and all required materials in early so that you can get your first pick on audition dates or appointements. This will also allow your student to find out early as to whether they have been accepted. This is especially helpful if you have two or more schools that you are deciding on to help with making the right choice. You can then go back to the schools of interest to visit again or do more research online to help with the decision. My daughter found out in October that she was accepted into the ballet performance program and then a few weeks later she recieved her acceptance to the university. She did not make her decision until April after going back to take a ballet class to see if the program was the right fit for her. Don't let anyone kid you to think that the whole college process is a walk in the park because it can be very stressful for your child. Waiting to the last minute to apply is crazy and will add to the stress. As a parent you can help relieve any stress by stressing to them to start early with the process and to tell them to not get overwhelmed. My daughter found that some of the essay topics to be difficult at first but after the initial shock wore off and she had time to sit and think, then it wasn't as bad as she thought. Good luck to all seniors this upcoming year. Stay calm and listen to your gut feeling as to what choice is best for you.

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Some great responses and I am standing in Treefrog's "very small crowd".


A friend who is a college admissions director gave me some good advice when she explained the following: while it's tempting to map out the flowchart of HS course selection, it is important to take things a year at a time and provide wiggle room for unexpected successes (and failures). Many programs are looking for a transcript that shows a student who is improving and challenging him/herself in some (maybe not all) subjects. There is something to be said for "slow and steady wins the race", and that bright AND HAPPY students have a greater chance of success moving forward.

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She is only in 9th grade in the fall but we feel like we are already behind since she didn't have algebra in 8th grade (although she certainly could have handled it - we just didn't know). I just don't want to find that we have fallen further behind if she does decide to go to college in 4 years.


. . . .


I am looking at the "top" schools - might as well start there, right? Then we'll be prepared for any!


Although philosophically, I agree with Treefrog that a child should take what courses interest her/him and not build a high school program with the intent of satisfying someone else's idea of an appropriate educational track, in reality, your DD will have to meet the criteria of whatever college(s) she hopes to enter. Having just gone through this 'college dance' twice in the last four years (because it starts hot and heavy their junior year in high school), I would advise you that you are quite wise to try to think ahead now and get out ahead of the game. (And it is a game. :grinning: But one your DD will have to play whether she likes the rules or not.)


First, let's consider what you already have learned: You feels she is somewhat limited in how she starts her high school career because she didn't take algebra in 8th grade, not because she wasn't capable or up to the challenge, but just because . . . . So, now you want to know whether it is important to take honors or AP courses in high school.


Here's the guideline I'd use: If she is capable of taking those classes, then those are the classes she should take. If those classes would be an academic reach for her, then you and she would want to weigh the benefits of the challenge versus the time commitments, the study time, the frustration involved in pushing beyond her capabilities, and the likelihood of her achieving an A or a B. BUT, if she is capable of achieving an A or B in the honors and/or AP course, but her time commitments for dance put those grades at risk, then that is something to weigh.


When it comes time for the colleges to review her transcript, how the college will look at the 'rigors of the course load' will depend on the specific college. In general, public state schools are less stringent about the 'rigors of the course load' than are private, selective schools. There are always exceptions, but that is a general working rule. In the various state school systems, (State University of New York, University of California) that have multiple schools/campuses, there are hierarchies that come into play that may make a difference in how the individual schools consider 'rigors of course load'.


At that point, your DD's school counsellor may be asked to submit a form that indicates the level of 'rigors of course load' for your DD. What those colleges really want to see is that your DD took the most rigorous course load SHE was capable of taking. If she didn't and there is a good explanation for it (such as IB course load was too time consuming given the pre-professional dance training schedule she was keeping for x number of years going back to before middle school . . . ), the explanation will help the school see that she isn't just taking the easy road and slacking off, but made a conscious decision to balance her time so as to achieve the optimum balance for her abilities and focus.


As you indicated that you are looking at the 'top' schools, then you will need to make sure she has all the required courses and number of years those type schools will require at application time. Colleges prefer 4 years of math---and they don't really care what the end level is unless the child is looking for a science or engineering or math degree. So, your DD should be able to take the algebra and get caught up pretty quickly.


She will need to take SAT or ACT, so really the more rigorous course load she can handle will prepare her better for those tests. Depending on which schools she does apply to, she may need SAT IIs as well. Those are best taken at the appropriate time after a certain level course versus waiting until junior or senior year to do them. So you will want to stay on top of those timing issues. I would recommend the college discussion site College Confidential (but be prepared for some intense parents and students! But the information those parents, students, and others have and are willing to share is invaluable. :thumbsup: )


Your DD may be planning on dance for college now, or even art/photography---as a 9th grader. I can assure you that most probably she will change something about this decision over the next four years, whether it be the type of dance she's interested in, the type of degree, the type of job, the type of college setting, or her intended college major all together. Therefore, it is best if she prepares her high school courses such as to prepare her for which ever way she wants to jump----and the best way to do that is to keep her academics at the highest level she is capable of carrying with her level of dance commitments.


Best Wishes and have a happy roller-coaster ride these next (very, very :offtopic: ) short four years. They really do go all too quickly.

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Dancemaven's post is excellent. It's a great combination of the other posts, especially because she explains the implications of the "rigors of the courseload." I often write recommendations for students applying to colleges. Most of my work is with students who are in private boarding high schools, but I've had quite a number of public high school and homeschooled kids too over the years. Dancemaven articulated almost everything I was going to write, but I do have a little more detail to add:


In applying to private colleges, especially those in the the "competitive" range, it's important for public school students to know that grade levels at many of the private high schools, particularly the boarding ones and the day school that Treefrog's kids attended, are much more academically advanced than even what would be considered the best public school systems. That's because the private middle school levels are already more advanced, with students taking Algebra 1 and Spanish 1 before they hit high school. Additionally, the classes themselves are more rigorous.


For example, an average freshman class coursework in any given subject at one of these private schools is operating at what would be considered an honors level in the same class at a public high school. My daughter attended a private high school as a day student. Her sophomore friend, who had one of the highest GPA's of her public school class, was taking the same honors Algebra 2 class as my freshman daughter. The public school Honors Algebra 2 was nowhere as advanced as the private school Honors Algebra 2. This public school is the highest academically rated school in the state. The same thing continued all through school, with my daughter, a grade lower than her friend, taking the very same courseload, but it was more advanced than her friend's. Colleges know this. That's why it's so important for public school students to take the highest level courses they can at their schools. They need to prove that they have the ability and self-discipline for private college work. BTW, this also applies to private high school students, but it's even more critical for the public high schooler in terms of the most competitive colleges. I hate that all this is true. I'm really with Treefrog on this topic, but unfortunately we do now have to look ahead rather than one year at a time.


Dancemaven's comment

If she is capable of taking those classes, then those are the classes she should take
is the caveat. If it's a terrible struggle for a student to take such courses, then s/he shouldn't. Many artsy, creative and very intelligent people don't have the kind of academic instincts that many other often much less creative and intelligent, (though not always, of course) students have.
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That's because the private middle school levels are already more advanced, with students taking Algebra 1 and Spanish 1 before they hit high school.


Also important to note that depending on the area, this has been happening in public schools also. DDs took Algebra I as 7th grader, Geometry as an 8th grader and Algebra II as a 9th grader and was "forced" into AP math classes as a sophomore in a public school because that is the only available maths left for her. So yes, important for any student to take the highest level of any courses that they can take and be successful in no matter where they are. At the time, we thought this fast tracking a negative, but it made her college package really strong.


In this area, the larger private schools fit the models of those outlined by vagansmom, but the smaller ones generally do not. There are many private schools from our area, whose students have equal trouble getting into private colleges because parents find too late that although private and smaller classes, the work load was not as intense as it was in the public schools. Again, this though is an area with very strong public schools.

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Our oldest daughter (always homeschooled) was accepted at Smith College where she majored in dance without having anything fancy on her transcript. She had some homeschooled classes, some correspondence, and a few classes at the local community college. She took the SAT only one time with respectable scores (refused to retake because of dance schedule) and three SAT II tests, again with respectable scores. She had no AP classes, no high school honors. She still presented herself well in her application and interview, even without all the bells and whistles that one would expect for an applicant to a highly selective college like Smith. They clearly understood that she was not the typical applicant and that she had put her energies into dance during the high school years, not holding a job or doing lots of volunteer work. She graduated last year after four wonderful years as a Smithie. She did switch from ballet to modern during that time, so she hung up the pointe shoes (sob, sob -- on my part).

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My dd is on a dual science/dance track since she wants to double major in PT/exercise science and dance. So far she has found a way to balance both a honors/AP schedule with dance. However, she does take fewer dance classes than most preprofessional dancers. (This spring she took about 7-8 classes a week.) It is very difficult, and she has little time to socialize. I feel, however, that the strong academics were necessary to prepare her for whatever choices she makes in the future.

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On the other hand, please understand I am not advocating taking AP courses just to take them and rack up AP numbers--although there are kids that do that. This is where your kiddo can be true to herself and stand philosophically with Treefrog. If the course she is interested in taking has a regular level and an Honors/AP level, then select the level that she is capable of doing. Go for the higher level if that matches her capabilities. But there is no reason to push for AP Physics (which is a second year Physics course) if she isn't the least bit interested in physics.


Colleges are becoming more and more difficult to get into----even within the last four years. There are a mulititude of factors that go into an admission officer's decision amongst various qualified applicants. At the highest tier schools, you and your DD will not have any control over how those factors play out. The ONLY things your DD will have control over are her grades, her course selection, and her 'rigors of course load' choices. Doing the very best she can with those elements will give her the most flexibility when it comes to applying for college----including a dance major, if that's were she still wants to head.


As you may have gleaned from the individual college threads, being accepted as a dance major at any given college is rarely a 'sure bet---even for appropriately qualified students'. Same goes for the 'top' academic colleges and often the next tiers as well. It has become quite a mad-house. So the goal should be to prepare as well as possible at as high a level as possible in order to increase the chances/odds and options for the various colleges.

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In my own experience, I do not feel taking a ton of honors or AP courses really gives a student much of an advantage once they are in college. I attended two different high schools each in a different state, a year of correspondence plus a year in a residency program and will be graduating as a ballet/biology major next year. School definitely took a back seat to ballet when I was in HS, I didn’t even apply to colleges until February of my senior year! My grades were decent but my SAT scores were hardly anything stellar and I was not motivated enough to fill my schedule up with rigorous courses I had no desire to study. Somehow, I was still accepted to my first choice non-dancing school directly as a biochemistry major and my first choice school for ballet which I am at. Out of the few honors and AP classes I did take, only honors chemistry was math or science related. I actually remember sitting through my first college biology exam being so nervous that I was going to be slaughtered by the bell-curve as so many of my 200+ classmates have taken AP or honors biology. I studied harder than I ever did for a single exam and ended up scoring well above the class average.


My parents were not involved when it came time to choose my HS classes. They let me put together the best schedule I thought I could handle and I of course picked the classes I knew I could do well in with minimal effort. The only deal they had with me was that I had to sit the NYS Regents exams the year I did correspondence and if my grades took a drop, I would have to go home and that would be the end of ballet. Now, my work ethic when it comes to school has undergone a complete transformation. I love science and do not (usually) mind putting in the hours of studying it takes to learn the material in order to achieve the grades I want. The competition is too great to just go to lecture and only do the HW when it is required anyways. Plus once you get to any senior level science course, you probably couldn’t tell the difference between who graduated valedictorian from HS or who graduated from ballet boarding school; once you survive organic chemistry at my school, everyone is in the same boat. :shrug:


Granted, I do not know how important HS course load is in admissions but your DD is still very young and has plenty of time to make those decisions. I would only push her into taking AP classes if she wants to do it. I have several friends who graduated at the top of their HS classes, were accepted to top colleges and then had complete meltdowns their freshman year due to their parents pressing them to take 3-5 AP classes a year.


On a side note, if your daughter is possibly interested in medical school, I would actually recommend against taking AP science courses in HS. Even if she were to achieve a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, most medical schools do not accept AP credit for any introductory level science course even if her college does. So essentially, she would have to take the class again anyways.

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I'm not a advocate of either AP or regulars courses. I strongly feel that you need to look at what your child can handle and go from there. I have two kids and both are extremely good students but both have different strengths and weeknesses. My son is not the reader that my daughter is, so therefore English is not my son's strongest subject. He is not taking AP English in his junior year, but will take a duel credit English class in his senior year to get a college credit. He will most likley be heading into a Engineering degree and will not need to be strong in this area but will need to be strong in Math and Science. He will concentrate his efforts into taking higher level courses that will help him get thru a Engineering degree. I think you have to look at all aspects of your kid if you truly want to help them. Having him in all higher level classes would be great but not at the expense of him being stressed out over a subject that he is not comfortable with.


One area that I feel that has not really been stressed is that if your child has desires to major in dance and wants to attend a university that has a strong dance program, he or she needs to concentrate on getting the best training possible. The best dance programs do not take set number of dancers each year and are truly looking for dancers that are highly trained and that are in great dancing condition. Your child should base their high school course load on what they can handle along with their dance training. My daughter danced 6 days a week and yes she took many AP courses while in high school. I am not going to say that it was a walk in the park because it wasn't. There were many late nights with tears and fears of not being able to complete assignments on time and passing major exams. In the end, it all got done but with alot of hard work and little sleep. Not all dancers can handle this and many come to the breaking point and have to make adjustments. This is where it is helpful for parents to evaluate what their child can handle and guide them accordingly.


Getting thru high school while dancing long hours doesn't have to be too stressful if the parents get behind them and give them support and encouragement that they need to achieve success. Listen to your kids, look for warning signs that they are in over there head and they should be Ok. Good luck to all that are dealing with children still in high school or college that are juggling both with dance or any other discipline that requires long hours of practice.

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The highly competitive colleges are being hit by an unrealistic number of applicants, so it's becoming in my view a total crap shoot in the admissions process. Top SAT scores, plenty of AP classes, academic honors, impressive volunteer activities........it's not a guarantee of admission. Especially with the possibility of applying to way too many schools because of the common application process, colleges are getting far too many applications for the available slots.


My gut feeling in all this is that it's more important for the high school student to be very selective about where they apply and make themselves stand out. Visit the school. Communicate with people in the admissions office. Be someone who stands out in the huge pool of over-qualified applicants.

Look outside the comfort zone and consider parts of the country where you will be unique. A kid from Northern Virginia with outstanding grades and scores will have a better chance of getting in a top college in the midwest than in Virginia or North Carolina. Be sure that the college can see why you would be a good match for them.


This spring I talked with the parents of a young man who was graduating from the local high school in Montana. He's one of those stand out kids with a super impressive high school record, top test scores.......you name it, he has it. He applied to three super competitive schools and was rejected by all three. He would have seemed a perfect match but there were way too many perfect matches. These schools were accepting maybe 10% of applicants. He'll be going to a state college, way below what his potential really should have been. I think he should have looked beyond the super top name schools and found a place accepting, oh, maybe 40% of applicants. He'd have had a better chance of acceptance at a really good school.


I'm not persuaded that the college counselors at most high schools are doing the best job in helping kids find good matches. I see kids who only know a few big name schools, then their fall back is a state school 100 miles from home. They're missing some great schools.


Of course, this has nothing to do with finding a college with a great dance program. My daughter wanted a top liberal arts college with a good dance program, and she liked what the Five Colleges (U. Mass, Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith) offered. They really liked the idea of a dancer from Montana. We put a lot of effort into looking at colleges and evaluating what they offered. The actual application process was pretty much a piece of cake. She applied to Smith Early Decision and was accepted. All those people who told her she'd never be able to go to a "good" college if she homeschooled .......oh, well. I don't think they ever said they were wrong, but that's ok.

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