Planning Ahead for A College Dance Major

Beginning Early Makes a Huge Difference

By Julie Friedrich, Associate Director for College and Career Programs
Francisco Gella Dance Works

Parents and students always ask me, “How early is too early to begin preparing for the college admissions process and for life after high school?” The honest answer is that it is never too early. There are elements of early preparation that have benefits throughout your training and will help keep you on a focused path towards a larger goal. It makes a huge difference when a student starts thinking of long term goals and preparing for them early on. 

I have had numerous students come to me as they are entering their senior year of high school for their college prep consultations, and sadly that is too late. Yes, we can still make successes out of students who begin that late, but there is too much haste and pressure that goes into the application process when it is done so last minute. By the end of your junior year, you should have your college list complete, and have already begun thorough work on your college dance portfolio that summer. 

My daughters and I attended the College Prep Workshop in Huntsville in September. At that time we were completely overwhelmed and WAY behind on our preparation for college dancing. My daughter, who is a senior, was devastated to learn how much we didn’t know. We had recently departed our “home” studio due to zero care and guidance. After our class and discussion with Julie, we were on fire to get home and begin. Quick update for y’all: my daughter already auditioned at Butler University. She has been on a campus visit to Indiana University and passed her pre-screen and will audition in January. She has been accepted academically to Point Park and just auditioned for them this morning. She still has 3 more places she is auditioning. I wanted to thank y’all SO MUCH for getting us started. It is your guidance and caring spirit that gave us the courage to chase her  dream. And we’ve already started making earlier decisions for my other daughter who is a sophomore this year. Keep up the excellent work!!

Thanks!

A grateful parent (name kept anonymous for reasons of confidentiality)

Early Preparation Starts with Solid Dance Training

What exactly does “early preparation” mean? This simply means that the emphasis of your time dancing should be spent on training and cultivating your technique and artistry. Quality training, in-class time, and working with knowledgeable teachers is essential. Start early by attending summer programs and workshops that have connections to college programs and companies. Look at the faculty and classes being offered, and see if those have a direct connection to the college and company programs you are considering. You want to start establishing yourself in the collegiate world, and attending the right summer programs will help. We just want to ensure that you understand that training is an essential part of this equation. Quality training is what it takes. Positive benefits aside, it takes much more than competing or attending dance conventions. 

I want to emphasize that if you study at a school or live in a very small city where many of the styles and techniques you see required for a certain college program are not present, then talk to your director and see if they would be willing to bring in guest/master class teachers that can offer the classes you need to attain ballet and modern core techniques. You can always study these techniques over the summer if resources are not available during the school year.

If you attend a competitive studio, use the skills and talents you have developed by being in that environment as an added strategic advantage. Most competition dancers I know pick up knowledge faster than anyone in a conservatory setting. Competition dancers are extremely versatile and have a range of styles that they are very good at, and they do very well in programs that train dancers for Broadway and the commercial dance world. They also usually have an enormous amount of performance and stage experience, which is a real advantage. With all of that being said, you still need to make sure you are getting high-quality technique classes because the foundation of your technical training is what will be the most valuable to you.

Other Ways You Can Start Preparing

References

Early preparation also includes cultivating references from people you can call upon when it is time to gather your recommendation letters. Start making strong personal relationships with people who you consider mentors, or with people whom you have a longstanding student/teacher relationship. 

Journal Your Experience

Start keeping a journal and write down the names of faculty at all of the programs you attend. Write down notable and important repertory from 9th grade on, the names of choreographers, titles of pieces, etc. All of this preparation for when you begin writing your dance resume. 

Dance Portfolio 

Your portfolio is a full representation of who you are as an artist and a human being. I normally advise that dancers start gathering, developing, and completing most of their portfolio items the summer before you start your senior year. Focusing on these tasks will put you that much further ahead once the school year begins.  A college dance portfolio consists of these items: 

  • Resume 
  • Photographs 
  • Essays 
  • Recommendation letters 
  • Video pre-screens 
  • And the all-important solo piece

List of Schools

Having a list of schools that you wish to apply to will give you direction and guidance on what the next steps are that need to be completed in your college preparation. This list can serve to remind you of each school’s application requirements so that you can adjust your training and preparation regimen accordingly.

The bottom line here is this:  Focus on great training experiences and be forward-thinking in terms of what steps you can take now to best prepare you to reach the educational goals that you have set (in both dance and academics).

Julie Freidrich at one of the workshops last year

There is Support for College Dance Preparation

I created the college preparation workshop specifically to aid dancers in the collegiate process. I saw a need, and I also quickly saw success in assisting students (and what a difference that makes). I did this for so many years in the Arts High School systems in Southern California with such great success that I then took it nationally last year as part of Francisco Gella Dance Works, touring the country mentoring dancers and families through the college prep process.

Not one student or family should ever have to feel like they are alone in the admissions process.

It is extremely daunting, as there are many variables and unknowns in the process, and having a collegiate advisor specifically for dance helps tremendously. I am here to help demystify the process.

Make an investment in your future now, as the preparation and effort that you put in early makes a world of difference in the outcome of where you will end up.


Learn How to Prepare for Admissions to College Dance Programs

View a REPLAY of our Facebook LIVE Q&A and Discussion with Julie Friedrich, Associate Director for College and Career Programs at Francisco Gella Dance Works.

In addition to answering questions, we discussed the following:

  • Solid dance training (in addition to your home-studio training).
  • Cultivating relationships for mentorship and college reference letters.
  • Developing a strong dance portfolio including resume, photos, videos, your solo piece and more.
  • Coming up with a list of schools to learn more about, plan visits, and narrow down to your favorites to submit applications.