Thursday, July 21, 2011

College Dance Auditions 105: Making the Decision

Unless I get a request for another post or question on this post, this will be the last in my College series. I hope I've helped a little with even a small aspect of your college process!

If you've made it this far in my series, congratulations! (See previous post here.) You've now probably been selected from a few/all of your auditions (if you had any) and/or you've been admitted to some/all of the schools that you applied to. Honestly, if you're good enough to have been admitted to all of your schools, that's an even harder choice than if you were rejected by a couple. Looking back, I thank some of the schools that rejected me because they made my decision for me - I barely had to choose. But okay, I was still a tad bitter about a few of those rejections after the fact...

And that's okay. Dealing with rejection is a part of life for all of us. No matter how good you are, rejection and failure will happen sometime. Mostly, look at the bright side: you've been accepted to some schools and among them, one is the one you're meant to go to (unless you chose poorly in the first place! Yikes!).

So back to the point, you're now dealing with making a decision. I was lucky enough that my decision was really, really easy. It hurt to turn down a few of the schools that I ended up turning down for various reasons, but I'm happy with my final choice. I hope to help you do the same! Here are some things to think about while making decisions (not really dance related):

How big is your school? Huge, public? Liberal arts, private? In this time of recession, public school prices will continue to skyrocket for your entire time in college. Plus, you probably didn't get as large a scholarship or as much financial aid from your public schools as you did from your privates (if you applied to both). Then again, private schools are expensive. Like, extremely. So think about the price a little. But if you're lucky enough that you don't have to make your decision based on how much it's going to cost, then think about what size of school fits you. A larger public school will suit someone who is undecided in their field (or since you're a Dance major, undecided in other interests) and wanting to explore everything/broaden their perspective. A smaller private school will suit someone who knows where they're going, wants individualized attention (not 300-person count lecture classes), and a tighter knit community. Neither is better than the other, you have to decide for yourself which one is best for you.

Location, location, location
"If we build, they will come" - okay, maybe. What if you built in some frozen wasteland like Antarctica? Okay, there aren't any colleges there, but seriously, you need to think about weather. Weather was a big deciding factor for me - I didn't want to be around snow 2/3rds of my time in college! Also, maybe you don't want to go too far from home. Oh sure, you want to be far away enough that you get the real college experience of being away from your parents (maybe), but think about not going too far. After all, the farther you go, the farther you'll have to fly back for Winter Break! :)

Especially your dance professors and the department description. Look at the goals of the dance department and the classes it offers. Is it a triple emphasis program (jazz/ballet/modern)? Does it specialize in African or World dance (UCLA)? What kind of emphasis are you thinking of? Be wary of what kind of program you're getting yourself into. Did you like the professors that taught you in the audition classes (if you had any)? But don't be put off by one professor that you don't like. There will always be someone you don't quite agree with. Try Rate My Professors - it'll help you get students' perspective on what your teachers will be like.

Other interests
If you've got a double major or minor in mind or you just want to take some classes in a particular subject, look to see if the colleges have that major. I was looking for a double major in advertising, graphic arts, design, and/or communications in my schools. If you don't know what you want, but you know you want to try other things, think about going to a larger school, or at least a medium-sized liberal arts school. The smallest liberal arts school won't give you as many options to explore.

How you learn
Do you learn from taking notes in lectures? Or do you like discussion groups and one-on-one with the professor? This ties in to the size of your school. If you don't like participating in class, then larger schools will be perfect. If you can't concentrate during a lecture, try a liberal arts school.

Believe it or not, the size and structure of the campus affected my decision a tad. Does your school have a campus? NYU doesn't. It's a lovely school, but there are buildings all over the city of New York! If that doesn't bother you and you like the integrated-ness of going to school literally inside the metropolitan city, then that's great! But I wanted a more structured, traditional campus, with green lawns and benches to sit and hang out on, convenient student union and libraries and whatnot. And I got it! Is campus life important to you?

Outside campus
There's the college campus, and then there's nightlife or other things to do. I'm in a somewhat sleepy little college town where there may not be a ton to do on the weekends. And I'm okay with that - I'm not a "go out and party every night" kind of gal. But if you can't survive just in your dorm and on campus (I could. Not kidding.), make sure you're in some kind of city or near a city where there are things to do. A college representative told me he attended Amherst, and there was literally nothing but "rolling green hills." I kid you not. If it's important to you to do other things that aren't in college, make sure you'll get it.

What feeling did you get when you auditioned/visited?
I hope you took the time to get a campus tour when you went to audition! Bonus points if you took notes, because this is where notes come in handy. Get them out and refresh your memory on how you felt when you were there. Could you see yourself there? Did the lifestyle suit you, or was it too serious/not serious enough? If you can't see yourself going to school in a certain college, there's no point thinking about that school any farther, no matter how much others may want you to consider it. 

What are you looking for?
Are you looking for academics and as strong dance as you can get on the side? Or all dance and easy/as few academics as possible? If you're in the first group and the college is strong in dance, but not in academics, think about what is important to you. Similarly, if the dance program isn't that strong and you're in the second group, it probably isn't for you. Do a little comparison and find the best balance of dance and academics for you, and then find the college on your list that fits that balance.

I've probably missed some things, but this is just a general list to get you thinking.

In general: make a list of what's important to you
So now that you've read my tips on what to think about, make a list of what's important to you. Size? Location/weather? Campus life? Greek life (frats/sororities)? Clubs? Teaching style? In state? College town? Don't put something on your list if it's not crucial to your living in a new place. If you don't really care how big the school is and you think you'll fit in wherever you go, that's great. Write down other things. Then look at your list of colleges and take some time to weed out colleges that don't meet your list of criteria. The colleges you applied to did the same thing to you (put your accomplishments up to a list of criteria), so now it's your turn to do the same.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: There are some things I didn't cover in this series, like building/writing a resume or writing essays for the actual college/departmental applications. I did this on purpose because I don't want to come across as an expert and throw anyone off. If you have any specific questions, please ask and I'll do my best to answer, or I can try to direct you to someone who can. 

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