Getting Ready for College Auditions: 5 Tips for Dancers
By Emily Hucle with
For many high school dance students, the prospect of college auditions creates mixed emotions.
In some ways, it’s exciting to think about showcasing the skills you’ve developed over years of practice in order to get into an excellent performing arts program where you’ll be able to hone your craft and make your dance dreams a reality.
However, the audition process itself often seems daunting. To get into your dream school, you’ll have to compete against hundreds of other talented dancers. Also, you’ll likely be going on many auditions in a short amount of time, all while preparing to make a decision that will ultimately shape the next four years of your life.
In this guide, we’ll share five tips to help you get ready for college auditions:
- Stay Organized Throughout the Process
- Choose the Right Audition Materials
- Take Care of Your Body
- Work on Your Mindset
- Be Prepared to Pivot
While it’s important to keep track of logistics and make sure you’re physically ready to perform, college auditions are a mental game as much as anything else. Use all of the resources available to you to prepare, and prioritize your well-being throughout this intense season.
1. Stay Organized Throughout the Process
When you attend a lot of college dance auditions in a short amount of time, stress can quickly become overwhelming. Naturally, some parts of the audition process will be outside of your control, so you’ll want to focus on the things you can control.
One part of the audition process you can definitely control is whether you’re organized. So, make sure to keep track of:
- What day and time you’re auditioning for each program.
Which auditions are in-person and which auditions will be held online.
- When all of your prescreen submission deadlines are.
- How the audition requirements differ for each school.
Planners, spreadsheets, and folders will be your best friends during audition season. Once you find an organization system that works for you, you’ll be able to show up ready to go at every college audition.
2. Choose the Right Audition Materials
The requirements for college performing arts auditions can vary widely for each school, especially if you plan to study dance. Some schools will ask every student to perform the same combinations, while others request that you choose your own dance solo. If programs ask for unique solos, some will want you to choreograph the audition yourself, some won’t accept self-choreographed pieces, and a few allow either option.
When you develop a unique solo, remember that your audition will be most successful if you play to your strengths while still following the school’s requirements. Work with your dance instructors or audition coaches to choose a dance style (if you have options) or select a combination that showcases your skills effectively.
In addition to your solo, many schools will also ask for you to showcase some barre or floor work, and some will also start in-person auditions with a technique class so they can compare a large group of students side by side. Acceptd’s guide to college audition resources suggests looking up free dance videos online and reading audition blogs so you have an idea of what the school’s faculty will be looking for in these sections of the audition.
3. Take Care of Your Body
The only way you’ll be able to perform your audition materials to the best of your ability is if you take care of the most important asset you have as a dancer: your body. Preparing for college auditions can take a lot out of you physically, not to mention the long, stressful days of auditioning themselves.
The weeks leading up to auditions are a time to prioritize your wellness as a dancer, starting with these strategies:
Get enough sleep. Audition days can start early in the morning, so make sure to go to bed at a reasonable time the night before.
Cut down on caffeine. While having a cup or two of coffee or caffeinated tea a day can keep your energy up for dancing, too much caffeine can increase your anxiety before auditions and impact your physical performance as well.
Snack for success. The night before an audition, pack several nutritious snacks with a mix of protein, fats, and healthy carbohydrates to get you through the long day. And above all else, don’t skip breakfast!
Establish a recovery routine. Work with your instructors to figure out the best combination of activities like stretching, taking warm baths with Epsom salt, and using a foam roller to relieve your sore muscles and fatigue at the end of an audition day.
Even if you focus on taking care of your body, there’s always the possibility that you might be injured or sick on the day of a college audition. While some situations will definitely necessitate that you skip the audition (like if you were to test positive for COVID-19), others are less clear-cut. Work to understand how your body reacts to injury or illness, consult with your doctor or physical therapist, and check whether the school has other opportunities for you to audition either in-person or virtually to help you decide whether to go.
4. Work on Your Mindset
As we said before, college auditions are just as mentally tough as they are physically grueling. Your focus on wellness needs to extend to mindset work in order for you to have the best audition experience possible.
My College Audition’s guide to confidence coaching suggests that up to 90% of competition in the performing arts is mental and only 10% is physical. Going into an audition with the confidence that you’ll do your best improves your chances of actually doing your best. Working with a confidence coach may help you to prepare mentally for auditions through:
- Limiting negative self-talk and amplifying positive self-talk.
- Implementing relaxation techniques like body scans and breathing exercises.
- Practicing visualization skills.
Every dancer will have a slightly different method for getting in the right mindset before auditions. For example, you may find it helpful to write down affirmations in a journal as you work to make your self-talk more positive. Whatever you do to prepare mentally, make sure to find techniques that can carry you through all of your college auditions.
5. Be Prepared to Pivot
Even if you’re completely organized, well-rehearsed, and in the right frame of mind, many aspects of auditions can still be unpredictable. You’ll never know exactly how tough the competition will be, whether any technical difficulties will occur, or if the judges will prefer someone else’s performance to yours for reasons beyond your control. So, make sure you can adapt to different audition situations as needed.
When it comes to rejection, there’s no doubt it can be hard to bounce back. But just because one audition didn’t go as planned, don’t give up on your dance dreams entirely! You've probably heard the cliche “trust the process,” but with college auditions, you really do need to trust the process and keep working hard to secure a place in the right dance program for you.
As you prepare logistically, physically, and mentally for college auditions, remember that you aren’t just auditioning to get into a dance program. You’re also making a decision about where to spend the next four years of your life. Spend time browsing each college’s website, sign up for some campus tours, and talk to current students if you have the opportunity so you’ll know if each school would be a good fit both in and out of the dance studio.
About the Author:
Emily Hucle is the Operations Director of Acceptd, a Togetherwork company that is the premier recruitment, application, and audition platform for the arts. In her free time, Emily enjoys decorating homes and events, creating floral arrangements, and attending concerts and shows.
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