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How to Ace Your College Admissions Interview

You've polished your resumé, written your essay and nailed the technique class. Now only an admissions interview stands between you and your dream school. Although you might think it's just a formality, that conversation can sometimes make or break your admissions decision, says Seán Curran, chair of the dance department at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. "Don't dismiss the interview," he says. "It's just as important, if not more important sometimes, than the other aspects of the audition."


Know These Common Interview Questions

"Why are you applying to our program?"

This question reveals whether or not you did your research. Avoid generic answers, like "It's a good school" or "Because it has a strong dance program." Do a deep dive on the university's website, or even set up a conversation with a current student so you can talk about specific things that drew you to the program. Mention a particular ensemble you're excited to join or a class in the curriculum that piques your interest. This shows that you've been thoughtful in your decision to apply.

"Tell me about yourself."

The broadness of this question can catch some dancers off guard, but don't overthink it. Most of the time directors have already seen your resumé, so don't simply list your past accomplishments. Instead, talk about your interests both in and out of the studio that have shaped you as a person. Colleges are looking for students who have both intellectual and artistic pursuits.

"What do you hope to accomplish?"

You don't need to have your whole life figured out at age 18. But you should be able to articulate some of your professional aspirations and areas of the dance world you'd like to explore, says Rubén Graciani, director of the School of Theatre and Dance at James Madison University. This helps the faculty discern whether or not it's the best program to help you meet your goals.

Two people sit opposite each other at a desk. One has their hands clasped on the table, the other holds a clipboard and a pen.

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Don't Make These Mistakes

Mistake: Not having any questions

Asking the interviewer questions indicates that you're genuinely interested in the program. Come with a few queries tailored to the school, but don't be afraid to ask questions that arise naturally during the discussion.

Mistake: Giving robotic answers

Some dancers overprepare for interviews by memorizing their responses beforehand. While this might seem like a foolproof tool for success, it can actually make you seem inauthentic, cautions Rubén Graciani, director of the School of Theatre and Dance at James Madison University. Remember that interviews are an opportunity for directors to get to know you, so focus on being real rather than rehearsed.

Mistake: Only talking about dance

Directors aren't just looking for stellar dancers, they're seeking well-rounded students who are interested in the artistic and academic aspects of the program. Don't be afraid to talk about your life outside of dance, Curran says. Mentioning a volunteer project you're passionate about or a hobby you enjoy shows that you're multi-dimensional.

Mistake: Letting your nerves take over

Having confidence and maintaining eye contact go a long way in the interview room, Graciani says. "Take a deep breath and just know that, in the end, there's not really a wrong answer."

Think You've Got Your Acceptance Letter in the Bag?

Interviews aren't just for admissions decisions. Directors also use them to help determine which applicants will be awarded scholarships.

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After years spent training in their childhood studio, it can be hard for dancers to realize exactly how many pathways there are toward career success. The School of Dance at CalArts aims to show its students all of them.

Built with the intention to break barriers and bend the rules, CalArts' interdisciplinary curriculum ensures that students take classes that cover an entire spectrum of artistic approaches. The result? A dance program that gives you much more than just dance.

Last week, Dance Magazine caught up with Kevin Whitmire, assistant director of admission for CalArts School of Dance, and recent alum Kevin Zambrano for the inside scoop on how an interdisciplinary curriculum can make you a stronger artist. Watch the full event below, and read on for the highlights.

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July 2021