The George Mason University dance program waitlists about 15 percent of applicants. Photo by Tim Coburn, Courtesy GMU

What To Do If You're Waitlisted By Your Dream School

When it comes to college admissions, there's perhaps nothing more confusing than being waitlisted. It sends a mixed message, the middle ground between a "yes" and a "no." You may be elated that you still have a shot at your dream program, or discouraged that you weren't a school's first choice. But is it worth sticking it out, or are you better off accepting another school on your list? We asked program directors for candid advice.


Why Was I Waitlisted?

Susan Shields, director of George Mason University's School of Dance:

"It means we have some concern that you might not get as much opportunity as another person here. Sometimes it's fear that you might not be physically strong enough—we don't want anyone coming who might get injured. Basically we try to say, 'Would this dancer be competitive within the pool we have right now to be able to get parts?' "

Students in the Alonzo King Lines Ballet | BFA at Dominican University program

Rapt, Courtesy Dominican

Marina Hotchkiss, director of dance at Dominican University of California:

"We're a pretty small program, so I'm looking to find a group that can be very cohesive, so that nobody's drowning and nobody's twiddling their thumbs. I'm also looking for a good mix within the group so that they'll stimulate each other. I just recently waitlisted a student because I didn't have enough of a feel yet for who the group would be to see where she would fit in."

Michael Bearden, director of University of Oklahoma's School of Dance:

"We strive to keep our class sizes small and thus our acceptance rate has dropped from 30 to 25 percent over the last year. This means more dancers will be placed on our waiting list who may get in if accepted students decline."

Alonzo King Lines Ballet | BFA at Dominican University program

Rapt, Courtesy Dominican University

Why Stay on the Waitlist—and How to Get Off

When Chiara Ruff stepped onto the University of Oklahoma's campus, something clicked. Though she had already auditioned at several other dance programs, it was her first choice. Getting waitlisted didn't deter her. "There was a glimmer of hope," she says. She knew she hadn't had as much training as some of her peers (she started dance on the later side, at age 11), but still had a strong feeling that the program was the right place for her.

Ruff made sure to stay in touch with the school. After receiving positive feedback, she emailed periodically to let them know she was still interested and to express her enthusiasm. According to both Shields and Hotchkiss, this is essential information for dance programs when they're making final decisions. Hotchkiss finds that, while her reasons for waitlisting a dancer often have to do with technique, her reasons for taking someone off the waitlist have more to do with personality. "Often it'll be something about their character that is really attractive to me," she says, "where I feel like they're incredibly enthusiastic, they're curious." This was the case for Ruff, whose persistence paid off. "Because I made the effort of really trying to make the human connection, to show that I'm a hard worker and I'll get there, it kind of opened their mind," she says. Today, she's in her senior year at the University of Oklahoma.

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Get More Out of Your Dance Degree—Whether You're on Campus or Not

When Rose Conroy-Voza entered Rider University in 2016, she thought all she needed to focus on was her dance classes. But the 2020 graduate found herself cherishing experiences outside of the studio—memberships in upwards of 10 clubs, an on-campus job and meaningful connections with her professors. "As I was introduced to all these different opportunities," she says, "I realized that there is so much more that dancers could have."

Just because you got into a great dance program does not mean you are getting everything you possibly can out of your college education. Whether you're online or on campus this semester, there's an abundance of resources available. All you need to do is figure out how best to take advantage of them.

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