College happens in a flash. Before you know it, you’re well into your first year and then it seems senior year is upon you. A lot of academic, social and creative learning is condensed into a student’s four or five years in undergraduate studies. How can a person stay focused when his or her world is flying past at the speed of a college dance program? It’s simpler than you think. Hold on to your principles and be:
Think of your college days as a bridge connecting your past to your future. It’s more of a road trip than a destination. Keep in contact with your pre-college influences and interests while opening your mind to the future. With regular contemplation about what interests seem to be constant for you, you’ll be able to discern what about the dance world fascinates you most. Follow your interests and your passion, even if they seem different than you imagined. Your ingenuity will be tapped and your motivation will be strong. You’ll also notice that much of a person’s success is thanks to a large network of like-minded and employed people. Develop and nurture your network.
If you didn’t start being your own advocate during high school, or earlier, now is the time. It’s a a rare circumstance for a parent to be involved in his/her college student’s academic affairs. Keep up with your schedule and grades. If challenges arise, make an appointment to speak with your professor. Arrive at the meeting prepared and follow up on all suggestions. Likewise, participate meaningfully in class, and don’t be embarrassed to let your achievements shine.
Your college years are intended to provide you some flexibility and support to enable you to delve into some academic curiosities. Use your elective classes to explore something you’ve never tried before. You may be surprised by how much the excitement of learning about a new topic or skill will energize the rest of your college studies. It’s counterintuitive, but diversified interests often help a person focus rather than causing distraction.
College students are typically not yet adept enough at understanding their own physical and emotional limitations to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Chronic ailments and illnesses will escalate when a student is not getting enough rest and nutrition. College dancers are student athletes and must care for themselves as both a dancer and a student. A little “down” time will go a long way toward eliminating the need for an extended leave.
What happens at college does not stay there. Social media is a fun way to share news and funny memes, but know that future employers will be doing a search for your name, and nothing placed online is ever truly private. Create guidelines for what content you post, and never post images of someone else without approval. Likewise, if a person posts a photo of you and you don’t like it, ask for the removal of that image. If it becomes a problem, report the person to the administration of the social media platform.
An Arts Patron
Go to as many arts events as you can. College campuses are buzzing with creativity, and you can find inspiration in everything from improv comedy, music, performance art and theater. Student tickets are usually discounted, but if they are not, you could apply to be an usher at a venue in exchange for seeing the performances. You’ll be able to connect with people of like interests and be able to daydream about how you might apply your talents for future work.
You spend your college dance days surrounded by other dancers who are also finding their way in the field. Work together to explore your interests in production. Take on different roles as choreographers, performers, costume, set and lighting designers, and stage management. If you are able, it’s also fun to collaborate with students from other performing arts programs on campus. You’ll likely never have another time in your life to conveniently collaborate with so much talent. Create, produce, perform – the options are limitless.
Meet with your adviser to be certain you are on track for graduation. Keep a journal of ideas about your past, present and future. Don’t plan on waiting for a creative contract to fall into your lap. Yes, that may happen for some dancers but not for the vast majority. Be prepared to market yourself. Keep your headshots and demo reels current, and keep an up-to-date resume. Being prepared is your best strategy for answering opportunity’s knock.
The more you explore during college, the more you’ll know about yourself and your interests. Keep your purpose for being in college central in your day-to-day planning, and success will be your reward.
By Emily Yewell Volin of Dance Informa.