This is a question many dancers wrestle with as they’re graduating from high school. You’re feeling the clock ticking on your career and are eager to get out there and get to work. Perhaps you’re wondering if college is a worthwhile financial investment for a dancer, or if it’s just wasting time that could be better spent getting your career off the ground. Ultimately the ‘right decision’ is the one that is right for you and your unique circumstance, but here are a few of the things I tell dancers in my workshops:
It is the rare 17-19 year old who is really ready to tackle a big industry town like New York or Los Angeles if you don’t already live there. Thousands of people flock to these cities each year hoping to break into the entertainment industry, and many of them are at least as good as you. That means the ones that make it are the ones that create the best strategy for success. The first thing you need to be successful is a strong network, college is one way to create that. The faculty of the program you attend will be your first professional references, their work will make up the material for your first reel, and their connections and recommendations are likely to book you your first jobs.
Ultimately the ‘right decision’ is the one that is right for you and your unique circumstance
The people you’re in school with are also going to be the dancers you can ask for help for your own projects, who will come see you perform, and the people who can hire you or give you hook ups to work. Creating a network this extensive in a new city on your own can take a loooong time. If you were worrying that college would be wasted time, remember it can actually be a faster way to build your professional network and start your career.
...the ones that make it are the ones that create the best strategy for success.
Think about how much you’ve grown as a dancer in the last few years. That’s at least how much more you can expect to grow over the next few if you are surrounded by teachers who push you. College can give you the opportunity to keep growing as a dancer so you go faster and farther than you could on your own.
The clearer you are, the better you can strategize, and that’s what it’s all about!
Now in case you think after reading this that college is the only answer, it’s not! There are great certificate programs that can give you a lot of what I’ve talked about here. You can work with awesome, well-connected teachers and train alongside dancers who can become your friends and part of your professional network. Best of all, certificate programs can take less time than a traditional college degree, and are created specifically for dancers.
The key to making the right decision is to set clear, personalized goals. The clearer you are, the better you can strategize, and that’s what it’s all about!