Transitioning Into a College Dance Program

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Deciding to take the leap of faith and continue with a career in dance after high school is no easy decision. Not only are you choosing to continue with dance, but you get to choose how you want dance to look in your future. Maybe you want to improve your technique in hopes of continuing to perform, or perhaps you want to become a dance teacher. Whatever dance may look like in your future, there is a way to pursue dance in college. We are going to cover not only the different pathways one can pursue in dance after high school, but also how to prepare for a college dance program and more.

In This Article:

Different Paths as a Dancer

First off, there are many ways you can keep dancing after you graduate high school. For instance, you may decide that you want to perform and compete as a young adult by auditioning for different college dance teams. This may help you get more involved in sporting events and potentially compete at the national level.

You may want to teach dance instead of performing. This is a great option for dancers who have years of dance training, have a strong passion for learning and teaching others, or for those who simply want to help develop and train young dancers. Grand Canyon University has a Bachelor’s in Dance Education degree where dancers can not only develop their own skills as a dancer, but take specialized courses in which they will be taught how to teach young artists and work toward earning their teaching license after earning their undergraduate degree. 

Other dancers may want to dive in entirely and pursue careers in dance. A college dance program can be a great opportunity for dancers to train in new styles of dance and perfect their technique over time. It also allows them to study the history of dance, kinesiology, pedagogy, somatic practices and research various topics in relation to dance to further themselves as artists and future teachers.

Dance majors may have opportunities to participate in a multitude of performing opportunities throughout the semester, learn and take classes from guest artists and master teachers, and choreograph and develop their personal dance style. GCU’s Bachelor of Arts in Dance degree highlights these areas, making it attractive to incoming dancers who are eager to learn more about the art form. 

How To Prepare for a College Dance Program

As a dancer transitioning from a high school dance program to a college dance program, it is important to know how to prepare your mind and body. First, it is important to recognize that the days of being a student with a dance major are typically long and require a lot of physical exertion. Make sure that you have an appropriate plan in place for fueling your body with the proper nutrition, prioritizing sleep and making time for recovery on a weekly basis. These may look different for everyone, but without a plan of action, you may find yourself struggling to take care of yourself, potentially increasing the likelihood for injuries, burnout and the feeling of being overwhelmed and tired.

As someone who prioritizes balance within my crazy schedule, I always make sure I have healthy snacks packed with me throughout the day and a journal to write down thoughts that may be hindering me from success on that particular day. I create a schedule for homework, personal life, recovery and sleep to ensure I set myself up for success on the long days. If possible, start implementing these strategies before coming to school, as it will make the transition much easier. I also have a strong support system for when I need help.

Additionally, you can prepare for a college dance program by writing down your goals for the year, for each class and for your future career with dance. While your goals may change throughout the course of college, it is important to have a direction so that you know what classes will lead you in the direction of your goals and aspirations. Starting early and thinking about these things allows you to be as prepared as possible for what may come out of your college career.

The Difference Between High School and College Dance

A big question that is often asked by prospective college dancers, is “what is the difference between dance in high school and college dance?” Many high school dancers often come from dance companies that focus on competition. In a college dance program, there is a strong emphasis on artistry, technique and personal style/voice. This program shifts the focus from choreography drills to exploring the origins of movement and various dance techniques, including ballet, modern and jazz styles. It emphasizes a more abstract examination of dance concepts, departing from the competitive aspects traditionally associated with dance. While every college has something a little different to offer, it is important that you do your research on which college dance program will best prepare you for your dance and career goals.

Pursuing Dance as a Major

Some students may not have had the opportunity to pursue dance as a part of their high school curriculum. Therefore, coming into a college dance program may take adjustment for some as dance is now an academic focus, not a hobby. As someone who grew up going to public school, joining the GCU dance program was a big adjustment for me. I was always used to doing math, history and science. Dance was simply a hobby I would do after school every day. Now that I do dance in college, my schoolwork includes dance history, dance kinesiology and writing about dance. On top of my courses and homework, I also have several rehearsals throughout the week to prepare for dance performances. It can be hard to differentiate your love for dance when you are required to attend dance classes and write about dance for a grade, but those feelings are normal.

Once I made the decision to move my love for dance into a career in dance, I never looked back. I love making connections with the other dancers and professors in the program, as well as getting to dance nearly every day of the week. You will find your way in whatever college dance program you may choose if you stay faithful to the process and keep an open mind. If you are interested in transitioning from your high school dance experience into pursuing careers in dance, consider pursuing a degree within Grand Canyon University’s College of Arts and Media


If seeking licensure or certification, applicants to the program are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. In addition, fingerprint and background clearance is required.

Approved by the director of dance of the College of Arts and Media on Dec. 14, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.