The Hunt For College Scholarships

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by Joan H. Bress, LICSW, CEP

There’s money out there for students headed to college dance programs. Learn how to find it!

With college costs increasing at nearly double the rate of inflation, those of you headed to college have good reason to be concerned. Although the 1997 Taxpayers Relief Act softened the tuition blow for middle-income families and has encouraged saving early for future college expenses, paying for college tuition is still a major issue for most families.

The Total Package
Financial aid is money offered to students to help pay college expenses. It’s offered by both the federal and state governments, individual colleges and private organizations. It may come in the form of grants, which do not have to be repaid; work-study, which is a salary paid in return for work you do while you’re enrolled; or loans, which you must repay after you finish college or stop taking classes. Some aid is based on how much a student needs in order to pay the cost of education and some is based on non-financial factors such as academic, athletic or artistic talent; community service and leadership; contribution to the community in some unique way or membership in a particular group or organization.

Financial aid is given in a “package” that usually consists of a combination of grants, loans and campus employment, often including both need-based and non-need-based aid. At some colleges, as many as 70 percent of students receive aid.

How Do I Apply?
To apply for financial aid, you must complete one or more of the following forms:

•   Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
•   Financial Aid CSS PROFILE
•   College Financial Aid Application
•   Private Scholarship Application

Your answers to the FAFSA determine your eligibility for federal student aid. This form is also used to apply for some aid from the state and college. The majority of financial aid comes from the federal government, so all students applying for aid should fill out the FAFSA. It includes questions about parent/student income, assets and expenses for the calendar year preceding the student’s matriculation. The FAFSA, which may be filed electronically or in paper form, calculates the amount of money the government believes your family should be able to pay for educational expenses. This expected family contribution (EFC) is reported to you and to all of the colleges you’ll be applying to.

Since the expected family contribution is calculated by using a standard form prescribed by Congress, the amount you are expected to pay does not vary from one college to another. The cost of attending different colleges, however, does vary. Your need is calculated as the difference between the cost of attending the college and the amount your family is expected to contribute. The more expensive the college, the greater your need. The COST of attendance minus EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION equals NEED. Suppose your family has an EFC of $15,000 per year and you are considering two colleges. College A has a cost (tuition plus room, board and expenses) of $33,000 per year. College B has a cost of $15,000. Your NEED for College A would be $18,000 while your NEED for College B would be $0 (see the chart).

College A $33, 000 – $15, 000 = $18,000
Your financial “ need” would be $18,000 per year.
College B $15,000 – $15,000 = $0 you would have no financial need.

Although colleges try to meet the demonstrated need of all students, there’s often not enough money from the government or from the school’s resources, to do this. While it is true that some of the most expensive schools have the greatest amount of money available for financial aid, it’s a good idea to select colleges with a range of costs, including some that are totally within the financial reach of your family.


File the FAFSA even if you believe that you’re not eligible for need-based aid. Some non-need-based programs require you to show that you do not qualify for federal aid.

Apply early. Colleges generally do not have enough of either their own or Uncle Sam’s money to meet the needs of all students who qualify.

Keep track of deadlines. The FAFSA should be filed as soon as possible, after January 1. Each college sets its own deadline for the PROFILE, sometimes as early as December 15.

Be accurate. The time needed to correct errors may cause you to miss out on some sources of aid. Know that you may be asked to verify the information you supply on financial aid forms. Keep copies of all relevant material.

Remember that the best aid packages go to the most desirable students. Keep your grades up and choose your colleges carefully.

The PROFILE is a form used by about 900 schools, as well as some private scholarship programs, to award non-federal aid. Although similar to the FAFSA, the PROFILE asks for more detailed information about the family’s resources and expenses. Depending on the requirements of the schools you apply to, the PROFILE may include two supplemental applications and up to 150 additional questions.

Unlike the FAFSA, it’s not free. It is processed centrally for a $5 registration fee, and reports are sent to colleges of your choice at a cost of $15 per school.

Other colleges may have their own financial aid application in addition to the FAFSA. As this type of form is part of the admission application, there is no additional fee required to file it. Private sources of financial aid also have their own application process, which may include essays, interviews, portfolios and/or auditions.

Non-Need-Based Aid
In addition to need-based aid, schools offer non-need-based aid—often called merit aid—to students whom they want to attract to their school. While need-based aid is likely to be made up largely of loans which must be repaid, merit aid is more likely grant money, which does not need to be repaid. When selecting your colleges, consider some schools that will be eager to have you as a student. The most desirable students can expect the best financial aid package—one heaviest in non-repayable grants.

At some schools, any student who presents a pre-set high school average and SAT score qualifies for merit aid. Sometimes, this award includes the opportunity to take special honors-level classes or to work more closely with professors. Schools may also allocate merit-based aid for students with particular talents, in which case, an audition or portfolio presentation would be necessary (see DS February 2000).

Non-Institutional Aid
Wise students look beyond their college and the government for financial aid. Both need-based aid and merit aid are offered by philanthropic foundations, religious and community organizations, businesses, civic groups and organizations connected to your field of interest. Some of these scholarships are highly competitive and require in-depth applications. You should leave yourself plenty of time to prepare. Online scholarship search engines help students locate appropriate awards. If you’re an academically and artistically talented student, you should look into scholarships offered by the National Alliance For Excellence and the National Foundation For Advancement In The Arts.

Scholarships Of Special Interest To Dancers

•   National Alliance For Excellence, Inc
•   National Foundation For Advancement In The Arts
•   Harlequin Dance Scholarship Program

Online Financial Aid Resources

•  College Board: Information about selecting and applying to college. Includes links to the PROFILE and a free scholarship search.
•   FinAid: The most complete source of online financial aid information. Includes a free scholarship search, information on loans and grants and a calculator to help you project college costs, likely scholarship awards and loan repayment plans.
•   SallieMae: Offers college financing solutions, cost calculators and scholarship and loan information.
•   FastAid: Free scholarship search engine.
•   FAFSA: Complete the FAFSA online and immediately receive your expected family contribution figure.
•   US Department of Education: Information on tax credits, federal and state aid and private funding sources.

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How to Choose the College Dance Program for You

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By Christina Herrmann

Senior year is finally here. Outfitted with some trendy new clothes and a fresh haircut, you feel ready to rule the school! This year, though, you must also take on your future. Somewhere between pep-rallies, extra-credit projects and dance class, you will decide where to spend your next four years. Grab a pal and take a moment out of your crazy schedule to get started with this informative personality quiz!

  • You are late to ballet (again), and Madame Joubert looks annoyed. You:
    a. Invent an entertaining story to explain your tardiness. Ballet is a little too stuffy anyways.
    b. Shrug it off. Dance is great, but it’s not the most important thing to you.
    c. Apologize profusely. Your studio has rules for a reason, and it’s disrespectful to show up late.
    d. Log an extra hour at the barre after class. Dance is your passion, and your determination knows no bounds.
  • Tomorrow is Friday night. What are you and your best friend up to?
    a. We’re leads in the school musical, and Friday is curtain call!
    b. After I spend some time with my family, we’ll cruise the party circuit.
    c. Hosting a themed slumber party. We’ve been planning for months!
    d. Re-watching “The Westside Story” DVD with a bucket of popcorn. The choreography is inspiring.
  • It’s time to catch up on homework! Which assignment do you tackle first?
    a. Your art project. You are creative and love to express yourself.
    b. The assignment due soonest. You enjoy most subjects and don’t play favorites.
    c. Whichever assignment requires the most work. You are organized and methodical about your homework, which you always hand in on time.
    d. None. You put off your homework until the last second so you can rehearse those new dance figures a couple more times.
  • Your favorite teacher is amazing. He/she really enables you to:
    a. Be yourself.
    b. Explore every possibility.
    c. Reach your full potential.
    d. Dance well.
  • What is your ultimate dream?
    a. Pioneering a new dance technique. You already have some fresh, radical ideas!
    b. Open a dance studio. You’d love everything about designing a successful studio, from hiring teachers to interior decoration.
    c. Becoming an acclaimed dance master. You’d select only the most dedicated students who would respect your strict standards.
    d. Captivating the Lincoln Center’s packed audience as Clara in “The Nutcracker.”

Free Spirit (mostly A’s):
An exciting person with a wide dramatic streak, you require a program with tons of creative liberty.
» Consider Hollins University (GA), which offers courses in “Imaginative Thinking, Moving and Crafting,” and encourages independent study.

Jack-of-All-Trades (mostly B’s):
Your interests stretch far and wide, and you seek to balance dance with other pursuits such as school, family, friends, and hobbies. Liberal arts colleges with strong dance programs are perfect for you!
» Mount Holyoke College (MA) is one of several colleges that will give you the rounded education and quality dance instruction you want. /

Perfectionist (mostly C’s):
Far from being a bad thing, your perfectionism makes you a great student. You need a dance program with plenty of structure to make sure you reach your full potential.
» Boston Conservatory (MA). Their well-designed dance program will guide you to excellence.

Star (mostly D’s):
You have the talent and single-mindedness to make dance your life. Only the most prestigious programs in America will do for you.
» Julliard (NY) is the natural pick, but don’t overlook lesser-known competitive options, such as The Hartt School of Dance (CT). Though most of America has never heard of these schools, the dance community definitely has.

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Hidden Clues To Your Perfect College Match

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By Johanna Orca

When it comes to picking the right college, you’ve heard it all: look for small class sizes, modern facilities and the right college population to fit your personality. However, with a dancer’s unique talents comes the need for an equally distinctive education. So put onyour thinking caps, lace up your dancing shoes and open your eyes to a few of the lesser known collegiate clues that can help you reach your perfect educational choice.

What A Girl Wants
As muses of dance, your educational needs are very different from those of your less movement-minded classmates. Your best tool is to recognize those desires are and decide how you want to cultivate them, whether through a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) or a BA (Bachelor of the Arts) degree.

A BFA is best suited for dancers who know exactly where they want their dancing shoes to take them. This program requires more credit hours than a BA and is more structured and training-intensive. A BFA doesn’t leave much room to explore other avenues of study outside of your dance focus and is targeted at dancers aiming to turn their art into their profession. Don’t let the stern tone of this degree fool you into thinking that a BFA will limit your career opportunities; dancers earning this degree can go on to teach, choreograph, get their MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree and, of course, dance professionally.

Like a BFA, a BA is a precursor to a MFA. However, a BA is aimed at students who may not be ready to make the commitment that a BFA requires. A Bachelor of the Arts degree allows students more flexibility in their class schedules. It is aimed at dancers who want to pursue additional majors or minors or who desire a more well-rounded college experience. Keep in mind that while many colleges have both BFA and BA programs, some may only offer one or the other or may not have a degree program in dance at all. For extra credit, find out if your college is a member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) or if any of the instructors have been DMA (Dance Masters of America) or DEA (Dance Educators of America) certified. These organizations are independent firms ensuring quality and excellence in dance education, and the NASD is recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Mission Possible
Although they may look like innocuous blocks of text, a school’s mission statement can tell a lot about its underlying philosophies. For example, the University of Michigan’s Department of Dance “draws upon the legacies of 20th century American modern dance and ballet, embracing the abundant theoretical, historical, and interdisciplinary resources available on campus and in the community,” whereas the Denison University Dance Department aims “to physically challenge students in several movement experiences ranging from traditional dance…to modern dance…to contemporary.” In short, mission statements can reveal the very different artistic objectives held by different colleges. Marshall Anderson, chair of the Theater and Dance Department at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, recognizes that “most, if not all, prospective students never look at a department’s mission statement and don’t even know that one exists!” Knowing what a school has in mind for you can help you decide if you want to invest in its particular brand of song and dance.

Hit The Road, Jack
Picking a college dance program is one of those rare choices where you can test-drive your decision! Through summer workshops, you can get the classroom experience without the collegiate commitment. Participating in these seminars gives you a well seasoned taste of a school’s teaching methods, instructors and class structure. If the schools you are most interested in don’t offer summer workshops, touring the facilities and speaking with instructors are great ways to “test the waters,” Anderson says. He also suggests meeting teachers, sitting in on classes, and speaking to current students: “[College] websites are nice, but don’t tell the whole story – a personal visit is a must.”As dancers, you know that preparation is key, and this guideline applies to your perfect performance on not only the theatrical, but also the collegiate stage.

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