USC Kaufman application advice from the freshman perspective

October 26, 2018

A group of students in black convocation robes pose for a group picture

USC Kaufman freshmen pose at the 2018-2019 school year convocation | Photo by Alyssa Reyes

Four members of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance’s Class of 2022 sat down to discuss their audition process from the freshman perspective. Here are some memories, insights and advice from Eli Alford, India Dobbie, Elise Monson and Maria Rosenberg:

What do you wish you had know before applying to USC Kaufman?

India Dobbie

India: Especially for USC Kaufman, no one is expecting you to be perfect in all styles, and I had that expectation before the audition. However, our class is so diverse and everyone has different areas of expertise. I wish had been a little more confidence in myself and my strengths.

Elise: I wish I had kept in mind that they’re not only auditioning you, but you’re auditioning them. It’s important to be 100 percent yourself or else you won’t know exactly what you’re walking into when it comes time to make a decision. Don’t try to be someone else.

Eli: You’re applying for a university program. You might get wrapped up in the idea of USC Kaufman and the dance side of the application, but keep in mind that getting in is not all about dance. You still have to do all the academic work. Explore and get to know USC as a university.

Maria: At the beginning of the audition, the faculty said that they want to get to know each of us us as a person, and I really realized how true this was in the interview. I wish I wasn’t so nervous going into it. The faculty was so authentic, I felt I was actually able to open up in the interview and talk as I would in any situation.

Can you each talk about your video submissions, solos and responses?

Elise Monson

Elise: For the solos, I think it’s important to think about what your strengths are and how you can highlight them in a way that’s different than anyone else. This is your first impression on the faculty, so make it memorable. I did a contemporary solo and a musical theater solo.

The talking portion is a great place to practice speaking. Being able to articulate your ideas is something that the faculty really try to impress upon us. Put thought into what you’re going to say. I had a tendency to be really hard on myself when applying to colleges. Don’t over critique yourself in videos. Be okay with where you are.

Eli: Don’t feel like you have to make your video response the full minute. Be clear and concise. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with any of the videos, because they can feel very isolating. Try setting a time with your teachers to have them help film you and give you feedback, or make sure you’re getting your best angle. Don’t shy away from getting help. I submitted a contemporary solo and a classical variation.

Maria: For me, not overthinking it ensured that I got a natural response that came from an authentic place. After memorizing what I wanted to say, I took two or three tries. For the solo videos, I was nervous about what to pick. Should I try to do two really contrasting styles or something I was more comfortable with? I already had a video of a solo I had done for competition and I was going to film a ballet variation. I didn’t feel as confident in the ballet variation, so I decided to submit a video I had already taken at a lyrical class at a convention, making sure I noted who I was. For me, taking a video specifically for USC Kaufman was too nerve wracking.

India: If you’re not a “trina,” you don’t have to put on the pointe shoes. I’m no classical ballerina, so I submitted a Horton solo and a jazz solo. For the live audition, I did a contemporary solo. As for the speaking part, I tried to make it as natural as possible rather than scripted.

What did you do to stay on top of the admissions process?

Eli Alford

India: For all college applications, I created a Google Drive to start drafting the answers to all short response and essay questions. It gave me a jumping off point and kept me from allowing the deadline to creep up without anything started.

Elise: I started at the end of August and spent a couple of hours every Sunday working on my application with my parents.

Eli: I wrote down all my deadlines on a sheet of paper that I carried around everyday as a reminder of what I had to do. I also created a Google Drive for all my college essays. Anytime I had an idea, I would add it to the document so I could go back and work on it later. Setting days that I could get in the studio to film was also really important for me. Filming can take time, especially if you want to go back and re-film anything. Setting an earlier deadline for myself took some stress off.

Maria: Luckily my high school had us write our CommonApp essay in school, so I had multiple teachers looking at it for feedback. Having the essay done early took off a lot of pressure once the application officially opened. I had the academic portions done by mid-September; then I could focus on the dance portion of the application.

When and how did you know that USC Kaufman was the one?

Maria Rosenberg

India: I went to a college fair and met Anne Aubert-Santelli. Prior to the fair, I had never heard of USC. After that, I followed USC Kaufman on Facebook and Instagram to see what the program was up to and that gave me a sense that I would really like it. Then auditioning here was so welcoming and showed me that USC Kaufman is truly a family.

Eli: I was unsure of where I wanted to go to school until I attended Discover USC in New York City. Ever since Discover, I thought about USC everyday. My parents urged me to focus on other schools as well as USC, but I didn’t even want to apply anywhere else! Everyone told me, “You know when you know!” which I always hated, but it’s true.

Elise: The same thing happened to me. I was unsure until I visited during Explore USC in March. I had been accepted and was given the opportunity to take class with current students and attend a BFA show. I was blown away by the Works in Progress show and how the students acted as people. Everyone was so kind to me and treated me like a friend already. It just really felt right.

Maria: I knew when I toured USC Kaufman. I had been following USC Kaufman on Instagram and really looked up to some of the dancers in the program. I loved that the program welcomed diversity and hybridity. Speaking to Anne, I was able to get a sense of the day to day life of a BFA student and hear about what kinds of classes I would be taking. I remember leaving knowing in my heart that I needed to come here.

Any last pieces of advice?

India: Get to know the admissions team.

Maria: I didn’t think to research some of the repertoire that the school was performing. Prior to coming here, I didn’t realize just how lucky we are to have the opportunity to perform everything we do. And reach out to us, knowing someone in the program really helped me.

Elise: Don’t shy away from having other interests and sharing them in your application and interview. It shows that you’ll thrive in a university setting. Pursue other interests.

Eli: Be yourself. Don’t try to get into the school on a false presentation of yourself. Also, if you have any questions about admissions, email us or DM us on Instagram. We were in your shoes once, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us! I love my school so much and I would be happy to answer questions.


By Lillie Pincus