Zackery Torres: Top 10 things to think about when applying to USC Kaufman

October 4, 2019

Zack Torres wearing cardinal polo smiling with mother and sister

Zackery Torres (BFA '21) with their family during Trojan Family Weekend | Photo by Cecile Oreste

Applying to dance programs can definitely be a stressful time. So, I sat down with USC Kaufman’s Assistant Dean of Admission and Student Services, Anne Aubert-Santelli, to come up with the top 10 things students should keep in mind when applying to our school. I hope these tips are helpful to you throughout the application process.

1. Follow the directions when creating your USC Kaufman portfolio.

I know this seems like a very obvious task, but I promise it does not hurt to read the directions more than once. For example, when looking at the resume portion of the application, make sure to follow the format of the USC Kaufman resume (which you’ll find here.) Also, it should not be more than one page. All of this is in the directions, but can be sometimes overlooked. The faculty really take note of who is able to follow directions.

2. The two solos you submit should be your strongest work.

This part of the portfolio is the only opportunity the faculty have to see you dance, so make it count. I strongly suggest not trying anything new or out of your comfort zone. Ask yourself, “When do I feel the most myself when dancing?” Submit that. Make sure the pieces are contrasting in some way. They don’t need to be polar opposites, but they should showcase you as a dancer in different ways.

3. With that being said, don’t waste any time with your solos.

Now is not the time to showcase how great you are at walking to the center mark. You don’t have that much time, so make sure to show as much content as possible in that minute (1 minute per solo). I just want to reiterate that the faculty do not know you, so make sure to use every second of that minute dancing.

4. Do your research!

In the written response, make sure to show that you put in the work. For example, the prompt this year is “The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance is uniquely positioned as a conservatory embedded within one of the world’s leading private research universities. How will you take advantage of the many academic, artistic and social opportunities available at the university as a whole?” Don’t turn this into why you want to be at USC Kaufman. Carefully construct a response that is specific to what the question is asking. Overall, steer clear of general answers. The faculty want to hear what you plan to do!

5. Make sure that you’re interested in being at a conservatory that is a part of a university.

USC Kaufman is a dance conservatory, but it’s also within USC. There is an academic component of our program, so make sure that it’s a good fit for you. The academics are rigorous, but they are manageable. I bring this one up, because it’s important that you understand what you’re auditioning for.

6. Get your materials in early.

This one is a bit obvious, but I like to tell a story about a friend of mine who finished their application the day that it was due. Sadly, their computer crashed with everything on it. They had little time to problem solve, and it caused a lot of stress. I know people say this all of the time, but it could happen to any of us. So be prepared.

7. You’re auditioning a school as much as they’re auditioning you.

Complete applications and auditions with confidence because you are auditioning USC Kaufman as much as USC Kaufman is auditioning you. It is important that you end up at a school that’s the right fit. The only way to know that is if you consciously audition the school as well.

8. Apply for financial aid before you get a decision.

Because deciding which school to choose can be difficult, you want to make sure that you have all of the information when making the decision. If you complete your financial aid early enough, you will have all the information you need (and a full month) to make an informed decision. If not, you might be in a situation where you have to make a decision last minute, or without all of the necessary information.

9. Trust the process.

This is a cliché for sure, but try to enjoy the process of applying. It’s a stressful time, but it’s rewarding in the end. I remember what it’s like to apply to programs, and that feeling never goes away. As dancers, we are always going to be looking for what’s next. Try to enjoy that process of the unknown. There’s joy in it, if you let it in.

10. Be authentic.

Remember that USC Kaufman is interested in seeing who you really are. It is important to be authentic, because the admissions process is used to determine whether this is the place for you. If you’re not honest during the process, you may end up somewhere that’s not right for you.

Bonus Tip: Reach out!

If you have any questions that haven’t been answered, don’t hesitate to contact our Assistant Dean of Admission and Student Services, Anne Aubert-Santelli, at I promise she’s nice, and definitely a large part of why I chose USC.

By Zackery Torres