Circus News

6 Tips for Applying to Circus Schools

Applying for circus schools is confusing. Translating documents, finding application deadlines, calculating all the hours that you have ever spent dancing in your entire life… It can get really overwhelming really fast and if you’re like me, trying to find time to apply for international schools while working and training can feel impossible. 

From the ages of 18 – 20 years old, I applied for 24 circus schools across the globe. Yup. 24. I learned quite a lot in that process. I ended up auditioning live for 6 of those schools and by video for 5 more. I was accepted into NCCA, NICA, Circomedia, Zofy and Circadium. I ended up choosing Circadium, where I am currently in my second year. 

Here are the top six things I would recommend to help make your application process easier:

1. Choose Five Schools to Apply For

Take the time to do some real research and digging to find five circus schools that really speak to you. Unlike a lot of “traditional colleges” the circus school process is two-fold: the application and then the audition. There is no magic number for how many schools to apply for, but in my experience, circus schools rarely actually refuse an application. If they do, it is usually for visa/government reasons or else because you are truly unprepared. Of course, the application being accepted isn’t the final step, it just means that you get to go to the audition. 

I wouldn’t recommend applying for a school unless you really want to/plan to audition for it. (Like, you probably shouldn’t apply for 24 schools in one year…) However, you also don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket and only apply for one school while you watch other deadlines pass you by, because you might not get in to that school, and then you’ll be sad that you only applied for one. My first two years I made the mistake of applying for too few schools, but then I overcorrected. Five gives you some wiggle room and let’s you do a further evaluation / elimination process before the auditions come. Not to mention that sometimes applications can be costly and it is important to plan according to the costs of applications, factoring it what it might cost to travel and actually audition there as well. 

Things every application wants

2. Start Early

No,really, start early. Circus school applications are often something that you literally cannot do the day before. Sometimes it is required that you send in a physical, which means that you need to set up an appointment with a doctor before you can even start that application. Sometimes you get to send in really interesting videos of you doing push ups and pull ups and that just shouldn’t be done at 11:59pm. The height of application season is typically January and February, so start looking at application requirements in December at the latest.

If the school has multiple programs, start looking into which one you want to apply for early on. This can oftentimes be the most confusing part. Am I BTEC or ETEC or PPP or JDFJFJS? I don’t know. I could never tell and in my experience I always had to ask a student which program was which. This is super important though! Applying for the right program and level can make or break you getting into a school, so take it seriously. 

3. Ask the School Questions

I know the last thing that you want to do is send your dream school a message saying “I’m confused” but sometimes that’s just what you have to do. Schools don’t always put their application deadline online, and if you can’t find it, it’s okay to ask about it. 

You can also ask for the application in different languages! Especially if the app is in PDF format, it can be a nightmare to try and input that into Google Translate and then try and reformat the whole thing into a Google Doc. It’s okay to ask for help with this too. I had two schools give me translated applications when I asked for them!

Also, a lot of schools in France in particular say that you have to mail in hard copies of things. You don’t. You just need to send an email asking if it is okay to send the information electronically and they usually say yes.

4. Make a Source Document

Circus schools often require the same things on their applications. Instead of retyping info a million times, think about having a Google Doc that has info for you to readily copy and paste. You should adjust your answers to fit each school, but you can pretty much guarantee you’ll need the following things:

  • One passport-sized photograph (JPEG)
  • A legible copy of the birth certificate
  • An answer for why you want to go to circus school
  • How many years you’ve been training and where
5. Video Application? Bring a Friend!

Sometimes schools require a video of you for the application. If you have multiple schools like this, offer to buy your friend coffee and then make them take videos of you all day. Trust me, it is easiest to take all of these videos in one day and to have someone else take them for you. Having a friend film makes your editing process way easier.

6. Start Preparing for Auditions Right Away

After you’ve applied, start preparing for the auditions right away. Don’t wait to hear back from the school whether your application has been accepted because sometimes they take a long time and it is good to keep training.

Ask current students of the school what the audition process was like for that school. There is no better person to ask than someone who recently did it and did it successfully.

Once you’ve gone through the application process you’re going to have two thoughts: how long until I find out, and, how could there possibly be more left to do? The answer to both questions is, disappointingly: I don’t know. It takes each school a different amount of time to reply. Some schools are really great about telling you what date they will tell you if you were accepted to audition or not, and some will leave you hanging for quite a while. My advice? Keep training. Keep preparing like you’re going to audition for the school anyways and you’ll be fine. 

Also, keep researching! If you applied to 10 schools and only want to audition for five, that’s where the real digging begins. I would recommend talking to students who go to the school because they can tell you the real details of the place and also what it was like to audition.

Auditioning for schools can feel super scary and stressful. I know that I spent about three years feeling scared and stressed all the time. Finding your dream school isn’t always easy or fast. Your life isn’t over if you don’t get into ENC, and your life isn’t easy just because you got into ENC. Everyone’s path is different and every circus school has a list of complicated reasons that they do and don’t accept people. The application stage is the one that everyone wants to rush through, but remember that the application matters when they are deciding to let you into the school or not. The best thing you can do is let people help you and make sure that you do the research in order to find schools that you’re truly passionate about. Remember that you have to accept them as much as they accept you!

Related content: CSAW Introduces Its International Circus School Ambassadors, Frequently Asked Questions: Auditioning for a Circus School, How to Get into French Circus School: Lyon’s Free Preparatory Circus Course, What’s the Point of a Degree in Circus Arts?

Feature photo courtesy of Sierra Rhoades Nicholls

Sierra Rhoades Nicholls
Community Coorinator, Circus Student -United States
Sierra Rhoades Nicholls is the founder of CSAW (Connecting Circus Students Around the World) and is also Community Coordinator for CircusTalk. Originally from Missoula, Montana, Sierra was a gymnast for 10 years before pursuing a professional circus career. Sierra currently attends Circadium School for Contemporary Circus where she specializes in handstands and partner acrobatics.

Sierra Rhoades Nicholls

Sierra Rhoades Nicholls is the founder of CSAW (Connecting Circus Students Around the World) and is also Community Coordinator for CircusTalk. Originally from Missoula, Montana, Sierra was a gymnast for 10 years before pursuing a professional circus career. Sierra currently attends Circadium School for Contemporary Circus where she specializes in handstands and partner acrobatics.

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