10 Tips That Will Help You Succeed As A College Bound Dancer

          I've always had an enthusiasm for helping people. I've always mentored the younger generation of dancers in any way possible, and no matter how busy things get make time to answer questions and give advice when they ask for it. Now that I started my career as a dentist, there seems to be one question that I get on a routinely basis: “How did you do it? How did you find time to dance AND study?”

          With summer ending and a new school year starting, I figured I would write a blog post about the topic so that my advice reaches as much people as possible. The truth is it wasn't easy. I made a lot of sacrifices and missed out on a lot of fun. In the end, it was worth it because I was continuing a passion that started when I was 12 years old while at the same time pursuing a new one. 

          This blog post is written specifically for bboys/bgirls starting college, but is easily applicable not only to other dancers but people in general. My hope is that it inspires you, the reader, to stay motivated regardless of what path you are taking in life. If you’re looking for tips on how to survive college while making time for your other passion, read on!

1. Plan as much as possible

          After deciding that I wanted pursue a career in dentistry, I planned my entire undergraduate education out, term by term. I looked at all the prerequisites for dental school and planned which term of which year was a good time to take it, and how I would fit it all in. This obviously continued to change as the terms went by and I even changed the degree I was getting. However, the planning aspect of it will help keep you organized as each term goes by. 

          Plan on every level possible. Plan your college education from start to end. Plan how much studying each week you are going to need to do to achieve the grades you want, how much time you are going to put into dance practice to keep you happy. Even go as far as planning your day. 

2. Manage your time wisely!

          This is the gift and the curse of the structure of college. In high school, your schedule is not as flexible. During college, you are given ALOT more free time. You could take a heavy course load, or a light one. The trick is to manage this time wisely! You could even choose not to go to class, but what are you doing with the time that you are not at school? Are you spending your free time laying on the couch, watching tv or playing video games, and then cram all your studying 24 hours before a test? Unless you are the smartest kid in the class and already know all of the material being taught, chances are you are not going to be happy with the results.

3. Focus on the moment and what is right in front of you

          This is the key to practicing good time management. After you figure out how much studying you need to do for each class, go to the library during that allotted time. Turn off your cell phone, Facebook, instagram, twitter, snapchat, and whatever else that might be a distraction. FOCUS ON WHATS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. This is how you become productive with your time. Same goes for practice, don’t bring your homework to practice. Leave everything at home, including things on your mind. A lot of times using dance sessions as a form of stress relief really worked for me. I would sometimes use it as a reward for studying, and even went before a test. 

4. Develop good study habits that personally work for YOU

          A lot of people need different things to study productively, find out what yours is. What worked best for me was studying at the library, in the mornings, and with 10 minute breaks every hour or so. My attention span has always been about 50 minutes. After about 50 minutes I will either start staring into space, or fall asleep. So that 10 minute break acts as a reset button and works really well for me. Group studying can help too, but I’ve always liked studying by myself and maybe doing a quick group study right before a test.


5. Structure your practice sessions

          You’re going to be limited on time, and you’re going to be extremely tired on some days. The truth is this is what causes a lot of dancers to lose their motivation and quit. The remedy for this problem is to structure your practice sessions in a way that you can still go to practice even though you’re tired. 

          I normally go into practice knowing what I want to work on that day, and developed drills to do at the beginning of each practice. Without going into details, these drills are crucial because they are so simple to do that I can run through the motions when I’m tired and still benefit from it. Some days however, I like to just head to practice to vibe out, and it helps me clear my mind. Either way, organizing your practice helps make it easier to still make it there even if you have an upcoming midterm or final.

6. Set goals for yourself

          I like to set competitions 3 months in advance as goals. Within that 3 months I am able to plan how I am going to get ready for it and how to juggle it with school. The first month you’re able to freely create without any pressure, second month solidifying your creative process and forming moves, and third month getting ready for the competition. This formula of goal setting helped me stay motivated at practice. 

7. Be patient: find the right path and do what you love

          Without having a passion for what you do, it is extremely difficult to be successful. You’ll be working harder and you’ll be unhappy. Take the time to find the right path.

          I started college not having a clue what I wanted to do. I took a few intro courses and kept my first term light, to get used to college and to explore my options. Take your time. It’s ok to take general classes the first two years while you figure out what you want to do. You might even find that college isn't for you, and that's ok. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. The quicker you realize this, the quicker you'll be on a path that you will be happy with.

8. No excuses!

          It’s not going to be easy, and it’s important for to understand that. You will need to be motivated to achieve your goals, and be ready to sacrifice a variety of aspects of your life. Your friends will ask you to go out every weekend, and you'll have to say no more often than yes.  You’ll wish there was more than 24 hours in the day, and have to choose practice over sleep.

          To sum it up, you’ll have to learn to balance fun with school and practice.


9. Surround yourself with supportive people

          Something you have to realize is that while continuing to dance while studying in college is going to be tough for you, it’s going to be even tougher for the people around you. This is why it is important to make sure the people you surround yourself with are on board with your goals. 

          My girlfriend is the reason why I survived college and dental school. While I prioritized time for her, I also prioritized time for studying as well as breaking. While it was a struggle to come to a consensus, we developed something that works and if it isn’t working, we change it. Make sure your loved ones are on board because their support will make a difference.



10. Anything is possible and your potential is limitless


          As cheesy as this sounds, this is the most important piece of advice I could give you for success as a college bound dancer. 

          I remember I started college not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. On my first day of college orientation, I took a math placement course and scored very poorly. I was interested in taking a chemistry class but my counselor told me it would not be wise to do so because of my math scores. Well, my college roommate persuaded me to just take it, and I instantly fell in love with science and eventually found that dentistry was a career that blended both of my passions together. 

          You are only limited by limits you place on yourself. Aim high, if your goal is the moon than shoot for the stars! Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. With a hard work ethic and the desire to succeed, no matter what cards you’re dealt with in life, anything is possible.

          - Hieu Pham, DMD



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Photographed model credits: Portland State 3rd year Vanndy Ouk, General Science Major w/ Chemistry minor (Pre-med). Vanndy is a part of Natives crew based out of Hillsboro, Oregon.

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