Is Marching with a College Guard Right for You?

| September 15, 2011 | 1 Comment

Many changes take place between your senior year of high school and your freshman year of college. New opportunities are on the horizon and you’re exposed to a wide array of activities, organizations, clubs, and sports from which to choose. Where does color guard fit in? How can you incorporate your favorite high school pastime with your new life in college? Should you?

Joining an organization – or two or three! – is an important part of your college experience. Continuing to participate in guard is one choice that can be rewarding and fun. Joining the color guard can help establish a close circle of friends with a similar interest right from the beginning of your college journey.

Just as in high school, most college marching bands participate in a pre-school band camp(s).  Band camp will not only help you adjust to the new technical, leadership, and organizational styles of the group, but can also give you extra time to familiarize yourself with your college campus – it’s layout, how to get from point A to B, the best places to eat, etc. – a few days ahead of the move-in crowds; you will automatically have a leg-up on finding your way around, knowing the best places to go, and having a few trusted upperclassmen to ask if you need help!  (BONUS: anyone who has fought the crowds on a dorm move-in day knows that moving in a few days early is heaven!  No waiting in long lines for luggage carts!)

In making the decision about whether or not to join the marching band, it’s important to know what will be expected of you, the time commitment required, and how your experience will, most likely, change from the color guard routine you came to expect in high school.


Some colleges have an audition process.  This can be a great way to get a feel for the types of people you would be spinning with, the level of difficulty, and the coaching or leadership style; you can use the audition process to test out your fit in the group as much as they are using it to see if you’ll be a good addition to the team.

If your school does not have an audition process, reach out to the band director (who may put you in touch with the color guard coach or captain) to find out as much information about the organization as possible; ask lots of questions! If you start early (visiting campus the fall of your senior year), you might even be able to arrange to sit in on a practice to get a feel for the atmosphere yourself. Talk to other members, attend a football game, check out the halftime show, and visit their website – you can find out a lot of great information through these resources as well.

One important point: don’t be surprised if college marching band looks and feels a little different than your high school team. If you approach this new experience with an open mind it may take some “getting used to” in the transition, but it can be just as rewarding. Don’t give up on the opportunity because you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed – those feelings with soon subside once you are accepting into the team; you don’t want to miss out on a chance because of nerves!


With many – or perhaps even most  – college guards, the emphasis is on entertainment and school spirit and less about technical perfection. The band and guard are usually not judged (except in the case of competitive college-level winter guards) and typically do not participate in competitions. Participation in the group is mostly about having fun!  Depending on where you marched in high school the routines may or may not be as hard – some colleges use one show the entire season like most high schools, while others learn several halftime shows per season and rotate them at various games and other performances.

For many college marching bands, the purpose is to engage the audience, boost school spirit, and put on a show. The inevitable effects of participating: you’re going to have a great time, make new friends, become a part of the school culture/spirit, and maybe even get the opportunity to travel in the process – often without the competitive pressure you might be used to if you marched with a high school band.


The time commitment required will vary from program to program, so it’s important to find out if it’s a commitment your schedule will allow you to make. Some schools incorporate Marching Band as a class, where you attend rehearsal the same way you would attend any other class, except that it’s held on the field rather than in a classroom and you receive course credit for participating. Other programs may meet “after school”, where it’s entirely extracurricular. Some guards may also hold an additional weekday practice.  Game days will also require a large commitment, as you’ll be expected to participate in each home football game, and maybe even away games depending on your program. Take a look at the previous season’s schedule and talk to those involved to get a full understanding of how much time you’ll be committing to for the season.

Once you get all the information you need to make an informed decision, weigh your options. If you’re still interested in participating, you have the time in your schedule, and you think it’s something you’d like to try – do it! Worst case scenario you find it’s not for you and you don’t continue during the rest of your time at college. But more than likely you’ll have a blast, meet some of your best friends, feel more connected with your university, and ultimately feel like you have a niche in college. Undoubtedly, your college guard experience will be different from that in high school, but if you know this before you start and approach it with an open mind, you will find that it will be a new kind of fun and just one way you’ll make the four years of college memorable!

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  1. jennifer says:

    This is a great article! I marched in the guard at the University of Connecticut for the last 4 years and it was great! Joining the UCMB has been such a large part of my college experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is considering marching. For those who join for the love of music and its performance the rewards of membership outweigh the time commitment(instant friendships, travel opportunities,personal growth and leadership,connection with the university to name a few). Anyone who is considering marching in college should contact a guard member at their prospective schools to get more information about the specific program!

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