If you’re wondering what acting schools can do for you, watch this short video.
Choosing a good acting school is the most important thing you can do for your acting career. No matter what people tell you, casting directors and agents look at your training. They are much more likely to give you a shot if you come from a good acting college or school. Not only that, you will be better prepared to enter the professional world of acting and bank on the opportunities that come along. Below are the six most important things to look at when researching acting schools so you can pick the best acting school for you.
1) Finding the Best Acting Schools
A few acting schools are highly respected by agents and thought of as having the best acting programs in the country. Attending these acting colleges will go a long way to getting you representation as an actor, not to mention giving you performance experience and solid acting skills to start your acting career with. The Juilliard School of Drama in New York, the graduate program at Yale University in New Haven and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh are among these schools, to name a few (you can see our top ten acting colleges here).
Of course, the best acting programs are often the hardest to get into, so don’t limit yourself, but do ask around about a school’s reputation with the acting industry before signing up.
Acting schools with the best reputations are not necessarily the ones you hear about the most or you see at the top of search results on the internet. Good marketing doesn’t make a good school. Similarly, an acting school that produced stars many years ago may not be what it used to be. So focus on the present (how many recent graduates are now working actors) and the industry’s opinion (which drama programs do agents and casting directors like to see on actors’ resumes).
2) Deciding what You Want
Got a list of the best acting schools? That’s great! Now it’s time to look at what you want.
A lot of the top acting schools are acting colleges (where you study four years full-time to get an acting degree) or acting conservatories (with a minimum of a 2-year full time program). That’s often ideal, but not realistic for everyone.
If acting is a second career for you, you may not have the luxury to go back to school full time. Some acting colleges are also very expensive, and there are no guarantees of getting an acting job when you get out of school and have to repay your student loans.
So deciding how much time you can commit to your actor training is an important factor in choosing a school. You can start with short term acting classes or even a summer acting camp. Some acting schools also offer one year acting intensives, with the option of taking evening classes if you work during the day.
If you already know which acting method you want to study, take that into account when choosing an acting program. Some acting schools specialize in specific approaches like Method Acting, while others combine acting techniques to give student actors more tools to work with.
Another big decision you have to make is whether you can wait to finish your acting degree to audition. Some of the renowned actor training programs don’t let students audition in the real world until they have graduated. I don’t think you should pass on a good school because of this if you’re starting your acting career, but it’s your call, especially if you’re already getting acting jobs.
Finally, decide where you want to study. You don’t have to be in New York or Los Angeles to learn to act, but it helps if you want to audition during your acting school years.
3) Comparing the Costs of Acting Schools
This is not a very fun part of this process, but you got to compare how much each acting program will cost you.
Write down the tuition for every acting college and school you are interested in and try to get estimates of additional expenses you will have as an acting student for each school. For example, if you have to move to New York City, your housing costs may be much higher than if you go to an acting university close to home. Other expenses may include transportation, insurance, books and theater tickets.
Take into account what you get for the price you pay, of course, especially when it comes to an acting degree. A BFA in Acting will give you many more options in life than no degree or a lesser acting degree, such as a certificate. Even if an acting school doesn’t offer a degree, you may be able to earn credits if you want to go back to school later, so ask.
Along with costs, look at financial aid, especially talent-based grants and scholarships that, unlike loans, you don’t have to repay.
Good acting schools train the whole person, so look for acting programs that offer some of following classes to get a full acting training:
- acting technique, characterization
- scene study, script analysis
- improvisation, clown, mime
- movement, alexander technique, tai chi, suzuki
- stage combat
- voice and speech
- accent elimination & dialects
- musical theater acting
- dance (classical, tap, jazz)
- shakespeare acting
- screen acting
- make-up, costume
- auditioning technique, cold reading
You can read more about each acting class here.
Most good acting programs will train you for both theater acting and acting in front of the camera, but if you only want to be a film actor, you may want to explore acting schools that specialize in screen acting.
5) Getting Ready to Work as an Actor
Because acting is such a competitive field, one of the most important things acting school can do for you is to give you the best chances of getting acting work when you leave school.
- By giving you as much performance time as possible (on stage and in front of the camera).
- By making your performance time as close as possible to the real thing (by having professional venues, invited audiences and filmmaking programs).
- By teaching you the business of acting through industry professionals (acting agents, casting directors, successful actors, etc.)
- By fostering experience and contacts through internships and networking events.
- By facilitating access to representation through industry showcases and scene nights.
- By mentoring you toward graduation through headshot and resume assistance, audition preparation and acting career planning.
So look for acting programs with great training but also committed to making a working actor out of you, not a lifetime student.
Make Your Short ListBrowse listings of acting schools and follow the five steps above to make a short list of good acting schools for you. Start by drawing three columns (A, B and C) with the theater programs that score the most points in the A column and the acting schools that end up not being quite right for you in the C column. All your second choices can go in column B.
6) Visiting the Acting Programs on your List
Take a tour of the good acting schools on your list and look at their facilities, especially the performance spaces and theater(s).
Ask a lot of questions during your visit.Here’s a list to get you started:
“Are the teachers still working as professional actors?”
“How many students are in a class?”
“Do students get to work in every class?”
“How many student public performace do you have each year?”
“Do you have an in-house theater company or regularly work with an outside company?”
“Do you have a showcase for graduates?”
“How many agents and casting directors attended your last showcase?”
“Do you help students with headshots and resumes?”
“Do you have guest artists seminars or master classes with industry people?”
“Do you have a film program to help me get a reel while I study acting?”
“Are first year students automatically accepted into the second year?”
Just like school teachers, acting teachers can make all the difference when you learn to act. When possible, try to audit an acting class to meet future teachers.
If you like the school, find out how to apply and try to get a few pointers on what the acting program directors look for during auditions.
Now you got your final short list. All you have to do is apply to the acting schools you like. All schools are different, but things you may need include an application and fee, a headshot and resume and one or two monologues for auditions.
Good luck with your search!