Wondering what the best theater colleges are? Here’s our top ten!
This is not an extensive list of top theater universities out there, just a list of names that keep coming back among actors and acting industry professionals we came across through the years.
Some theater colleges are best for their Bachelor of Arts programs, some for their Masters degree programs. Some are known for acting, some for musical theater. So the best acting college is ultimately the one that is best for you!
- 1 1) Juilliard – New York, NY
- 2 2) Yale School of Drama – New Haven, CT
- 3 3) Carnegie Mellon University – Pittsburgh, PA
- 4 4) Purchase College, SUNY – Purchase, NY
- 5 5) USC School of Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
- 6 6) California Institute of the Arts – Valencia, CA
- 7 7) Tisch School of the Arts – New York
- 8 8) Northwestern University – Chicago, IL
- 9 9) The Theatre School at DePaul University – Chicago, IL
- 10 10) Boston Conservatory – Boston, MA
- 11 More Good Theatre Colleges
1) Juilliard – New York, NY
If you want to study acting, you’ve heard of Juilliard. This university on Lincoln Center Plaza in the heart of Manhattan offers one of the most respected undergraduate acting degrees in the country… And one of the most competitive (less than 1 in 50 applicants are accepted).
Juilliard acting students work as an ensemble with theater professionals while they study. By the time they graduate, they’ve got a lot of performance hours under their belt, an impressive resume, and have been seen by hundreds of industry professionals during showcases.
2) Yale School of Drama – New Haven, CT
Yale is considered one of the best theater colleges when it comes to a Masters in acting. Its 3-year MFA program gives graduate students an opportunity to work closely with the resident Tony-winning theater company, Yale Repertory Theater.
The School of Drama offers Masters degree programs in every aspect of the theater, allowing MFA actors to work closely with talented directors and playwrights.
3) Carnegie Mellon University – Pittsburgh, PA
Carnegie Mellon is one of the top theater universities for both acting and musical theater. There are multiple opportunities for actors who pursue the BFA in Drama, including opportunities to study abroad, work with distinguished invited artists, participate in the performance of new works and the creation of original TV programs. In particular, musical theater students get to work with leaders in their field developing new material.
4) Purchase College, SUNY – Purchase, NY
The Acting BFA at Purchase College is an intense immersion program with long hours and lots of work, but as a result many graduates become successful working actors. Alumni include Melissa Leo and Stanley Tucci, to name a few. Actors get to perform a lot the last two years and selected students appear in front of 300 industry professionals.
5) USC School of Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
USC is considered one of the best theatre colleges for its undergraduate program. The long list of alumni includes Forest Whitaker, Kyra Sedgwick and Eric Stoltz. Those who pursue the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting audition for over 20 shows produced annually and benefit from being at one of the best acting colleges in Los Angeles through good internship opportunities, distinguished guest speakers and well-attended industry showcases.
6) California Institute of the Arts – Valencia, CA
CalArts in Valencia, less than an hour from Los Angeles, is also considered by many among the best theater colleges for both its Bachelor of Arts programs and Masters degree programs. The school offers plenty of performance opportunities, including work with guest artists and a graduation industry showcase. Alumni of CalArts include Don Cheadle and Ed Harris.
7) Tisch School of the Arts – New York
Actors who get a Bachelor of Fine Arts from NYU get 3-days a week of conservatory training at one of six New York acting studios, including the prestigious Atlantic Acting School, where actors like Felicity Huffman and Matthew Fox studied.
NYU students benefit from being in the heart of NYC through professional internships and a lot of performance opportunities in over a hundred productions each year.
8) Northwestern University – Chicago, IL
Among top theater universities, Northwestern is one that offers a BA in Theater. One of the strengths of its Bachelor of Arts program is the range of performance opportunities, with shows at 5 theaters with 8 main stage productions, 30 lab productions and over 50 student productions each year, in addition to a theater festival, an original musical by students, a children theater tour and a Mime acting company. Actors also appear in a showcase and get help networking.
9) The Theatre School at DePaul University – Chicago, IL
Also in the Windy City, the theatre school at DePaul is not only one of the best theater colleges, it is also one of the oldest. Classes are small and exhaustive, drawing from a wide range of techniques and approaches. With 35 shows per season, students from the BFA in Acting and MFA in Acting programs never lack performance opportunities, including at a professional theater downtown. This top theatre university organizes showcases in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, along with alumni networking events for recent graduates.
10) Boston Conservatory – Boston, MA
Boston conservatory is considered one of the best acting college choices for those who want to be “triple threats”. Students pursuing the BFA in Musical Theater get a wide range of performance opportunities, from main stage to new works to student projects and community performances. Seniors participate in an industry showcase in New York.
More Good Theatre Colleges
There are plenty of other good acting universities out there some would consider among the best theater colleges. You can do your own research using our overview of acting colleges or just browsing acting schools around the country. Hope you find the best theater college for you!