If you want to become an actor, choosing the right acting college can make a big difference in your career. Here’s some information on what to look for so you can make the right choice among the hundreds of BA programs nationwide for aspiring performers.
1) Acting Degrees
Some acting colleges have BA programs only, which are 60% liberal arts studies, while others have BFA programs, which provide more professional training (for more on this, see our acting degreepage).
Some theater colleges focus mainly on acting. Others offer a broad education in theatre arts, with classes like theater design and lighting, stage management, costumes, props, directing and playwriting.
If an acting university offers an MFA program in acting also, that can be a good thing if you want your masters in acting. On the other hand, if you’re an undergrad, make sure all the roles at the performing arts college aren’t reserved for graduate students, and that you will be taking most of your classes from faculty, not actors from the Masters program.
2) Acting Classes
The range of acting classes varies greatly from one acting college to the next. Some BA programs in theater have few acting classes among a lot of theater history and technical classes, while other programs have a very complete training, from acting technique and styles to voice, speech, movement and dance classes.
If you want to be on Broadway, you need a theatre college curriculum specifically designed for musical theater, which includes some private voice lessons, a wider range of dance classes (jazz, ballet, modern and tap), music classes and Broadway acting technique classes.
One acting university can be home to a large fully equipped theater with prop and costume shops, while another may only have a black box performance space. This makes for another big difference between acting colleges, since one of the best ways to learn acting is by being on stage. The more opportunities you get to be on a near-professional stage, the more you’ll be able to work on your weaknesses and expand your strengths as an artist.
That being said, a large theater is not much use if you don’t get to be on it, so explore which acting colleges offer the best performance opportunities for their undergraduate students.
4) Connections to the Working World
In a field overcrowded with acting college graduates, the best classroom actors don’t necessarily turn into working actors if they don’t have the right connections and career preparation.
Some theater colleges work hard to jump start the careers of their acting students, offering audition classes and training in the business of acting. Better still, some performing arts colleges invite guest directors and casting directors for workshops. Other performing arts colleges find meaningful theater internships for their students or offer the opportunity to work with a resident theater company. Some masters programs include ways to get your acting union card during your training.
Acting colleges close to major entertainment centers often have more connections with the industry, but not always. Another advantage some colleges have is a filmmaking program or directing program as part of the university. This can allow acting students to get a demo reel and build relationships while still in school.
Nowadays, many actor colleges organize showcase nights for their graduates, but an industry showcase will only be helpful if the right people come to watch you. So do a little research on which casting directors, directors, producers and agents attended previous showcases at the acting university you like.
5) Cost of Attendance
College is expensive, but tuition varies greatly from one acting college to another. In New York alone, tuition for acting college ranges from $4,600 to over $40,000 a year. That doesn’t include room and board, which can be more expensive in universities located in major cities.
Like other colleges, often a performing arts college is cheaper if you are a resident of the state, so look around to see if there is a good acting university near you.
The amount of financial aid available is also a major factor in the amount you’ll end up paying for your acting education. Some schools offer full talent scholarships to students who excel at entrance auditions. Others offer need-based awards or very little financial aid.
Aiming for the Best Acting College
Finally, theater colleges have different reputations among industry players. Picking an acting university that is highly regarded by casting directors and acting agents will not only get your resume noticed when you submit to acting roles at the beginning of your career, it also means you are more likely to perform in front of important decision makers during your graduate showcase. So ask around to see what industry players think are the best colleges for actors out there.
We hope this helps you find the right theatre college for you. For more help choosing an acting school, read this information on how to choose an acting program. You can also find a list of the best colleges for acting here.