Updated: Aug 12, 2020
The goal when choosing which schools to apply for is for you to be happy attending any of them according your own vision for your career!
Choosing which drama schools to apply for is a task, but hopefully this article will make it easier!
It's exciting to research the unique things each school has to offer and imagine yourself there, and hopefully you have.
But make sure not to overlook these IMPORTANT FACTORS when choosing which B.F.A. acting programs you’re applying to.
When you're applying, you may not think about these, but current students and alumni all agree these are BIG things to consider if you want to get the most out of your training.
This article will help you dig under the surface just a little more and ensure you’re applying to the best schools for YOU - the ones you’ll be REALLY INSPIRED to attend!
Who you surround yourself with
The people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it.
When you’re choosing schools, think about the other students who are getting accepted to the program. You're going to be with these type of people for 4 years, and assuming you're applying to the best acting schools, you're going to be in very close quarters with these people!
Are they your type of person?
Are they there for the same reasons you are?
What type of students do you desire to be surrounded by?
When I applied to Juilliard, I knew I was going to be surrounded by very talented artists who were interested in diving deep into the craft. I wanted intensity; I wanted rigor; I wanted people who pushed me and who offered valuable ways of approaching the work that can open my mind and make me better.
I was not particularly interested in applying for something like U.C.L.A. or University of Texas, where the B.F.A. program is made up of students who intentionally want a more "normal college life" and who explore Greek life/football games/double majoring etc. That's absolutely valid, but it's important to know what type of students are accepted because you don't want to apply to a school you wouldn't be happy at.
California Institute of the Arts is very well-known for it's experimental approaches and sometimes "spacey" students. They even call themselves "CalArtians". It's why many people love that program and also why people do not!
If you don’t know the type of person who gets accepted, there’s a variety of resources you can utilize to find out.
social media -look for relevant hashtags around "student life" and connect with current students to find out more
the school’s website -the websites usually acknowledge the general values of the students and could identify a couple unique characteristics
call the school directly -ask about the type of students you'd be surrounded by and/or ask if there is a current acting student you could be put in contact with
You will find a couple of obvious qualities in the current student body that will help you know if that program is one you’re inspired to apply for or not.
Location is a factor not considered by many applicants...AND IT’S HUGE.
That is, if you want help in getting jobs after you graduate.
FACT: Casting Directors and Agents - the main people in the industry who help you get professional work - are mostly located in just a few cities.
The primary cities are New York, LA, Chicago, and Atlanta. The second-tier cities are New Orleans, Miami, and Toronto (among others).
Juilliard is in New York. It's easy for the top casting directors and agents in the world to see the work of Juilliard actors because they just have to hop in a cab after work.
When they see good work, it's easy to keep in touch with a Juilliard actor because everybody's in the same location.
University of Minnesota has a good program, but if you're applying there, it'd be smart to aim your sights at Minnesota's sprawling theatre scene as a first step in the industry after you graduate. Why? Because it's right there! If you don't want to work in Minnesota after you graduate, that's okay, but it's going to be harder to pop into another market where students are already being watched and establish yourself in a new community. It's possible, but it's smarter to use your time in school to develop relationships in your community so that you're set up for jobs right when you graduate.
Location is huge.
In our School Reviews Podcasts, you'll hear from current students and recent alumni of the top drama schools about how the location of their school affects their career and the steps you can take while you're in school to get a head start in the industry! Listen to a sample below from University of North Carolina Schools of the Arts (UNCSA) students Jack and Briana talk about their showcase!
The School’s Network
This is probably already in your awareness, but it needs to go more to the top of your list.
Most of the jobs you get after school are because someone you already know wants to work with you.
If that’s a little hard to believe, I get it.
Being a 17 year old, I got accepted into Juilliard PURELY because of my work. In other words, I didn’t know anybody there. I worked hard on my pieces and I got in, fair and square. They didn’t know me before and request I audition. I didn’t have any connections at the school. So when I graduated, I expected the real world to be the same way. “Do good work and get hired”. Some jobs are like that, BUT most aren’t.
Doing good work is ALWAYS appreciated, and you should be known for your high quality of work, but doing good work doesn’t mean you know how to GET JOBS.
Getting jobs has a lot to do with who you know and making sure THEY know your quality of work and want to work with you!
For example, I ran a theatre company in Texas. We did shows in Texas and New York, and we paid actors living wages and performed in awesome theatres to sold out audiences. When we were casting those roles, do you think our first thought was “Let’s put out the audition notice and meet new actors!” NO. Our first thought was “Which one of our friends would totally rock this role and wants to make some good money?” That’s probably what you would be thinking too if you were responsible for putting a project together. And that’s what Producers and Casting Directors and Filmmakers and Theatre Makers think too.
How many Casting Directors do you know?
My friend, who happens to be a casting director at a major television network, texted me “I have an audition for you.”
It was for a lead in a network sitcom.
The role was perfect for me (because he knows me), and I was more excited than nervous because my friend referred me! I didn’t get the job, but it’s an honor to be considered and it might lead to something in the future. I would NOT have gotten that audition if I didn’t hang out with my friend a lot. Plus, writing this blog is totally fun, so I’m a winner either way.
So...assuming your going to be better at the end of your B.F.A. training than you are now, the question you have to ask is: “How does the school help me connect with quality professionals in the industry?"
Here’s what you can research...
the alumni network -are the acting alumni connected in an organized fashion and do they support each other in getting jobs?
the guest directors -who directs the shows at the school and are they directing inspiring professional productions as well?
the industry showcase -does the program provide a visible/highly attended showcase in the final year?
So now you're more knowledgeable about how to choose schools that are right for YOU. Remember, these factors are important when shaping your future.
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