Summer and early fall is road trip time for many high school seniors interested in studying theater in college. Most students tell us that they are looking for a “good” college. However, we find that “good” can mean many different things. Some think that good means a prestigious college, while a good school for others would offer solid training as an actor.
Whatever good means in your world, you have to have some way of evaluating the differences between programs to determine which schools are good colleges for you. To help you decide, we made a list of questions to ask during your college road trip and while you are researching schools from home.
Ask the faculty:
What projects outside the school are you involved with during the summer or school year? This will give you an understanding of how current, fresh, and connected a professor is. It is a strong indication of quality when professors find creative outlets to keep their art sharp.
How many and what type of productions are staged? It is important to assess whether you will have enough acting opportunities to develop your craft. Ask about main stage and black box productions, musicals, and whether theater students receive priority casting. Find out if the school originates new plays on campus. Cutting edge material makes for a cutting edge education. Also ask about the number and type of student productions.
Ask the students:
What did you do last weekend and last summer? When a student tells you specifically what they did last weekend, you will have a real opportunity to gauge both the demands of the curriculum and the social life of the school. When they tell you about their summer, you can find out if students worked in the industry and whether the school uses its connections to help students obtain work.
Ask the department administration:
Do you invite visiting artists to teach? This is huge! Students regularly report that they get a unique and valuable perspective from these classes. Make sure you check out the résumés of the actors, directors, and designers who come to campus.
Do you have a sample four-year curriculum? Programs offering the same type of bachelor degree may have substantial differences. Some train students to be working actors, while others offer a general degree in theater without the intense acting focus. Unique electives may also differentiate two otherwise very similar programs.
Can I take classes in marketing for the artist or in arts business and management? Courses about the business of show business can be worth their weight in gold when you graduate. Ask how the school will prepare you for life after college.
Truthfully, if you go by reputation alone, you can pretty easily create a list of “good” schools. It is much harder, however, to evaluate what that really means to you and how a specific program fits your unique combination of talents, interests, and needs. These questions are just a few ways to begin that process. If you are currently on the road looking for a good college theater program or have some thoughts as to what helped you, please share! We would love to hear from you.
Master your craft, empower yourself and enjoy the journey.
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Ray Rosenblum is the program director of Audition Admission and Beyond, a company of expert counselors and coaches that prepare students to apply and audition for college, conservatory, and high school performing arts programs. To connect, visit the Audition Admission website and its Facebook page.