5 College Administrators Reveal How to Choose the Right Drama School

Article Image
Photo Source: CalArts School of Theater’s “Black Like Me”

Just as important as being prepared for your college audition is knowing that the drama program you’re auditioning for is the glass-slipper fit for you. We spoke with administrators at some of the nation’s top programs as part of our new Reaching Higher series, and asked them: What advice do you have for students looking to narrow down their search? How can they find the right school for them?  

CalArts School of Theater
“In selecting a program, you are embarking on an incredible artistic journey, through which you will become the pioneer of your own artistic expression. Look for a community where you will be challenged and nurtured to build the artistry and skills needed to sustain a professional life in the arts. The training at CalArts is singular in many ways, but most importantly in that we are committed to helping you discover your individual artistic self. Experimentation, innovation, adaptation, and resiliency are at the heart of a life in the arts.” —Travis Preston, artistic director of the CalArts Center for New Performance and dean of the CalArts School of Theater

The Theatre School at DePaul University
“I think focusing on the right school for them is the most important component of the search. There are so many options, both in [terms of] locations but also how programs are structured. I really think students need to first focus on what is important to them about the experience and be really honest about what type of environment will allow them to thrive. A conservatory like ours is definitely not the right choice for every actor, depending on what they want as part of their experience. If a student craves an intensive training environment in a large urban cultural center, they should definitely consider us. Other students may find our intensive training too restrictive if they have other academic goals or may not be interested in a big city campus. The good thing is that there are a lot of good options all over the country; they just have to be really honest about where they might individually thrive.” —Jason Beck, assistant dean

University of Michigan
“Think about the educational and training outcomes you hope for and look at universities that have had success in providing those outcomes. Have an objective sense of your best learning styles, what kind of educational experiences give you energy, and what kind of community brings you both confidence and challenge. These insights will help direct you toward a conservatory education or a university education; toward a big city, a college town, or a rural environment; toward highly focused professional training or broader educational experiences.” —Vincent J. Cardinal, chair, Department of Musical Theatre

NYU Tisch School of the Arts
“Do your research. As you’re looking at programs, list what they offer and take note of what they don’t. The coursework and degree requirements for a BFA in acting is going to look very different from a BFA in theater or a BA in drama. Which degree and program is going to give you what you want? Do they provide training that works for how you like to learn and at a level of rigor you can respond to? Where do you want to study? Do you thrive in smaller, more intimate environments or are you energized by an urban location? Will the university offer you a community you can grow in? Lastly, do they value you for what you can contribute to the program?” —Robert Hoyt, director of admissions and recruitment, Department of Drama

UNCSA School of Drama
“Not every school is right for every student. Applicants need to ask themselves what they ultimately want out of their college experience. For instance, because we are a standalone arts conservatory, our students are intensely surrounded by multiple disciplines of art for four years—there are no sororities, fraternities, or football games. Our environment is right for a certain kind of student who knows that they want a career in the entertainment industry right out of school and is maybe less interested in a more traditional college experience. If conservatory training is the right path for you, look at the alumni who are working from the various programs. Once you narrow the list down and go through the audition process, pay close attention to the audition experience. Chances are that if you did not like the audition experience, that’s what you’ll be in for when you train there. Once you know where your offers are, that’s the time to visit and get a feel for things up close.” —Quin Gordon, director of recruitment and assistant professor

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 8 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

Looking for remote work? Backstage has got you covered! Click here for auditions you can do from home!