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How To Choose The Right College Theatre Program For You

So you’ve made the leap! After years of bedroom, community, and high school theatre, you’ve decided that you want to take your bonified love of the stage and put the proverbial “ring” on it. Aka. You want to go to college for theatre!

Mazel tov!

But the big question. Where? Ah, my little chickadees, this is where the fun comes in!

Check out these considerations before you start your college hunt.

Size of Program

Do you want to be 1 of 12 people in your class? Or 1 of 400? Smaller programs provide a huge amount of individual attention. You might be taking all your classes with the same 12 people…for 4 years.The deep relationships that you develop with your classmates and professors are incomparable. But this also means little or no flexibility when it comes to choice in classes. Larger programs may make it hard to stand out within your class, but also allows a huge amount of opportunities for collaborative projects and the ability to take a variety of different classes.

Conservatory or University?

Do you want to live and breath theatre every day of the week and not have to take a single “traditional” academic class? A conservatory might be the way to go. This will usually be intensive theatre training all day, every day (think Julliard). If you have other interests that you’d like to explore, a college program within a larger university might suit your fancy. You’d be able to take theatre classes for, say, 3 days a week and then take liberal arts classes (sciences, creative writing…heck, even math!) the remaining 2 days. NYU and Northwestern are good examples. This would also be the way to go if you’re considering minoring in a field other than theatre.

In short, conservatories pride themselves is producing top of the line performers, whereas university programs focus more on graduating students who are more well-rounded.


It’s beyond helpful to go to school in an area that you could see yourself living/working in after you graduate. Life brought me out to California pretty soon after I graduated from NYU, and you better believe that I was feeling (with a capital F) that lack of community and the loss of the relationships (professional and otherwise) that I had spent 4 years cultivating in New York. Having a strong network is not only a HUGE advantage professionally, but having a support group of friends and old professors to seriously lean on during that first year or two out of college will be THE BEST.

That said, choose a program that resonates with you, even if it’s not in one of the top theatre cities.


It’s also important to consider In-State vs Out-of-State tuition costs. Out-of-State schools could be significantly more expensive. The exception being private universities, which charge the same (often pricey) tuition for all students. Talk with your parents and decide what works best for your family. And don’t forget about financial aid!! There are tons of scholarship resources out there in addition to FAFSA and your scholarships from your particular school. Plenty of organizations offer scholarships too!


Okay, so let’s say you’ve settled on a wanting to attend a university. You then have one more thing to consider: whether or not you want to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). A BA Degree requires fewer concentration (acting) classes and allows for more exploration with liberal arts classes. A common comparison is getting a BA in Theatre vs a BFA in Acting. A BA would allow you the flexibility to take classes in directing, producing, stage management, dramaturgy, etc. A BFA might have an overview of these subjects, but ultimately your primary focus would be acting.

Another thing to note is that BA programs might not require an audition as part of the application process, but nearly all BFA programs will.

Hopefully, these 4 factors will help you begin to narrow down your search. As with everything, this decision should be made with your head, your heart and your gut (sup Chekov).  And don’t worry, because no matter where you end up, there’s one thing for certain: You’ll be surrounded by Theatre Nerds! And what could be better than that?

Have a question about choosing a theatre program? Leave a reply below…

Written by Lauren Tothero

Lauren is an LA-based actress who received her BFA in Theatre from NYU. She’s the founder of Daily Ingenuity, a blog that promotes balance and emotional well-being among emerging actresses. Visit Lauren's Blog


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