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Advice welcomed: LACs with active performing arts communities, theater and film major available

sn189144sn189144 86 replies7 threads Junior Member
I had posted in January and found the advice on CC very helpful. But now I have more specific background information and preferences for my son, and would love some advice, as he is now a rising HS senior.

*GPA weighted: 3.6, honors and AP student ( Grades have improved each year of his highschool career)
*Earned 3s on AP Psych and AP seminar tests this past year.
* Top third of class class rank.
* First SAT score (taken this past May) 630 in Math and 660 English for 1290
* He is scheduled to take the test for a second time August 24. He is prepping this time and hoping to increase to 1400. I admire his ambition, but am expecting between 1325 and 50, but he is working hard on this, so we will have to wait and see

Activities: Class president 9, 10 and 11, writer/then editor of school newspaper, 10 , 11, 12 , Theater, 9, 10, 11, 12 ( with lead in the non musical 11th grade) improv club, select choir, intramurals, Life Boy Scout Rank, likely to earn his Eagle) , Part time job for over a year working the front room (restaurant wait staff) and training new hires. Active in a youth community theater as well for years. Was in band through 9th grade, and still dabbles in guitar and piano, but for fun. Was in a garage band for a bit. Intramural sports. Back packing, kayaking/canoeing, camping, biking.

Considerations for college studies: : BA in Theater and or film, writing, English, Philosophy, Poli Sci.. He also enjoys biological sciences. "Jack of all trades" ( He does sing, but acting is his interest. He does not want to major in musical theater)

College characteristic preferences:
*East coast, preferable Mid Atlantic or NE, with a couple in Ohio that just peaked his interest I believe too. Preference is within a 3 hour drive, but easy access to public transportation can make up for that.
* LAC, preferably under 5000 undergrads
* interested in study abroad opportunities
* Currently really wants to make a go of acting but still receive a solid, well rounded liberal arts education, so if a school has internship opportunities and connections, travel opportunities etc in which he can make contacts in the performing arts industry, this would be of great interest. Lots of opportunity to perform is important too.
* He wants an active tight knit campus community, not a suitcase college.
* He values diversity, and institutions that do their best to become "green."

In a nutshell, he is a very social student, with a lot of interests and friends in just about every HS clique. Academically, he is on an upward trajectory. He was blessed with a large amount of natural intelligence that until recently, he was not always tapping into , at least not in a way that shows up on a school transcript. He really just improved his organization and academic work ethic immensely during his junior year. He just turned 17 in June and a gap year is not out of the question either.

Looking for suggestions to visit and apply to that would fit the bill for reach, within range and sure bets. We are located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He has seen Temple ( prior to deciding he likes small schools), Drew University in N. Jersey, Muhlenberg, Ursinus and DeSales University. I believe it is Kenyon in OH that turned up on his radar, but is that too far of a reach to even use as a "reach" school? Also a friend mentioned DePaul in Chicago, but I don't know much about it. It is farther than he'd like for undergrad, but easy United air flights between Chicago and Philly, and Chicago is also a good city for performing arts. NYC is of interest of course, but remote LACs that offer connections to NYC, LA, Chicago, even Atlanta now for screen acting, would be of interest as well. He is currently working on two monologues to use for admissions if required, and is working with a professional acting coach.

Thank you very much for any advice.

85 replies
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Replies to: Advice welcomed: LACs with active performing arts communities, theater and film major available

  • ChillDadChillDad 268 replies20 threads Junior Member
    @sn189144 Check out Skidmore (Upstate NY) and St. Michaels College in VT for the both the arts and suprisingly solid biology programs. Ample opportunities at both schools for his outdoor ambitions. Full disclosure - I am a St. Mike's grad. I majored in English, but also took a few performance classes in the theater dept. Recently returned to campus for a performance at the summer playhouse. The outdoor program at SMC is top-notch -https://www.smcvt.edu/experience/adventure-sports-center.aspx You also can't beat Burlington, VT - the quintessential college town.
    Bigger than he wants, but James Madison in Virginia might be worth a look - welcoming student community in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. "Affordable" OOS tuition (oldest D attended and had a roommate from Bucks County, PA) - only 5-6K more than our state flagship (UMASS Amherst)
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  • happy1happy1 23820 replies2383 threads Super Moderator
    Fordham - Lincoln Center has a great acting program - admission is by audition.
    Other than that my first ideas were Muhlenberg and Skidmore. I think Bard is worth looking into as well.
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  • 4gsmom4gsmom 868 replies29 threads Member
    A big question to ask at LACs that also have BFA programs is "how likely is my child to get cast in productions?" For example, DePaul has a BFA conservatory. You would want to find out if they ever cast non BFAs in productions . I would highly recommend Skidmore, as suggested above - very nice theater facilities. I'm glad you visited Muhlenberg - they have a terrific theater program. Ithaca would be another college with strong theater ties, but another one to ask if the non BFA students are included in the casting of their productions.
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  • 4gsmom4gsmom 868 replies29 threads Member
    Also - Emerson in Boston.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6568 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Take a look at Bard. Agree with Emerson. Denison has interesting arts programming, not sure how it will fit with his interests.
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3713 replies181 threads Senior Member
    Wagner College, located on Staten Island, NYC. Cute, LAC-like campus with gorgeous view of New York harbor.
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  • taverngirltaverngirl 1594 replies45 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2019
    Wesleyan? Conn College? SUNY New Paltz?
    edited August 2019
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 6870 replies30 threads Senior Member
    Emerson is also BFA. So DePaul and Emerson are hard gets. Two of the best best acting programs in the country. Give them a shot but don't expect much. You are up against the cream of the crop students. But maybe he is naturally talented? But if not committed to a BFA don't go that route.
    Muhlenberg is a great program.
    Look up non BFA programs even some BA programs are a lot with a smaller amount of academics.
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  • tkoparenttkoparent 373 replies7 threads Member
    If he is interested in Kenyon, consider looking at Denison as well, as the schools are close by and Denison has just opened the beautiful new Eisner Performing Arts Center.
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  • sn189144sn189144 86 replies7 threads Junior Member
    Knowsstuff thank you for your response. Son2 said that he is looking for a BA program specifically , and with several older friends in a variety of programs, is knowledgeable about the differences. . The advice by another to be sure that if there is both a BA and a BFA at a school, there is ample opportunity for the BA students to perform is appreciated too.

    I always thought acting was just a fun, creative activity that my son has enjoyed since he was in elementary school. He always had a natural stage presence, and love of being on that stage, but I would not say that he had any particularly natural talent, especially not in singing. However, he has improved over the years. I am impressed with his bravery and confidence for sticking with the singing, despite having many dog howling worthy vocal performances, practicing diligently so that he could get even small parts in his school and community musicals, and make his select choir at school. . At 17, he is not an outstanding singer, but he finally can be counted on to carry a tune and be able to harmonize. . He was always a solid non musical actor, however, a team player, facilitator for the group, increasingly a leader, and also " a pleasure to direct" I have heard. He has helped to run younger kids productions at a theater camp as well, and really enjoys the entire production process, as well as acting. He performed the lead in his HS non musical this past fall very well, and if anything is "natural" it would be his comic timing. His determination in voice development did earn him a good character role with a group and individual solo for the HS musical as well. But all of his involvement is in elementary through HS and local community theater productions ,certainly not national "cream of the crop " performances. However, seeing his improvement, and determination and work ethic that has made him into a dependable high school actor, I don't doubt that he will continue to improve his acting, if that is what he is determined to do. . To what degree is yet to be seen. He also will be following a family friend who works " the front of the house" at a local university theater for a day this fall to see all of the other roles involved in the running of a theater.

    The practical side of me is comforted in knowing that skills in acting and theater are transferrable to many other careers. Law, teaching, marketing come to mind. Also a comfort is that he really is a stellar waiter at his part time job. Those table waiting skills may be the onese that come in most handy for this one!

    A BA program at a solid LAC would be perfect for Son2. Thanks to all for advice in helping me to help him find one. A final note to help with recommendations, he also likes to follow sports and play intermurals. Doesn't care if it is division 2 or 3, but likes upbeat school spirit, really supporting all of the schools programs. He has been class president for the last three years, and wants to be involved on his future campus as well.

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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24514 replies19 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2019
    *East coast, preferable Mid Atlantic or NE, with a couple in Ohio that just peaked his interest I believe too. Preference is within a 3 hour drive, but easy access to public transportation can make up for that.

    Three hours, but where is the starting point?

    edited August 2019
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 6870 replies30 threads Senior Member
    If coming to Chicago check out Illinois Wesleyan and Knox college. Both are small lacs, good to great merit, and lots of chances to perform. The first year is usually grunt work behind the scenes. Boys that are talented are sought after at most BA programs. Some schools have student run productions also and some are quite good.
    These are not all lacs but onstage does a nice job. https://www.onstageblog.com/onstage-blog-news/2018/9/5/the-top-25-ba-theatre-programs-for-2018-19
    And even on cc:https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/theater-drama-majors/1992817-best-selective-liberal-arts-colleges-for-theatre-p2.html
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  • sn189144sn189144 86 replies7 threads Junior Member
    We live 15 miles outside of Philadelphia, PA
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 2360 replies15 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2019
    I have read several times over the last 3 years posters from Muhlenberg complain that the Drama department is over-crowded and it's tough to get cast. They don't limit the number of incoming actors and something like 10-15% of the school is in Drama.

    I think your S's friends are right on about BFA schools - unless stated otherwise, assume the BA students will be second class citizens for training and casting. I second Skidmore, Connecticut College, Fordham, Wagner and maybe also look at Sarah Lawrence, Bennington and American University.
    edited August 2019
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  • sn189144sn189144 86 replies7 threads Junior Member
    Thank you so much for the links to On Stage and that CC thread, which if I didn't know better, since it was written in 2017, could have been written by my own son this year! These links are incredibly helpful and I am going to be sure to show them to my son. THANK YOU!!
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43080 replies470 threads Senior Member
    Muhlenberg, Skidmore, Ithaca, Denison, if music also St Olaf?
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  • KatMTKatMT College Rep 4176 replies71 threads Senior Member
    Ithaca is great, but, my by understanding is rough in terms of acting training if not in the BFA, so good to check.

    I second/third:
    Sarah Lawrence
    Suny New Paltz
    Connecticut College
    Fordham (a more intensive BA, which requires an audition)

    Goucher (I am not sure of the state of keeping the major, they are doing some re structuring. )
    A little further, University of Mary Washington, Christopher Newport, University of Richmond.

    I teach at James Madison (JMU), and it sounds like it it checks many of the boxes, but at a larger school.
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  • sn189144sn189144 86 replies7 threads Junior Member
    KatMT, thank you for your recommendations. We just visited DeSales as it is just over an hour away. There are pluses and minus. I am concerned at the low percentage of professors that are full time and that while there does seem to an active campus life, 40 percent of undergrads are commuters. However, there is enough that Son2 is interested in there that he is planning to go back on Sept 7 for a day dedicated to prospective theater students.

    He visited Drew a few days after school was out for the spring, but prior to any summer session and there was a lot of construction and an odd tour guide, and altogether it was a strange visit. Again he liked enough to give it another shot once fall semester is in session, though and liked the town of Madison. As pretty as the rolling hills of DeSales are, the cute town center of Madison within walking distance is a preferred situation to my son. On their web site Drew appears to offer much that appeals to my son. Hoping that the second visit is better.

    We are planning to drive out to the Gettysburg area, but were thinking of Franklin and Marshall over Gettysburg for theater. Any thoughts on this? My son also really liked Ursinus college when he visited. However, they have a very small theater faculty , but yet just built a wonderful new theater. Do you have any familiarity with Ursinus? Like Goucher, it is on the "Schools that Change Lives" list. We are also going to see Juniata.

    Son 1 is at Worcester Polytechnical Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts., and we are planning to take 2 to Connecticut College on our way back from fall move in and looking forward to it. This school will be a reach though, looking at their admissions statistics.

    I personally LOVE the look of URichmond on line, but have not been in person. Son2 also likes what he has seen on line. It would be a reach I think due to his 9th and 10th grade grades and unweighted 3.3. Strong grades for 11th and rigor of courses all 4 years should help, along with most likely improved SAT scores on August 24. We will see.

    Lastly, we are planning a visit to a brother of mine and family that live in .Jamestown, VA, near Christopher Newport shortly. I know they have been to productions on that campus and enjoyed them, but until then I had never heard of the school, and hadn't been thinking of touring. I'll have Son2 look at them on line and perhaps now we will. Thanks.

    You are right about JMU checking off a lot of boxes, and we have actually been discussing visiting, but I dont think there is easily accessible public transportation if needed. I have been to the Shanandoah Valley and it IS beautiful, but was concerned about the drive in the winter. That in conjunction with size leaves it off Joe's list for now.

    Thank you for your insights.
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  • sn189144sn189144 86 replies7 threads Junior Member
    KatMD, Re JMU. It HAD initially been on our list to visit as on line it sounds perfect for Joe except for the size and that it is a bit farther than he wanted. He reminded me this morning that he actually had taken it off his list because he had heard/read that Harrisonburg and possibly JMU were having intolerance issues especially in regard to race. We live in a lovely, high density suburban area, close to Philadelphia with much diversity in terms of race, religion, and socio economics. My son does not fit into any minority status, but enjoys socializing with everyone, and is only intolerant of the intolerant. Diversity ( or at least a desire to attain it, and provide a welcoming environment to all ) and inclusion are important features of any school he considers attending. As a professor at JMU how do you find the school and the surrounding area in this regard?
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  • elena13elena13 1062 replies17 threads Senior Member
    Vassar would be a reach but meets a lot of his criteria. If he improves his test scores, he might a have a shot, especially since acceptance rates are much higher for males than females. Good luck to your son!
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