BA Theater Foundation/Safety Schools? Dual Track Admission for BA/BFA?

My Jr. is beginning to create their list of BFA schools that they want to apply to. This appears to be the easy part. Getting in is much harder. Knowing that they could get rejected from all prescreens and auditions and knowing that a gap year is not for them, they want to create a second list of established and well regarded BA Theater programs (Acting not MT). They’d like a good mix of targets, safeties and reaches.

We have the obvious ones for reaches: Northwestern and UMich. Great BA programs. Hard to get into schools.

And then, theyr’re kicking around Vassar, Oberlin, Elon (can you apply to the BFA and BA simultaneously?), Wesleyan, Kenyon. But that being said, none of those should be considered a safety either. So what have former parents done? If you have a kid going after a BFA, who is unwilling to take a gap year and try again, but who is applying simultaneously to BA programs, what does that BA list look like so that it’s balanced?

FWIW, my kid is a high stats kid. Lots of rigor, 1500 SAT, loves math, but LOVES theater. But we are still realistic and want them to have a balanced list of schools come next fall. BTW, will only look above North Carolina. Nothing lower geographically. And no West Coast.

So this was my S21. Had a list of BA acting back-ups, not as high stats as yours but good and his acting supplement and demonstrated interest with the theater department was definitely a spike. He applied to Northeastern, Oberlin, GW, and Skidmore. Muhlenberg is the biggest academic safety program for kids interested in acting. I would encourage you to add Brown, Harvard as reaches with excellent theater departments. Also definitely work with an acting college coach to make a balanced list. My S found this very helpful with BFA/BA acting with audition programs.

I want to preface this with the fact that theater is not my area of expertise. I used the Broadway World list to see which schools offered a B.A. in acting or theater. I then looked to see how many majors graduated in the most recent year and viewed the size of the program (whether in absolute terms or in relation to the size of the school) as an indication of strength. This is not a perfect methodology, but it might at least provide you with some options to look into. Make sure you double-check the degree types, as I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of these were a BFA and was mis-labeled on the Broadway site.

  • Appalachian State (NC) (27/4213)

  • Baldwin Wallace (OH) (30/708)

  • Brandeis (8/878)

  • Cedarville (OH) (8/741)

  • Clark (MA) (7/532)

  • Cleveland State (OH) (20/2,694)

  • College of the Holy Cross (MA) (8/730)

  • Columbia College Chicago (IL) (44+15/1335)

  • DePaul (IL) (25+10/3335)

  • Drake (IA) (9+6/710)

  • Drew (NJ) (20/400)

  • Emerson (MA) (9+49/477)

  • Emory & Henry (VA) (1+5/211)

  • Goucher (MD) (6/291)

  • George Mason (VA) (36/6,277)

  • Illinois State (54/4,420)

  • Illinois Wesleyan (5+2/353)

  • Greensboro College (NC) (14/154)

  • Guilford (NC) (5/265)

  • Ithaca (NY) (15+19/1,315)

  • Kansas State (22/3,7515)

  • Knox (IL) (8/261)

  • Kent State (OH) (42/4,993)

  • Lawrence (WI) (9/294)

  • LeMoyne (NY) (9/597)

  • Loyola Chicago (IL) (16/3,353)

  • Luther (IA) (7/398)

  • Marymount Manhattan (NY) (53/374)

  • Montclair State (NJ) (57/3771)

  • Muhlenberg (PA ) (62/521)

  • North Central (IL) (12/6324)

  • Northern Illinois (37/3,040)

  • Ohio Northern (10/402)

  • Ohio Wesleyan (9/290)

  • Old Dominion (VA) (23/3932)

I’m sure there are others, and I would certainly check the university’s website for the degree type, but at least it’s a start when you and your child are thinking about size of the school, distance from home, rural/suburban/urban, etc.

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My theater-loving daughter used Knox and St. Olaf as her safeties. They also give theater scholarships, in addition to academic ones (at least that was the case in 2020). She decided not to pursue a degree in theater eventually but has taken a few theater courses and has participated in student productions as an extracurricular (she is a junior at Kenyon; only applied to Midwestern LACs).

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Good advice. Thank you!

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Wow! Great list. Thank you!

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@AustenNut always comes through! Just off the top of my head, montclair, marymount, emerson, baldwin wallace, and depaul and I believe Columbia college of chicago are bfa acting or audition based BA programs. I dont know of any of the others as strong BA acting programs but certainly worth looking at. It is important that your kid not apply to a school that has a strong BFA program since there will be limited opportunities to kids not in the program.

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“It is important that your kid not apply to a school that has a strong BFA program since there will be limited opportunities to kids not in the program.”

Thats a good point. They love everything about UMich, and they have the availability to apply to the BA and BFA simultaneously, if Im reading the info right. Wonder how that works there? Do the BA-Theater kids still have ample opportunities?

I would ask specifically. Since it is one of the most selective programs and you have to get through prescreens and auditions to be accepted to the BFA I would guess the competition for parts in university productions is intense. There may be productions specifically for BA theater students and there maybe student run productions.
Just to add, my S was accepted to several BFA acting programs and attends one, but a balanced list was vital to our mental well being during the process and he was accepted to programs above his academic profile due to his acting supplement.

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As a few others have mentioned, at schools that have strong BFA programs it is important to find out what opportunities there are for students not in the BFA. Schools with strong BFA programs that also allow you to apply as BA (in Theatre or another major) may or may not have opportunities for students not in the BFA. Even if there are opportunities for involvement the reality may be different in terms of how open the opportunities really are in terms of participation in productions and access to training.

Looking at the websites is a good place to find out what may or not be possible, and then follow up with questions of faculty, current students, and recent alumni if possible.

Some schools to look at (some that have already been mentioned) that do not require an audition or do, but may have a higher program admissions rate are:

University of Rhode Island (BFA)
Muhlenberg College (BA)
James Madison University (BA)
George Mason University (BA/BFA)
Christopher Newport University (BA)
American University (BA)
George Washington University (BA)
Vassar College (BA)
SUNY New Paltz (BA)
Connecticut College (BA)
Trinity College (BA)
Sarah Lawrence College (BA)
Skidmore College (BA)
Bennington College (BA)
Boston College (BA)
University of Vermont (BA)
University of New Hampshire (BA)
UMass Amherst (BA)

This list is not exhaustive, but includes programs at universities of different sizes, types of locations, and levels of academic and program selectivity.

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Don’t know if your Jr. qualifies, but here a possible reach:
https://theatre.barnard.edu/major-requirements