Brainstorming Acting Colleges List (smaller feel, good student life & resources, strong overall academics)

Hi everyone, hope you are all doing well. I am a junior searching for colleges and would love your college suggestions. I have a 4.0 unweighted, (although that probably won’t help me much with theatre) and I have taken the PSAT last year and scored 1330, (I think I can do better though). Some info:

I am going to major in theater, so that I can go into a career in screen acting after college. I am not sure if I want a complete conservatory experience because I do want to do some exploring in college, study abroad, and possibly even double major, but if the college has a screen acting major or a showcase, I would do a BFA there. I may even see if I can get an MFA. It would be great if the school could give students opportunities to perform and practice their craft while studying, either through school productions, student-run productions, or professional work.

I am looking for a college with a smaller feel <8000 undergrads, small classes, and a close relationship with professors, hopefully somewhere where I can develop connections that can extend to the acting industry. I would also like to go to a school where students live on campus. Also, being a foodie, it would be really nice if the college has good food, and/or good options nearby, having a city or a nice college town within a short driving distance is a huge plus too! A warm climate would be nice.

While I do have fairly respectable grades, I’m scared that I won’t get accepted into good acting schools because I am somewhat new to acting, having picked it up in sophomore year.

Financially speaking, I hope that I will be able to leave college without debt, and would prefer to go to a school that gives good financial aid or is more budget friendly.

Some schools I’m looking at right now.

  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Chapman University: screen acting major
  • Northwestern
  • USC (A little big)
  • Emmerson
  • The New School
  • Marymount Manhattan College
  • Pace University: screen acting major
  • Muhlenberg
  • Skidmore

I have also been looking into LAC’s such as Muhlenberg and Pomona too!

If you know of any schools that you think would be a good fit for me, feel free to respond to this post! I am just having trouble finding schools that I could characterize as “Likely’s” because I am new to theatre, and all of the places I look bring up big name schools with super low acceptance rates.

Much Appreciated

For a variety of schools to research, look into Sarah Lawrence, Purchase, Connecticut College, Drew, Occidental and Kenyon.


My son was thinking about theater as a major when we looked at schools for him a few years ago. He was not into screen acting, but more physical theater. One of the things we realized was that many schools with strong reputations for theater are more musical theater-oriented or, more generally, that different schools have very different focuses. We only looked at LACs and among the school we considered were Occidental, Pomona, Kenyon, Connecticut College (all mentioned above), Bowdoin, St. Olaf and Denison. He is now a sophomore at Denison, which had both a strong theater program and some of the other things he was looking for academically.


Bennington is top rated for theater, bur very small. They have a winter field work term when students leave campus and intern or otherwise follow interests.

Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Drew, Ithaca, Elon, Emerson, Skidmore, Brown…many others.


Something a little different that you may want to look at is Eckerd College 2+2 BFA program with Circle in the Square. You would get the close mentorship program, study abroad options, internships, waterfront campus and 10 minutes from St. Petersburg. About 90% of students live on campus. Lots of campus activities and clubs. Theatre Degree | Eckerd College in Florida Study abroad: International Education | Eckerd College in Florida

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You have lots of great schools on your list that have very different options and types of programs. Your grades and scores are very helpful for Northwestern which is a pure academic admit for acting with no supplement. Muhlenberg is also a nice option because they have an amazing non audition based acting program and you should qualify for a great deal of merit aid. Skidmore is another one that is not audition based but a great academic school with a nice acting program. Northeastern has a similar program to all of these. Emerson, Pace, Manhattan Marymount, Loyola Marymount and USC are highly competitive audition based programs. Other schools to consider are Oberlin, Brown, and Vassar. My son did use one of the big audition assistance programs and it was very very helpful to create a balanced list of schools in addition to coaching help.

My daughter was also focused on Acting for Film, and from our experience last year, we only found Pace and Chapman as offering a specific BFA in Film Acting program. There are more programs that add a course or two in screen acting into their BFA Acting curriculum.

Have a look at Rider University in NJ. They have a well respected MT program, and just this year are creating a new BFA Acting program that will have screen acting as part of the program. My daughter has a friend who is there and I have heard great things about the school.

If you do decide to consider a conservatory, UNCSA in NC is worth a look. They are a small conservatory school, but they offer acting for film as part of the program and have a film making major on campus too, which leads to opportunities. The school is highly regarded and has many industry connections that help make up for being in the middle of a NC. Compared to programs located in NYC, UNCSA would be considered budget friendly.

FYI, Emerson is very $$ and typically does not offer great aid unless you get a presidential scholarship.

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Thanks for the info! Occidental and Pomona are both on my list. I’ll check out Denison.

I checked out Rider University. Thanks for the rec, definitely adding it to my list. I may apply to UNCSA, I just know that their acceptance rate is so low, it may not even be worth my time because they only take the cream of the crop, and I am kind of new.

Thanks for the information. I think I do want to look more towards schools that have at least a 50/50 consideration of grades and audition for admission. Would you have any more of those you could recommend? I don’t think that I will use any audition assistance programs because my school has a good college counseling program, and they all see very expensive! Your response was extremely helpful, thanks.

Thanks! I will definitely check them out. It’s a solid recommendation with a higher acceptance rate. Do you know if their theatre program is well known? and do you know if they admit students more from grades or auditions? Much appreciated.

The 2+2 program is a year or two old. They have had a theater major, and still do, prior to the new BFA program. If you choose to attend Eckerd first for the first 2 yrs, you are admitted by grades, then by audition 2 yrs later to Circle. If you are on the theater website, click on the 2+2 program.

This is a larger school than you asked about, Montclair State in NJ, but you’d qualify for in state tuition. It has theater musical theater, also a filmmaking major.

About the scholarship

School’s my daughter has applied to that are not strictly known for their theatre or musical theatre programs (4.25 GPA):

Brown, Barnard, Columbia, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Yale

She was going to apply to Bennington, but decided against it. Brown has a relationship with Trinity Rep. Yale is known for their drama program, though it is their Master’s program that gets the attention. Still, there seemed to be many theatrical opportunities there, plus the benefit of being Yale. Columbia and Barnard (women’s college) share a drama dept. (BA) and you can cross register between the two schools, and the location is really great. Wellesley (woman’s college) is a BA program, but you can double major in theatre and music (vocal performance) there. The financial aid there can not be beat. There is a local semi-professional theatre in the town, and students from Olin and Wellesley also do shows together. They have a very active Shakespeare Society. If you are taking a music course, you get free private lessons that semester. Wesleyan (CT) is where Lin Manuel Miranda went. It is a theatre arts program where you learn about all aspects of theatre.

Best of luck to you!

"Professor Emeritus John Carr was the Wesleyan Theatre Department Chair when Miranda was a student there in the early 2000s. He said Miranda’s fellow students may have recognized his exceptional talent before most of the faculty did.

“They just recognized that one of their peers is really good,” he said.

Carr said students create their own work in the program, which was the perfect fit for the now Broadway star.

“You’ve got to cast it and you want the best people. And Lin always had the best people, where other students canceled their show,” Carr said. “Being a composer, writer, director, he needed actors and designers. People flocked to him,” Carr added. "

A Look Back at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Start Here in Conn. – NBC Connecticut


you just sound like a perfect fit for Denison.