Drama in a College Town Setting

This is my first post. I am the parent of a junior in high school, a girl. She wants to be a professional actress, and has studied acting for many years, and has attended Stage Door Manor for two summers. She gets top grades and is taking the SAT in a few hours. I have been reading the posts on the theater/drama majors forum for several days, and my head is spinning. Obviously we have time to narrrow our search, but I would like to tell you what she is looking for in a college because it would help us and might help others.</p>

<p>We live in NYC, but she wants to go to a school that looks like a college with a quad and that is located in the middle of a small college town that is friendly to the college. It must be co-ed. She wants to major in theater/acting, but is willing to audition, and will do a mass audition in Nebraska in June. She thinks she might like to minor in psychology, but isn't sure. Her mother and I would prefer a school that is reachable by public transportation (train or bus) from New York City, but we might modify that. She would be happy (so she says) to get far away from us.</p>

<p>I have looked and looked for colleges with well-known acting programs in the kind of setting she wants, but I am having a hard time finding them. Many are in cities. Some are near college towns, but you need a car to get to the town. Some are in towns but have bad relationships with the towns. Or they are all-girls' schools. Plus, my daughter is fairly bright. (The SAT will be an important piece of the puzzle. We don't have that, yet.)
Her ideal school is Dartmouth. Are there any schools for a bright, upper middle class girl, that have good acting programs that will let her act in several productions a year, that look like Dartmouth, but aren't Dartmouth? Thanks for your help.</p>

<p>Someone should create the school you describe. I've been searching and searching and I don't find anything very much like it--but there are a lot of bright, accomplished kids like your D and mine and others on here, who are looking for the same thing. Vassar maybe? Connecticut College also-- though these aren't auditioned programs with tons of training, leading to a BFA. (Oh, and their towns...) We're further east than you and D does not want to go far-- but Illinois Wesleyan looks like a possibility. Ithaca College is another. Skidmore has Saratoga Springs...Muhlenberg has a wonderful theater program...in Allentown PA</p>

<p>PM me if you like! (Meanwhile, if you look at Part 8 of the archived thread above, you'll get a list of most of the BFA programs in the US. But it sounds as if a BA may be what you're looking for.)</p>

<p>When I read your post, a school that jumped into mind is Muhlenberg. Another is Ithaca. Neither is as academically selective as Dartmouth but both are fine schools with strong theatre programs that meet many of the criteria you list. Muhlenberg is a BA school and Ithaca offers a BFA by audition and I believe also a BA in theatre. Muhlenberg really has a small college town campus feel to it and Ithaca is located in the "last bastion" of hippies (one of the town's police vehicles is a Volkswagen Beetle painted with flowers).</p>

<p>Just saw I cross posted with Gwen. Funny how we came up with 2 of the same schools :).</p>

<p>It would really help to know if your D wants a BFA or a BA. </p>

<p>Having a better idea of her academic profile would really help too as there are a LOT of BAs and the suggestions would differ depending on her credentials. </p>

<p>Ithaca College is a BFA. Yes, Ithaca is a college town. However, you really can't walk from the campus into town. </p>

<p>Some ideas (just BA's)....
Connecticut College
Vassar (though I don't think Poughkeepsie is considered much of a college town)
Muhlenberg (small town, not sure if it is a true college town?)


<p>What's wrong with Dartmouth?</p>

<p>The one I've seen that really fits that mold is Ohio University. Perhaps Davidson, Elon, or Bennington would work as well.</p>

<p>Not sure if they meet all of the criteria listed in the OP, but to add to those suggested above. All are VERY different from one another...</p>

<p>Bard (NY)
Penn State University Park (PA)
UMass Amherst (MA) -- in consortium with Amherst, Hampshire, Smith, Mount Holyoke.
Sarah Lawrence (NY)
SUNY New Paltz (NY)
Kenyon (OH)
Denison (OH)
Goucher (MD)</p>

<p>What do you mean by a "well known acting program?" Most of these will be top BFA acting programs.... depending on the program a double major may not be possible at the top BFA programs... all depends. The programs I have listed (and many of those that others have listed) are BA programs. If she wants a BFA program the schools mentioned by posters may change a bit.</p>

<p>Here are a couple of ideas:</p>

<p>1) Northwestern - Evanston is an okay town, plus she has access to all that Chicago has to offer. They have a great drama program and the school is tops academically</p>

<p>2) Catholic University - Well regarded drama programme (Susan Sarandon, John Slattery, Jon Voight), plus it is an easy commute to NYC by train.</p>

<p>Also, I am thinking of sending my daughter to Stagedoor Manor next year. What were your daughter's impressions of it? Thanks, Jackuk</p>


<p>3) UVa - Great drama program, although I am not sure how friendly UVa and Charlottesville are. However, you can get there by train by switching in DC.</p>

<p>I will add for GregDashaway and for JackUK.....I am a former Stagedoor Manor parent. My kid attended for 8 summers (16 sessions).</p>

<p>Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and very quick replies. I am starting a new list with the schools you have mentioned here. </p>

<p>The SAT's were today, and my daughter feels they went well. We shall see in three weeks or so. Those numbers will tell us a lot.</p>

<p>Also, we need to visit more schools. Of the few schools my daughter has visited, I've been surprised by the ones for which she felt there was just no chemistry. </p>

<p>SoozieVt -- Dartmouth is at the top of my daughter's list. Until we know her SAT's, we don't know if this is a typical school for her or a stretch. She has spent time in Hanover during the summers and loves the town. I'm sure that if she could just apply to one school, Dartmouth would be it. However, I think she needs to cast a wider net, so we're looking for schools that might have a similar feel. I also understand the BA/BFA question. It's just hard to answer for her at this moment. As we get a little more experienced in the search process, I think the answer to that will become clearer to her. As to her academic credentials, she currently has a 3.9 average at a New York City public high school that is very active in drama, but is not one of the most famous schools. She has just taken the AP test in Spanish and has the AP biology test on Monday.</p>

<p>JackUK -- My daughter has loved Stagedoor Manor, and will be returning this summer. She was lucky to have a wonderful group of friendly, helpful roommates the first year, and they are still together this third year. The program seems to fill up a year in advance, so be sure to start looking into it now.</p>

<p>Thanks again everyone. I'll keep reading posts in the forum, and I'll keep you updated as we progress further.</p>

<p>Greg, even IF your daughter's academic profile ends up being in the ballpark for Dartmouth, PLEASE be aware (and this is not directed at YOUR daughter and I'd say this to anyone), that Dartmouth's overall acceptance rate this year was 9.73% and due to that fact, Dartmouth would have to be considered "Reach" odds on anyone's college list. Your D surely can apply Early Decision, but in any case, the odds alone due to the VERY low admit rate make it very chancy even for those who are truly qualified. Having one's stats fit the academic profile to a school like Dartmouth isn't enough, due to the acceptance rate. Having stats in the ballpark just gets you onto the pile. So, she needs to find a range of schools with varying odds. A few schools I mentioned have a similar kind of setting.....such as Williams, Middlebury, and Amherst. I am familiar with Dartmouth's setting because long ago, I used to live near Dartmouth and teach in the next town over. I don't live that close any longer but do live in Vermont. </p>

<p>Your D should think through BFA vs. BA before finalizing any college list. </p>

<p>I'm glad your D has loved Stagedoor Manor. It was a very significant part of my daughter's childhood and foundation in theater (she is now 22 and working professionally in the field). She remains very connected to Stagedoorians and even lives with another SDM alum in NYC.</p>

<p>What's interesting to me to observe is that your daughter grew up in NYC and wants to go to college some place like Hanover, NH and my D grew up in rural Vermont and wanted to attend NYU and live in NYC. The bottom line is wanting an entirely new experience! :D</p>

Thanks for clarifying about the acceptance rate at Dartmouth. I know it's a reach, but it helps to be reminded just how much of a reach it is today.</p>

<p>I have a brother and a sister who live in Vermont, so we have visited. And we used to do the crew/rowing program at Craftsbury every summer until the people who ran the program started their own program outside of Hanover, which is where we go now. </p>

<p>Even with the Vermont/New Hampshire visits, my daughter has always been a city kid, so I was a little surprised when she started to rule out the NYC schools (especially since we live about an inch away from NYU.)</p>

<p>But she explains it just the way you did. She knows what the city is like, and she wants to experience something different. She wants the small college-town experience.</p>

<p>I did come across a thread on the forum in which you were describing your daughters. I read and understood immediately about the ties that develop at Stagedoor Manor. I'm also incredibly impressed by your daughters' credentials and accomplishments, and by the fact that they grew up in a setting in which they were perhaps surrounded by people who were not as achieving as they were. And yet, they had the inner compasses to know what their dreams were and to follow them. I admire them and you.</p>

<p>Thanks again for your help.</p>

My S is finishing up his freshman year at Northwestern. Evanston is a great little college town, and of course Chicago is a fairly short train ride away. Their overall acceptance rate dropped to 18% this year. Your daughter needs very strong academics as well as excellent SAT scores, and must demonstrate a strong passion for theatre, which she can obviously do. The theatre program takes in up to 100 students per year, ~50 boys and ~50 girls. It is a non-audtion B.A. program and people question how they are able to find such theatre superstars without an audition. Haven't quite figured that out yet, but they do it. When you have a moment, take a look at the School of Communication's web site and see who some of the graduates are. Good luck to your daughter in her search.</p>

<p>(My son also applied to Vassar, Mulenberg, Brandeis, Connecticut College and Skidmore, all of which have terrific theatre programs and require strong academics.)</p>

<p>The first schools that came to my head that are VERY good schools (although, hard to get into as well) would be Northwestern and Yale. For some less academically challenging schools, that are still great acting programs, Elon and Ithaca are great choices.</p>

<p>Some might debate, however, if Yale would be considered in a "small college town," as the OP's daughter seeks. I also recommend Yale for a BA theater student but New Haven in more of a small city and not the image I got from the first post. If one is going to apply to an Ivy and wants more of a small town, I'd say Dartmouth, Cornell, or Princeton fit that bill.</p>

<p>Have you considered University of Michigan? I'd argue that it's one of the best college towns in the US, and we offer BFA in Performance. Basement Arts, a prominent student organization, puts on several productions per semester, and I've know freshmen to be cast in the mainstage productions as well. In addition, there are other theatre troops on campus that your daughter could get involved in.</p>

<p>I'd recommend looking into Michigan or Northwestern. Was accepted into both, and knew I'd be making a good choice either way :)</p>

<p>Thanks, everyone.
I'm making a note of every college that you mention.
Northwestern has come up several times, so I will definitely take a look.
Thanks again.</p>

<p>Just came across this thread today. We've just seen our daughter finalize her decision in the last three weeks after a thorough but relatively stress free selection process. She will be a theater major (her senior project was to produce and direct a stage version of "Crime and Punishment") looking at psychology as a duel major in a BA program. She was very clear that a BFA was not for her and wanted the academic flexibility offered by a BA program. We had our grand college tour this summer to look at the top prospects: University of Minnesota, Macalester, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern, Emerson and Hampshire. Unseen but ranked #2 anyway was Muhlenberg. I saw it mentioned earlier here. We made a separate trip to Allentown, PA and were enchanted by Muhlenberg's 81 acre campus of 2500 students. Their theater program is ranked 6th and is the only school to have both their dance and theater programs ranked in the top 10. We were impressed by the flexibility of a theater program that encouraged participation in sports programs and dance classes. One of the star actors was a pre-med student. In the end her top two choices were U. Minn and Muhlenberg. My wife and I were in agreement. Those choices seem almost schizophrenic but our d lives in the LA megalopolis but attends a HS of 120 students. in the end U. Minn said no and our d happily went for Muhlenberg. Muhlenberg is not Dartmouth (I believe this year their acceptance rate was 42%) and Allentown though friendly to the college, I would not describe as a college town. Being 3000 miles away, access by car was not an issue (lol). Northwestern has a very good theater program but was deemed as too much of a reach by us plus the beauty of the campus was rivaled by an air of elitism (which rubbed this Wisconsin grad very much the wrong way). Best of luck in your search.</p>

<p>It sounds like our D was looking for much the same type of program and environment that you are (though she's also an MT kid), and her top choices (in order) wound up being 1) Northwestern 2) Yale and 3) Brown. She spent a summer at UMich and loved the program and Ann Arbor, but she wanted a bit more academic challenge than she thought she'd find at UMich.</p>

<p>Muhlenberg gives non-need based merit and talent scholarships.</p>