Emerson v. Ithaca v. Chapman v. UNCSA for Film

My D23 just found out she was admitted to UNCSA. She’s very excited but at this point I wish we were subtracting schools from her final list, not adding to it.

After a not so good weekend, being rejected by BU and USC (expected), and waitlisted at her parent’s alma mater, Syracuse (not expected), we had narrowed the list to three well regarded film schools, Emerson (Media Arts Production), Ithaca (cinema and photography), and Chapman (creative producing). Now we are adding UNCSA (Film) and have yet to drop Penn State (we all loved Bellisario College when visiting last summer) and UCONN (received scholarship for in-state tuition).

UCONN is the most affordable, but in film school connections do matter and from what I can tell it doesn’t even have a semester in LA program. Ithaca with great merit and UNCSA (have not received anything about scholarship yet) also fall within our budget without having to take out loans. She received merit for Chapman and Emerson, but they are still the costliest, but importantly also in the top 4-6 film schools in just about every ranking. We can make those work without loans, but it would involve making a number of sacrifices for the next couple of years.

What would you do? Does anyone have first-hand experience with UNCSA? I feel Emerson is the best fit on paper except for cost. We are also in the NE so Chapman and UNCSA would require flights, although D grew up on the west coast and is very interested in Chapman. We have visits planned for Emerson, Ithaca and UCONN over the next two weeks, and now will look to visit UNSCA.

My S is a drama major at UNCSA. He has been thrilled with the opportunities there for drama although there are some rough patches with things like food. The groups are close knit and in drama are very happy. It is a true conservatory program though. They take 1 class outside of their program each semester and my S who had a few AP classes is done with general requirements and credits after his second year. Winston Salem is great and he loves the area. There is a Facebook group for parents I can give you if you want to PM me.


My daughter’s friend goes to UNCSA but for performance.

As a Newhouse alum (not sure if you are), I’d say - check the outcomes.

The reality is - it’s going to be a brutal field to play in long term - so find out what the grads of each school are doing…and not just the successful ones, but what % are working in the field. When I look back at my Newhouse alumns, most are not in their intended field. And yes, there’s a few rock stars - that’s who you read about - but most aren’t earning livings in these Newhouse fields.

Then make a value judgement.

When you note that Chapman and Emerson are the costliest - do they blow a desired figure that you have? If so, eliminate them.

You mention that UCONN, UNCSA and Ithaca are within budget.

You don’t make a statement one way or the other about Chapman and Emerson - so i’ll assume they’re out of budget.

Did your daughter know the budget up front - if so, i’d eliminate those and decide amongst those you can afford. There is no reason to strap the family financially - especially for a film major. Even at SU, most kids aren’t going to make it. It’s just a reality of the industry.

PS - Winston is a lot closer than California. You may fly - but I believe there’s an Amtrak route (yes, long and maybe to Greensboro) and it’s not so far that at the beginning and end of the year, maybe you can drive. And do some cool stuff along the way - like visit DC.

That’s good to hear. UNSCA was the only conservatory she applied to and she understands the difference. She went to a performing arts middle school and is enrolled in her high school’s auditioned-based drama program, so she’s used to being around artsy kids 24/7. In addition to being a top film program, it seems like a good value as well as having nicer weather.

I think food is an issue just about everywhere. She went to SU’s pre-college film program last summer and ordered takeout about every night. I told her she will need to use her own money if she doesn’t want to eat in the dining halls.

My S is living in their apartments on campus as a sophomore, he was also admitted to Emerson, NYU and New School and we are not only thrilled by the education that he got but the value of the program, it is half what we would have spent otherwise. There are almost no merit awards, there are 3 or 4 for the entire freshman class and I believe it is need based.

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Has your daughter’s friend had a good experience?

I was Maxwell, husband Newhouse. We know a lot of successful alums from both schools but understand making it in film is a whole different animal and the connections the schools have are vital.

Chapman and Emerson are above our self-imposed budget, but there are savings if we feel they are best fit and outcome.

Winston-Salem is about 9 hours away but I don’t enjoy long drives. Could I do it once a year, sure, but twice, we’d store her stuff and have her fly back. When we lived in LA, we would drive to San Diego (less than 3 hours) but never Las Vegas or San Francisco (5+ hours).

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I didn’t know about merit, but we can swing it without it. I also like that the tuition is frozen for the four years.

We hear from NYU tomorrow, but I guess we are already assuming it’s a no, or if she actually gets in, it will be so far outside our budget that we will move on quickly.

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Will have to ask. But obviously the other parent says great things. And you can read niche reviews. Google niche and the school.

I’m a history and bj dual - so maxwell and Newhouse.

I sell cars for a living (sort of) - at the manufacturer level.

I’m an epic fail :). Oh well.

Every time I see Ian on tv. a lot this weekend - I wonder what could have been.

Anyway, there’s just a few recent ones. You can’t link Niche but here’s what they say. Of course it’s a small sample size - and you’ll always have some toxic with the good.

The best thing of course - is to get there. You can fly to Charlotte or Greensboro. Go see it first hand. THe other best thing - get outcomes from each of the schools.

“The campus is lovely, and the students and faculty are kind and welcoming. The university invests in its students. Recently they built brand new dorms, and have professional-grade equipment.”

“It’s a hard school. Very competitive and pounds the love of art out of you if you let it. You’re certainly prepared for the industry if you can make it that far.”

“The only good thing to come out of my four years at this college is close friends and a BFA that carries a lot of weight in the film industry. Was it worth the stress? I’m not sure.”

“They have an amazing film program. The classes are relatively small compared to most other schools. The professors are very supportive and helpful.”

“UNC School of the Arts is an amazing school! It’s a very small campus, which helps students receive specific feedback and gives the chance to build up friendships and relationships between your classmates.”

“I am learning a lot and meeting many interesting names in the industry. The environment on campus can be somewhat toxic and the expectations of students are well beyond a reasonable work load if you max out on credit hours. Many professors are great but they are generally outweighed by older, hardheaded professors.”


Not to scare you but I transferred out of Chapman I hated it

Why ? If you add context that can help others.

My kid got his masters in music at UNCSA, and he really loved the place. Winston Salem is a great town. We flew in and out of Greensboro, or Charlotte. Greensboro airport is close enough.

My kid loved being surrounded by other kids in the various arts. Lots of crossover between the different schools there.

It’s definitely a special place.


Were you in Dodge? What didn’t you like about it?

We have a similar question! Our son got into UNCSA for film, Chapman for screenwriting, and Emerson Global. He ruled out Emerson Global because it is in Paris (he has already lived there). UNCSA is affordable without loans. He just found out about Chapman and is concerned it might not be as friendly and welcoming as UNCSA, or that as a Screenwriting major he won’t get as much hands-on experience with filmmaking as he would at UNCSA, which puts everyone in the same classes for the first two years. Would love any info about the ability to do different things outside of one’s major at Chapman–ie, do screenwriters get behind the camera or are they stuck in a writing room? Also, is it friendly??

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Same for us. Ithaca and UNCSA are affordable without loans. Still waiting for Emerson’s and Chapman’s financial aid decision to see whether they are affordable.

D and her dad are visiting UNCSA tomorrow. Have you visited? They flew down tonight and appreciated how easy of a flight it is from NYC. Depending on their experience, either Ithaca or UNCSA will get bumped.

We also went to Admitted Student receptions in the city for Emerson and Chapman this past weekend and their vibes couldn’t be more different. Emerson was at a bowling venue and the kids bowled and played games together. They also had fun foods. Chapman’s was the next morning at a rooftop hotel. I’m sure the venue is great for drinks or dinner, but it was crowded and they only had hummus and raw vegetables to eat. Everyone was nice but it seemed to me that they were looking to make a statement with the location but didn’t put a lot of thought into the guest experience.

We hope to make a decision by Friday because it’s D’s school’s Commitment Day.


My S21 is a student at UNCSA and is a tour guide but probably won’t be touring tomorrow. We live in the NYC are too and it has been so easy to fly. Driving is another situation! All of the stuff is staying in storage and the car coming back by transport because I am afraid it won’t make the drive!


We saw UNCSA last summer. For us it is far (we live on the West Coast, so Chapman is a quick flight). The UNCSA film facilities are great. The campus and town also felt very friendly. However, the campus is tiny and doesn’t have good food options or many of the other amenities you find at a bigger campus. My sense is that it prepares students extraordinarily well for a career in film.


The food is probably the biggest issue with UNCSA and many kids move to the on campus apartments or off campus after first year because of it. There are cooking facilities in the gorgeous new dorms but my son moved to the apartments as a second year and has not eaten on campus food since. My understanding is this is a problem at all small schools.

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It seems like we would need to budget for UberEATS, although I imagine generally, she would spend less money in Winston-Salem than in Boston or LA. Ithaca also has the same issue with its dining. The dining hall, as well as their dorms, was very underwhelming on our visit. UNCSA new dorm actually looks incredible on the videos I’ve seen.


Exactly. My kid went to undergrad in Boston…and masters at UNCSA. The cost difference was amazing!

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Was UNCSA helpful in making connections and finding jobs? That seems to be the big benefit of the other schools.

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