Purchase Visit Report

<p>My Junior year daughter and I visited Purchase yesterday. (My wife came along as well but I get the over-involved acting parent label in our family.) </p>

<p>The bar was set so low with respect to look of the campus and buildings that we were actually pleasently surprised by the campus. Yes, the buildings are 70s brown and boring but the grounds themselves are reasonably attractive. It won't be confused with any Ivy school in terms of look but its not the negative I got from reading some other post. After visiting the U of Arts, which is a very different kind of city campus, my daughter liked the feel of a more self-contained campus. </p>

<p>As to what is inside the buildings, all I can say is "wow." The theater spaces are amzing. The things like set design shops and costume shops for those interested in more tech oriented things are massive in size and filled with anything one could think of. I learned during the tour that rehearal and back stage scenes in Black Swan were all filmed in Purchase theaters. </p>

<p>A question was asked about the size of the incoming acting class and the answer given was 25. This seemed higher than what I remember seeing elsewhere. During the student tour, it was pointed out that the senior class started as 20 and is now just 12. It was emphasized that this was not a cut but a reflection of students deciding not to continue. This is probably an anomoly as to how many in one year are not still with the program but it fits other reports that the program is very rigorous and that some fall of because they don't want that environment or the school will sometimes suggest to students that Purchase may not be the right place for them if a student is not matching the commitment level of other students. My daughter viewed this as a positive rather than a negative. I know its a bit of an apples to oranges comparison but it drove her crazy during a summer intensive at Stella Adler that there were a chunk of kids that just weren't completely committed to the craft of acting. Now, I'm sure you get less when you get to all you have to go through to get into a school like Purchase but I'm sure some still make it in with a bit of the wouldn't it be cool to be an actor view of things without the passion for the actual process. </p>

<p>Other noteable things we took away with was the overall strength of all the arts programs and the opportunities for collaboration. For those like my daughter that also want to keep their hand in some musical related activities, actors can take voice lessons through the music program and its reasonably common for students to pull together on their own a colloaborative musical production drawing from talents of different people. We were told that the students had recently put on Hair and the effort was almost entirely student driven. While internships are common in other art programs at Purchase and Dancers can go on tour and come back without a problem, actors are not allowed internships or to aduition during their four years other than for the summer. This is in other reports but it was repeated that Purchase acting kids to showcases in both LA and NY. </p>

<p>Hope this is helpful to anyone considering Purchase.</p>

<p>actingdad, did they give you numbers on any year other than the current seniors? If I were a prospective student, I'd want to know if that year is actually an anomoly or if the numbers are similar in other years. Although I agree that there are likely some students at every intense BFA program who discover that it isn't for them, I also think that losing close to 1/3 of your class is unusual and should be of concern if it isn't just one year, and is worth further investigation.</p>

<p>I have to agree with AlwaysAMom that while every rigorous BFA program has kids who leave the program midstream, losing almost one third of the class is very high for any program, particularly one that supposedly attracts some of the best of the best. I'd check into the stats for several classes beyond just one year. </p>

<p>I know you mentioned it is apples to oranges, but I will say that comparing the level of commitment to students in the BFA at Purchase to students in a summer pre-college program is gonna be different anywhere, and not just at a high school program at Tisch. There is far less commitment required to do a summer high school program than a BFA at a top acting school. </p>

<p>Glad to hear of the collaboration at Purchase with the various students and programs in the arts. This is a big plus at Tisch too just to point out. </p>

<p>I have a nephew who is at Purchase in another area of the arts and he loves it.</p>

<p>Acting Dad, thanks for your report. Did they say how many audition for those 25 spots? (Which I assume are half male, half female?)</p>

<p>ActingDad, I had to smile when I read your impressions of the physical aspects of Purchase. When my son and I visited in 2008, we had precisely the same reaction.</p>

<p>My son loved everything about Purchase, and it shot to the top of his list of schools. However, he was not accepted there. He is very happy in the BFA program where he is now and feels that Purchase might not have been the best place for him after all....but who knows? Happily, most students feel this way about the programs they ultimately end up in.</p>

<p>There are some parents of Purchase students who post here. Perhaps one or more of them will address the attrition issue.</p>

<p>MOMMY5, I don't know the exact number of auditioners at Purchase, but it has to be the highest number of almost any school in the country. The combination of the location near NYC, the reputation of the program, and the relatively reasonable tuition make it highly desirable to many, many students.</p>

<p>One thing about auditioning at Purchase is that they have callbacks at the audition itself, so you know right away when you audition whether you are in the running for being accepted.</p>

<p>When my son auditioned, five students were called back out of maybe 45 or so auditioning in his time slot. He auditioned on campus. At Unifieds, they invite the students who are called back to repeat their audition in front of a camera, and the recorded audition is then reviewed by a full panel of faculty back at the college.</p>

<p>They quoted something like a 7% acceptance rate for acting.</p>

<p>SoozieVT -- I agree that if every year lost 30% that would be a red flag. I remember reading some post in the archives that attrition was usually more like 2-3 per class year. It is a question that bears asking.</p>

<p>Just double check. It could be an anomaly for that particular class. Hard to tell.</p>

<p>At Purchase the Fourth Year Class is 12, Third Year Class is 14, Second Year Class is 15 and the First Year Class is 20.</p>

<p>I'm happy you had a good experience at Purchase. It's such a positive place filled with not only amazing actors but dancers (which the school is also known for), musicians, fine artists and more.</p>

<p>The Preforming Arts center is the "home" for the Acting and Design Technology programs. The students are surrounded by nothing but working professionals who are CURRENTLY working in the theatre/tv/film world. You never know who you will see working around that school. The Fourth Year class is currently working with Tony Award winning actress Trazana Beverley on one of their productions.</p>

<p>Purchase is not a easy school but if you have drive and commitment it's a perfect place. I'm happy to see some positive things said about Purchase.</p>

<p>My son was accepted to Purchase (acting) a few years back. If I remember correctly, they accepted 22 students out of 1400. He didn't end up going for several reasons. Some were personal to him: he found the campus extremely depressing and isolated. THe students were really nice and welcoming and chatted with him, but they were a very small group and my son was worried that at that small size, if he didn't end up fitting in, it would be a disaster (considering the isolation of the campus). Buildings are old, ugly and shabby. Ok, it's a state school that is short of funds, so it's not their fault, but still that was the feeling he got. Also, they tout they are close to NYC, but unless you have a car, it's actually a hike - a bus to a train to a subway once you're there- and you definitely don't feel close to NYC; it's quite rural by NYC standards at least. Also, if you are in need of financial aid grants as we are, obviously SUNy is short of these - again not their fault -so expect to pay the full tuition/room/board. Yes, it's a bargain compared to most private colleges, but for us NYU Tisch ended up being significantly less money, something that would certainly not be obvious up front.</p>

<p>But the main reason he declined was the 'cut' policy and very high drop out rate. I agree that this should be a HUGE red flag. Particularly since their acceptance rate is so very selective Are they saying they have bad taste? That they don't consider their own students worth investing in? </p>

<p>I myself would urge every student to avoid any program that has cuts, and to take a serious look at rate of completion. </p>

<p>This really applies to all colleges; for instance, my D goes to Williams. Its four year grad rate is really high--this says something, imho, of the college's commitment to nurturing and supporting its own students.</p>

<p>I've heard the same reports about NYC not being as accessible to Purchase students as they'd like....however, in the all various discussions about Purchase on this forum, I've never heard anything about a cut policy there.</p>

<p>In my opinion, the four year graduation rate of a school such as Williams cannot be mostly attributed to a "nurturing" environment. The graduation rate at the most selective colleges (and Williams is in that category pretty much) is very high and a lot of this is due to the KIND of students admitted.....highly dedicated, motivated and achieving. Otherwise, if it were a matter of how nurturing the school was (when it comes to a liberal arts type of school....not a BFA), you'd see some highly selective colleges with a high graduation rate and some with a high attrition rate. But pretty much, all highly selective BA schools tend to have pretty high graduation rates overall. </p>

<p>Now, with BFAs, that can differ. At all BFAs, some kids leave the program. After all, it requires a commitment at age seventeen or eighteen directly into a program and some change their minds once they do such a program (anywhere). But some programs have cuts. Some are more nurturing than others and hope to maintain every student if possible. But I don't think a comparison to a school like Williams is that relevant here. </p>

<p>Also, some say small schools like LACs (which Williams is) tend to be more nurturing than a huge school by its nature. But nurturing aside, schools like Harvard (which are bigger than Williams or other LACs) still have high graduation rates due to the kinds of student it attracts and admits. </p>

<p>One other issue.....I think SOME BFAs put very very little stock in academic review for admissions (I believe this is sorta the case at Purchase as one example) and it is MY opinion that they should put more stock in the academic admissions (more than they do, not more than the audition) because a student's academic record prior to college is some indication of the KIND of student the applicant is.....the level of motivation, achievement, time management, etc. And even if the BFA program is the kind that has very little academic coursework, the BFA program itself is typically highly demanding and requires commitment, hard work, motivation, time management, etc. Kids with poor academic records are sometimes the type who can't manage to stay in a BFA (others leave for other reasons of course).</p>

… in the all various discussions about Purchase on this forum, I've never heard anything about a cut policy there.


That’s because they don’t have one although they will cut you for slacking or for making yourself a cancer to the ensemble by being cutthroat and competitive. Also, an average of around a 33% attrition rate by graduation for students in intensive BFA programs or really ANY intensive major is about the norm. We had that discussion several years ago on the MT forum and the chair of a program generally known to be “nurturing” chimed in with the numbers for four classes at his school and the average was right in that ballpark when you took away all the qualifications as to why students dropped out or were asked to leave. That’s about where it stands at most places. A couple of exceptions are Juilliard who rarely lose anyone anymore and Minnesota. The British and Australian drama schools rarely lose anyone, either. What do they have in common? A more thorough audition process including callback weekends. There’s only so much you can tell about a prospective student in the standard fifteen minute audition and interview. I think I agree with Sooz in that high school grades can be an indicator as well.</p>

<p>I agree that in fifteen minutes, it is hard to assess things like work ethic. You can assess talent and potential, etc. That is why I think it is important to scrutinize the student's academic background, recommendations, written statements, prior achievements, activities, etc. to get a better sense of them as a student. The audition is not to be cast but to become a STUDENT in a rigorous training program. There is more to being successful in a BFA program than having talent (though that is also needed).</p>

<p>I'm not sure if all BFA programs have an attrition rate as high as 33% (unless maybe fishbowl has some stats on that....I don't have hard stats on it). But anecdotally.....off the top of my head.....in UMich's BFA in MT program, they do not seem to lose 33% by graduation and that is one of the most selective programs. When my D was in NYU/Tisch/CAP21......I can't state the graduation rate for that studio as students can switch studios for advanced studios in their latter years of college, but even though this is not quite the same, I recall maybe around 10% of the freshmen class at most not returning. Then, I recall a few kids who left due to being cast on Broadway and the like and most returned but I can think of two classmates who did not return after being cast on Broadway. But I truly do NOT believe that the attrition rate at Tisch is as high as 33%!</p>

<p>^ 33% was the ballpark figure I was given by my high school teachers who had a great deal of experience placing students in the top acting programs and seemed to bear out with what I saw and heard from my classmates and those from the years on either side of me who attended those programs. Remember, I was a statistic at my first college program as well ... :)</p>

<p>Hey fish, one thing....you may have been a statistic at your first college but it surely wasn't due to work ethic.....or not hacking it.....it was all about the FIT and you luckily found the right fit in a highly regarded BFA program (via transfer) and it worked out. In your case, it wasn't about being able to stay in a BFA program but rather that particular program. :D
(that happens also!)</p>

<p>I know one boy in my D's BFA program in her class who just didn't feel like it was the right fit....he didn't want to have to do the academics and he didn't like being in a larger school (NYU) and he transferred to BOCO and so it wasn't about not being able to stay in a BFA for him either. And a CC member (takeitallin) has a D who switched from BOCO to Penn State (both BFAs in MT) and so again, there are kids who merely switch schools due to fit and then there is attrition where kids switch out of BFAs all together.</p>

<p>As a Freshman actor at Purchase, I can tell you that we have two evaluations each semester with the entire faculty. Basically, what is discussed are our shortcomings and what we can improve. It's not as intimidating as it sounds. There is no set number of people that are supposed to get cut, those that end up leaving usually display a clear lack of professionalism (missing class without an excuse, not showing up to rehearsals, coming to class hungover, etc.). Many people choose to leave the conservatory after discovering the intensity of the program. You will be warned and put on professional probation if you are intentionally slacking off, it's not as if they will just cut you out of the blue. The teachers want you to succeed, they're not looking to take you down a peg or make you feel like hell.</p>