Swarthmore vs Oberlin in Theater

I’m applying for colleges in the upcoming months. I wonder which one above is better for me if I want to apply for theater major, and I may want to study French also. I’m especially interested in acting and musical theatre, and I’m looking for some professional training. Plus, if you recommend any other colleges or universities, please tell me more details about them. Thank you!

What are your credentials? These are both very high end, especially Swat.

Yeah, I know it’s difficult to apply for both of them. I think I’m qualified as my GPA is quite high.

You know Swarthmore is 9% admission - and everyone has a high GPA.

The schools are different - and you should study the differences. Oberlin has a conservatory. Swarthmore is intense…high pressure.

You maybe qualified but no one is a sure thing to these schools and you need to ensure you have reaches (Swarthmore for sure), targets, and safeties.

As for schools with theatre programs - there are many from small (Evansville) to Syracuse, NYU, and so many more. There are also schools like SUNY Purchase and UNC School of the arts.

I encourage you to run some google searches. and find some and check them out.

Good luck.


Thank you so much!

It sounds like you are looking to study theatre in more of a liberal arts based setting where you will be able to get performance training and experience, and seeking a program where you can double major.

If your academics are at the level for Oberlin or Swarthmore, schools that you may also want to look at are:

Connecticut College
Trinity (CT)
Sarah Lawrence

Something to think about is if you are lookjng for a non-auditioned program where you can study theatre (which is the schools list3d above) or an auditioned more conservatory style program. At most conservatory style programs students earn a more major focused BFA degree (Syracuse, Carnegie Mellon, Elon, UNC-Arts, NYU, etc…) rather than a more liberal arts based BA degree. Successful artisits can grow and thrive in either environment, but the educational structure and focus will be different.

You may want to go to the Theatre and Drama majors forum - Theater/Drama Majors - College Confidential Forums - and the Musical Theatre majors forum - Musical Theater Major - College Confidential Forums - read past threads and post questions there.


On the surface, Oberlin would seem like the easy choice. They have a major in Musical Studies which is a partnership between the School of Arts & Science and the Music Conservatory. A focus on Musical Theater would be a natural in that department, Oberlin’s a very artsy place and they’re known for their programs in the performing arts. It’s what they do. As a result, there should be a good network after graduation for what is an extraordinarily difficult field to pursue. Oberlin also has very much of a global focus and promotes study abroad programs, including options during their 4-week winter term.

Given all that, what attracts you to Swarthmore? Both colleges offer majors in Theater and French, so you can pursue those interests at either school. Oberlin has double the enrollment of Swarthmore. With all of the interest in the arts there, it’s likely to be more competitive to get just the spot you want in a theater production. I think that is balanced to some extent by more productions at Oberlin. (?) it is certainly worth investigating where you think you’ll have more opportunities and more competition.

As @tsbna44 sagely advised, these are 2 different schools which go about things differently. Both are very good. I’d stronglyv recommend that you visit both - preferably while students are on campus. The differences will quickly become evident and you can see which one appeals to you more.


Have you looked at CMU? It’s a top drama program with a really nice theater in the center of campus for performances. It’s in their College of Fine Arts.

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Theater majors at Swat will often be taking classes at Bryn Mawr as do theater students at Haverford—more offerings for theater majors. All three colleges are part of the tri-co where students can enroll in courses at all three colleges. None of these three offers a BFA type musical theater program, but you can certainly participate in productions and take theater/music courses.

The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia has a a vocal studies program. I know students from Bryn Mawr and Haverford can take courses at Curtis. It’s probably the same for Swathmore, but check it out.

If musical theater is really what you want to do, I would second the suggestion of looking at schools that offer such programs—Northwestern, Carnegie Melon, NYU, or Ithaca College.


So my S applied to several BA acting programs as a back up to BFA acting programs. Oberlin was on the list and an interesting program. I am guessing since you asked this question you are not interested in a BFA or conservatory style program and know the difference. For BA programs Northeastern had a great program with a lot of opportunities as does Muhlenberg which is the program that is most commonly suggested as a non audition based BA in an LAC.


Wesleyan is worth a look as well.

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