Manhattan Acting Schools
Aspiring actors in Manhattan can find formal education programs at the two private and one public college profiled below. A list of ten other area schools for actors can be found at the end of the article. The comparison table includes important information about acceptance rates and program costs, among other institutional statistics.
- At The New School, students can earn a bachelor's degree in drama or musical theater or a master's degree in acting. The school is located less than two miles from downtown Manhattan.
- The Juilliard School has a renowned theater conservatory program that offers highly selective bachelor's and master's degree programs in acting. It is located a little over five miles from Manhattan's downtown.
- For a more affordable option, students can attend CUNY Brooklyn College, which offers selective conservatory acting degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) and is located almost seven miles from downtown Manhattan.
Comparison of Schools
This table can tell you how difficult it may be to get into our three featured schools, as well as how it might cost to attend once you're accepted. It also includes enrollment, financial aid and graduation statistics.
|The New School||The Juilliard School||CUNY Brooklyn College|
|School Type||Four-year; private, not-for-profit||Four-year; private, not-for-profit||Four-year; public|
|Total Enrollment (2014)||10,477*||926*||17,390*|
|Campus Setting||Large city||Large city||Large city|
|Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)||$43,813*||$39,720*||$6,838 in-state; $13,948 out-of-state*|
|% of Incoming, Full-Time Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2013-2014)||96%*||83%*||73%*|
|Acceptance Rate (2014)||66%*||8%*||35%*|
|Retention Rate (2013-2014)||83% of full-time students*||98% of full-time students*||82% of full-time students*|
|Six-Year Undergraduate Graduation Rate (for students who started in 2008)||60%*||84%*||50%*|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics - College Navigator.
The New School
The New School for Drama offers bachelor's and master's degree programs focused on acting. Students also can earn a bachelor's degree in musical theater through the New School for Public Engagement.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Arts
The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Dramatic Arts is a four-year, interdisciplinary program that teaches students to collaborate and think critically in a theatrical context. Students have the opportunity to take classes in various aspects of theater, including acting, directing, criticism, writing, design and technology. Theater coursework focuses on both Western and non-Western style and repertoire. Students learn about research methods and take core theater courses and both theater and general electives. The program culminates with a capstone group project.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater
The BFA in Musical Theater is a flexible, self-designed program with part-time and online options available. Admission to the program requires completion of the Integrated Program, a two-year, 60-credit musical theater conservatory program offered at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Upon acceptance to the New School, students take an additional 60 credits, 48 of which are in the liberal arts. Students can transfer up to 24 credits from other institutions to meet New School requirements. To graduate, students must maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
Master of Fine Arts in Acting
The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Acting program is based upon the Stanislavski system of acting and is designed to help students develop their artistic voice. To be accepted, students must hold a bachelor's degree. Once admitted, aspiring actors work with contemporary and classical texts in solo and collaborative settings, often with students in the directing and playwriting programs. The first year of the program involves vocal and movement training focused on developing basic skills through exercises and scene work.
During the second year, students perform one-act plays publicly, while honing their acting, voice and movement craft. Acting classes involve work with major texts and the exploration of character through monologue and scene work. Students learn various movement styles, including mask and stage combat, and take voice classes dealing with classical texts, dialects, accents and genres, such as musical theater. During the first semester of their final year, students perform in theatrical productions and pursue career-oriented coursework in preparation for an industry showcase.
The Juilliard School
Students seeking an intensive acting program can apply to Juilliard's Bachelor of Fine Arts or Master of Fine Arts programs. Each of these programs accepts only 8-10 applicants per year.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama
The BFA in Drama at Juilliard is a 135-credit conservatory program in acting that typically lasts four years. Students take intensive theater coursework in acting, movement and voice and are introduced to and work with a broad variety of theatrical styles. The program requires 24 credits in the liberal arts, taken during the first three years, on topics such as ethics, society and aesthetics.
Every year, students also take acting classes in interpretation and technique, as well as drama courses in Shakespeare, theater history, prose and poetry. During their final two years, undergraduates must participate in theatrical productions and take classes about acting as a profession. Students might have the opportunity to work with MFA candidates.
Master of Fine Arts in Drama
The MFA in Drama at Juilliard is also a four-year conservatory program in which students develop acting skills and develop a variety of other theatrical skills, including directing, playwriting, pedagogy and production. Graduate students take acting classes in interpretation and technique for all four years. During the final two years, they focus on performance and take classes about the acting profession. The program's curriculum consists of 110 credits.
CUNY Brooklyn College
Brooklyn College is in the process of building an $80 million addition to its performing arts center, which would cater to several departments, including the Department of Theater. The BFA program accepts 12 students annually; just ten students are admitted each year to the MFA program.
Bachelor of Arts in Theater
Students seeking a multidisciplinary degree in theater can earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Theater at Brooklyn College. The program provides a theater education within a liberal arts curriculum, with emphasis on theatrical collaboration. Students learn about all aspects of theater, with opportunities to focus on various areas, including acting, directing and theater history. The program also provides students with training in costume, lighting and scene design; stage and theater management and technical production.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting
The BFA in Acting program is a 61-credit, four-year program that provides training in a variety of acting techniques, including those of Alexander and Stanislavski. To be accepted to the program, students must submit four written essays and present various monologues in an audition. Once enrolled, students develop their own acting process through classical, contemporary and original work and training in voice, movement, improvisation and performance. They also take classes in the business of acting and theater history.
During their second and third years, students audition for all productions and must accept any role in which they are cast. The program culminates with a senior project that involves performance of a major character and the submission of a researched, written thesis. Students also participate in an acting showcase in Manhattan for industry professionals, such as casting directors and agents. To graduate, students must maintain a grade of C or better in all major courses.
Master of Fine Arts in Acting
Students seeking advanced acting training can earn an MFA in Acting in two years of full-time study at Brooklyn College. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be considered for the program. The application process involves submission of a headshot and resume, three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a statement of intent and a description of the applicant's acting process. Applicants also must be interviewed and attend an audition.
The curriculum includes training in voice and speech, movement, acting and theater analysis. Students have many opportunities to participate in performances, including through collaborations with other graduate theater students. The first year of the program focuses on expanding technique and skill, while the second year focuses on honing these skills through working with classical texts. Students also take classes in the business of acting. The program culminates with an actor's showcase for industry professionals.
Other School Options
There are numerous other acting schools within 25 miles of Manhattan. For example, students can pursue associate's degrees at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts - New York, as well as bachelor's degrees at Pace University - New York and Marymount Manhattan College. CUNY schools with theater programs, which typically offer acting classes, include City College, Hunter College and Queens College. Relevant programs can also be found at the following private schools: New York University, Wagner College, Barnard College and Columbia University, and Ivy League school.