Top Acting Colleges in the United States

Read about the top acting colleges in the United States, which typically include conservatory-based classes, workshops and performances. Learn about the degree options and professional training opportunities at three leading institutions, and find a list of other schools across the country that provide training in acting.

School Overviews

Aspiring actors and actresses can find relevant programs at conservatories and traditional public and private schools, such as the three award-winning and high-ranking institutions profiled below. Students at both Purchase College and New York University can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts. A Master of Fine Arts program is available at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Unique to the Purchase Program is the chance to participate in a professional audition.

1. State University of New York (SUNY) - Purchase College in Purchase, NY

School Highlight: The Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film is one of four schools in the Consortium of Professional Theatre Training Programs.

SUNY Purchase ranked among the best public schools in 2015, according to U.S. News & World Report's list of National Liberal Arts Colleges. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting program, offered through the Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film, is a 4-year course of study that includes instruction in movement, speech and voice, as well as dramatic literature and theater history.

Designed as a professional actor-training program, the schedule keeps students busy with classes and rehearsals from early in the morning to late at night. In particular, aspiring professionals learn how to act for the camera and train in improvisational and the Lecoq techniques. At the end of the program, top students can audition for a consortium of producers, agents and casting directors from Los Angeles and New York City.

2. New York University in New York, NY

School Highlight: NYU has a classical Studio and six other studios for students.

New York University was ranked 32nd overall among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2015. Through the Tisch School of the Arts, students can pursue conservatory training in acting and earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Incoming students are placed in one of seven primary studios, such as the Stella Adler School of Acting and the Meisner Studio, where they remain for the first two years of the program. During the second two years, students may choose another studio, such as the Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing or Playwrights Horizons Theatre School. Studios' focus is on musical theater, design, directing and stage management. After the first year, students may audition for several performances, ranging from full-scale productions to experimental theater pieces.

3. American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA

School Highlight: Training at the American Conservatory Theater culminates in the MFA Showcase.

The Tony Award-winning American Conservatory Theater is primarily a theater; however, it has also served as a small school for actors since 1965. The conservatory offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program to the limited number of students admitted each year. Once enrolled, aspiring professionals study both classic and contemporary works of theater and prepare for the MFA showcase. Through the Summer Training Congress, students can also pursue 2-week and 5-week intensive training sessions. Relevant facilities include ten studios and a black box studio theater for classroom instruction and performances.

Top Acting Colleges

School Name Distinction Location
Boston University Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP) Boston, MA
California Institute of the Arts Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) Valencia, CA
The Juilliard School Program admits 8-10 students per year. New York, NY
Northwestern University Waa-Mu Show Evanston, IL
University of California - Irvine Drama/Theater Guild Irvine, CA
University of Miami Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Miami, FL
University of Texas at Austin The Performance as Public Practice (PPP) program Austin, TX

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