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Top Acting Colleges in the United States

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

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  • 0:00 School Information
  • 0:33 Purchase College
  • 1:28 New York University
  • 2:16 American Conservatory Theater
  • 2:53 Boston University
  • 3:21 Additional Top Acting Colleges

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School Information

Aspiring actors and actresses can find relevant programs at conservatories and traditional public and private schools from the east coast to the west. Purchase College and New York University both offer Bachelor of Fine Arts programs in acting, while a Master of Fine Arts program is available at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Undergraduate degrees are offered in acting and theater arts from Boston University as well.

Let's take a closer look at these four award-winning and high-ranking institutions.

Purchase College

The State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase College ranked among the best public schools in 2017, according to U.S. News & World Report's list of national liberal arts colleges. Their Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film is one of four schools in the Consortium of Professional Theatre Training Programs. They offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting, which 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 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.

New York University

New York University in New York City was ranked 36th overall among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. 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.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Acting
  • Artisanry and Craft Design
  • Playwriting and Screenwriting
  • Theatre Arts Management
  • Theatre Design and Technology
  • Theatre History, Literature and Criticism
  • Theatrical Production

American Conservatory Theater

The Tony Award-winning American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco 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.

Boston University

Home to the Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP), Boston University is a top -40 national university, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2017. The School of Theater was created in 1954 and offers a rounded education in theater arts including acting, design, and production. The College of Fine Arts offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting and in theater arts. A Master of Fine Arts can be earned in theater education as well.

Additional Top Acting Colleges

There are other colleges with excellent theater arts and acting programs outside of the four just mentioned:

School Name Location Distinction
The Juilliard School New York, NY Has a program which admits only 8-10 students per year
Northwestern University Evanston, IL Boasts the annual Waa-Mu Show
California Institute of the Arts Valencia, CA Houses the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT)
University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA Drama/Theater Guild has been in operation for over 50 years
University of Miami Miami, FL The Jerry Herman Ring Theatre has been offering performances for over 75 years
University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX Contains the Performance as Public Practice (PPP) program

SUNY's Purchase College, Tisch at NYU, the American Conservatory of Theatre, and Boston University all have some of the best acting schools in the nation. Other schools across the country offer equally good programs with undergraduate and graduate degrees in the theater arts.

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