So You Want to be a Theatre Major
Senior year: for some of you high schoolers, a graduation countdown has been on your phone since the first day of school in September. As the spring draws nearer, the dreaded college question keeps popping up more frequently. For all students who are looking for potential college theatre programs to audition or apply to, it can be an extremely stressful time. It can feel like there are millions of aspects that you need to consider when choosing a program. With hundreds and hundreds of programs out there, how can you be sure you are picking the right one? Below are some things to consider when choosing the perfect program for you.
One of the best places to look when considering a school is at the students that are leaving it. Alumni are a great indicator to see how students are succeeding after they leave college. Usually, college websites will have a section that talks about their alumni. Keep in mind that just because a certain university doesn’t have 99% of their students on Broadway doesn’t mean they do not prepare their students to succeed after graduation. Instead, look at all the different types of work people have gotten. Work in television, movies, theatre, education, writing, casting and communications are all achievable through a theatre degree. Researching what alumni have done after college gives you a good sense of what you could possibly accomplish if you attend that institution.
Next, take a look at whom you could potentially be learning from. A successful theatre program cannot succeed without a strong foundation of educators. Faculty biographies are always readily available on university websites. Look into their educational backgrounds and their previous theatre experiences. If you have the opportunity to meet and talk with faculty members on your college visits, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask them why they teach at that college. See why they believe their program prepares students for life after school. Their purpose as a teacher is to help you succeed. Feeling confident and at-ease with the faculty will make you feel more comfortable with your choice.
Probably the most concrete thing to think about when looking at programs is to examine what you will actually be studying. First, you’ll need to figure out exactly what you are looking for in a program. This answer is unique to each student. For example, if the dance element of theatre is very interesting to you, you should be looking for schools that have a strong dance program. Or, maybe you don’t want to focus on a singular aspect and study theatre more holistically. Then, colleges with a strong Theatre B.A. degree might be a better fit for you than a B.F.A. program. Knowing what you want to study or not want to study can help you make an informed decision about your future.
The human beings that actually attend the institution you are looking at are hands down the most important resource you can use. These are the people who can answer all the questions you can’t get from the university website. In my experience, theatre students will often be more than happy to be in touch with you and give you any information you need. While they may seem like strangers today, in less than a year they could potentially become your peers.
Now, what’s important to remember about all of these points is that they all rely on your own taste, priorities, and preferences. There is no right or wrong. Some students will prefer large schools; others will like smaller colleges. Perhaps you want to be located in the center of a bustling city or maybe a more traditional college town fits you better. Education is not one-size-fits-all. Every program, like every student, is unique. You want to pick a college program that will guide you and nurture you into the type of performer, educator or person you want to become. Trust your gut and don’t let anyone sway your tastes and preferences. Most importantly, remember to not let anyone get you down about choosing the path of theatre. A theatre degree does not limit you. Instead, it can open even more doors and help you grow into the best version of yourself.
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