The Best Top-Tier Schools for the Performing Arts - IvySelect (2022)

Any student who has been on stage and experienced the adrenaline rush of performing may wish to consider singing, dancing, or acting as a career. As in any other profession, success in the performing arts calls for intensive training. A number of top-tier institutions combine first-rate training in the performing arts with an excellent foundation in liberal arts.

Along with basic liberal arts requirements, performing arts programs require course work in all or most of the field’s disciplines before a student can concentrate on a specialty. Institutions often offer degrees in the three primary types of performing arts — music, dance, and drama. A four-year degree program can culminate in the award of a Bachelor ofArts(BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), or, less commonly, a Bachelor ofPerforming Arts(BPA).

Students who elect to major in drama, acting, or theater usually take classes in theater history, acting, costume design, lighting, stage movement, voice, directing, and scene design to learn the range of aspects of stage production. Each student participates in performances while learning these skills. After core requirements are met, some students enjoy taking classes focusing on drama while others choose to concentrate on Set Design, Theatre Technology, Playwriting, Screenwriting, Theater Literature, Directing, Theatrical Production, and Costume Design.

Among top-tier colleges and universities in the U.S. with undergraduate programs in the performing arts, there are many schools that have earned outstanding reputations in the field. Some of these are described below in no particular order, mixing universities, liberal arts colleges, and institutions dedicated solely to the performing arts.

The Juilliard School–New York, NY

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Always considered among the best for drama and dance,the Juilliard School has a long list of notable alumni who have earned 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, and 12 National Medals for the Arts.It’s a very exclusive school,selecting only 20 students for enrollment in the BFA Acting Program, 20 in the MFA Acting Program, and 40 in the BFA Dance Program.The dance program holds 15 public performances each year, and the drama program puts on many plays. There are showcases in New York and Los Angeles. Alumni who have excelled as actors include Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt, Adam Driver, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, and Val Kilmer.

Northwestern University–Evanston, IL

Northwestern isone of the few drama schools that doesn’t require an auditionfor admission.However, acceptance is still difficult to attain as indicated by its admission rate of only 15%. Students have many opportunities to perform in both school-sponsored and student-run shows.Seniors are invited to participate in showcases in New York and Chicagofor an audience of industry professionals.The school has manyfamous alumni including Warren Beatty, Stephen Colbert, Charlton Heston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Orbach, Ann-Magret, and Tony Randall.

Carnegie Mellon University–Pittsburgh, PA

The oldest acting conservatory in the U.S., Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama is focused on ensuring that students understand and embody their characters through thorough analysis.The school hasa faculty of working theater professionals. Well-known alumni include Holly Hunter, Ted Danson, Albert Brooks, Ethan Hawke, Jack Klugman, George Peppard, Joe Manganiello, and Rene Auberjonois. There are 20 shows per year providing many performance opportunities. Additionally, the school cancels classes for a week during the year to enable students to perform their original works or adaptations.Seniors have an opportunity to perform in showcases in New York, Los Angeles, and Pittsburghfor industry professionals.

University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance has a top reputation in the performing arts. While pursuing a BFA in acting, students are trained for the physical and mental demands of theater by a faculty of working professionals that includes actors, directors, designers, technicians, and published scholars. The school has a low student-to-faculty ratio and a core curriculum that includes acting, voice, dialects, movement, and stage combat courses. Students have many opportunities to perform for international audiences. Famous alumni include Selma Blair, Christine Lahti, Lucy Liu, James Earl Jones, Margo Martindale, and Gilda Radnor.

Smith College–Northampton, MA

Smith is one of the best small colleges for theater majors. Students attending Smith aren’t limited to the resources of their college alone because Smith is part of the Five Colleges Consortium. Theater and dance majors at Smith enjoy the combined capabilities of four other nearby schools: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This collaborative program affords performing arts students at Smith all the benefits of an institution many times its size while maintaining the intimate culture that draws students to Smith. Graduates of the Five Colleges Consortium who have earned fame in the performing arts include Bill Pullman, Richard Gere, Wendy Wasserstein, Ken Burns, Liev Schreiber, Lupita Nyong’o, Shelley Hack, and Barry Sonnenfeld.

New York University–New York, NY

Upon acceptance into the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, students are placed into one of eight primary studios where they receive intensive training leading to a strong foundation in technique. Students remain in their studio for four consecutive semesters. The eight primary studios are the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing, Meisner Studio, New Studio on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons Theater School, Production & Design Studio, and Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Once primary training is completed, students choose from many options for advanced training in a specialty. NYU is a leader in the number of BFA graduates who have gone on to earn fame as actors. Examples include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Bell, Oliver Stone, M. Night Shyamalan, Lady Gaga, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

California Institute of the Arts–Santa Clarita, CA

CalArts is considered by many to be thebest dance school on the West Coast and one of the top drama schools.The School of Dance has a distinguished faculty and renowned guest artists.It offers many dance performance opportunities in its American College Dance Festival.The School of Drama is agreat choice for actors who wish to pursue a screen-acting career. All seniors must enroll in the Acting Studio for the Camera course, which trains students forauditioning and performing for cinema and TV.In their final semester, students perform in industry showcases in Los Angeles and New York.The drama department’s famous alumni includeDon Cheadle, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, and Alison Brie.

University Of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, NC

The UNC School of the Arts offers exceptional drama and dance programs.Alumni of the dance program have gone on to perform with theAmerican Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Martha Graham Ensemble.Notable drama alumni includeMary-Louise Parker, Andy Griffith, John Forsythe, and Jack Palance. Drama and dance students havemany performance opportunities including senior showcasesfor industry professionals in New York and Los Angeles.

Wesleyan University–Middletown, CT

Wesleyan’s undergraduate theater program is one of the most widely known and highly regarded in the country. The school has an impressive faculty and visiting artists. Its notable alumni include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Bay, Dana Delany, Mike White, Bradley Whitford, and Joss Whedon. Wesleyan’s theater program also provides an honors track for top performing students, as well as two awards, the Rachel Henderson Theater Prize and the Outreach and Community Service Prize, to recognize excellence in the work of its students.

Brown University–Providence, RI

Among Ivy League schools, Yale is most well known for its Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program, but Brown’s School of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies (TAPS) is well known for its undergraduate BFA program. Brown places a high value on its students having a well-rounded understanding of drama as a discipline. Along with acting classes, students take theory and history courses. Students may then choose one of the program’s tracks, which include Theatre Arts, Performance Studies, or Writing for Performance. The program offers an optimal setting for activities such as crewing mainstage plays, participating in student-run production workshops, participating a Shakespeare on the Green performance, and viewing world premiers at the Trinity Repertory Company. Famous graduates include John Krasinski, Emma Watson, and Bess Armstrong.

IvySelect, as a private college admissions consulting firm specializing in top-tier institutions, has guided students to acceptance at all of the institutions covered above except Julliard and CalArts, which are excellent schools but do not offer a broader education in the liberal arts. Our talented and experienced college counselors are consummate professionals with unrivaled credentials, making IvySelect one of the best college counseling firms in the world.


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Top Five Universities for Studying Drama in the UK
  1. University of Central Lancashire. ...
  2. Guildhall School of Music and Drama. ...
  3. University of Essex. ...
  4. Lancaster University. ...
  5. Birmingham City University.
9 Sept 2022

What is the hardest acting school to get into? ›

The Juilliard School (New York, NY)

Offering degree programs in drama, music, and dance, Juilliard is highly selective in its admission process, including an in-person audition for all students.

What is the number 1 art school in the world? ›

Royal College of Art (London, EN)

Founded in 1837, the Royal College of Art ranks 1st in art and design, according to the QS World University Rankings.

Is a degree in performing arts worth it? ›

Diverse Career Options: There is so much more to the performing arts than acting, directing, dancing or designing. From technical roles to working in wardrobe, check out all the amazing jobs you can pursue with a theater degree. Moreover,many careers in theater are showing promising growth.

Is performing arts a good career? ›

This can be a demanding career, with eight shows a week being the norm, and competition for roles is fierce. However, as with acting and dancing, there's no reason you can't succeed as a musical theater performer if you're determined, talented and passionate about what you do.

What job can I get if I study performing arts? ›

Getting a degree in performing arts can open you to a wide variety of careers, including stage acting, movies, working with musicians, teaching and much more. If you're interested in a performing arts degree, it's useful to learn how getting one can affect your professional career outlook.

Where do most actors go to college? ›

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  • New York University. ...
  • University of California, Los Angeles. ...
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What is the most represented school on Broadway? ›

Elon recognized by Playbill as one the most represented colleges on Broadway. Elon ranks among New York University, Yale and Juilliard as one of the most prolific colleges in the nation in producing Broadway performers. Daniel J. Watts '04 plays Ike Turner in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”

What is the best performing arts high school in America? ›

The Top 7 Performing Arts Schools in the United States
  • Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. ...
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  • Fiorello H. ...
  • Baltimore School for the Arts. ...
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts. ...
  • Idyllwild Arts Academy.
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What is the best performing school in the UK? ›

Top grammar schools list: 1 - 50
School RankSchoolGCSE (%A*/A/9/8/7) 2022
1The Henrietta Barnett School99.8
2Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet95
3Wilson's School, Wallington95
4The Tiffin Girls' School95*
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26 Aug 2022

What is the hardest drama school to get into UK? ›

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art | London

RADA was founded in 1904 and in addition to being considered one of the top acting schools, it's the top school hardest to get into. It is named this way for a reason, as it radiates royal reputation.

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Many actors had formal acting training from either schools, such as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Yale University, HB Studio, The Pasadena Playhouse, and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, or from teachers such as Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Michael Chekhov.

What is the best age to start acting classes? ›

Age 8 – 11

This is one of the best ages for getting started in acting as kids this age tend to be that little bit better at reading their lines and more disciplined with practice. Kids in this age group will sometimes play roles younger than their actual age as the group is generally easier to work with.

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So yes, great acting does take training. It does require skill. You cannot just wake up one day and be a great actor. It takes time to train your eye and brain to look for action in lines, to figure out where and when to make bold choices and when to keep them subtle.

What is the #1 art school in the US? ›

Best Art Schools
University of California--Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA #1 in Best Fine Arts Programs Save4.5
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL #2 in Best Fine Arts Programs (tie) Save4.3
Yale University New Haven, CT #2 in Best Fine Arts Programs (tie) Save4.3
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What state is best for art? ›

California. The entire state of California is brimming with incredible and inspiring art. Whether an art lover enjoys art of the past or contemporary masterpieces, the 'Golden State' has it all. Home to famed art museums, including San Francisco's SFMOMA, Legion of Honor, and de Young Museum and Los Angeles' The J.

What are the disadvantages of performing arts? ›

Performing artists may suffer physical effects; dancers may tear a ligament, singers can put too much strain on vocal chords. Inherent risks, however small, are associated with various types of careers in the arts.

How long is a performing arts degree? ›

A theatre & dramatic arts degree usually takes three years to study.

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Some people act as if theatre was an easy major, but the truth is that it is taxing on your body, mind, and emotions. Your teachers and classmates will probably want to support you, but ultimately only you can determine your precise limits.

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The performing arts are arts such as music, dance, and drama which are performed for an audience.

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Performing Artists in America make an average salary of $49,715 per year or $24 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $121,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $20,000 per year.

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The best 10 tips on how to start a career in the theatre industry
  1. Goal-oriented approach. Having goals is something that will help you in the long run as it will give you something to work towards. ...
  2. Research. ...
  3. Experience. ...
  4. See as much theatre as you can. ...
  5. Social Media. ...
  6. Network. ...
  7. Positive attitude. ...
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How much do Broadway actors make? ›

The salaries of Broadway Actors in the US range from $26,063 to $708,331 , with a median salary of $127,367 . The middle 57% of Broadway Actors makes between $127,369 and $320,944, with the top 86% making $708,331.

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6 benefits of careers in theater and music:
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  • Variety. ...
  • Passion. ...
  • The rush of performing. ...
  • Developing your craft. ...
  • The alternative lifestyle.
2 May 2016

What major do most actors have? ›

Postsecondary Training

Therefore, it is strongly recommended that aspiring actors complete at least a bachelor's degree program in theater or the dramatic arts. Some actors, especially those who want to teach dramatic arts, continue their education and receive a master of fine arts (M.F.A.)

Where is the best place for a acting career? ›

8 Best Cities for New Actors to Call Home
  • Los Angeles, CA. LA is another city synonymous with acting. ...
  • Las Vegas, NV. Viva las actors! ...
  • Atlanta, GA. Another unsurprising option, the TV and film industry has been booming in Atlanta thanks to tax incentives. ...
  • San Francisco, CA. ...
  • Chicago, IL. ...
  • Stamford, CT. ...
  • Austin, TX.
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What state do most actors live in? ›

Most celebrities tend to gravitate to the coasts of the United States – making their home in California or New York.

What is the number 1 show on Broadway? ›

RankTitleOpening date
1The Phantom of the OperaJanuary 26, 1988
2Chicago (1996 revival)November 14, 1996
3The Lion KingNovember 13, 1997
4CatsOctober 7, 1982
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What is the hardest specialized high school to get into? ›

Stuyvesant is the most selective of the eight schools in the specialized high school system; it requires at least a score of 557 (out of 800) on the entrance exam known as the SHSAT. This is the highest cutoff.

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North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

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School of Performing Arts Seoul (Korean: 서울공연예술고등학교), colloquially known as 서공예 (SOPA) in South Korea, is an arts high school in Gung-dong, Guro District, Seoul.

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The BRIT School is the leading Performing and Creative Arts school in the UK and is completely FREE to attend. Our mission is to train and educate young people for future careers in Performance and Creative Arts and related industries.

Is LAMDA hard to get into? ›

It will be tough, and might take a number of years to get in, but if you do you are assured solid training and a great head start in the industry. I wish you all the best, and remember: if you have any questions or need any help, we are always here! IMAGES: All images provided by LAMDA with their permission.

Which city in UK is famous for performing arts? ›

Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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  • University of Oxford.
  • University of Cambridge.
  • University College London.
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What is the No 1 school in England? ›

St Paul's School

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1) University of Oxford

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What is the most prestigious drama school? ›

Best Acting Schools in the World: Top 20
  • Tisch School of the Arts | New York City. ...
  • National Institute of Dramatic Art | Kensington. ...
  • Oxford School of Drama | Woodstock. ...
  • Yale School of Drama | New Haven. ...
  • American Conservatory Theater | San Francisco. ...
  • Guildhall School of Music & Drama | London.

Is it better to go to drama school or university? ›

You are more likely to be more independent at university, which can be seen as a good way to set you up for life after studying. At drama school, due to the specialist studies at the institute, you will only come across and/or live with people who also study at your school.

WHAT A levels do you need for drama? ›

A-level subjects for drama
  • English literature.
  • English literature and language.
  • theatre studies.
30 Apr 2018

What is the #1 art college in the US? ›

Best Art Schools
University of California--Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA #1 in Best Fine Arts Programs Save4.5
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL #2 in Best Fine Arts Programs (tie) Save4.3
Yale University New Haven, CT #2 in Best Fine Arts Programs (tie) Save4.3
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What is the most prestigious music school in the world? ›

1. Juilliard School. Founded in 1905, the Juilliard School can easily be considered the most prestigious music conservatory in the country—and for good reason.

What is the most luxurious school in the world? ›

Institut Le Rosey
Wikimedia | © OpenStreetMap
Cháteau du Rosey Rolle and Gstaad Switzerland
TypePrivate, international boarding school
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Are art schools worth it? ›

Art schools offer a unique learning experience for students serious about the arts. They provide a focused education on the arts that may not be found at other colleges and provide an environment conducive to producing art, which is something many students find helpful in their educational career.

What music school has the highest acceptance rate? ›

Over 50% Acceptance Rate:
  • Lawrence University – 62% ...
  • DePauw University – 67% ...
  • Ithaca University – 69% ...
  • The Hartt School at the University of Hartford – 75% ...
  • New World Symphony Orchestral Academy – High Accept Rate. ...
  • VanderCook College of Music (Music Education only) – 99%
3 Feb 2021

Which country has the best music school? ›

Also making the cut was the prestigious Moscow Imperial Conservatory in Russia (No. 4) as well as the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna in Austria (No. 5); UK's Royal College of Music South Kensington, London (No.
Best Music Schools In The World For 2019.
Music SchoolThe Juilliard School, New York
CountryUnited States
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23 Mar 2019

What is the best musical university? ›

Curtis Institute of Music

#1 Best Colleges for Music in America.

Where do billionaires send kids to school? ›

8 Stanford University – Rich & Ambitious Kids

With undergraduate fees easily topping $60,000 each year, many of Stanford University's students in California are extremely wealthy. The New Yorker recently referred to this university as “Get Rich U” because it feeds so many bright grads into Silicon Valley.

What are the 10 top schools in the world? ›

Here are the best global universities
  • Harvard University.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Stanford University.
  • University of California Berkeley.
  • University of Oxford.
  • University of Washington Seattle.
  • Columbia University.
  • University of Cambridge.

What is the richest school in America? ›

Harvard University

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