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Acting Schools

By TACP Staff on July 18, 2021

Acting is an artistic craft. Although it may come easy for some, others must hone their skill much like they would any other type of artistic talent. Those who aspire to act in films or on-screen need a specific skill set to draw from that will allow them to provide as convincing a performance as possible. Unlike a stage production, films require dealing with a large crew and being able to perform multiple takes until just the right ambiance is achieved.

Aspiring actors who plan on making it in the film industry must learn how to accomplish these tasks as well as others. The right acting school can help them achieve these goals and hone their skills so they can always be on top of their game. Acting schools provide professional training in a setting that is well-established and designed for productivity. When it comes to the theater arts, good acting schools offer programs that bring together intense classroom education as well as production experience. By combining the two, students have the tools they need to draw on as professionals.

Acting schools are often divided into two primary categories. They can stand alone as independent, education institutions, or they can be a department in a university or college that focuses primarily on drama or theater arts. Both are valuable and hold merit. In order for them to be accredited, they must maintain strict standards as well as adhere to the process through which other colleges and educational institutions validate their academia. An example of this type of higher learning institution is the Yale University School of Drama. While still a part of the prestigious Ivy League Yale University, the Yale School of Drama offers degrees that are issued by the President and Fellows of the University.

This guide will stick with this type of learning institution and discuss acting schools that are associated with universities and colleges. The schools we will be discussing offer degree programs and are accredited through the schools they are affiliated with.

Acting School Programs and Degrees

Acting is not normally a career choice that one thinks would require a college degree. This is especially true since there are hundreds of famous actors and actresses who have had lengthy, illustrious careers without ever having set foot in a college or other type of institute of higher learning. While there are several who have followed the more traditional path of attending a four-year college, others have opted for private training. With that being said, you may be wondering why you should consider enrolling in an acting school and investing a large sum of cash in your education when hands-on experience may be all you need?

It’s important to remember that even the most well-respected actors have at some point chosen to receive some form of intense training. Some have gone so far as to go back to school and obtain the degree they were lacking. Attending a prestigious drama school may not have originally been part of their plan, but it definitely worked to their advantage in the end. “Would-be” actors and actresses will do well to remember that attending a quality acting school will provide them with the best possible environment for learning their skills. They will be able to practice in a consistent environment that allows them to experience what a performer goes through while they are doing what they love. Continuous practice helps to lay the foundation for your career by exposing you to many disciplines and platforms. The intensity of your program will push you past your boundaries and allow you to continue to grow on a full-time basis.

You have several degree options to choose from. Choosing the right path for your goals is important if you are ready to work to achieve your success.

Associate’s Degree (AA) in Acting

An Associate’s Degree in Acting includes not only the study of acting but also singing, improvisation and a variety of other fundamentals a performer needs to be considered proficient at their chosen skill. The curriculum of any good acting program is developed to provide students the skills and talents they need to eventually transfer from the AA program to a more in-depth BFA acting program.

Students will receive an introductory to intermediate level education that delves into all levels of performing starting with classic and eventually leading through contemporary styles and on to the more avant-garde and eclectic. Students are encouraged to experience different genres from across the world be exploring stage, film, television, and even street performance.

Before they graduate, students will be able to excel at many different acting and performance techniques that include voice-overs, movement, speech, performing live as well as acting on-camera. Students will also experience through productions produced in-house that offer both film and on-stage exposure.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting (BFA)

A BFA, or Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program is a more intensive and comprehensive course of study than an associate’s degree program and is designed to immerse gifted and creative prospective actors in all aspects of acting as a discipline. Students will develop a fundamental understanding of the major tools and on-camera performance techniques used by actors, such as voice, movement, singing, speech, and other expressive components of character creation.

Stage production, combat training, and scene study are also included as students experience full-immersion into the world of film production, film craft, musical theater. By including all of these performance skills, students have a solid foundation from which to explore the craft more deeply, and have a better arsenal of tools to reference as they pursue professional careers as working actors in the entertainment industry.

Master’s of Fine Arts in Acting (MFA)

The Master’s of Fine Arts or MFA in acting takes on a more conservatory approach. Students are given an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in various mediums as they prepare to participate in a variety of different productions, including stage, film, and television. They are given an opportunity to sharpen and further develop the many skills they will need as they pursue their professional careers. These skill-sets include movement, speech, improvisation, voice, and classical theater. They will also be allowed to work on the techniques they use during their auditions. Liberal arts classes can add depth to your degree as well.

As part of their graduation, they will have an opportunity to create a demo reel that is industry ready and capable of showcasing their talents. The reel will provide actual film footage of the graduate working on a sound stage with a professional crew. In addition to the demo reel, the student’s MFA portfolio will also contain a marketing approach that focuses on the student’s personal efforts to be ready to compete against others in their chosen industry.

Conservatory Programs

Conservatory programs concentrate only on the arts. While they may offer other classes that include history and theory, they primarily revolve only around the art being discussed. A few of these classes can include Music Theory or the History of Art. Traditional classes like Biology, Chemistry, or Geology are not normally on the class list. Instead, students who choose to attend a conservatory are more interested in learning their craft in a focused, intense, and immersive environment. Knowing how to create a scene or use both your body and mind as tools during an actual performance are just two of the lessons learned in conservatory programs.

Since conservatory programs are focused only on the ‘arts’, they don’t have many of the other activities often associated with traditional college life. There are no athletic teams or sorority activities. Instead, you will see a total dedication and commitment to learning and living the arts. Performing arts students spend close to 40 hours a week dedicated to learning their craft. The intense competition to even get into the school can be draining. The small class size and professional faculty make each class well worth the time and effort. The unique resources offered by conservatories make this type of learning a one of a kind experience.

Because of the intense focus on the performing arts, conservatories are not for everyone. Many students prefer to take classes outside of their traditional majors/minors to broaden their learning experience. Students who choose to study at a conservatory have chosen a more focused path to learning and don’t need or want the extracurricular classes.

Popular Acting Classes and Courses

Acting for Film

Television and film scenes are used to enhance a student’s ability to provide honest representations of their characters they are chosen to portray. An honest and forthright delivery is a must. In addition to film acting techniques, students must also learn set etiquette and be able to work with others during stressful and fast-paced situations. Students are also taught personal strategies and techniques that allow them to secure parts and perform on a variety of platforms.


An actor’s body, mind, and voice are their instruments. To be able to use them each effectively is a must. They must be able to use their body’s energy to their advantage and be able to fill a space with their presence. They must be able to use their imagination and emotions to their fullest capacity. Their intellect and psyche must be able to be reflected in such a way that all ranges of thought and form can be realized to their fullest potential.

Movement classes are provided to assist students in understanding the importance of body language. This type of training and physical movements support the student’s ability to be flexible in every situation. Your body, as your instrument, must be able to move freely and fluidly assisting in the creation of characters and helping to set scenarios and circumstances. Physical movements must be free from the restrictions and habits of the user and able to adapt fully to the new character’s emotional, physical, and verbal activities.

Scene Study

Scene study classes are used as a way for students to receive feedback from both their peers as well as their instructors. In a scene study, an actor or actors set up and perform a scene (in most cases dramatic). Each actor uses techniques they have learned in class and are asked to deliver an honest performance. Once the scene is over, teachers and classmates are encouraged to offer feedback on the student’s performance and how they may be able to improve their technique.

Cinema Study

Cinema studies are also referred to as film studies and media studies. Although this type of academic class deals less with actually acting proficiency, it does deal with artistic, economic, and cultural implications that are associated with the cinema. The theoretical and critical approaches to film are also studied as well as the history of the cinema and the effects it has on social-ideological values. This can include the framework of cinema offerings, their context, and how films are created and developed. The cinematic industry as a whole is studied.


When it comes to acting, improvisation involves working without a script or guide. The actor creates the content as they go using any type of tool or prop that is readily available. Improvisation is a fully spontaneous performance in which an actor has very little if any, time to fully prepare. There are no scripts or planning and, in many cases, very few props are available to be used. During an improvisation class students are given a scenario and are expected to come up with a scene or performance using only what is available to them at the time. This type of class encourages students to think on their feet and be as creative as possible in a short amount of time as possible.

Voice and Speech

Voice and speech classes teach each student how to properly use one of their most valuable tools, their voice. They are taught ways to improve their voice through projection, enunciation, and through the use of proper breathing techniques that allow them to extend their voice. By improving their speech patterns and how they vocalize, students can speak louder and stronger for longer periods of time. The speech exercises they perform in class not only improve how their voice projects, they also improve the tone and body of the voice making it sound richer and fuller.

Contemporary Dance

Contemporary dance classes involve bringing together a variety of dance movements. Lyrical dance and fluid movements are used to improve strength and coordination. Contemporary dance uses strong emotions and physical movements to portray a story through dance. This type of dance is indicative of the strong emotional connection between the person and the music they are dancing too. In a contemporary dance class, students are encouraged to use various dance movements to express their emotions and bring their feelings to life.

Technique and Scene Study

Techniques and scene studies are used to analyze how a specific character fits into a certain situation or scene and what components work best in making the scene more believable. This involves using a variety of different techniques in various scenarios and then critiquing which one works the best and what the actor or actress could do to make a more dramatic impact. Technique and scene studies are used in the more advanced classes to teach students various ways of adapting their characters to produce different and more pleasurable outcomes.

What to Look for in an Acting School

If you have the opportunity to study at a premier drama school, take it! Not only will you be able to hone your skills, you will also be able to earn the credentials you need to work almost anywhere you desire. The best schools offer you the ability to fully immerse yourself in the learning process, allowing you to not only study acting and other crafts but to live them as well. You will be able to promote your creativity, expanding it across many different disciplines and platforms.

Once you graduate, your degree will act as your foundation allowing you to further strengthen your skills and build on your resources. Fundamentals like acting for the camera, specific acting techniques, speech, improvisation, and singing can be accentuated and used to your advantage. While in school you have spent hours upon hours working toward perfecting your various techniques for a stage production, stage combat, and musical theater. You’ve honed your many professional skills and have prepared yourself for your professional debut.

Although you have several schools to choose from, you need to choose the one that will offer you the best in terms of both education and experience. You can begin to narrow down your list of options by asking a few pointed questions.

  • Who are the teachers?
  • Are the teachers still active and working at their chosen profession?
  • How many students for every teacher?
  • Will I be able to perform publicly?
  • Do casting directors and agents show up at their events?
  • Where are some of their past students?

School Reputation and Prestige

One of the best things a drama school has going for it is its reputation. While there are very few drama schools around the world that can boost a student’s career through name and prestige alone, many have a reputation for producing skilled actors and actresses. Being able to study your craft at a well-established acting school that has earned the reputation for being the best at what it does, may eventually work to your advantage. The exposure you get from being a graduate of a top drama school will provide you many benefits over those who are taught at a lesser-known educational institution.

Academic Staff & Student to Staff Ratio

Look closely at the academic staff who will be teaching you at your new school. You want to find a school that has numerous staff members who are acknowledged for their skills and talents. It’s also important to take a close look at the number of students compared to the number of teachers. You want the student to teacher ratio to be as low as possible. This allows you more of an opportunity to learn by actually doing the work. You want to be immersed in “hands-on” activities where you gain the experience you need. You want to find a program that gives you first-hand experience and the ability to work with professionals who have experienced the same things you are trying to accomplish.

Public Performances & Connections to the Industry

Another benefit of finding the right school is the ability to perform publicly with industry professionals. You want to be able to meet agents, artistic directors, casting agents, and managers who are continually working with playwrights, actors, and directors who are well-established within the industry. Repertory theaters are a great avenue for being able to perform publicly. Yale’s Repertory Theater is a good one to emulate. Students work with individuals within the theater to gain valuable experience they would never get just studying in a classroom.

Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts? What’s the Difference?

The primary difference between a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is simple. While the Bachelor of Arts degree is more generalized and covers a wider scope of topics, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is a four-year undergraduate degree that is more focused on one specialized program. The degree program you choose will be determined by what you want your final outcome to be. Are you more interested in a comprehensive educational program or do you want to spend your time focused on acting, singing or one of the other performing arts? How long do you really want to stay in school? Are you considering a longer degree program? Knowing these answers will allow you to choose the right degree program that will allow you to reach your professional goals.

How to Audition for Acting School

If you want to get into a prestigious acting or drama school, you need to be ready to face some stiff competition. You need to be determined, organized, and ready to work hard at showcasing what talents you already have. The number of admission spots for a well-respected drama school are few and far between with the number of potential students reaching over a thousand. You have to be fully prepared to fight for your position if you plan on being admitted. Although the audition process varies from place to place, you have to be ready to put your best foot forward.

In order to get accepted, you will need to go through the process. Normally, it will follow this path;

  • Complete and send in your application and personal letter of intent. If they choose you, then
  • You will receive an invitation to your first interview and possible audition. Next
  • You will be invited for a recall or second audition. If you do well, then
  • You will be invited to participate in a couple of workshops and possibly another audition.
  • If you’ve made it this far, it’s likely you will be chosen to study at the school.

The process is lengthy and can take several months to complete. Don’t rush! Take your time and make sure you have everything in order and always be as prepared as possible. Every school is different. Some include multiple workshops while others only rely on auditions. It’s important that you be fully prepared for whatever they ask you to do. This gives the review board a chance to see your work ethic as well as your acting style.

Research Before Applying to Drama Schools

Do your research! Spend as much time as possible researching the school you are applying to. Look at social media pages and talk to people who have enrolled there. Know what they expect and be fully prepared to provide them with what they are looking for. If you can speak to a graduate, they can tell you exactly what to expect during the primary auditions as well as while you are attending the school. After all, if they’ve attended the school you are interested in, they have first-hand experience that you can use to your advantage.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Plan ahead. Never put off your preparation until you are almost out of time. Give yourself plenty of time to pick out the perfect parts, monologues or other pieces that will give you the best advantage when it comes to showcasing your talents. Be smart about your prep time! Don’t rush either. Take your time. Get to know your piece intimately so that you can add your own personal touches. It will take time and concerted effort so starting as early as possible is a must.

As you get closer to your audition, become more focused and dedicate a little more time to learning every line and nuance. You need to know your work and be steadfast in your commitment to your piece. The more intimate you are with the piece you plan to use, the more confident you will be during your audition.

Pick An Active Monologue

When choosing the right monologue for your audition, choose a piece that has some action to it. You want a piece that will show your enthusiasm for what you are doing. Choosing a piece that is passive or too reflective can be boring. If you are auditioning against hundreds of other potential students, you want to be as memorable as possible. Be passionate and above all, be yourself!

Choose a Monologue That Works For You

Choose a monologue that fits your style. Most schools will want to see how diverse you can be. This normally means you will be asked to perform a classical piece from Shakespeare (or another classical writer) as well a s contemporary piece. Choose selections that mean something to you, pieces you truly enjoy performing. Your connection and sincerity will come through in your performance and will allow the auditors to see you for who you are.

Remember, in order to truly become a part of the piece you are performing, you need to fully understand it. Learn about the character and find out what message they are trying to send. It’s also a good idea to study the play in its entirety. This gives you a better understanding of the message and why it is being delivered as it is. You have the benefit of playing the role authentically if you know how your performance fits into the bigger picture.

When you are choosing your contemporary piece, it’s essential that you choose a piece that means something to you and that you can relate to in some way. While contemporary pieces are often easier to find, they may tend to be more complacent. Don’t choose just any piece. Choose the one that brings out the best in you on every level.

Get Some Coaching Before Your Audition

Finding an acting coach to guide you through your performance prior to your audition will help you fine-tune your techniques. Rehearsal is a must. Make the most of your rehearsal time by having a coach sit in and give you pointers on little things that you may not notice on your own. Rehearsing for as little as an hour or two will give you the spark you need to shine.

Hiring an acting teacher can get to be rather expensive so try to target your time for an hour or less. A good coach will be able to provide you with the tips you need to strengthen your performance and enhance specific skills that you may not realize need work. Visit an actor’s studio and see what you can learn there. Taking a few lessons prior to a performance is always beneficial. Even the best actors brush up on their skills with a private acting class or two.

Use Your Own Dialect

Always use your own natural dialect and speech patterns. Trying to pull off a different accent or dialect can make you sound unprofessional unless you are positive you can pull it off without a hitch. Speaking unnaturally is not flattering and may actually turn the auditors against you. Focus on your performance from your own standpoint and be yourself!

Budget and Plan Accordingly

Be prepared to pay an audition fee. It’s also a good idea to budget for travel expenses as well. Book all of your travel needs in advance so that you aren’t stressing over a place to stay once you arrive. Keep your stress to a minimum by planning ahead. Make sure you have all of your financial needs covered so you aren’t trying to think of a way to get home during your audition! Plan ahead and create a budget. This will keep you on task and allow you to shine during your audition!

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