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Articles / Majors & Careers / Best Acting Colleges 2021

Best Acting Colleges 2021

Written by Sam Jaquez | Aug. 30, 2021
Photo of Juilliard, New York City, Paul Milstein Pool and Terrace at Lincoln Center in New York on June 22, 2013

Best Acting Colleges

If you are considering studying acting, there are many options for great programs located across the US. There are programs tailored for focused actor training, programs with a broad exploratory approach, and even programs with a focus on study abroad experiences.

Here are our picks for the top 10 best acting colleges in the US:

  1. The Juilliard School
  2. New York University
  3. Boston University
  4. California Institute of the Arts
  5. University of the Arts
  6. DePaul University
  7. Emerson College
  8. SUNY Purchase
  9. University of California, Los Angeles
  10. Carnegie Mellon

The Juilliard School

Juilliard is a highly competitive private performing arts conservatory in New York City. The school has an extremely low acceptance rate. Only 8 to 10 BFA Acting students are accepted each year. Students who do attend receive very specialized and rewarding training in their field.

Juilliard is often considered the best school for acting and is consistently listed as one of the top drama schools in the US and in the world.

Juilliard offers a BFA in Acting with intensive training which provides students with a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of acting. Acting students will perform on stages large and small and collaborate with students in other disciplines.

Only 8 to 10 BFA Acting students are accepted each year. Applications for the Drama Division open on September 1st. There are several deadlines for Fall 2022 admissions, depending on if applicants are prescreened or not.

New York University - Tisch School of the Arts

New York University is a great school for actors and is one of the best acting colleges in New York. The four-year BFA program is designed to prepare students for a successful performing arts career.

Tisch School of the Arts drama students are trained in acting, directing, musical performance, production, design, and stage management. Undergrads receive professional training, theater studies, general education courses, and electives. Students can also take electives within the drama department such as stage combat, private voice lessons, dance, and audition technique.

Tisch Drama has ten professional training studios specialized in a unique technique and method of training. Upon admission, students are placed in one of the eight training studios where they receive instruction for four semesters before beginning advanced training.

According to one parent of a Tisch student, "One of the great things about NYU and Tisch is that it’s also easy to add minors either inside or outside of Tisch, so that if you have other academic interests you can pursue them."

Admission to NYU's Tisch is a highly-selective, test-optional school. Applicants must submit the common app, and an artistic review. The application deadlines for first-year students for Fall 2022 admission is November 1st for early decision I, January 1st for early decision II, and January 5th for regular decision.

Boston University

At Boston University in Massachusetts, students can study acting in small class sizes and immersive foundational courses. The acting program is designed to prepare students for careers in theater, film, and television. BU Acting alumni include Jason Alexander, Emily Deschanel, Julianne Moore, Uzo Aduba, and more.

BU offers a BFA in acting, a BFA in theater arts/performance, and a concentration in music theatre which can be added to both BFA programs. In addition, the School of Theater offers dance and theater arts minors.

BU is a great choice for students who want to prioritize a study abroad option. The spring semester of junior year is designated for a study abroad semester. With this option built into the curriculum, many acting students have studied in London, Paris, Sydney, and more.

Applicants to Boston University's School of Theater must submit the Common or Coalition application and a portfolio. For Fall 2022 admissions to BU, the early decision I deadline for Fall 2022 admissions to BU is November 15th. The early decision II and regular decision deadlines are January 4th, 2022.

California Institute of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts is an internationally renowned private art university in Valencia, California. It is consistently ranked as one of America’s top college for students in the arts. The university is known for an intimate, creative environment that prioritizes individual mentorship and guidance.

At CalArts, students interested in acting can join the BFA in acting program which offers classically centered training designed to help students become versatile theater artists.

A look into the CalArts experience:

  • First-year - study and performance of texts from American canon
  • Second year - study and performance of classical world texts
  • Third year - study of modern dramatic classics, contemporary cinema, poetry, and other narrative sources
  • Fourth year - on-camera technique and advance scene study

CalArts acting students also have many performance and experience opportunities through the School of Theater including access to the CalArts Center for New Performance, internships and job opportunities at partnered entertainment companies (Walt Disney Imagineering, Paramount, Universal, etc.), the Actors Showcase, and more.

For Fall 2022 admissions, CalArt's priority application deadline (which comes with a reduced application fee) is December 1st, 2021 and the regular deadline is January 5th, 2022.

University of the Arts

The University of the Arts is a visual and performing arts university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The university has approximately 260 undergraduate students who study acting within the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts.

The Acting BFA program at UArts prepares students for professional careers in theater, in film/tv, and for graduate level study. The program revolves around six hours of acting studio per week with three hours each of voice, speech, and movement instruction.

Acting students are required to participate in Brind School productions as production and crew members as well as fulfill lab hours as actors.

The University of the Arts has rolling admissions. The priority deadline for Spring 2022 is December 21st, 2021, and the priority deadline for Fall 2022 is February 15th, 2022. Applicants who apply before the priority deadlineswill have the best chance at scholarship money. UArts does not accept Spring applications after January 10, 2022, or Fall applications after August 12, 2022.

DePaul University

DePaul University is a nationally ranked university located in Chicago, Illinois - a city with a thriving theater scene. DePaul has over 130 undergraduate programs including a BFA in Acting.

Students studying acting at the Theater School at DePaul start with a broad introduction to technique in their first year and then, for the last three years, focus on refining and adding to their skill level.

A look into the DePaul experience:

  • First year- exploration of technique through a one-year acting intensive, one casting assignment
  • Second Year- building on techniques, contemporary scene study and text analysis, three casting assignments
  • Third Year- training with classical texts including Shakespeare, 4-5 casting assignments
  • Fourth Year- preparation for transition into professional settings, advance scene study, graduate showcase production

Applicants to the theater program must complete a lengthy audition process, in addition to submitting the regular undergraduate application. DePaul's application deadline for acting and stage management majors is December 1st, 2021, which is earlier than the deadline for other majors.

Emerson College

Emerson College is a private college located in Boston, Massachusetts with additional campuses in Los Angeles and in The Netherlands. Acting at Emerson is a competitive program of building blocks that prepare actors for confidence on stage or in front of a camera.

Students have several study options at Emerson. There is a BFA in Theatre, a BFA in Theatre & Performance, and a BFA in Acting.

Theater & Performance students have many opportunities including spending a semester in Los Angeles, adding a minor to enhance their studies, or finding an internship. The program is versatile and great for students who are interested in gaining a variety of skills as an actor, director, performer, and more.

Students interested in the acting program begin their studies in the theatre & performance program where they participate in the Actor Training Core. The Acting BFA requires an audition for admittance after two years at Emerson. Acting students spend 14 hour weeks in intense training.

Emerson offer a few different application types and deadlines. The school accepts the Common App or their own school-specific application. The early decision I and early action deadlines for Fall 2022 admissions are November 1st. The early decision II deadline is December 1st, and the regular decision deadline is January 14th.

SUNY Purchase College

SUNY Purchase College is a nationally ranked liberal arts university in Purchase, New York. The university’s theater school is ranked in the top 10 percent in the US.

SUNY Purchase has two options for students interested in an acting degree. The BFA in acting is a high-focused training program and the BA in theatre and performance is a broad exploration into the world of drama including history and performance.

As a broad program for exploration within the world of theatre, the BA in theater and performance is great for student who want a variety of experiences. The program has opportunities such as onstage and backstage work, study abroad trips, collaborative projects with Film and Media Studies students, and more.

The Acting BFA program is great for students who want focused training and performance resources. During their senior year, acting students perform for an audience of invited agents, producers, and casting directors from NYC and Los Angeles.

SUNY Purchase takes the Common App as well as a school-specific app. The recommended deadline for Fall 2022 applicants to the SUNY Purchase BFA in Acting program is November 1st, 2021, and the final deadline is January 1, 2022.

University of California, Los Angeles

University of California, Los Angeles is a nationally and internationally ranked university with a nationally ranked drama and theater arts program. As one of the best acting colleges in California, UCLA has a lot to offer students interested in an acting degree.

Programs for acting at UCLA include the BA in theater, BA in theater with an emphasis in acting, and a BA in theater with an emphasis in musical theater.

UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television is designed for students interested in approaching acting as scholars. This includes not only emphasizing acting courses, but also in subjects other than theater.

Experience opportunities within the School of Theater, Film and Television are just as rigorous as the classes but are just as rewarding.

Special programs and experiences for UCLA students:

UCLA does not require admissions tests. The deadline for Fall 2022 admission to UCLA is November 30th, 2021.

Carnegie Mellon

Carnegie Mellon is a nationally ranked private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university is one of the best acting colleges in the US. The acting program is specifically known for training actors for experience in musical theatre.

At Carnegie Mellon School of Drama students can earn a BFA in drama with option to focus on acting or music theater. Students of both options take the same core curriculum classes of acting, voice and speech, and movement. After the core classes are finished, classes begin to focus on acting or music theater.

The fall semester of senior year is designed for full-time study abroad at an international conservatory program. Students who choose to study abroad will gain experience studying drama at one of Carnegie Mellon’s approved partner schools. Past drama students have studied in programs such as London’s Drama Centre and NIDA in Sydney.

Carnegie Mellon takes the Common Application. The deadline for Fall 2022 is December 1st. Applicants to the CMU School of Drama must submit a prescreen after completing the Common Application.

Written by


Sam Jaquez

Sam is a freelance writer. She studied at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she earned a degree in English.

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