By: Caroline Koppelman
A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is ideal for students that love to act and already know they want to be actors. BFA programs are incredibly time intensive and require full focus. Generally, BFA programs have studio components. It is the most prestigious degree you can receive in arts. Although there are many BFA programs in the country, the following are the best.
USC’s BFA program is one of the top in the country. Students must complete USC’s general education program (8 courses) and very rigorous requirements for the BFA. The BFA program requires 34 classes, which means you will have very little free time. The primary focus is stage performance, although many past graduates have gone on to pursue careers in film and television. Students have the chance to perform in live, filmed, and recorded media. Students who want to obtain their BFA in Acting must list it as their first choice major on the Common App.
UC San Diego
Students are able to major and minor in Theatre, which will give students experience in performance, playwriting, and design. There are three theatrical productions every year. Undergrads can also audition for the graduate productions. In addition, students can stage their own work in the two cabaret spaces available on campus. Students will receive a BA in theatre, not a BFA. The major requires a total of 22 courses, leaving room for exploration in other majors. Incoming freshmen can submit an arts portfolio or audition video to enhance their application. UC San Diego has a relationship with the La Jolla Playhouse, a Tony Award winner for Outstanding Regional Theatre, and the Mandell Weiss Center for the Performing Arts. Applicants who wish to apply should submit an optional art portfolio or audition video.
Boston University’s BFA program does not require SAT or ACT for the College of Fine Arts. Students planning to pursue a BFA in Acting must take the Freshman Core Curriculum, which will provide a great foundation and give the professors a chance to evaluate each student’s interests and potential. The Acting BFA specifically focuses on physical and vocal techniques and prepares students for theatre, film, or television. The BFA program is very time intensive: students can expect to take at least five courses per semester. Students will be cast in productions twice a semester starting their sophomore year and can work with affiliated theatres around Boston. Students should apply directly to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and select the Performance BFA Core curriculum.
University of Miami
Miami’s BFA program in Acting boasts a small teacher to student ratio of 1:10 and does not have a graduate program. All of the department’s resources are focused on the undergraduate students who don’t have to compete with graduate students for roles in performances. The program mirrors a conservatory in its approach, with intensive classes in acting, voice and speech, movement, and dance. Students who wish to receive their BFA must apply through the University of Miami.
First year BFA students focus on building fundamental skills. They’re not allowed to perform in productions, although they can learn how productions work by running crews or being the assistant stage manager. After freshman year, students have multiple opportunities to perform. There are global study opportunities in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, where students can hone their skills. There are also frequent workshops and master classes. BFA students can anticipate spending 18+ hours of class time per week to various theater arts. 30 credits are required for a BFA in Acting. Syracuse’s BFA program requires students to apply through the University.
CMU’s School of Drama offers conservatory training with a core curriculum in acting, voice and speech, and movement. CMU boasts small classes with a lot of personal attention. The program is streamlined to prepare students for life as a working actor. The first year is focused on fundamentals, while the second year dives into scene study. In the third year students are introduced to different performance styles and in the fourth year students can study abroad and perform significant roles in mainstage productions. The School of Drama produces 20 productions per year. During one week of the year all School of Drama classes are cancelled and students originate and produce a festival of independent student performances. Students must apply to the School of Drama through regular Carnegie Mellon admission.
Tisch School of the Arts, NYU
Tisch combines conservatory training with an academic curriculum, placing equal weight on both of them. When students are accepted they are placed into one of eight studios and remain in the studio for two years. The performance-based studios offer foundational classes in acting, vocal technique, dance and movement, script analysis, scene study, improvisation, and sometimes singing. Freshmen cannot audition for shows. Students interested in Tisch need to apply to NYU through the Common App and then schedule an artistic review. An artistic review is an expanded audition that includes a conversation with an evaluator.
UNC School of the Arts
UNC’s School of the Arts offers an undergraduate BFA program. Course requirements include classes in voice, movement, and acting. Students can also hone specific skills such as mask, stage combat, verse, singing, dance, and accents and dialects. The first and second years are more focused on foundational courses, with a required course in technical theater and some liberal arts courses, too. In the third year students will have a full performance schedule that builds on the previous year’s teaching and learn classical values by studying Shakespeare. In the fourth year students will do classical and contemporary plays and at least one musical. Students are prepped in audition workshops, television and camera techniques, cold readings, and resume preparation. Additionally, in the spring semester students are presented in New York and Los Angeles to agents and casting directors in theater, film, and television. Students who wish to apply have to interview and audition after submitting the UNC application online. Students need a GPA of 2.5 or higher and an SAT score of 880 or an ACT score of 17.
Northwestern’s major in Acting in an intensive program that starts freshman year with basic voice and movement classes. At the end of the year, students select an instructor they wish to work with for the next three years. Sophomore and Junior year expand on classic techniques with “principles of characterization” and “analysis and performance.” Students will study the Greeks, Shakespeare, and Chekhov. Senior year culminates with a study of comedy, style, contemporary scene study, and professional aspects of being an actor. Students will have the opportunity to audition and perform in showcases in New York and Chicago. Students who wish to attend Northwestern for Acting must apply through the Common App.
University of Michigan
Michigan offers a BFA in Acting that combines acting, voice, movement, and stage combat with a liberal arts education. The core acting curriculum includes acting, voice and speech, dialects, movement and stage combat classes. The BFA program requires 122 credit hours, so pursuing a second degree will often require a 5th year. The Michigan Theatre Department has five mainstage productions every year. Prior to being invited to audition, students must complete the Michigan application on the Common App.
UCLA offers a BA in Theater through the School of Theater, Film and Television. It is not a conservatory training, but a well rounded education with half of the student’s classes in subjects other than theater. The undergraduate acting BA starts sophomore year with a minimum of 6-quarter related performance classes and consist of acting, voice, speech, and movement classes.
California Institute of the Arts
The CalArts BFA program prepares students for all forms of media with classes in acting, voice, speech, movement, and theatrical production. In the first year students focus on significant American texts, while in the second year they focus on classical text in performance. In the third year students engage in modern classics in addition to contemporary and world dramatic literature. There is also time devoted to on-camera technique and advanced scene study. In the fourth year time is devoted to preparing for practical application for a career in performance.
SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theatre Arts
The BFA program is four years of voice, speech, movement, dramatic structure, history of theatre, stage combat, performance improvisation, mask work, acting for camera, makeup, and audition technique. The first two years of the program are focused on inner development, while the third and fourth years are focused more on applying skills to performance. In the fourth year, seniors are presented to agents, producers, and casting directors in New York and Los Angeles.
The Rutgers BFA program offers small class sizes and core classes in acting, voice, speech, and movement as well as electives in script analysis, dialects, and acting for camera. Rutgers is a 3.5 year program. Rutgers sets itself apart with the option of spending the third year at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. The first year focuses on exploration, improvisation, and discipline, while the second year is about form, expansiveness, and text. In the third year, students have the opportunity to go to London. In year 3.5 students focus on integration, transition, and professional placement. Rutgers takes into consideration your grades and scores when evaluating your application.
Emerson’s BFA program begins with a two year core. In the third year, students have to audition to be in the BFA program for Junior and Senior year. Those who get accepted spend their Junior and Senior year in structured training, which is an expansion of the core. BFA students may use elective credits to participate in the L.A. summer program. Emerson requires students to submit their grades and scores as part of their application process in addition to their audition.
DePaul’s BFA program honors the Chicago tradition and emphasizing physicality, truth in action, communication, collaboration, and spontaneity. It is a comprehensive four year program that incorporates acting, movement, voice, and speech. The first year is about self exploration as well as exploration into the world of acting. The second year is focused on building technique with an emphasis on scene study and text analysis. Second year students are also cast in performances. In the third year students focus on classical texts and work to further build upon techniques they’ve learned in previous years. Every third year student is cast in the public season, which is a mix of contemporary, classical, children’s theatre, musicals, or new works. In the fourth and final year, the BFA program prepares the students to transition into the real world and casts them in more productions. Students must apply through the Common App before scheduling an audition. DePaul is test optional.
Juilliard is regarded as the best BFA program in America. It is a four-year conservatory program with intensive classes in acting, movement, voice, and more. BFA students and MFA (graduate) students work together. It is incredibly competitive and accepts 8 to 10 students per year. Applicants are assessed based on an essay, the application, a transcript, test scores, and the audition.