Just like there’s no single definition of “Artist” there’s no single (or simple) to become on by going to college. Dancers, actors, vocalists, graphic designers, film producers – who do you want to be?

Because these programs are so competitive it is in your best interest to start this process much earlier than your friends who seek a more traditional path. After exploring the web links below to see what schools offer Visual/Performing Arts Programs, you’ll need to dig deeper by working with your drama, art, dance or vocal teachers, academic advisors, parents, and a college consultant if you have one to determine the following:

  1. Application and audition requirements. Deadlines often aren’t just for applications but for extra essays and to schedule live auditions or submit recorded ones.  You may not have a choice here, and some programs schedule only a few auditions per day well in advance of deadlines.
  2. Visit prospective campuses to meet with faculty and tour facilities. Ask lots of questions about the balance of academics and performance, type of degree earned, program reputation, focus and expectations, access to faculty, and accomplishments of alumni.
  3. Consider the cost and compare your options. It’s not just tuition, books, and fees – it’s the cost of living in a major performing arts city such as New York or Los Angeles that’s important to include as well. Check out salaries of actors too at sites that track national averages, such as PayScale.

 Not sure where to start?  Perhaps begin with the end in mind, and what type of degree you’d like to graduate with in four years. A professional school will award a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and a comprehensive college that offers other degrees besides the visual and performing arts will cumulate in a Bachelor of Arts degree. There are more than 1400 colleges/universities that list “Visual Performing Arts” as a field of study. As in any other major, they are not all created equal.

For starters, there’s much more work to be done in your application process. Much like deciding if you will submit your SAT/ACT scores to test-optional schools, you’ll also need to decide whether to audition and/pr submit a portfolio. For one-stop shopping check out the 2017-2018 schedule for National Portfolio Day, which offers access to multiple arts programs under the same roof. NACAC also offers performing and visual arts college fairs throughout the country beginning in September 2017.

It’s always fun and usually helpful to learn from students who have worked through this process and who now are enrolled in visual and performing arts programs. You’ll find some examples of recent success stories by watching Going to College for Acting from a Student’s Perspective and What Happens at Acting Auditions?

If you are a fan of “Best College Lists” you’ll find some for acting at two websites called “Startclass” and “Ace-your-audition.”  Startlist lists 87 colleges offering acting as a major, ranging from Ivy League Schools Yale and Brown (you’ll need an ACT over 32 and/or a SAT of 2200 plus an audition to be considered) down to programs at public schools that require no audition, much higher admission rates, and with much lower tuition.  Ace-Your-Audition narrows its picks to just nine colleges and explains the admission decision process based on the balance of your academic record and audition performance. For example, Boston University rates both at 50-50, assuming you earn at least 1850 on your SATs. At the California Institute of the Arts, it’s a ratio of 80 percent audition and 20 percent academics that gets you in the stage door. For true bragging rights, gain acceptance to Julliard’s Music or Drama departments in New York. Of 1000 applicants who are invited to audition, only 20 students are accepted for the freshman class.