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I bet you landed here expecting to see a list of the top 10 college programs for musical theatre. But if you are the parent of a high school student researching the best musical theatre program, it isn’t as easy as picking one from the top 10 schools. And here is why.
The best musical theatre program comes down to what your student is looking for in a program! That’s right, it is all about finding the right fit!
I took my daughter (who is a junior) on a college tour this fall to look at some of her top picks. We headed straight for her number 1 pick. She was so excited to arrive and to tour the program. She just knew this is where she wanted to pursue musical theatre. And guess what? She hated it. I mean, scratched off her list completely. She isn’t even going to apply. Not kidding!
So how do you know which college has the best musical theatre program for your child? Well, here are some questions to consider. Click here to download a checklist to take with you on your college search!
- Is it the right fit? There are so many factors to consider here. I personally think this comes down to gut feeling. While my daughter hated her top choice, she stepped foot on another campus she had been not overly excited about and fell in LOVE. I mean, she loved the campus, the program, the people. She felt like she had found her tribe. So if time and money allows, I highly suggest touring any and every school that is on your list. A friend of mine gave me some great advice on this. She told me starting in middle school, any time they would go on a vacation they would visit the closest college campus. It gave her girls a real feel for the type of campus they would want later on.
- B.A. versus B.F.A. – which one are you looking for? Do you know the difference? I didn’t when we first started this process. But this may be a deciding factor in which program or college you choose. For example, a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) is more broad, less intense and will focus fewer of your credits on musical theatre (or your major of choice). A larger percentage of your credits will go towards general education allowing you to study a larger range of subjects and classes. A B.F.A (Bachelor of Fine Arts) on the other hand is definitely more focused. A larger percentage of your credits will be focused on your major and a smaller percentage will be focused on your electives or general studies. While this program is more intense, so is the process for getting in. BFA programs are audition based, while BA are not. Now keep in mind, one program is not better than the other. Again, this comes down to finding the right fit for your child.
- Which area is the most important to your child? Musical Theatre, Vocal Performance, Acting, Dance, the list goes on and on. But it is important to determine if they want a true triple threat experience with training in voice, acting and dance. Or if they would rather have a program that focuses more on acting, etc. Different schools have different focuses. So this is a very important question to ask when looking at schools!
- Size of the school? This can vary dramatically! From small conservatories with just 2,000 students to major universities with 60k+ students. What is the right fit? Again, this is where visiting some schools comes in handy. Do you want a school with a football team and an actual campus? Or do you love the idea of being in the heart of a large city with classes being held on the 20th floor of a building?
- Traditional or Contemporary? Are you looking for a program that focuses on classic broadway, or do you want a program that is following the trends of New York (think Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen). This can be a huge deciding factor for some students. Again, it is about finding the right fit for your voice, look and the type of training you want to receive.
- Price! Do I even need to explain this? So many of our students will end up out of state. Which means out-of-state tuition! While we want our daughter to have every possible opportunity, the reality is, we also don’t want her having to take out loans for a school that costs $65k a year! How does a student with a BFA in Musical Theatre pay off a loan for $260,000? That I do not have an answer for. LOL. So be realistic about what you can afford and whether your want your student coming out with student loans. Some of the smaller programs may look very enticing after that little exercise! Also, make sure to ask if scholarships are available, what the criteria is and what the average amount is that is offered.
- Don’t judge a school based on how good they tell you they are. We all know the programs that tell everyone they are the best. But are they? Maybe? But that doesn’t mean a smaller school doesn’t have equally good training. Don’t count out the little guys!
- Who do they cast? One BIG question my daughter wanted to ask was whether the school had a masters program and if so, is that who gets priority in their productions. If the answer was yes, the program slid down the list a bit. Why? Simply because my daughter decided she wants the opportunity to perform in college. And that can be very difficult if you are competing against performers working on their masters degree. Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond? Or a medium fish in a smaller pond? Completely up to you, but another great question to ask!
- How many shows per year? This can be a very important question as well. How many main stage shows are offered per year? Are you allowed to audition as a freshman? Or do performance opportunities begin you junior year? Do you have the opportunity to be in student productions? If so, how many are offered a year. What about community theatre? Some schools are located near Equity Theaters. Do you have the ability and permission to audition there if you are not cast that semester in a main stage production?
- And a variety of other question. Quite honestly this list could go on for days. But these are all the questions we didn’t know to ask until we were on campus. For example, how many rehearsal spaces are available for undergrad? Private voice rooms, dance studios, etc. This is important as students are prepping for auditions, performances, etc. Are there rehearsal spaces in their dorm or only in the main music building. My daughter found a school with rehearsal rooms built into the dorm so she doesn’t have to leave late at night to work on voice, etc. Does the school offer a senior showcase in NYC? What about a study abroad program specifically for musical theatre? Is it possible to double major in something like marketing, just to have another marketable skill (which translates to another way to make money while auditioning). Do they offer any other special training. For example, one school said that they train their students on how to be a swing and understudy. Something most people don’t even realize they may need training in, but a very valuable skill to have for sure!
Do you have more questions that you asked while choosing a program? Send them our way and we will add them to the list!
Need a checklist to take with you on your next college tour?
CLICK HERE TO GET OUR COLLEGE CHECKLIST!