The Top Acting Colleges in the United States


A list of the top acting colleges in the United States may vary depending on the criteria for evaluation. For example, The Hollywood Reporter’s list of top acting schools is derived from asking casting directors which schools produce the actors they are most likely to hire. The Princeton Review’s list of top theater programs is based on student surveys. College Factual considers the value of education provided for the tuition paid as well as how much each school's graduates earn in the profession. A few schools consistently received high rankings in 2014.

Yale School of Drama

  • In New Haven Connecticut, Yale School of Drama earns the top spot on the Hollywood Reporter's list of the 25 Best Drama Schools in 2014 and appears on any list of excellent theater programs. The school's unique partnership with the Yale Repertory Theatre provides students the opportunity for plenty of time on stage in full productions. Meryl Streep, the actress with the most Oscar nominations in history, graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1975. 2014 Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o landed her role in "12 Years a Slave" while she was still a student at Yale. YSD is a graduate school, offering a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting among other graduate degrees in various fields of drama study.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama

  • Casting directors and students agree that Carnegie Mellon, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is top notch. As of 2014, graduates have won six Oscars, 31 Tonys and 99 Emmys, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which ranked the school No. 3 on its 2014 top drama schools list. The school’s conservatory program is designed to prepare students "intellectually, artistically and practically" for prominent careers in theater, television, film and emerging media. The school prizes innovation, collaboration, creativity and intellectual curiosity. CMU School of Drama students can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting or music theater. Other drama degrees are also offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

New York City Top Acting Colleges

  • The proximity of Broadway makes New York City acting colleges appealing to students with a career focus on the theater. The Juilliard School is ranked No. 2 by The Hollywood Reporter, and New York University is ranked No. 2 on College Factual's 2014 list of Top Colleges for Drama and Theater Arts. Juilliard offers undergraduate and graduate actor training programs with curriculum focused on playwrights such as Chekov and Shakespeare. New York University offers a graduate acting program through the Tisch Institute of Performing Arts, and undergraduate students may earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts from NYU through the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.

Los Angeles Top Acting Colleges

  • The University of California at Los Angeles is the top ranked drama school in the nation, according to College Factual's 2014 list. The University of Southern California ranked No. 6 on College Factual's list. Both UCLA and USC made the Hollywood Reporter's list of top 25 acting schools. UCLA offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in theater as well as in film, television and digital media. UCLA is also home to the Geffen Playhouse, which has received more than 40 regional theater awards and was honored six times for best overall production, according to the UCLA website. USC's School of Dramatic Arts produces 20 plays per year in four separate theater facilities. Acting students with an eye on Hollywood are drawn to Los Angeles area acting colleges knowing that agents and casting directors attend student productions in search of new talent. USC offers BFA and MFA degrees in acting, as well as other undergraduate and graduate degrees in several drama-related fields.

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