If your life is filled with drama and you think that “all the world is a stage,” you're probably thinking of pursuing an education in the theatrical arts. Your interests may lie behind the scenes or out there in the spotlight, but either way finding the best college or university program can prove essential in helping you get a jumpstart in the field.
While college rankings provide some indication of a college's reputation, be aware that many rankings are based on the more easily quantifiable variables such as graduation rates, SAT scores, and the number of students that pursue advanced degrees, which may not capture all that a particular institution has to offer. In other words, these rankings can be helpful when narrowing your initial selections but you'll want to do your own homework as well – you want to find a program that fits your unique needs and interests. For example, some schools offer a broader program of theatrical study within a B.A. or B.F.A. curriculum while others offer more focused study on a specific discipline, and yet rankings likely won't reflect this sort of difference between one institution and another.
While California and New York are known for their theatrical arts programs, these two states are hardly the only ones to offer a good education in the theater. There are plenty of highly ranked schools throughout the country that are well respected in the industry, including four year colleges and private conservatories.
When evaluating the college rankings produced by such notables as U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, you should consider these factors, some of which were factored into the rankings, and others of which likely were not:
- Does the institution and faculty have the experience and reputation you're looking for?
- Does the department you're interested offer experience as well as instruction?
- What is the average class size?
- What is the ratio between “lab” time and class time?
- Who are some of its graduates and where are they now?
- What is the reputation of the institution in the industry?
"We all know there is nothing more deceptive than statistics,” says Dr. Joanne L. Gordon, chair of the Theatre Department at Cal State Long Beach. “This is particularly true in the Arts. The type of training and the rigid adherence to a particular methodology can drastically affect the student's growth in a program. Focus on training and performance, type of repertoire, range of experience in both the student body and faculty, connection to the profession and separation of graduate and undergraduate work are far more significant in assessing the effective match of student to program."
Remember, though, that college rankings can provide you with a good initial list of possible colleges, based on the wider criteria they assess. They will save you valuable time and effort in finding colleges and universities that meet your more needs in terms of diversity, campus size, facilities, faculty, and student life. You can then whittle down the list, visit your short list of choices in person and select the theater program and college or university that meets your needs.
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