The Best US Colleges for Future Actors Seeking a Drama Major

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

An actor in a theater without any viewers yet.

The Best US Colleges for Future Actors Seeking a Drama Major

No drama major might seem like a niche degree, it’s actually one of the most popular majors offered by colleges.

It ranks at number 59 out of a total 368° in terms of popularity across the country. This is fantastic news for high schoolers interested in pursuing a drama major since there is no shortage of schools offering a relevant undergraduate degree.

However, the abundance of drama majors and related degrees can make it difficult for high schoolers to determine where to apply. As we often discuss at AdmissionSight, it’s not a good idea to apply to too many schools as the quality of your applications will diminish.

Five stage actors playing their roles on the stage.
Instead, it’s crucial to pick a handful of best-fit schools that match your academic and profession.

Here, we’re going to outline some of the best colleges for drama majors in the entire country so you can spend less time researching and more time perfecting your application to drastically increase your chances of getting into the university of your dreams.

1. Columbia University

It’s no surprise that Columbia University – one of the most renowned colleges in the country – makes it on the list of the best colleges for drama majors. The Barnard and Columbia theatre program provides undergrads with everything they need to succeed in a career within theater.

Students learn the fundamentals of the disciplines of performance, theater, and drama studies. Majors receive a comprehensive education spanning a wide variety of practices within theater including playwriting, designing, directing, and acting. ‘

The program’s coursework focuses on the cultural and literary traditions of nonwestern and western performances for a holistic perspective of the art form.

Towards the end of their studies, students are tasked with a senior thesis that takes the form of an essay, a piece of unique research, or an art project that combines elements of creation and research.

2. Harvard University

Harvard’s Theater, Dance, & Media major is designed to encourage an entire generation of students to use their expertise in performance, media, and storytelling for careers both within and outside of the arts.

Undergrads take a wide range of theater courses in acting, playwriting, design dramaturgy, theater history, directing, and dramatic literature to get a comprehensive perspective of the various elements of the dynamic field of theater.

Students will have the chance to work with successful technicians and professional artists from the American Repertory Theater to gain real-world and practical knowledge from people in the field. You’ll benefit from the programs’ world-renowned faculty and staff who are committed to helping theater students receive the best education possible.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

You might not think of drama or theater when you imagine what MIT offers students, but this highly esteemed institution offers a robust and comprehensive major in Theater Arts. The program is composed of a strong foundation of practical and theoretical studies.

It boasts an intense focus on design and performance practica. MIT’s major in Theater Arts requires students to complete a set of elective subjects along with a series of predetermined and set foundational theater courses covering a wide range of related subjects.

On top of individual courses, theater students can complete a capstone thesis although this is entirely optional. It’s important to keep in mind that MIT requires students to “demonstrate proficiency in theater arts fundamentals and have experience participating in a performance” before being allowed to declare the Theater Arts major.

4. Yale University

Yale offers a Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) major that seeks to “cultivate adventurous artists and scholars” who have a dedication to developing a comprehensive understanding of the various contexts through which cultural productions are made.

There are capstone, term, and introductory courses offered, giving undergraduates exposure to the curriculum at all stages of their education. The primary learning objectives of the program are new work development, interdisciplinarity, integration of theory and practice, compositional craft, and collaboration.

A unique feature of the program is the independent study activities, production seminars, and big senior projects that encourage students to put their theoretical theater knowledge to the test in production-based work.

The program has three additional subfields: Dance Studies, Shen Curriculum for Musical Theater, and Computing and the Arts. These elements give drama majors even more room to explore their interests.

5. Stanford University

Stanford’s Theater and Performance Studies is designed to offer students a non-conservatory, comprehensive, and robust program that combines the practice and study of performance.

The entire curriculum is set up within the context of an overarching liberal arts education which fits perfectly with those intending to receive a drama major in college.

Students are provided with a deep understanding of practical, cultural, and historical contexts of how live performance and theater develop over time.

Faculty members at Stanford’s theater department have a wide array of expertise and experience in the field in order to provide students with a dynamic and balanced approach.

Students can choose specific areas of specialization such as cultural studies, performance theory, stage management, design, devised theater, dance writing, directing, and acting depending on their specific interests and goals.

6. University of Chicago.

The Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) degree is aimed at providing students with the perfect plenty of theory and practice in the arts to prepare them for a successful career in the field.

The program offers undergraduates a dynamic curriculum with courses, seminars, studio seminars, and other programs which strike a great balance between practice and academic-based design so students get to see both sides of the theater coin.

Actors and actresses rehearsing with theater director on the stage.

The world-class faculty members that teach TAPs are experts in the field, and some even have experience and success in Chicago’s thriving theater community.

TAPS students can concentrate their coursework around a certain cluster such as design, media arts, theater history, performance studies directing, dramaturgy, writing and devising, dance, acting, or any combination of those.

7. University of Pennsylvania

UPenn’s Theater Arts major offers students a comprehensive education in the dynamic field of theater. With 13 total courses and a single production practicum, the setup of the major is simple.

However, the curriculum covers a wide range of subjects including musical theater, dramaturgy, playwriting, performance theory, dramatic literature, theater history, design, directing, and acting – just to name a few.

The intention of UPenn’s Theater Arts Program is to provide students with an opportunity to learn about theater through theory and practical production work under the tutelage of world-class faculty members who are actually experienced in the field as designers, actors, scholars, and directors.

A few of the courses offered under the Theater Arts major are Introduction to Acting, Introduction to Directing, and The Play: Structure, Style, Meaning.

8. California Institute of Technology

Caltech might be famous for its science and engineering offerings, but it’s also a fantastic school for drama majors.

The vibrant and committed Theater Arts at Caltech (TACIT) group is focused on providing a learning environment where students can gain a better understanding of the various aspects of theater and a place to express themselves. There are two primary theater courses offered at Caltech:

Theater Production

This hands-on, experiential, and practical course immerses students in the foundations of theater production.

They’ll learn everything about costume instruction, acting, set construction, stage management, scenic arts, stage combat, and so much more. There’s a strong emphasis on problem=solving, production values, and dramatic structure.

Storytelling for Scientists.

You won’t find another theater class like this anywhere! This course shows scientists how to infuse storytelling and theater into their science for more effective communication. The course focuses on developing narratives and vocal techniques to cover all aspects of storytelling.

9. Duke University

Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences offers one theater major and two related minors for high schoolers interested in pursuing an education in theater or drama. The curriculum brings together various academic classes in theater and the understanding of various productions.

The world-class faculty at Duke encourages theater students to supplement their degrees with research opportunities and study abroad programs.

The foundational Theater Studies Major is a Bachelor of Arts that focuses on the relationship of theater in various cultures that create and consume it.

This is accomplished by studying theater history, dramatic literature, and performance. The major also focuses on collaborative theater arts such as production, technology, directing, acting, and dramatic writing. Students can further their breadth of theater exposure by enrolling in the Musical Theater or Theater Studies minors.

10. Northwestern University

As one of the foremost colleges for students pursuing a drama major, Northwestern University is an excellent place to gain the theoretical and practical knowledge you need to succeed no matter where you want to take your education professionally.

This school’s theater department focuses on developing a student’s performance capabilities along with a general knowledge of theory and literature related to theater.

A stage actor rehearsing with a clapboard in front.
Theater students at Northwestern University will have the chance to practice and study in a wide range of disciplines including dramaturgy, playwriting, stage production, design, dance, movement, voice, acting, and directing.

The faculty directing the theater program has real-world experience in the field, providing students with an excellent opportunity to learn from professionals.

11. Brown University

As a world-renowned Ivy League university, Brown is recognized for a lot of achievements. However, one that consistently gets overlooked is the school’s Theatre Arts and Performance Studies which provides students with a blend of hands-on, practical experience, and theoretical and academic knowledge.

Undergrads can pick a specific track within the subject to concentrate their studies. The three specializations offered by Brown University are Dance, Performance Studies, and Theater Arts.

In addition to world-class theater courses, Brown students also have the opportunity to get real-world experience at performance, dance, and theater-based work throughout campus.

12. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt is a renowned university that offers a fantastic theater major. Students pursuing this degree have to finish 35 hours of course material in dramatic and theater literature exclusively. However, students don’t have to pursue a theater major in order to participate in theater courses, giving students some great flexibility.

Students receive a comprehensive curriculum focusing equally on theoretical and practical elements of theater and performing arts with several subtopics that provide students with a broad understanding of the field.

Undergrads have the opportunity to work alongside professors and graduate students to get hands-on experience in theater-related work such as stage productions.

By the time you complete a theater major at Vanderbilt University, you’ll have the skills, knowledge, and experience you need to pursue a career in theater or even outside of it if you want.

Tips for pursuing a degree as an aspiring actor

Congratulations! You’re set on pursuing a drama or theater degree. It might not sound like much of an accomplishment compared with all of the work there still is to do, but a large percentage of high schoolers don’t know what they want to study when they enter college. So, you’re already way ahead of most students.

Now that you’re positive about your academic focus, it’s time to learn about how you can improve your chances of getting into the schools with the best drama major offerings.

Director and actors of the play rehearse a scene according to the script.

It’s these amazing colleges that will provide you with the education and experience you need to succeed in your professional career.

Keep in mind that many of the schools mentioned in this list are much more selective than standard colleges. But don’t worry! At AdmissionSight, we specialize in helping high school students just like you achieve their academic goals.

Here are some effective and actionable steps you can take to improve your odds of getting into the best schools for students seeking a drama major.

Get a great GPA

It’s easy to get caught up in the nuances of a great application that you forget about the fundamentals. One of the most important aspects of getting into any great college is having a stellar GPA.

Although you can get into college with a low GPA, your options are severely limited, so you should avoid that outcome. When you have a high GPA, you’ll have a greater opportunity to get into the best colleges for a drama major even if other aspects of your application are sub-par.

Improving your GPA through honors and AP classes is a fantastic way to get the attention of admission officers while getting more bang for your buck since many of these advanced classes are weighted.

The reason a high GPA is so essential when pursuing a drama major or any degree is because it shows your overall academic prowess to admissions officers.

A fantastic GPA tells a college that you’re willing to push yourself, capable of balancing academic life with extracurriculars, and interested in your desired field.

Participate in drama-related extracurriculars.

GPA is an essential part of the admissions process, but it’s not the only thing that admissions officers consider. Colleges care what you’re doing outside the classroom too. That’s why it’s important to participate in extracurriculars related to your intended major.

If you’re intent on pursuing a drama major, you should participate in theater and drama activities. Ideally, these programs would take place at your high school.

Male and female drama students performing in front of their classmates.

Many high schools have theater departments with a wide variety of activities, clubs, programs, and other opportunities for students to gain practical experience in the field.

Participating in a drama and theater-related extracurricular activity shows admissions officers that you’re so committed to your field of study that you’re willing to dedicate time outside of school towards it.

Work with a college entrance specialist.

Another fantastic way to increase your chances of gaining admittance into these top colleges for a drama major is to work with a college entrance expert. Not sure what that is? No problem! Allow us to explain!

A college entrance specialist, as the name suggests, is an expert in the college admissions process. These experts know exactly what it takes to get into top-rated schools, and these professionals use their knowledge to help high schoolers navigate the complicated landscape of college admissions.

Transitioning between high school and higher education is a competitive and confusing time for many people. There’s a lot on the line but not a lot of helpful information available. That’s where a college entrance expert can help.

Admission sight is here to help!

AdmissionSight is a highly experienced college entrance expert with more than a decade of experience helping high schoolers just like you get into their dream schools.

Whether you’re seeking a drama major, computer science degree, or any other field of study, we can help you massively increase your chances of getting into the top schools for your desired program.

We know exactly what college admissions officers are looking for from applicants, and our services will help your application stand out from the competition so you can secure a spot in your top schools.

With 75% of our students getting into Top 10 or Ivy League schools, we have a proven track record of success. If you’re ready to make the most of your college education, feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation.



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