In contrast to some educational pursuits such as medicine, engineering or law, ranking acting schools is something of an art. Apples-to-apples comparisons can be extremely difficult, primarily because there are so many variables. Some programs emphasize film and television; others train actors and actresses for the stage, while still others offer degreed programs within the larger scope of a liberal arts program.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that Los Angeles and New York are hotbeds for learning the trade, and a significant number of acting schools are located in these two cities. But there are plenty of other highly ranked schools throughout the country, including four-year colleges and private conservatories.
Traditional rankings of post-secondary institutions are usually based on a variety of qualitative and quantitative data, including retention rate, faculty resources, graduation rate, alumni giving rate and financial resources. These can be extremely helpful in making your initial selections. But be sure to check whether the rankings are just for the drama and theater programs or include film and stagecraft as well. This can skew the rankings significantly.
Regardless of a school's reputation and ranking by such notables as U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, you should answer some questions before narrowing your choices.
Selecting an acting school isn't something you want to approach lightly, so be sure you take enough time to do some serious homework. Speaking with program graduates and those already in the business is a good way to find the best acting schools in the nation.
Remember, though, no matter how they are ranked or what their reputation is, finding a school that fits your needs is the most important thing. Every acting school is unique. The key is to find the one that will be able to recognize and appreciate your existing talents, refine and nurture them, and give you the training you need to master your craft.
"Rankings in specific specialties are usually vague. Students may use them to cross reference, but we have found the most beneficial method of assessing a program is a campus visit," says Jennifer Vellenga, assistant professor for the University of Miami Theatre Arts Department. "Students ‘audition' programs just as programs audition them. No matter how talented a student is, if the fit is wrong, the student will not be successful academically or artistically… We rarely advertise our rankings [as] we understand that they are only one of many tools students should use to judge a program."
Who knows? One day we may just see you sauntering down the red carpet on your way into the Golden Globes or Oscars.