Deciding to go to drama school is a massive decision to make and choosing the right school can be daunting. Picking the wrong school will not only be expensive but also a massive waste of time. So how do you choose the right drama school for you?
When choosing a drama school, actors should research the school’s reputation and level of training. This can be done by visiting the school, speaking to graduates and researching their courses and recent alumni. The best school for you is the one that will help you achieve your goals as an actor.
While there are many acting schools around the world, there is no best drama school for everyone, so it’s important that you do your own research. By following this article, you will be able to decide which drama schools you should audition for and how to choose which one to attend.
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Understand Why You Want To Attend Drama School
Possibly the second most important step, before you start researching, is to ask yourself, “why do I want to attend drama school?” This answer will be different for everyone, but it will ultimately affect your decisions.
If you want to become a TV and film actor, then it’s probably important that you attend a drama school that teaches you how to act in front of a camera, as it’s very different to acting on stage. If it’s your dream to work with The Royal Shakespeare Company or perform at Shakespeare’s Globe, then you should probably attend a school that teaches Shakespeare as part of its training.
Every drama school and acting course is different, so deciding what’s important to you will make it 10 times easier when making a final decision.
Thoroughly Research Each School
Research is absolutely essential when deciding on which drama schools to attend, and there are many points that are important to look out for. Without doing your own research, you may attend a school that you ultimately don’t like, or doesn’t even cover the things you want to learn.
Instead, by researching your choices you can save both money and time. Here are some key things to think about. Here are the things that you should research when looking at a school.
Types of Training
There are a few different types of acting courses and schools. Each type has its pros and cons, and you need to decide which one is best for you. Here are the main three;
- Full-Time Degree
- Part-Time Classes
- Short Courses and Workshops
Full-time degrees, like those offered at RADA or LAMDA, will usually consist of training and performing a minimum of 40 hours per week, for 1 to 3 years. This option is what most people are talking about when they mention drama school. It allows actors to really dig into the craft and spend years training, focusing and moulding themselves as actors.
Many actors decide that this is too much of a commitment and decide to train part-time, allowing them to work and audition at the same time. Although many drama schools will be flexible when it comes to acting jobs. Most drama schools will allow you to take time out to work on productions, but this will depend on the school. Do your research.
Part-time classes refer to training that isn’t full-time. You may only meet up once per week to work on technique, movement, voice, etc. This type of training is given at schools like Identity School of Acting. Although these courses usually don’t earn a degree, that might be a deal-breaker for some. Often these courses are continuous and don’t end. So you’ll continue to pay as long as you continue to attend. Many actors have seemed to move towards this option in recent years.
Short courses and workshops can be very popular options for actors that want to train in specific techniques or areas as they usually last no more than a few days to a few weeks. Many actors will actually do the occasional short course or workshop after graduating from drama school.
There are many great workshops and short courses in acting and audition technique, acting for screen, Shakespeare, stage and screen combat, clowning, improvisation and many more.
The Drama Schools Reputation
Although a school’s reputation isn’t the most important thing. You want to get the best training, not the biggest name. But reputation can play a key role in early success for actors.
Although many actors reach success without any drama school training, attending a top drama school can give you an advantage by placing you in front of casting directors, agents and directors. Many of the top industry professionals attend the showcases and productions of some of the top drama schools, and this is a clear benefit. Although it’s never a guarantee of success.
In order to research a school’s reputation, look at what people are saying about the drama school. Are there any public ratings or statistics on the school? Who attended the school? Although the alumni aren’t the be-all, end-all. There is a reason that many of the top drama schools have massive lists of alumni who are now working all over the world, from Hollywood to the west end. The training is great and the reputation is high.
What Experience Do The Teachers Have?
When looking for drama schools to attend, it’s usually a good idea to research the teachers that you will be working with. Are they working professionals in their specialised areas? They don’t have to be famous, but you probably don’t want to be taught by an actor that has never actually acted a day in their lives.
How Big Are The Classes?
Student to teacher ratio is massively important. Acting is a personal thing, you can’t just sit in a lecture hall and expect to improve that much. In order to have the best acting training possible, I believe you need to be in smaller groups. This allows the learning experience to be more personalised and catered to the student.
How Many Performance and Showcase Opportunities Are There?
Performances and showcases are a key, essential part of most drama school training for a few reasons. Firstly, you’ll grow your experience of rehearsing and performing. You can train and learn techniques all you like, but you need to actually implement them before you really start to learn. Drama school productions allow you to do this and get the experience of working on professional-level productions.
Productions and showcases are also extremely important for industry outreach. You should have multiple opportunities to perform in front of multiple audiences in a range of styles, genres and scales. This will allow industry professionals to see you in multiple ranges, and if you’re good enough and savvy enough, this could help you get an agent and even a casting opportunity.
Key tip: If you can, try to attend productions at the drama schools you’re interested in attending. There’s a chance that you could be doing something similar if you end up at the school, you’ll want to know the level of the productions.
Are They Part of The Federation of Drama Schools?
The Federation of Drama Schools is a body of 22 drama schools that offer courses in Acting and other creative arts in the UK. By visiting their website you can view the 22 partnered drama schools that have demonstrated a track record of producing graduates with long-term careers in the industry.
The Location of The School
Location may not be something you’ve thought about, but it’s very important. Some people may not want to live and study in London. You may prefer Cardiff instead, which has a nice balance of city life, without being too overcrowded.
If you get the opportunity, try to spend a day in the city. What are the theatre and music scenes like? What is your gut feeling?
Understand The Cost of The Drama Schools Training
The fact is, education is expensive, especially when studying in London. Between the audition fees, the course fees and living expenses, funding is a very important factor to think about.
Application and Audition Fees
In order to audition for drama school, you will usually incur fees. To apply to certain drama schools, you must apply through UCAS Conservatoires, which requires an application fee to apply to up to 3 schools. On top of these fees, there are audition fees. These are what you pay to get the chance to audition and they may vary from £12 to £100.
When applying to multiple drama schools, paying for auditions, recalls, travelling to the school and potentially overnight accommodation, auditioning can quickly get very expensive.
Course Fees and Living Expenses
The most common option to cover course fees and living expenses are student loans. Student loans often get a bad wrap, but UK student loans are actually very lenient. Many drama schools also offer scholarships, bursaries and grants, which can be critical for many people. Although these are very competitive and there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive anything.
If you’re going to be attending drama school, ensure you think about your finances. Studying in London is naturally going to be more expensive due to the raised cost of living. In these cases, drama schools in other cities can be great options.
How Many Schools Should You Audition For?
Actors can audition for as many schools as they like, although this will be expensive. Instead, actors should research schools and make a list of the ones that they’d like to attend, that will help them achieve their goals, and apply to those.
Just Make A Decision!
It’s time to make a decision. If you’re lucky enough to have been accepted into multiple drama schools, you’ve got a difficult decision to make.
Trust your gut. When you’re visiting each drama school, hopefully, you’ll get a feeling. Trust that feeling. If you’ve done your research, you will only have auditioned for the schools you’d like to attend, so ultimately, whichever choice you make, it will be a good one.
If you haven’t been accepted, or you only got accepted into a school you’re not excited to attend, there’s no rush. YOu can always audition next year. In fact, many actors will audition 4 or 5 years in a row before they get accepted into drama school. If that’s the case, spend time improving on your craft so that next year, you will have a better chance of being accepted.