Choosing your Drama School
5 steps to help you choose your drama school
Start by working out what you want to achieve from a drama school – do you want to become an actor, do you want to create theatre, do you want to study modern texts, do you want to act for the screen, should musical theatre be the main feature, would you like to do an industry placement? There are a huge variety of programmes at schools. Schools have different curriculums which emphasise different areas of training, so it is important for you to work out what you want to learn and ultimately what kind of career you might want.
Try to attend open days or short course at a particular school and ask questions. You should:
- Find out more about staff - who they are; their professional experience and qualifications; the qualifications of visiting teachers; who are the directors of the performances
- Establish specialist facilities there are in relation to your programme? Do they have dance studios, a theatre, lighting rigs, a production studio
- Talk to tutors to find out more about your training and opportunities for public performances or working on shows
- Ask current students what they are working on, a typical day for them and their tuition/training from tutors
- Find out about links with the industry including working with directors and showcases in front of agents
2) Programme type
In addition to the subject that you want to study you will need to look at the type of qualification that is best suited to your needs. You can search for a programme at FDS schools by qualification. These options include:
- Foundation courses: These are introductory courses that last one academic year or less that they begin to build your skills and help you prepare to audition for a degree. These courses will prepare you for the rigours of training at a higher level and may increase your chances of getting into a higher level training programme.
- Undergraduate (BA) degrees: BA degrees typically last three years; you can apply straight from school or college. A BA with a placement year will typically last 4 years. BA degrees through universities can be funded by a Government Student Loan.
- Masters (MA)/ MFA degrees: Masters degrees in acting are aimed at students who’ve already been to university to study another subject first. Typically they cover similar content to a BA in acting but in a shorter space of time. These programmes are usually 1-2 years
- PG Diploma: Postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) and postgraduate certificates (PGCert) are qualifications at the same level of study as Masters degrees, but they are shorter and you don’t have to write a dissertation.They are more advanced than undergraduate Bachelors degrees.
- Diploma in Professional Acting or Professional Musical Theatre (Level 6). This is a qualification equivalent to a BA Honours Degree and validated by Trinity College London. There are no academic requirements for this qualification. It lasts three years and can be funded through a Dance and Drama Award and Advanced Learner Loan.
- Diploma in Professional Acting or Professional Musical Theatre (Level 5). This is a qualification equivalent to a BA Degree and validated by Trinity College London. There are no academic requirements for this qualification. It lasts one year and can be funded through a Dance and Drama Award and Advanced Learner Loan.
The reputation of a drama school is hugely important as it will impact how you are viewed in the professional world once you have graduated as well as links with directors and agents. The FDS schools all adhere to principles and hallmarks that underpin their training. This is how institutions become a part of the Federation. These hallmarks outline the key elements of a professional training experience and are what you should expect. Talk to current and past students to find out what a school is really like.
You may be concerned that schools that are not in London are less credible, however many of the top drama schools are located outside London. London living and associated costs may be too expensive for some and you may benefit from being out of town. Check that the school has opportunities to connect with the industry within London and that agents or casting directors come to see performances at the school.
You might also want to look at potential accommodation. It can be very daunting moving away from home for the first time and you need to ensure that accommodation is comfortable and affordable.
Drama school can be incredibly expensive but there are a range of funding options available. The funding options depend on the School and level of qualification that you choose. Find out more about funding options here
Choosing a drama school rests on finding a school that has great teaching staff, industry connections, reputation, great facilities, location and a pleasant environment. Ultimately, it should be about what sets certain schools apart from the others in terms of their appeal to you. The best way to assess what a school is like is by visiting in person and getting a feel for student life, the facilities, the staff and how you feel you would ‘fit’.