Interested in studying film, theater, dance, music, or something similar in college? Luckily, there’s no shortage of schools out there—but enrolling in a performing arts school isn’t a shortcut to a lifelong career. You must have a genuine passion for your craft, take advantage of all the resources and opportunities at your college, and dedicate yourself to your dream, whether it’s center stage or behind the scenes.
All the colleges and universities listed below are great places to start this journey. They all offer dynamic performing arts programs in the Western and Midwestern part of the United States, and you can connect with them all quickly and easily! Just click the “Connect me” button underneath each featured school if you’re interested in learning more about them—then they'll reach out to you with more information. Check out all the great opportunities at these colleges and consider adding them to your list as you search for your best-fit performing arts school.
Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University is a public university with an 85-acre campus located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Students can choose from a variety of performing and creative arts–based majors through the Department of Theatre and Dance, the School of Music, the Department of Art and Design, and the School of Film and Media Arts. The University’s Arts Campus includes over 120,000 square feet of studios, rehearsal space, classrooms, and production shops, with faculty from the top arts institutions in town, like the Cleveland Orchestra.
Miami University is a public coeducational institution with a 2,100 acre campus in Oxford, Ohio. The College of Creative Arts (CCA) houses five departments, each with multiple degree programs, as well as interdisciplinary programs in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship, Art Therapy, and Fashion. The CCA’s #thrivingartist network provides a supportive group of arts alumni in major US cities like New York City and Los Angeles for résumé reviews, job shadowing, informational interviews, mentorship for new graduates, and collaboration in key metropolitan areas.
Ohio University is a public comprehensive institution with a 1,800-acre campus in Athens, Ohio—75 miles southeast of Columbus. The University offers more than 250 academic programs in Music, Theatre, Dance, Film, and more. Students can also design their own major through the Bachelor of Specialized Studies program, join the University-wide OHIO Honors Program, or choose from study abroad opportunities around the world.
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati is a public research institution on a 250-acre campus located two miles from downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the entire state of Ohio. In addition, the Musical Theatre program was ranked #2 in the nation by Buzzfeed, and the University is one of the top five most represented colleges on Broadway, according to Playbill.
University of Colorado Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder is a comprehensive public university with a 600-acre campus in Boulder, Colorado—27 miles northwest of Denver. The College of Music at CU Boulder is one of the country’s top public Music programs, while the Department of Theatre & Dance fosters artistic discipline, exploration, creativity, and interpersonal communication. The University is also home to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF), one of only two University-based groups in the world to have completed the entire canon of 37 plays.
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is the state’s first public institution of higher education and sits on a 1,700-acre campus immediately adjacent to downtown Iowa City, Iowa. Majors include Art, Cinema, Dance, English and Creative Writing, Music, and Theatre Arts. Students also have access to performance venues such as the newly renovated, 1,800-seat Hancher Auditorium and the Voxman Music Building, which features numerous soundproof practice rooms, a digital music production lab, a music library with over 90,000 scores of music, a 700-seat recital hall, and a 3,883-pipe Klais organ—the only one of its kind in the United States.
University of Puget Sound
The University of Puget Sound is a public coeducational institution with a 97-acre campus located in Tacoma, Washington. The School of Music provides students a conservatory-style focus on music, while the Theatre Arts Department offers a rich program of classes and productions within the context of a vibrant liberal arts education. Numerous ensembles regularly perform on campus, including the Symphony Orchestra, Underground Sound (a cappella ensemble), Curtain Call (musical theatre revue), Jazz Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Adelphian Concert Choir.
Wayne State University
Wayne State University is a public comprehensive university with a 194-acre main campus in Detroit, Michigan. The College of Fine, Performing & Communication Arts (CFPCA) offers programs in Art, Art History, Communication Studies, Dance, Design, Design & Merchandising, Film, Journalism, Media Arts & Studies, Music, Public Relations, and Theatre. The CFPCA also connects students to the community, museums, galleries, libraries, theatres, and other venues where Warriors exhibit work, present research, and perform on stage and in concert.
Looking for performing arts programs on the other side of the country? Check out our list of Great Colleges and Universities for Performing Arts in the Northeast and South.