Applying to Theater Schools: What You Need to Know

Finding the right theater program and auditioning can be a little intimidating. Here's what you should know before applying to performing arts schools.

So you want to go to school for performing arts? Theater-intensive schools are a great way to learn about all aspects of the theater and really hone your craft, but finding the right program and navigating the audition process can be a little intimidating. Here’s what you should know before applying to performing arts schools.

As with all colleges, you should get a personal feel for the school before applying. Go for a visit and/or talk to current students and faculty members to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Just because it’s the most renowned theater program in the country doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Related: Choosing a Performing Arts School

The application process for theater programs can be different depending on where you’re applying. For example, for a school like the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, you must fill out the Common Application and prepare two contrasting monologues to perform in front of a faculty member. Other schools may require prepared songs for the audition process. A good tip is to choose a song that isn’t too difficult. Although it may be tempting to show off your impressive range, there’s a lot of added pressure on the day of a big audition, so it’s best to choose a song you’re more comfortable with. It’s also important to be yourself during your audition and show the faculty who you are and why you deserve to be accepted into their school.

Related: College Audition Do’s and Don’ts

Theater programs usually offer two kinds of degrees. There’s the BA (Bachelor of Arts) and the BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), which can be specified like a BFA in Acting. BFA programs are the ones more likely to require an audition. As with most colleges, you must take general education or core classes in addition to your theater studies allowing you to explore a liberal arts education. At most schools, there will be a variety of majors, minors, concentrations, and focuses of study tailored to exactly what you’re interested in. This allows you to explore all of your options and really decide what works for you and what you want to pursue. Classes can be taught by a wide range of professors who have been professionally trained and have worked in the theater business at some point in their lives. When choosing a program, it’s a good idea to take a look at the faculty list, as there may be a professor that you’re eager to learn from who could sway your decision.

Related: Performing Arts Majors and Careers

A great thing about theater programs is the support system you develop. Working on shows requires long hours in tight spaces, where you really get to know your fellow players. The community is supportive and understanding, as everyone is usually after the same goal and in the same creative mind space. No matter where you end up, you can be assured that you will be supported by the people in your program and—hopefully—make great connections with faculty to help you in your future career.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Kelsey Sullivan

Kelsey Sullivan is an editorial assistant at a children's book publisher in New York City and a graduate of Fairfield University. Go Stags!


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress


High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress gave me options of schools with my major and from there I was able to pick what was most important to me in a school. Everything was so organized that I could see all the information I needed.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find Allegheny College with the super-user-friendly search tool for both schools and scholarships. Using CollegeXpress, I was able to search for programs I was interested in studying and find colleges that offered those programs. Also, once you search for the college, CollegeXpress can get you connected!

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Maya Ingraham

Maya Ingraham

October 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has given me more confidence in my college process. With easy-to-access resources and guidance such as the CX Weekly Roundup, I have been able to find the best colleges for me. Most importantly, there’s a surplus of scholarship opportunities for every student to support their education.

Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Millikin University

Decatur, IL

Pace University

New York, NY

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH

Miami University

Oxford, OH

Emerson College

Boston, MA