Performers of all kinds have turned to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) for more than 50 years to earn a high-quality education in the arts.
Founded in New York City in 1964, AMDA added its Los Angeles campus (AMDA College of the Performing Arts) in 2003, putting its students in prime locations not only to learn in the classroom but also to check out nearby professional performances to enhance their studies.
Alumni can regularly be found in television and movies as well as on Broadway stages, with their names often appearing on lists of awards contenders.
AMDA offers several degrees: the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Arts (BA), and Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS). Under the BFA, students at the Los Angeles campus can choose from nine concentrations, including several types of acting as well as musical theater and dance.
The BA program in Theatre Arts, meanwhile, has two specialties, general and performance. Students in both the BFA and BA programs can finish their degree in four years on the traditional track and two years and nine months on the accelerated track.
AMDA has other opportunities for study as well, including the AOS degree, whose concentrations include acting, dance theater and musical theater. The AOS program has traditional and accelerated tracks as well.
Meanwhile, students who have earned an AOS can complete their BFA through the AOS Acting for Camera to BFA program. The college also offers four conservatory certificates that cover different aspects of the performing arts.
AMDA Acceptance Rate
Performers interested in studying at AMDA may want to take into account each campus’ total enrollment when deciding which one they want to attend.
Out of more than 1,700 schools, the New York campus landed at No. 109 on Niche’s list of the “Hardest Colleges to Get Into in America.”
Is AMDA a Good School? Here Is the Ranking
AMDA’s campuses have earned top marks from different organizations, including Niche, which ranked the New York site No. 4 on its list of Best Colleges for Performing Arts in America.
According to Theatre-schools.com, the New York campus is the 16th-best theater school in New York state and No. 89 among theater schools across the country.
AMDA’s Los Angeles campus, meanwhile, came in at No. 40 for the best theater schools in California and at No. 319 for theater schools in the nation.
In addition to its overall ranking of “B+,” AMDA New York received high marks from Niche for other aspects that can help students decide whether they want to apply. AMDA earned an “A+” for location and an “A” for student life and diversity (minorities make up 23% of its student body).
The website also gave the college a “B+” for academics and safety. Niche did not provide ratings for the Los Angeles campus.
Notable Alumni Who Graduated AMDA
AMDA alumni have gone on to find lots of success on both stage and screen. The school ranked fifth on Playbill’s “Big 10” list of colleges with the most performers working in Broadway’s 2018-19 season.
Alumni have gone on to appear in such major television shows as “Pretty Little Liars” and “Glee” as well as films including “The Hunger Games” and “Goodfellas.” In 2021, alumni have earned nominations for major awards, including the Grammys, Golden Globes, and Emmys.
Broadway veterans and stars of the ground-breaking hit musical “Hamilton,” Christopher Jackson and Anthony Ramos, both earned degrees from AMDA.
Derülo said he came to AMDA because he wanted to work on both his acting and singing talents.
AMDA NYC Vs. AMDA LA – What is the Difference?
Students gain the same training at both AMDA campuses, but the living experience is as diverse as the cities themselves.
Based in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the New York campus spans several blocks, where students learn and grow not far from Broadway and a thriving local theater scene. Los Angeles students, meanwhile, take classes in and around Hollywood, spaces in the shadow of the film and television industry.
Overall, though, AMDA offers the same performance-based learning environment on both coasts.
AMDA draws instructors from across the industry, with directors, actors, and casting agents among the working professionals who pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
Students also put their education into practice while at AMDA, which annually offers more than 150 performance opportunities.
Both campuses have similar academic spaces, which include areas for rehearsals and performances and editing, film, and television facilities. Each campus has a performing arts library that houses materials such as music, scripts, and DVDs.
Prospective students 16 and older can apply to AMDA in their last two years of high school on its website or through the CommonApp or Royall VIP.
Candidates interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts (General) do not need to audition, but auditions are required for other programs and to be considered for scholarships. While students can try out in person at any of AMDA’s regional auditions or on campus, they also can audition live online or by video.
AMDA also looks to get to know applicants a little better through personal essays and an interview.
SAT and ACT scores are not required, but high school transcripts are.
AMDA also recommends that students interested in the Bachelor of Arts program include a two-minute personal video in which they chat about suggested topics to give the college more insight into their personality.
Students at both the Los Angeles and New York campuses paid the same for the 2021-22 school year: $42,660 in tuition and $300 in fees.
Because of AMDA’s location in two major cities, students can expect to pay a significant amount for housing. Students in Los Angeles paid $10,280 for on-campus housing in 2021-22.
For the New York branch, the college estimated that students there would pay $10,280 for off-campus housing for the same school year.
AMDA estimates students at both campuses will pay the same amount in other costs per school year as well, including $1,200 each for books and transportation.
The college also offers a Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) that provides for student health care in Los Angeles and New York City and costs $1,100 for two semesters. Food plans are available as well for different fees, depending on the campus and other factors.
AMDA also considers students for talent-based scholarships that can help cut annual costs significantly, from $1,000 to $16,000. Students who fill out the Federal Aid Application (FASFA) will also be evaluated for need-based aid.
Similar Schools & Ranking
AMDA is just one of several performing arts training schools in New York and Los Angeles. Manhattan also is home to the renowned Juilliard School, which has a similarly small undergraduate enrollment (588) and tuition and fees ($51,480).
At the University of Southern California, meanwhile, students can find similar degree programs and selective admissions. For a recent year, the university planned to admit just 18 students to its BFA program in Acting for Stage, Screen & New Media. USC also benefits from being one of the top schools in the country; U.S. News & World Report ranked it 27th in its list of National Universities.
Is AMDA Right for You?
While living costs and other fees related to attending the college might top $50,000 per year, the price tag seems worth it. Unlike some theater schools, AMDA does not just prepare its students for acting careers.
The college gives its students a well-rounded background that can help them pursue jobs behind the scenes well, with alumni going on to capture such wide-ranging gigs as casting directors, dialect coaches, and choreographers.
No matter which campus they choose, AMDA students learn and perform in two powerhouses of the entertainment industry, and they benefit from that proximity in several ways.
Students can often take advantage of free or discounted tickets to different performances and other entertainment events. AMDA student groups have even performed with such musical superstars as Kanye West and Kristin Chenoweth.
Students also benefit from small class sizes (usually 10 to 20 people) and their teachers, most of whom work in the industry. This gives students valuable connections that can help them land jobs after they graduate. Alumni benefit even further from the school’s Alumni Relations Department, which often shares information about different job opportunities.