Anyone who hopes to be an actor has a lot of options for their future career. They can be stars of the stage, in dramatic performances and musical theater. Or they can that can light up screens large and small in television or film. But even the biggest star needs to start somewhere, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be in under the glitzy lights of Los Angeles.
As the home of Broadway and most of the major television studios, New York City is the premier place for actors to learn their craft. And there are plenty of options for those who come to learn, from individual tutors to lecture classes in a state school. But when it comes right down to it, anyone entering the extremely competitive field of acting needs as many tools as they can get.
It takes a lot of luck, a lot of determination, and even a bit of talent to make it into the best acting schools in New York. But this list will give future students the information they need. So, before you start seeing your name on posters and up on marquees, take a look at this list of the ten best acting schools in the big apple.
And when you’re giving the acceptance speech for your first Oscar, don’t forget to thank the College Gazette.
Here are 10 of the best acting schools in NYC.
New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts
What do Spider-Man’s best friend Jacob Batelon, Riverdale’s favorite pop star Ashleigh Murray, and Jumanji athlete Ser’Darius Blain have in common? They all attended the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.
Located in Manhattan’s Chelsea/Flatiron district, NYCDA prepares students for a career in film and television acting by studying the Meisner Technique, which emphasizes emotional preparation, repetition, and improvisation.
Although NYCDA maintains a relatively small student body of 257, resulting in an 18:1 student to faculty ratio, its 92% acceptance rate means that most who want to study there will get a chance. The $32,742 tuition might sound a little steep, but 100% of students receive some financial aid.
With a faculty that includes film and television stars such as Becky London, Neal Lerner, and Lane Binkley, the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts is uniquely positioned to train the next generation of acting greats.
Although it was established as a business school in 1906, Pace University has become one of the country’s premier acting schools. Pace’s Acting program grew in prominence when the popular interview show Inside the Actors Studio began recording in the school’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts.
Taught by industry professionals such as Julie Lawrence-Edsell and Jorge Luis Cacheiro, Pace’s acting program bills itself as “both a nurturing and rigorous environment.” Of particular interest is the unique International Performance Ensemble (IPE), which trains students in the style of ensemble theater and provides opportunities to study in the UK, Brazil, and Thailand.
The school’s downtown location earned it the 28th spot in Niche.com’s list of Best College Locations in the U.S. (and #71 on their list of Safest College Campuses in America), making Pace University one of the best places for young actors to learn their craft.
CUNY Brooklyn College
As part of the City Univesity of New York, Brooklyn College earned a reputation as “poor man’s Harvard,” with alumni that include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt. But its BFA in Acting program deserves particular acclaim, developing talents such as Obba Babatunde, James Franco, and Jimmy Smits.
The highly competitive accepts only 10-12 students into the program each year. But those who make it in receive personalized training, with opportunities to perform in 8-10 shows produced annually. Directors include MFA directing candidates, Brooklyn College faculty, and guest directors.
New York Film Academy (NYFA)
Founded in 1992 by producer Jerry Sherlock, the New York Film Academy trains over 5,000 students every year with all experience levels. Rather than theory, NYFA emphasizes practical experience. With a faculty of working professionals such as actors Bill Duke and Matthew Modine and directors such as Nag Ashwin and Michael Zelniker, NYFA gets its students acting on the stage and in front of the camera as soon as possible.
NYFA gives its students that experience in part by partnering with the Brooklyn and Whitney Museums, MOMA, and even NASA to create and display their work. Their special two-year musical theater program stages two main stage productions every year, equipping graduates with “numerous on-camera clips, a voiceover reel, and extensive on-screen experience.”
Some of their best-known alumni include creator Issa Rae, actor Bill Hader, and actresses Aubrey Plaza and Lana Condor.
The New School
Ranked #1 in Niche.com’s list of Best College Locations in America and #6 on their list of Most Diverse Colleges in America, The New School is one of the most innovative and respected colleges in the country. The New School’s School of Drama promises “rigorous training” focused on “authenticity of expression.”
The New School’s BFA in Dramatic Arts equips students with stage and camera acting techniques, culminating in a senior industry showcase. The three-year MFA in Contemporary Theater and Performance receive individualized instruction to develop their on-camera and stage performances.
Past artists-in-residence at the New School have included actors Mark Ruffalo and John Turturro, as well as playwrights Jon Robin Baitz and John Patrick Shanley. The school’s current faculty includes Kathleen Searle, Shannon Stowe, and Dennis Hilton-Reid.
Marymount Manhattan College
For those who want intensive training in a variety of acting styles, from contemporary theater and Shakespearean drama, the BFA in Acting major at Marymount Manhattan is the program for them. “Acting, voice and speech, and movement training” are at the center of the program, which culminates in a fourth year of study in Advanced Topics.
Students begin auditioning for faculty and guest-directed productions in their first year, which involve a mix of repertory works and new creations, dramas and musicals. Its classes of 10-20 students provide learners with a focused experience among a tight-knit group of fellow learners. Marymount Manhattan faculty includes veteran director Patricia Hoag Simon, playwright Kenneth Finkle, and Shakespearean actor Mark Ringer.
Located in central Manhattan on a campus ranked #69 in Niche.com’s list of Safest College Campuses in America and #76 in the list of Best College Locations in America, Marymount trains actors in an exciting environment.
New York University Tisch School of the Arts
The Drama program at NYU Tisch prides itself in its “rigorous conservatory training with a broad and empowering academic curriculum.” That’s a compelling claim, but one look at the school’s impressive list of alumni proves that they can back it up. Any program that produces talents as diverse as Rachel Bloom, Alec Baldwin, Rául Esparza, and Lady Gaga deserves all of its acclaim.
As part of a school that U.S. News & World Report ranks #30 in National Universities and #30 among Most Innovative Schools, Tisch is one of the country’s most impressive universities. Unsurprisingly, it is a highly selective school, accepting only 17% of those who apply to study.
But those who do get accepted will have the opportunity to study under legends. Scholar Awam Amkpa, actor Nathan Flower, and award-winning Broadway star Timothy Oliver Reid.
Columbia University is one of the most respected colleges globally and the only Ivy League school on this list. But its Acting Program is in a class by itself.
With faculty that includes casting director James Calleri, Hollywood screenwriter David Klass, and award-winning writer James Schamus, Columbia University gives future actors a solid foundation for their careers. It’s no wonder that Niche.com ranked the school #6 in its list of Best Performing Arts Colleges in America.
With a very competitive acceptance rate of only 3.7%, not many applicants make it into Columbia’s Acting Program. That selective percentage allows the school to keep a 6:1 student to faculty ratio, which means that each student in the program gets individualized attention.
While this focused approach makes for intensive experience, every single student who graduates from Columbia’s Acting Program leaves ready for a career on stage and screen.
When it comes to the arts, Julliard needs no introduction. For over 100 years, the private conservatory has trained the world’s most talented musicians, actors, and dancers. Despite that sterling reputation, Julliard prioritizes expression and vulnerability, encouraging students to share “intellectual and imaginative daring, generosity of spirit, and a fierce commitment to truthful play.”
The school offers a BFA and an MFA in Acting, each consisting of four years. Undergrads take classes in specialized acting and liberal arts during their first three years, with their fourth years building to a performance presentation. Those in the Master’s program take unique drama courses for their first two years and give performances in their third and fourth years.
Unsurprisingly, Julliard accepts a mere 8% of those who apply. But those who graduate include greats such as Wendell Pierce, Viola Davis, and Alan Tudyk.
American Musical Dramatic Academy
A conservatory that promises small class sizes and daily in-studio practice, the American Musical Dramatic Academy is one of the best acting schools throughout the world. Founded in 1968 by acclaimed director Philip Burton, AMDA has made its name by training actors who define their generation. Alumni include musician and actor Janelle Monáe, film legend Paul Sorvino, and Broadway star Anthony Ramos.
Although AMDA’s 30.8% acceptance rate seems high, the school still has a student to faculty ratio of 8:1. These smaller class sizes ensure every acting student gets significant 1-on-1 attention with faculty, maximizing their talents and capabilities for professional opportunities. Students in the acting program get the chance to study under the likes of Christopher Giordano, Gail Dennison, and Sheila Head.
It’s no wonder Niche.com ranks AMDA #1 in Best Performing Arts Colleges in America.