What Are The Top 10 Performing Arts Colleges in The US?

Performing Arts Colleges

The US is known for producing some of the best artists in the field of performing arts.  This includes professionals whose exceptional skills were not inborn, but were honed or acquired by going to prestigious performing arts schools. If you dream of becoming a successful artist, here are the top 10 performing arts colleges to consider:

Performing Arts Colleges

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1. The Juilliard School

To say that the Juilliard School is world-class is a huge understatement.  This institution, founded way back in 1905, has a long list of applicants who are rigorously screened and only the most promising artists in the world are accepted.  It auditions 1,000 applicants yearly, but only accepts the top 20.

Completing the program gives you a diploma rather than a Baccalaureate degree. However, with Juilliard’s reputation as the world’s best and most prestigious performing arts institution, gaining acceptance is already considered a great honor.  This New York institution has students from all over the world.

2. Boston University School of Theater

This conservatory uses what they call the “toolbox approach” to teach a wide range of acting skills through self-paced learning and implementation.  It’s less  than stringent approach is a breath of fresh air, especially for conservatories whose teaching methods are usually seen as too stiff and formal.

The school bases its acceptance on a combination academic performance (average rating of accepted students: 3.70 GPA or 1850 SAT) and auditions.  Only 1 in 7 student applicants are accepted, of which about half enrolled with the university.

3. Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama

This Pittsburgh-based institution is one of the most highly regarded conservatories in the US.  It has students lining up for acceptance to its programs; yet, only a fraction of applicants gets accepted.  Only 28 out of 1200 applicants per year are accepted.

The conservatory is famous for gradually introducing its students to the artistic skills they need to master till the last year when the emphasis shifts to their performances.  The method prepares the students to transition into acting professionals.

4. California Institute of the Arts

This institution was established by Roy and Walt Disney of the Disneyland and animated cartoon fame, in 1961.  As a conservatory, they are regarded as daring, experimental and offbeat.  Their success has some people comparing them to world-leading Juilliard School. They offer programs in both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and courses usually include a semester in Scotland.  BFA courses are offered with major in many diverse performing arts skills.

Performing Arts Colleges

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5. New York University

This nonprofit institution’s history starts way back in 1831.  New York University offers bachelor’s, master’s, certificates and doctoral degrees in eight art programs in its Tisch Institute of the Arts.  The school’s specializations include dance, drama, film and television, photography and imaging, dramatic writing, cinema studies and recorded music.

Admissions include academic testing and auditions.  Credits with other learning institutions are evaluated and may be considered during a student’s application for acceptance.

6. Texas State University San Marcos

Texas State University in San Marcos is a large public college that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 8 art programs.  Its Department of Visual and Performing Arts offers studies in dance, music, theatre, music performance, music studies, and musical theatre among others.  Whether your interest lie at center stage, behind or in front of a camera, there is a performing art course suited for you.

7. New England Conservatory of Music

A non-profit college specializing in art majors, the New England Conservatory of Music is located in Boston Massachusetts.  It offers courses that lead to anything from certificates to Doctoral degrees in 7 art programs.  It is the oldest independent school of music in the US — having opened its doors in 1867.

This prestigious conservatory specializes in music and is the only conservatory named as an American National Historic Landmark.

8. Florida State University

Florida State University is a large public institution that offers a number of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in the performing arts.  These are  offered in 3 separate colleges:  the College of Music, the College of Visual Arts , Theater and Dance, and the College of Motion Picture Arts.

FSU is highly regarded for its academic excellence and the quality of the graduates of its performing arts programs.

9. Syracuse University School of Drama

Syracuse University in New York offers conservatory training using the well-rounded “toolbox” approach that regards all techniques related to the craft of acting equally.  It only accepts 50 students from a pool of 500 to 700 applicants per year.  Drama students get to spend a semester at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

At this institution, professional actors in the regional Equity house, Syracuse Stage mingle and get to interact with students.

10. University of Minnesota Department of Theatre Arts and Dance

This university combines a strong conservatory training background with academics aimed at producing the best actors.  Each year a class of 20 students form a group that work with each other for the full four-year term.  Students spend a semester in London.

To prepare their students for life as actors, the university has partnered with Guthrie Theater to provide real-industry exposure.  Under this program, seniors are even granted the right to audition for contracts for the following season.


If you have an inclination toward the performing arts, considering trying for one of the top 10 performing arts colleges in the US.  It might just lead you to a rewarding professional career in the performing arts.

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