BA vs BFA vs Conservatory

by Sarah Gaboury
Teen Actor's Lab

What kind of program will be right for me?  BA vs BFA vs Conservatory

If you’re pretty sure drama school is in your future, hopefully you’re busy coming up with your own, unique target list of schools with programs that will best suit you.

But how can you know, when it comes to the different kinds of programs offered, if a BA, BFA or conservatory program will ultimately be the best fit?

To begin with, my biggest piece of advice here is to try to figure out what you want.  To the best of your ability.

Generally speaking, if you know you love acting and want to do it all day long, that’s likely a good argument for a BFA or conservatory program.  If you have other interests and aren’t positive this is your path, you might go for the BA.  Plus, education truly is a powerful (and tremendously useful!) thing for an actor.

That said, programs can vary in significant ways when it comes to BA and BFA degrees.  There are BA programs structured similarly to some BFAs (like UCLA or Northwestern), while some BFA programs have more substantial general ed requirements.  This means, you really have to do your research.  And again, try to get honest about what you really want.  (Not always what your best friend or your mom wants.)

And then there’s the conservatories which are typically structured much like a BFA program where coursework in your major makes up about 75-80% of the schedule. The remaining time is devoted to academic requirements.

Initially, you might consider taking the BA or BFA degree completely out of the picture and look at the programs themselves.  Which ones seem to be structured in a way that will help you thrive?

What about after school?  Truth be told, when it comes to auditioning in the professional world after you’ve graduated, it doesn’t matter so much what school you went to.  What matters more than anything is that you’re good.  Of course, connections are important, too.  And there’s a strong argument that some of the more prestigious programs offer a lot in that department.  Of course, some lesser known programs have world-class faculty with very strong ties to the industry.  So again, do your research.  And once you’ve been admitted, tour.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about how in order to become a master at something, one must acquire 10,000 hours or true practice in their craft.  If you’re serious about becoming a performing arts master, how and where do you want to get your 10,000 hours?

Here’s a couple short clips from inside my online course The College Audition Program.  Hear what Marissa Chibas from CalArts (conservatory) and John Gould Rubin (professional director and current/former faculty at Stella Adler Studio, SUNY Purchase, Harvard Summer School, Fordham University and the Playwrights Horizons theater school at NYU) have to say about choosing programs:


Still not so sure?  I created a fun little quiz inside my online course The College Audition Program that I want to share with you guys for free.

Click here to take the Quiz:  “BA vs BFA”

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