So if after reading Financial Aid 101, you feel like you can’t afford your dream school, have no fear, this article is for you.
Not being able to afford the school of your dreams is not the end of the world. There are plenty of people who have had extremely successful careers without going to the big name schools. If you are lucky enough to able to afford to go to a big name school, then go. But regardless of your situation a school will not make or break you. What will make the difference is how hard you work.
Making the best of your situation
More important than the school you go to is what you do with the education you’re offered once you are there. What big name schools tend to have going for them that other schools are sometimes missing are a group of students who know they were a part of a very select few who got in and they are not about to get kicked out. This results in a student body that tends to be very dedicated, always in the practice room, and jumping at every opportunity that is offered to them because that is part of the culture of the student body. Not everyone gets caught up in the culture, there are always a few outliers who get caught up in drugs, alcohol, or other destructive behaviors and fall behind the rest of the class. Depending on the school, they may get kicked out or may get shuffled through, but they are no better off just because of the “Big School Name” than the extremely dedicated student from a small school when they’re standing in line at an audition.
If you are going to be going to a lesser known school you are not doomed, you just have to become really good at kicking your own butt. Faculty positions at performing arts schools are often more competitive than the competition for students looking to get in. Schools often receive 100-200 applications for any given job opening. Compare that to some schools that receive 6-700 apps for 24 spots and your odds are much better than the faculty member. What that means for you is that most schools have highly qualified staff who may not teach at the biggest named school but aren’t necessarily bad teachers. In fact, many times they can end up being better teachers. But at the end of the day what matters most is what YOU do with the knowledge they give you. If they give you acting exercises and you don’t give them 110% because you think they look silly, you won’t learn anything. At a big school, you’ll get kicked out if you don’t give the exercise 110% so everyone does what they’re asked. Otherwise, its often the same technique. Most teachers teach very similarly. There are only a handful of acting techniques and all schools in this country pretty much stick to those techniques which means Small School USA often teaches the exact same exercises as Big School NYC. If you give it your all, ask questions, and most importantly PRACTICE on your own outside of class/lessons you can do just as well.
Supplementing with workshops
If you end up at a school that’s lacking in some of the classes you feel like you need, you can always supplement your academic year training with workshops in the summer. You could even go to NYC, sublet an apartment or live in a cheap hotel for a week, and work with Broadway stars. Yes, it can be expensive to do that, but if you are at a state school that costs you $2000 a year while you live at home, you could save up $4000 for two weeks of intensive training in NYC and end up still spending less than at a private school while getting trained by people in the city who are working in the business. If you’re an instrumentalist or singer, you could find a private teacher 3-4 hours from your home, maybe even from one of those big name schools, and study with them over the summer. You still get to work with teacher you wanted, but at a fraction of the cost making it a better fit for your budget.
Post graduation, the training doesn’t just stop. When you’re not working, you’ll want to still take classes and lessons to keep your chops up. You can easily do this in a big city with big name teachers as long as you’re not in massive amounts of debt from college.
If you just read the above info and feel like that almost sounds more interesting to you than thousands of dollars in debt at your dream school, you’re not alone. Doing the things mentioned above takes planning, determination, and dedication on your part, but you could arguably end up better off. In the end, only you can make the decision that’s right for you.
Keep your eyes open for an upcoming post about creating your own program in a major city at a fraction of the cost.