Dr. Kat’s List: Five Schools for Future Oscar Winners
Compiled by Katherine L. Cohen, Ph.D., CEO & Founder and the team of counselors at ApplyWise.com
On February 26th, Hollywood’s best took to the red carpet for the 84th annual Academy Awards. The event’s coveted prize (officially called an Academy Award of Merit, commonly known as an Oscar) was presented to actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians for excellence in film, and this year’s telecast was watched by 39.3 million people from around the globe. Whether you love the excitement of taking center stage, or you prefer to work your magic behind the scenes, the expert counselors at ApplyWise have developed a list of schools for future Oscar winners.
New York University, New York, NY
New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study Drama, Film and Television Production, Design for Stage and Film, Dramatic Writing, and Cinema Studies, among others. The school’s curriculum combines professional training with academic courses (such as “Special Effects Makeup for Film and Television” and “Hollywood Auteurs”). Further, students in the Department of Drama are assigned to one of seven acting studios, allowing them to develop their craft in a more intimate setting while taking advantage of specialized training and networking opportunities. Outside of the classroom, burgeoning actors can partake in departmental productions, studio workshops, and independent directing projects. Plus, the school’s Special Events Office hosts several events for Tisch undergraduates each year, including: the First Run Film Festival, New Visions & Voices, and the Sight & Sound Showcases. Tisch alumni are the proud recipients of 21 Oscars, and countless others have received nominations for excellence in filmmaking and acting. Former Tisch students include actors (and Oscar hosts) Anne Hathaway and James Franco, and directors Martin Scorsese (a six-time nominee and winner of Best Director for The Departed) and Spike Lee (who has twice been nominated).
In addition to its cinema credits, New York University is a private research university that boasts access to all that New York City has to offer. The school’s “campus,” is enmeshed in the city and spans 229-acres in Manhattan. When not pursuing one of the school’s 230 majors or 450 student organizations (such as the Classic Movie Club or Shakespeare in the Square), this location allows the school’s 20,000 undergraduate students to spend time exploring Washington Square, cheering on the New York Yankees, and attending Broadway shows.
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Vassar College was the first of the “Seven Sisters” colleges to establish a formal Department of Drama and counts Meryl Streep (who has been nominated for a record 17 Oscars) among its alumni. The multi-disciplinary program combines theater courses (like “Introduction to Stagecraft” and “Experimental Theater”) with courses in politics, social sciences, and philosophy. During sophomore year, majors complete a full-year course on world drama and begin more intensive study in a chosen theatrical skill. Further, students have access to the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, the Martel Theatre (a proscenium theatre and classroom space), the Shiva Theatre (dedicated to student groups), and the Powerhouse Theatre (a black-box theatre, which hosts experimental productions of Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, Ibsen, and contemporary playwrights, and has supported the early work of actors including Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Founded as a women’s college in 1861, Vassar College became coeducational in 1969. The private college’s 2,400 undergraduate students can choose from 29 departments, six interdisciplinary programs, 12 multidisciplinary programs, 51 majors, and over 1,000 courses, or can pursue the Independent Program, where they can develop their own field of study. Students can further perfect their craft in more than 120 student organizations from Happily Ever Laughter (a sketch comedy troupe), to AirCappella (an all-whistling a cappella group), to the Vassar Filmmakers. Off campus, students can seek inspiration in the town of Poughkeepsie, located 75 miles from New York City in the Hudson River Valley, which is home to the Bardavon Opera House and Bananas Comedy Club (where Jimmy Fallon got his start).
University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Located in the entertainment capital of the US, the University of California – Los Angeles’ (UCLA) School of Theatre, Film, and Television (TFT) offers students mentorship from industry leaders in the form of faculty, advisors, and alumni, many of whom are Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Award winners. Oscar-winning alumni include Dustin Lance Black (Screenwriter, Milk and J. Edgar), Alexander Payne (Director and Screenwriter, whose credits include Best Picture nominee The Descendants), and actor Tim Robbins. Students have access to the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the largest university-based moving image collection in the world, and the Geffen Playhouse, which offers both main stage and second stage productions. TFT undergraduate programs in Theater, or Film, Television, and Digital Media, (which follow the fulfillment of two years of general education requirements) include courses such as “Directing Cameras,” “Film and Television Acting,” “Film Editing,” and “Cinematography.” If you are a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior, TFT offers several pre-college summer programs including Arts Camp and the Summer Acting and Performance Institute.
The undergraduate experience at UCLA begins with the year-long Freshman Cluster, which introduces students to one of nine interdisciplinary topics. This public school’s 27,000 undergraduate students can then choose from 130 majors, 3,000 undergraduate courses, and more than 900 student organizations (like the Silent Film Enthusiasts organization and Act III Theater Ensemble). UCLA is also well known for its athletics (in fact, theater students are required to take Tai Chi and are encouraged to take ballet). The UCLA Bruins compete in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference and claim 125 national championships, including 108 NCAA team championships (more than any other university) and 214 Olympic medals.
The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
The Department of Drama at the Catholic University of America combines a liberal arts education with traditional training. Students learn conservatory techniques in courses such as “Introduction to the Alexander Technique,” which teaches stage movement, “Theatre Production,” in which students create and run a hypothetical theatrical organization, and “Speech for the Actor,” which studies the importance of breathing, resonation, articulation, vocal range, and inflection. Promoting a balanced approach with hands-on understanding, all drama majors are expected to complete a semester-long internship with a professional theatre company or distinguished art institution, and are required to earn crew credits by working on department productions. Luckily, the school’s location in Washington, DC (home to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the Shubert Organization) and the campus’s own Hartke Theatre (host to a number of student-written and directed performances) enable these pursuits. A testament to CUA’s Oscar potential, Academy Award winning actors Jon Voight and Susan Sarandon are both alums.
Before taking to the stage, CUA’s 3,633 undergraduate students begin their academic career with the First-Year Experience, a liberal arts core, which introduces students to philosophy, theology, rhetoric, and logic. While this private university serves as the National University of the Catholic Church in the US, students of all faiths are welcome to experience the school’s 70 majors (from architecture to musical theater) and 100 student organizations. Beyond the university’s 193-acre campus, the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital – Capitol Hill, the Smithsonian Institution, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and Union Station – are within a 10-minute Metro ride.
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
The departments of Theatre, Performance Studies, and Radio-Television-Film in Northwestern University’s School of Communication have produced a number of Academy Award nominees and winners, and famous grads include Ana Gasteyer, Zach Braff, Zooey Deschanel, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. Students in these departments can concentrate in topics such as Acting, Sound Design, Theatre Directing, Adaptation & Ethnography of Performance, and Screen Writing. In addition to providing the academic foundations students need, the School of Communication is home to several additional resources: The Theatre and Interpretation Center, which houses nearly forty productions each year; The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and the Block Cinema, a repertory theater, which shows classic and contemporary films; and the Arts in the City program, which grants students ticket discounts and transportation to some of Chicago’s preeminent venues (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Lookingglass Theater Company, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater).
Located in Evanston, Illinois, just 30 minutes from Chicago, this private university offers more than 70 majors and 380 student organizations (such as Applause for a Cause, a student-run company that annually produces a feature film and donates the proceeds to charity) to its 8,300 undergraduates. For students looking to make plays of a different kind, Northwestern is a charter member of the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference and the “Wildcats” participate in 19 varsity sports. The school’s rich heritage of performance and athleticism is evidenced by the popular Dolphin Show. Originally an aquatics show and swim-team fundraiser, the club has moved to dry land, and produces and performs a famous Broadway show each year. It is the largest student-produced musical in the country and has featured rising stars such as David Schwimmer, Ann Margret, Tony Randall, and Warren Beatty.
There are many schools across the country where you can find great academic and social scenes, and maybe steal a few dramatic scenes as well. If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s most accomplished cinematic players, these schools might be a great place to start your college search. From all of us at ApplyWise: Break a leg!
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