How Theatre Schools are Ranked in the US
In the US, a whole industry has arisen focused on the ranking of universities and colleges. While there is no specific ranking of undergraduate theatre schools, national and international organizations such as US News & World Report, The Princeton Review, The Washington Monthly and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) based in Shanghai, China, regularly publish general rankings designed to identify the "best" graduate and undergraduate schools and programs according to quality and value. Less "official" rankings can also be found in resources like StudentsReview, Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges, and Community College Week. Some professional associations have reports from student surveys about various schools and programs which provide still more school or program "rankings." Other associations--for example the American Alliance for Theatre Education-- offer awards and honors for teaching excellence, and looking at who they have honored can also be used to supplement your 'ranking' of schools. Each of these sources, however, uses its own particular set of criteria for evaluating schools and programs. In the case of the controversial Gourman Report (which ranks all undergraduate programs), the author specifically refuses to disclose his methodology. How then should all these rankings be interpreted? First, the ranking reports often come with detailed data to support conclusions, and while data collection may be criticized, the editors of these reports usually make an effort to ensure that statistics are comparable. So the reports can be used by you to compare institutions and schools on the basis of the data provided. Second, the statistics that come from the rankings can also suggest topics that need to be studied in more detail. For instance, if a school has a low acceptance rate but also a low graduation rate, you may want to ask why. All university and college rankings have one other thing in common: they are a list of institutions and schools. Scanning the list might suggest a theatre school that you had not considered or perhaps even heard of. Used this way, the rankings can help expand your list of schools that can then be researched in more detail.
However, you should never judge based on rankings alone. Theatre school rankings are important, but there may be other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Schools that are less prominent may have a program that might suit your needs better than any nationally ranked schools. Lesser known regional universities and colleges may also be a wise choice if you wish to remain close to home during your studies. Often times, these schools may have the strongest relationships with local companies and employers. Once you have accumulated this information, you could be able to create your own theatre school rankings.
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