Understanding OnStage Blog's College Rankings

Kent State University / Bob Christy

Kent State University / Bob Christy

For the past three years, OnStage Blog has released its annual rankings of the best colleges in the country for Dance, Design & Tech and Performing for BA, BFA, and MFA degrees. Whenever we announce our rankings, some questions arise and they're always the same - How do you come up with your rankings?

Well this year, we've decided to tell you. Here is how we break it all down. 

Why do rankings at all?

Because it's important for families and prospective students to have as many resources as possible when looking at what college to attend. Too many times we've seen incorrect information spread about what is the best program to audition for. Too many times we've seen the same schools ranked number one over and over again without a true vetting. So we wanted to change that. 

These types of rankings also keep colleges on their toes. These can be massive PR and marketing tools for them, so in return, we can give you an honest look at these programs. 

What makes OnStage Blog's college rankings different from the others?

As opposed to other college ranking publications, OnStage Blog's rankings are determined by people experienced in the specific fields. Our research staff includes current and former educators, students, alums, and working professionals in the areas of dance, design & technology and performing. Also, as opposed to other college ranking publications, colleges don't pay us to be ranked. These rankings are focused on what it is most important to those pursuing a career in the theatrical arts by those who know these industries. 

What is the process in ranking these schools?

Our research period begins every year on May 1st. Due to an obtained database of colleges with theatre programs, the list is divided up among the research team and for the next three months, they look at every school on their list. 

Our research includes thoroughly reading a school's website, calling both their theatre departments and admission departments, talking with alums, contacting professors and in some cases, even taking a campus tour. 

However, this is all done without the school's knowledge. When colleges are being adjudicated, they tend to put out their best impression which can lead to hiding flaws and issues. So our team does everything as if they were prospective students and parents. This way we get the most honest impression of a college's program. 

It's important to note that some of our team have attended, attend or work for some of these institutions. So to remove any conflict of interest, their alma maters and employers were not assigned to their lists.

After looking at each school, team members are asked to fill out a scorecard and rate each school from 1 to 10 in the following categories:

  • Quality of Facilities
  • Cost / Scholarship Opportunities
  • Quality of Faculty (Terminal degrees, professional experience, and full-time vs adjunct)
  • Admissions / Auditions / Selectivity
  • Quality of Curriculum 
  • Career & Alumni Support
  • Performance Opportunities

All the scores are loaded into a matrix spreadsheet where the rankings are determined. A category you won't find is reputation. We see too many rankings where you see the same schools at the top based off nothing but their reputation of being the best. Because of our system of scoring, if these schools are truly the best then you'll see them at the top. But don't expect to see the same old schools you see on every other site claiming the top spots. 

You also won't see "Presence on Broadway" either. We don't feel working on Broadway is the only standard of career success for a theatre professional. We've also been advised by casting directors who have all told us that where one went to college very rarely makes a difference in the auditions decision process. 

What's new this year?

The first big change is that we're adding one more ranking, Dramatic Writing. There are a plethora of great dramatic writing programs out there that don't get the attention they deserve. So this year, we're going to include a separate ranking list of them. We're also doing the same for MFA in Directing. 

The other big change this year is that instead of doing Top 10, we're doing Top 25. This way we can promote as many quality theatre programs as possible. 

When are the rankings going to be announced?

That's the best news. Starting tomorrow. Here's the release schedule:

  •  BFA/BA in Dance
  • BFA in Design & Technology
  •  BFA in Acting/Performance
  • BFA/BA in Dramatic Writing
  • BFA in Musical Theatre
  •  BM in Musical Theatre
  • BA in Theatre
  • MFA in Acting
  • MFA in Costume Design
  • MFA in Musical Theatre
  • MFA in Lighting Design & Set Design
  • MFA in Directing
  • MFA in Dance