5 Things You Should Know About Paying for Theatre School

Creative ways to pay for theatre school.

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Most people choose to get a degree in the arts, like theatre, because it's their passion. While it can be empowering and freeing to follow your passion, there are practical matters to consider when pursuing any higher education.

Theatre schools can be particularly expensive. But there are a few unique places you can look for money and a few creative things you can do to reach your goals.

As a theatre major, you are officially an artist, which means you are eligible for artist grants.

#1: The Government Can Help

For most accredited theater programs in the U.S., you have the option of filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Aid from the government for an undergraduate degree usually comes in three forms.

  • Loans: For federal loans, Stafford loans (otherwise known as Direct Loans) are the most common form of government aid. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you're in school. Unsubsidized loans do.
  • Work-study: When you complete the FAFSA, your results will tell you whether or not you are eligible for the federal work-study program. This program would allow you to work part-time while you're in school. The jobs are usually flexible and can be on- or off-campus.

#2: Awards From the School Aren't Set in Stone

Many students make the mistake of thinking that once the school sends them the letter with their financial aid award, that's the end of the financial aid discussion. You don't have to accept all the loans the school offers you. Plus, many schools have policies that require you to pay for the semester before it begins. If you ask, some schools will allow you to set up monthly or quarterly payments.

#3: Look in Your Own Backyard

Religious organizations and other non-profit organizations, like Rotary Clubs and Boys & Girls Clubs, may offer scholarships. If you've done work (acting or other work) at a local theatre, they may be willing to sponsor you or help you raise funds. Your parents' experiences can also be useful. Some companies offer scholarships to the dependents of their employees. Children of veterans also have scholarship opportunities.

#4: You're an artist. Use that!

As a theatre major, you are officially an artist, which means you are eligible for artist grants. Artist grants give you the funds you need to pay for all or part of your education without having to work, so you have the time to concentrate on your craft. The National Endowment for the Arts offers grants annually for artists. Sites like Grant Space, which are run by the Foundation Center, offer tutorials on how to find and apply for grants as an individual.

#5: The Search Doesn't Stop Once You're In

Many students do a great job of hunting for scholarships while they're in high school, but many scholarships and grants are only good for your freshman year. Plus, there's the cost of books, room and board, and any theatre-specific materials you may need. If you need assistance after that first year, continue to look for scholarships and grants. Get a little creative with your time. A part-time job can be a great way to save up for subsequent years. Many theaters and neighborhood schools run after-school or summer programs for kids. Those kinds of jobs can be a good addition to your resume and extra money in your pockets.

Quick Tips

  • There are some common mistakes many students make when trying to figure out how to pay for their education. Try to stay informed and research your options in order to avoid common pitfalls.
  • In order to build a strong application portfolio and set yourself up for scholarships, consider programs like the National YoungArts Foundation. It offers summer theater programs to high school students, and alumni have scholarship and job opportunities in the future.

Sources: Behind the Scenes: Applying to Drama School

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