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Summer Programs for Prospective Theatre Majors

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If you’re thinking about becoming a theater major once you get to college, you’ve almost certainly already started preparing. Along with joining your school’s drama club and pursuing local theatre-related opportunities during the school year, you should consider summer opportunities. Attending an intensive summer theatre program can help you improve your skills while contributing to your cohesive and specialized college application profile.


Interested in pursuing theatre at the college level? In this post, we’ll go over some summer programs that can help advance your theatre career during high school, as well as some advice on choosing a summer theatre program that will be a great experience for you.


The importance of summer programs

If you’re intent on being admitted to a competitive college, it’s essential that you use your summers wisely—colleges will expect it, as we describe in our blog post on Effective Summer Activities, and it will also be of personal benefit to you. You should definitely take some time to rest and relax, but you also need to take advantage of summer programs that allow you to learn and grow outside the confines of your school-year schedule.


Summer can be particularly important for high-school students who are interested in the arts. During the school year, unless you attend a performing-arts-specific high school, pursuits like theatre are often relegated to the role of extracurricular activities. During the summer, however, opportunities exist for you to participate in more intense, immersive experiences that allow you to hone your skills full-time.


Summer programs in theatre arts are a great way to network and meet people in the field of theatre. Many are run by respected colleges or professional theatre groups, and will give you important information about your future prospects in that field. With a little additional planning, these programs can even do double duty as college visits, and will allow you to make more informed choices about college in the future.


If you choose a summer program that’s not local for you, the mere fact of traveling to attend the program can also be helpful in determining your college and career plans. Not only will you get to exercise your independence, you’ll also get to know a new city. If you don’t like the experience of living in New York City after attending a program at NYU, for example, it’s better to find that out now than after you’re enrolled in college.


Choosing a summer program

Just as with choosing a college, choosing a summer program is not just about attending the most prestigious or most convenient program you can find. You’ll likely have a better experience if you choose a summer program that’s the best fit for your particular learning style, individual goals, and practical needs.


Here are some factors to consider when choosing a summer program.


Residential or nonresidential

Sleep-away camps and other residential programs are more immersive than day programs and can be a great experience socially as well. If you’re not ready for this level of independence, have other responsibilities to maintain at home (as we describe in our blog post on Balancing Family Responsibilities with Applying to College), or are likely to get distractingly homesick, a day program may be more appropriate for you.



Some cities or settings may be more appealing to you than others. For non-local programs, you’ll likely need to be comfortable living in program housing, which is often dormitory-style. You’ll also have to factor in travel arrangements and costs.



Summer programs are usually expensive, especially when you add in travel and supplies. Have a discussion with your parents about your resources and budget before you apply anywhere; don’t invest energy in an application to a program that you can’t afford. Nonresidential programs are often significantly less pricey, and some programs may have financial aid or scholarship opportunities. 


Application requirements 

Do your research in advance and know what you’re getting into, what application materials you’ll need to submit, and when your deadlines will be. Some summer programs have competitive admissions processes; if your preferred program is one of these, you should make a backup plan in case you don’t get accepted.

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Summer programs for high school students interested in theatre

Below, you’ll find a selection of summer programs for high school students who are planning on majoring in theatre or are otherwise interested in the theatre arts. These summer programs cover a variety of different topics, including acting, musical theatre, dance, and filmmaking. Some also include field trips and other integration with the local arts community.


Keep in mind that not all of these programs will be appropriate for every student, and you should do some research first to decide what kind of program will fit your needs best. Some have more specific age limitations than simply requiring you to be in high school. Programs differ in length; some last only a week, others for six weeks or more. Some programs might even offer you the opportunity to earn college-level credit.


Many organizations run multiple programs on different topics, from performing Shakespeare to preparing for college and professional auditions. Explore your options and think about which approach to theatre might be most interesting to you, or use this opportunity to develop a new related skill, such as film production.


Of course, these are not the only summer theatre programs in which high school students can participate. There are many other great options all over the country. However, this list can help you to get started with researching summer programs and to figure out what kind of program would be best for you.


New York Film Association summer camps

Camp locations include New York City, Los Angeles, and a number of other cities, some outside the United States. Programs are available in Filmmaking, Acting for Film, and Musical Theatre, along with other areas such as 3D Animation.


Interlochen Center for the Arts high school summer programs

Located on a scenic campus in northwestern lower Michigan, summer programs vary in length and cover topics including Musical Theatre, Repertory Theatre, Theatre Design and Production, Acting for the Camera, and an intensive Shakespeare acting bootcamp.


NYU Tisch School of the Arts high school summer programs

Program options are available in acting, dance, and production fields. All participants also take a course on New York Theatre taught by NYU faculty and attend professional performances. Admission to these residential programs is competitive.


American Musical and Dramatic Academy high school summer conservatory

Programs are offered in Acting, Vocal Music, and Dance Theatre. Both residential and day options are located in New York City and Los Angeles. Admission is competitive and placement is determined by a video submission.


Boston Conservatory at Berklee Musical Theater Dance Intensive

A three-week, mostly residential program located in Boston, focusing on musical theatre skills for students with Broadway aspirations. Admission is competitive, and a headshot, recommendation letter, and audition (live or on video) are required.


UCLA Summer Pre-College Institutes

Residential programs of varying length located in Los Angeles, including Acting and Performance, Dance and Performing Arts, Musical Theatre, and a variety of other topics. Students may be able to earn college credit in the University of California system.


Emerson College Pre-college Programs

Programs of varying length in Acting, Filmmaking, Musical Theatre, and Stage Design, along with other topics, located in Boston. Residential options are available. Admission is competitive; application requirements for different programs vary.


UNC School of the Arts Summer Drama Programs

High school students can participate in the Summer Drama Intensive course as well as the Introduction to Stage Combat course. Some Dance and Filmmaking options are open to high school students as well. Application requirements vary by program. Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


Boston University Summer Theatre Institute

A five-week, mostly residential program in Boston that covers a range of theatre-related topics. Students can choose between the Performance track and the Design track, though some courses are shared. Admission is competitive. Students earn college credit.


We hope these links help you find your way to a summer theatre program that helps you grow as a performer. Good luck!


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Monikah Schuschu
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.