This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and TAE responded.Here is what was written:
Hello! I'm currently an undergraduate drama major at NYU. I just got new headshots done and am preparing to mail out submissions to NYC agencies. However there is something I'm worried about: I've been warned about the danger of gaining a bad rep if classes get in the way of auditions too often. I am absolutely prepared to work hard, juggle school with work, and have practically zero free time, but I am aware that (especially with NYU's strict curriculum) there may be times when I just cannot miss class to go to work. I've also heard of agents who simply refuse to work with actors who aren't out of school yet. What are your thoughts on this?
Hi, there. I felt the same way when I was in school, so I completely understand your concern, and I can relate to your excitement about getting out there.
One thing I wish that someone had told me back then is that one of the most important things to do while in school is to make lasting connections with teachers, classmates and alumni. I spent most of my free time off campus pursuing projects outside of school because I thought that was the best way to gain experience. Sure, I got some amateur credits on my resume, but no one told me that making connections while at school would put me in a better position than doing a couple of roles at small theaters.
Getting work while in school is good, and if that is what you want to do, I say go for it. But I would suggest thinking about putting that same time and energy into being as involved as possible with your school and internships. When you get out of school and start auditioning, you'll run into those folks who you met years earlier through NYU and they will remember how hard you worked and how enthusiastic you were, which will put you leaps and bounds ahead of other actors they do not know.
I know this is probably not what you came on this board to read, but I wanted to tell you the things I wish someone had told me. Truly, though, it is up to you to make the best decision for your life, and I am confident that whichever path you choose, you can be successful.
The student then responded:
Thank you so much to everyone for your thoughtful advice. I'm going to have to think hard about what my priorities are: college degree or full-time acting career.
I chose NYU mainly to take advantage of the location, find an agent, and begin working...maybe even find work that would end my involvement with college. But it seems that many of you older, wiser folks would disapprove of this. I'm almost afraid to ask: what are your opinions on an actor who hasn't finished college?
From a fellow actor (and coach's) perspective...
Any schooling on a resume is better than no schooling. I do think that if you list only a few years of college on a resume, folks might wonder if a) you are still in school, or b) why you decided to quit. The only real negative about this is that these questions keep them from focusing on what you DO have to offer.
I assume that if you don't go to NYU that you will at least be taking acting classes in New York. You want to make sure that you have plenty of well-rounded training to list on your resume so that producers/casting directors/agents know that you can handle the roles you are submitting for.
Most people would agree that you do not NEED a college education to be an actor. But what you do need is the ability to be a good storyteller, which requires you to be learn everything you can about what it is to be human. You need to know information on all different kinds of subjects, and the easiest way to do this is to go to school. I use what I learned in my non-acting classes all the time (history, economics, French, etc.) If you can gain this same education from reading books/going to lectures outside of school, and you gain life experience by getting out there an experiencing life, then the value of a degree from NYU is lessened.
Personally, I think that getting a 4 year degree at a school like NYU is a wonderful way to gain life experience and a solid education, which are both vitally important in the development of your career. Add that to the networking opportunities and you've got yourself a very bright future. But many, many people opt to put their education on hold in favor of starting a career right away. Ultimately, you need to decide the pros and cons of each, weigh them very carefully, and then commit to your choice passionately so you achieve everything you desire!
Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.