This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
Are you interested in performing on stage or in front of a camera? Or do you find yourself fascinated by the prospect of directing a film or play, or being involved in a stage production? If yes, you should consider an undergraduate degree in Drama or Theatre Studies.
A degree like this will typically help you gain a lot of skills, like:
- Subject-specific skills (directing, acting, production skills)
- Strong communication and presentation skills
- Creativity and innovation
- Self-motivation and independence
- Research and critical thinking
- Teamwork and collaboration
What to expect
What to expect during this degree
Teaching modes and assessments
As a theatre student, you will typically spend 8-15 hours in lectures, seminars and practical work per week. Contact time, i.e. the time you spend being taught, in the first year may be minimal (it could be as less as 6 hours in some universities; in others it could be more). But you will have plenty to do outside of your lectures/seminars. For instance, you may be required to do some independent research or read some plays or do extra rehearsals. So you can expect to remain busy.
In most universities, you will be assessed through a combination of different things: like essays, presentations, performances, workshops, portfolios etc.
Note: this is just a general overview. It is highly recommended that you visit your prospective university/conservatoire website to find out about its specific teaching modes and assessments.
Course types and modules
Some drama degrees will be more theoretical: you will typically study the history of theatre, read and analyse plays, and learn some performance-based skills in them. Other degrees will be more practical and hands-on in nature: in these, you can learn more about acting, musical theatre, stage management skills, costume design etc. These courses will focus less on theory and more on the development of performance-based skills. If you are interested in the more practical courses, you should look into conservatoires (more information on these can be found in the Program Selection section).
Some modules may be more academic or theory-based, some may be more hands-on, and some could be a combination of practice and theory. Some examples of university course modules include: Playwriting, Theatre Skills, Drama in Context, Stage and Screen Productions, New Shakespeares, Physical Theatre etc.
According to UK sources, it is not always easy to get a job in acting or production. Many times, graduates have to use their personal contacts or networks to land a job of this kind. However, there are a number of other jobs that are also available to theatre graduates - like teaching, art, and literature, advertising, event organization, community work and management. Some graduates also go into freelancing or self-employment. Note: this information has been taken from UK sources. Opportunities in Pakistan (or other countries) may be different. It is highly recommended that you get in touch with relevant experts/teachers of performing arts or dramatics to find out more about the sort of career opportunities you will have in Pakistan after completing this degree from the UK. You can also try to connect with Pakistani alumni (if any) from your prospective university to find out how useful/lucrative the degree was for them.
Before applying for this degree, you need to be convinced that you want to pursue theatre. It is something you need to feel very passionately about. If you are okay with not landing a job immediately or getting one that does not pay too highly, then you should go ahead and apply for this degree. Otherwise, you should take some more time to really think it through.
TYPES OF DEGREE
The following degrees are available for Drama in the UK:
Courses are offered by two types of institutions - universities and conservatories.
What are conservatoires?
“Conservatoires are providers of performance-based higher education, including music, drama, screen and production courses. Their courses are very much based around individual tuition, practical training, and frequent opportunities to perform. Students come from all over the world, to gain performance skills they can use to succeed on international stages” (UCAS). For more information on conservatoires and the application procedure, please go through this important resource. You will be able to search for courses and apply for them through UCAS. The deadline will usually be mid-January (similar to that of university courses) -- although some universities may accept applications from international students at later points in the year as well. If you are hoping to go for a more practical/vocational course, which gives you greater opportunity to perform and train, you should look into courses offered by conservatoires.
Universities will generally offer a wider variety of modules as compared to conservatoires/drama schools, so you may have a greater opportunity to take courses that interest you most. You might also have more opportunities to get some writing and directing experience at universities.
This Which? University resource details some of the things you ought to be taking into account when deciding which performing arts course you want to apply for.
If you are interested in Drama, you might also like:
- English Literature
- Script Writing/Creative Writing
How to select the best option for yourself (among allied fields)
- If you are only interested in the study of theatre (e.g. written plays or history of theatre) and not in the performance aspect of theatre, a degree in English Literature may be more relevant for you.
- If you are interested in script-writing/becoming a playwright, a BFA in performing arts or a BFA/BA in creative writing may be most suitable for you.
- If you are interested in musical theatre, you should also explore music degrees and compare them to drama/theatre degrees and see which of the two you find more appealing.
- No. of Universities to apply to: you can apply to 5 universities through UCAS.
- No of Conservatoires to apply to: you can apply to a maximum of 6 conservatoires through UCAS (you will create a single electronic application that will be submitted to all conservatoires simultaneously).
- You can apply to universities and conservatoires both, but will be able to accept a place only through one system (either UCAS or UCAS Conservatoires). Note: competition for conservatoires is usually very high, so you should try to apply to both universities and conservatoires to increase your chances of admission.
Here are some links that could help you with selection.
Note that the ranking of a university should not be the only factor considered when choosing universities. Though the rank is an important thing to keep an eye out for, there are many other things that you should consider when choosing amongst universities/programs (some of which is explained above in the ‘Program Selection’ section).
- This is a great resource to help you choose your conservatoire of choice. You can also go through this resource for more information of conservatoires.
- UNISTATS: you can go through this link to compare different universities and their courses in Theatre/Drama (based on overall student satisfaction, work placement etc.).
- The Guardian: this resource ranks performing arts courses in the UK. You can also click on the specific university name to find out which courses are being offered by it. Please note rankings may vary by website, as each website uses different methodology and criteria.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Many universities prefer candidates to have studied Theatre or Drama in their A-Levels or final years of high school. Others also recommend that candidates should have studied English or English Literature. Although neither of these is firm requirements, these are good subjects to study and they do contribute positively to your application. Do keep in mind, requirements vary from course to course - so you should visit your prospective course website to see what the exact subject requirements for you are.
Grade requirements will vary by university. You should ideally try to get Bs or higher (or their equivalent) in the subjects you take. But do visit your prospective course website to find out what scores/grades are required.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on transcripts (under the tab of ‘transcripts’).
Research experience is typically not a requirement for this degree. However if you have experience in this area that is directly relevant to drama or theatre (for instance, you may have written a research essay on one of Shakespeare’s plays), it could help your application.
While professional experience is not a requirement, any sort of background in direction or production or acting or stage work will be very beneficial. If you have any contacts in television or film or have a dramatics instructor at school, try to get an internship.
Volunteer work is not a requirement, but it can add to your application - especially if it helps you gain important transferable skills (like communication, teamwork, confidence, presentation skills etc.). So if you get an opportunity to work in a capacity that can give you these skills, you should definitely opt for it.
Try to participate in all dramatics-related competitions or events. If your school has a dramatics society, become a member. Participate in the annual play (you can work as an actor or a director). There are a number of school and university-based local competitions (i.e. drama festivals and drama olympiads) that you can consider participating in to gain more experience.
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
Although your application will be reviewed holistically, your personal statement and your audition/interview will typically be evaluated with more scrutiny as compared to other components. Since this is a performing arts degree, there may not be as much emphasis on transcripts as in other degrees. However, you are still advised to visit your prospective university webpage and find out what the admissions committee values most.
Some drama schools or conservatoires may need you to send additional information outside of the UCAS application. For instance, they might need you to fill their own form or submit an audition fee. Check the instructions from the specific school you are applying to and make sure you meet all the necessary requirements (The Stage).
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Overall Application Deadline
January or earlier
Standardized tests or entry exams
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
May be required
At this point, if you are seriously considering graduate school, begin your search by reading this guide and by searching the websites from the following links:
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
Writing your personal statement can seem like an intimidating task, but you need not worry. As long as you can plan ahead and make sure you have enough time to write several drafts, you will be able to write a strong personal statement.
You will be required to submit one personal statement to the 5 universities you are applying to via UCAS. In your essay, you will need to display your enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject in just 4000 characters -- meaning you will have to be economical and to-the-point in your writing. Your main aim is to explain to the admissions committee why you should study Theatre at the undergraduate level, and what experiences have led you to this decision.
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- A genuine interest in drama: you need to display to the admissions committee that you have been well-acquainted with the subject, and have studied/read beyond the typical high school dramatics curriculum.
- You should also try to demonstrate strong analytical and critical skills. Give examples of how you have been able to gain, develop and use these skills - in various settings.
- Talk about your key learning from creative experiences (these could be academic or non-academic). What have you learned from these experiences? Why have they compelled you to apply for a course like this? What are your reasons for choosing the courses you have listed?
- If you have worked in any leadership positions or have done some volunteer work or have some professional experience that is directly relevant to drama, you should add that here. For instance, if you have been heading your school’s dramatics society or have performed in a play, you should mention that here. Be sure to reflect on that experience: what did it help you learn? How do you hope to take learning from it further in your undergraduate study? Was this activity critical in your decision to apply for Theatre?
- Display your interest in the professional side of Theatre. For instance, talk about the work of particular directors or actors or theatre companies that you find most fascinating. Talk about the aspects of their work that appeal to you: do you agree with their method? Do make sure that you are sincere when writing about this - do not drop names of popular actors or filmmakers if you have no interest in or knowledge of their work. You need to come across as someone who has made an effort to learn more about the industry - so make sure you are honest.
- Make sure your personality is reflected in your personal statement. You need to come across as someone who is creative, enthusiastic and dedicated to drama/theatre. Talk about your future aspirations - what sort of knowledge or skills do you hope to gain from a course like this? How will this experience help you career-wise?
- Your personal statement should have a logical structure and should be coherent. Try to make it as engaging and interesting as possible through your writing.
- “Get the right balance between subject-specific material and outside material...it should ideally be 75 percent and 25 percent” (Source: Which? University).
What are some elements of exceptional statements:
- One theatre professor (Anna Furse, Head of Theatre and Performance - Goldsmiths, University of London) advises that candidates should be clear about the kind of course they are looking for. Are you interested in applying to a course that offers you practice and theory, or are you interested in a more practical course at a conservatoire or drama school? She goes on to say: it is okay to apply to both, but you need to be aware of what you want - and make sure you do not write in a generic manner (Source: Which? University).
What are bad statements/ what things to avoid:
- Errors in punctuation, spelling or grammar. This can be critical when the admissions committee finds two very similar applicants. The one who has no grammatical or spelling errors in their essay will usually be prioritized.
- Overused/pretentious quotes: avoid starting your statement with a quote from a famous director or actor. Admissions committees will not be interested in that; they want to hear about you and learn more about you - in your own words.
- Just listing your experience: make sure you expand on each activity or experience that you mention in the statement. For instance, if you were the captain of the XYZ team, don’t just say that. Instead say, being captain of the XYZ team has helped me develop ABC skills…”. Show the admissions committee that you have gained valuable transferable skills from your experiences.
- Avoid making claims like “I love to act” or “I always wanted to perform on stage”. While it is okay to be passionate about theatre, you need to substantiate such claims. Explain to the admissions committee why you want to study this course at the undergraduate level - what is it about this course that will be valuable to you? Show the committee that you have done research on the course content.
- Avoid irrelevant experience: do not talk about how you wanted to be an actor since you were 5 years old. A) that sounds cliched and insincere, and B) admissions tutors want to know about your most recent and relevant experiences.
- Some universities and conservatoires will have specific guides for applicants on how to write personal statements. Please make sure you go through them.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
If you are applying through UCAS, you will be required to submit 1 letter of recommendation when applying for a degree in Theatre. Your reference should ideally know you academically, and should be able to speak to your work ethic, your passion and interest in theatre, how you interact with other students, and your ability to fare well in university (in a Theatre course). If you have studied Performing Arts at your high school, you should request your instructor to write a recommendation letter for you. If for any reason, a Performing Arts instructor cannot write a letter for you, you should contact someone who has taught you English Language or Literature or other similar subjects.
You should also visit the university website to find out what the exact requirements for a letter of recommendation are.
“You will be required to submit 2 letters of recommendation from teachers, advisers, or professionals; one who knows you academically, and another who knows your practical skills and commitment to drama, production, or screen as a profession” (UCAS).
- Before requesting your recommenders for LoR, go over the following links carefully:
This section will cover everything else related to the application process - including auditions, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Most theatre and drama courses will require candidates to have an audition. Some courses may require this of shortlisted candidates, others may require it of all candidates. A few courses may not have auditions. To find out what your prospective course does, please visit its website and read the entry requirements.
The admissions committees will be judging you on your potential - rather than your ability to give a perfect performance. They will also be trying to gauge your attitude and aspirations. Be honest and sincere, and tell them how this course will help you achieve your goals.
Information for this section has been taken from Which? University
- Preparing for your audition
- You will usually have to choose and prepare your audition piece in advance. Universities will typically provide some guidelines on how you ought to be selecting your audition piece and how they will be evaluating your performance. Make sure you follow the specified guidelines.
- Sometimes you may be asked to perform two contrasting pieces (for instance, you may be asked to perform a “soliloquy from Shakespeare” and “a speech from a modern play”).
- The audition will be short in length - typically 2-3 minutes long. That means you will have very little time to impress the admissions committee. Make sure you practice a lot in the days leading up to your audition.
- The audience
- This can vary by university and course. In some situations, your audience may consist of 2 people. In others, it may be much more. Your performance could be watched by the admissions committee, by current students and/or other candidates. You may not know until your audition who is in your audience - so make sure you are well-prepared to perform confidently in front of all kinds of audiences.
- The audition
- On the actual day of the audition, you may also to do other tasks, like participating in a group workshop. In such situations, you will be assessed on the basis of both: your individual performance and how you will work with the rest of the group.
- At some universities, you might have to give a short interview at the end of your audition. Others might carry this out via phone on a later date.
- Some universities may just have an audition and no other activity.
- After the audition
- Some universities may have the initial auditions in the morning, and shortlisted candidates are asked to stay for a second audition on the same day.
- Other universities may call shortlisted candidates several weeks after the first audition for a second audition.
- The most competitive courses may have multiple auditions.
- Note: the more renowned universities typically have auditions/sessions in many different locations to accommodate international students. However, if you are still unable to make it to a physical interview, you may be asked to provide a virtual one (on video).
- If you are unsure of something (before or during the audition), seek clarification. It is okay to ask the admissions tutors questions.
- If you are going to give a physical audition, make sure you reach on time. Most universities give a few minutes as “warm-up time”, but you should try to reach well before that as well - just so that you are comfortable in the setting and are not pressed for time. If you have a virtual audition (in real-time), make sure you do a warm-up before it. And be punctual.
- Try to avoid performing pieces that are cliched, or overdone at auditions -- unless you can put an innovative spin on the work.
- Be authentic and be yourself. You might get a chance to watch other candidates perform. Don’t change your performance on the basis of what others are doing, remain confident in yourself and stick to what you have planned.
- Do not hesitate to apply to courses that have auditions. Although it can feel intimidating, it is an important process. Admissions tutors need to make sure that each candidate they accept is working at a similar standard.
Please read this resource for more information.
Information for this section has been taken from UCAS
- For drama (acting) courses, you will typically be asked to prepare a monologue or create a performance piece as part of your audition. For drama production courses, you will typically receive a set of tasks prior to your interview; these tasks will be discussed in your interview along with your understanding of the course and your career aspirations.
- The audition/interview
- The length of the audition will vary by place, but most will typically be somewhere between 10-30 minutes. If your audition is followed by an interview or additional tasks, it could be even longer.
- “You will be asked to talk about your musical, dance, drama, screen, or production interests and activities, your artistic influences, what inspires you, your reasons for wanting to study at a conservatoire, and this conservatoire in particular, along with your career objectives:
- You may also be asked to talk about your non-discipline-specific interests
- The interview may include discussion of the repertoire you’ve performed, in terms of preparation, challenges, technique, style, etc.
- You may be asked to analyse and assess your performance.
- The interview is also a chance for you to ask questions about the department and what life is like as a conservatoire student.”
- After the audition
- Some auditions may include a recall (i.e. a second audition). Check with the conservatoire you are applying to see if that is common for them.
- Note: please visit your conservatoire website to see what arrangements the university has in case an applicant is unable to attend a physical interview.
- Practise your performance piece/monologue until you can perform it in public or in front of other performers with confidence and authority.
- Practise relaxation and breathing techniques to help you to stay calm under pressure.
- Make sure you conduct research on the pieces you are performing so that you can answer any questions about them, should you be asked.
- Try to preempt the questions you may be asked: make sure you are able to answer them in a logical and coherent manner. Remember the admissions committee will want to see your initiative and your commitment to drama. Make sure that comes through in your answers.
- You might have the option of asking the admissions tutors some questions as well. Think about what you want to know about the conservatoire and have a few questions ready.
- Please read this UCAS resource on conservatoires for more information.
- It is also recommended that you go through this link and learn more about the audition process.
- This is another great resource containing advice from staff and students on the audition process.
- You can also watch this video resource created by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the audition process.
You may be required to submit a resume. When required, it should typically list all your relevant experience. Do check your prospective university/conservatoire website to find out if a) a resume is required, and b) the guidelines (make sure you follow the prescribed structure/length/layout).
As an international applicant, you will usually have to take English language proficiency tests. Most universities will allow you to choose between the TOEFL and IELTS -- websites will also state the minimum score you require (in individual reading, writing, speaking and listening components; and overall) to be considered for admission. It is advised that you take the test well before your application deadline, to ensure that your score is sent to your prospective university at the required time.
These tips were compiled with the valuable help of SHAHEEN volunteers.
We thank our volunteers for their contribution and hope their tips and advice help you in your application.
The following sources were consulted in developing this tip-sheet and we encourage you to consult these sources for additional information and guidance on your application.
Furthermore, the following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet: Which? University, Performing Art Courses - Which? University, The Stage - How to fill your UCAS form, UCAS Conservatoires, The Guardian, the Complete university guide, A beginner’s guide to drama school - The Stage, Tips for Audition by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, How to apply and audition - The Stage, How to write a personal statement for conservatoires