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BWW Blog: To BA or to BFA, That is the Question

Finding a program that works best for YOU!

BWW Blog: To BA or to BFA, That is the Question

Finding the right college program can be a daunting task. There tends to be a lot of pressure around selecting the "perfect" school and the "perfect" program. You may be applying to colleges and don't know where to start. You may be a current college student who is unsure about your current program. Whatever you may be facing, I'm hoping to provide some input and clarity on the difference between BA and BFA programs. I have a unique perspective because I entered a California college as a BA Theatre Performance student, transferred to a school in New York City where I began as a BFA in Musical Theatre, and then realized that wasn't the path for me. I agonized over the decision of how to proceed with my academic career, and decided to switch majors. I will now graduate with a BA in Theatre Performance with a Communications and Media Arts minor from Marymount Manhattan College.

Over the past few years, I have heard people make arguments for why a BA is better than a BFA, or why a BFA is necessary for a career as a performer. I am here to tell you that there is no "correct" way to pursue a performance-based degree. Just look at some of Broadway's biggest stars. Some graduated from top programs such as Julliard (like Phillipa Soo). Some earned a BFA (like Billy Porter), and some graduated with a BA in a subject unrelated to performance arts (like Beanie Feldstein). Some of the biggest Broadway stars did not pursue a college degree at all, but studied in private studios (like Stephanie J. Block). Though each of these performers has a different background, they each found great success in their careers. Everyone has a different path, and it is important to follow what works best for you. In my experience, you will see more personal growth when you are in a program that allows you to prioritize what it is you want to study, not forcing yourself to continue in a program you think you "should be" following. So how do you find the right program for you? Let's start off by breaking down the differences between a BA degree and a BFA degree.

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is a broad degree that allows flexibility in your study. Most BA theatre programs have a curriculum that includes different areas of theatre. As a BA student at my first university, I studied scenic design, lighting design, make-up design, costume construction, and directing in addition to acting. Gaining experience in these areas helped me to find new passions in theatre aside from my passion for performance, and instilled a newfound appreciation in various aspects of theatre craft. A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree is a highly specialized degree that provides rigorous training in a specific aspect of theatre with the goal of preparing you for the professional world. BFA programs are considered to be akin to "conservatory" training, where there is a focus on preparing you for the demands of your profession. For instance, a BFA musical theatre student will have lots of classes dedicated to improving their dance and vocal skills. The program at Marymount Manhattan College offers daily dance classes in addition to weekly vocal lessons. Many performance-based BFA programs include a Senior Showcase, which helps propel students into the professional world. It has been said that "art is a reflection of life." I consider this statement to be true. As a result, I think it is vital for artists to gain insight through real-life experience. In addition to studying your theatrical craft, a BA program incorporates other liberal studies courses to give students a multifaceted education. Courses unrelated to your major can contribute to your craft by offering a broader world view.

While choosing a program is an important aspect of your life, I want to remind you that it isn't your whole life. You are not your degree. With this in mind, instead of asking yourself what you "should" be doing, ask yourself what you really want to do. What you want to do may change, and that's okay! When I decided to switch from a BFA to a BA, I initially felt like I was throwing away a childhood dream. I had thought the BFA route was the ticket to success if I wanted to pursue a performance career. I have learned that there is no direct route to a successful career in the arts. I am continuing to study performance, but taking a different route. The BFA path was not for me, but it could be the best path for you. College is a time for you to learn more about yourself and explore possibilities for your future. It is important to listen to your gut, be open to change, and to make choices that are right for you.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Anna Demaria