I am often asked — face to face, by email or letter, via Twitter — how innocents new to the world of performing arts training can tell the difference between a good vocational training provider and a rip-off. It is a matter which alarms most perspective students and, of course, their supportive but anxious parents.
So, if you want to be “industry ready” at the end of your training here is a checklist of six questions to ask and points to bear in mind which might help and save you some expensive mistakes.
1. How many hours per week of face-to-face tuition in classes or rehearsals with tutors is the provider offering?
In a strong vocational school (as opposed to an academic course or a provider trying to cut costs) it will be at least 30 if the course is full-time but in many cases - most university drama departments, for instance - it will be much less.
2. Who are the tutors?
They should be practitioners with masses of current, or at least very recent, experience in the industry. You will not learn “industry ready” skills from someone who had one professional job as an understudy in 1983 and then turned to academic life in order to pay the bills.
3. Does the provider bring in plenty of guest speakers?
Will your course include plenty of contact with workshop leaders and advisers including directors, successful actors, dancers and singers, casting directors, agents, business advisers, Equity, Spotlight? A good provider does all this and more.
4. What are the provider’s former students doing now?
How many of them are now working professionally in the industry? There should be a goodly number of alumni who are getting plenty of work and preferably becoming well known.
5. What do current students say about the school/college?
They are consumers and their views could well tell you a lot of what you need to know. Talk to them.
6. How welcome were you made to feel at the audition?
Did you get value for money, pleasant treatment and feedback afterwards? A school which runs an audition process which you - although individual auditionees respond differently of course - find hostile or cold is unlikely to be an institution in which you will be a happy and/or successful learner. So don’t ignore your gut feelings.