Acting is one of the most notoriously difficult fields to enter. You can spend years in school honing your craft and still struggle to find work. Even if you do land a gig, the median pay is just $18.70 per hour, and you can go months between jobs.
The Hamilton Project, a subset of the Brookings Institute focused on economic policy, examined college career paths after graduation. In the report, they found that less than 15% of visual and performing arts majors ended up working in their intended field.
That doesn’t mean you should give up your dream. However, it’s important to keep this in mind so you can make informed decisions when it comes to taking out student loans for acting school.
Finding student loans for acting school
Acting school can be expensive. For example, annual tuition at Juilliard, a world-renowned performing arts school, is $43,170. That amount doesn’t include the cost of housing or transportation, which can add thousands to your expenses.
Since you likely don’t have that kind of money in your bank account, you’ll need financial aid to cover the cost. To get all of the aid you deserve, follow these steps.
1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Submitting the FAFSA is an important first step in qualifying for financial aid, including grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans.
The FAFSA determines how much you and your family can afford to pay for school. If you’re a low-income student or have family members in school, the government may determine that your Expected Family Contribution is low. That could mean you’re not expected to pay a lot for school out of pocket. Instead, you might qualify for federal grants and student loans.
2. Compare the cost of different programs
The price for a theater program can vary widely depending on the school. To minimize how much you need to borrow in student loans, it’s a good idea to consider a number of schools. When deciding on where to apply, keep each school’s total cost of attendance in mind.
For example, the estimated total cost of attendance for a year at Juilliard is $63,689. By contrast, a year in the theater program at the State University of New York at Purchase is just $21,832. Before borrowing hundreds of thousands to pay for school, know that more budget-friendly schools can still offer a quality education at a fraction of the price of other colleges.
3. Determine potential schools’ eligibility for financial aid
When choosing a program, check to see if the school is eligible for federal financial aid. Not all acting schools qualify.
The Department of Education requires that schools be accredited to participate in federal aid programs. If a school is unaccredited, you won’t be able to get federal aid, including student loans.
To find out if a school qualifies for federal aid programs, use the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator tool. Enter the school’s name and click on it. If applicable, the site will list a drop-down menu of information, including what financial aid options students receive.
For example, 170 undergraduate students at Juilliard received federal student loans in 2016. The average recipient took out over $7,000 in federal loans alone. And 420 students received other forms of aid, such as grants and scholarships.
Evaluating your options
Once you’ve been accepted into a program, you have two options for student loans for acting school: federal and private.
Federal loans are offered by the Department of Education and should be the first source of loans you use. They tend to have lower interest rates and more benefits than private loans.
After graduation, those benefits can be helpful. For example, federal loans are eligible for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. With an IDR plan, the government sets your monthly payment as a percentage of your discretionary income. As an actor just starting out, that means you could get a much lower payment, making it easier to manage your bills.
As a current student, there are three loans available to you:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: Subsidized loans have an interest rate of 4.45%. With these loans, the government covers the cost of interest that accrues while you’re in school, for six months after you graduate, and if you enter your loans into deferment or forbearance.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Unsubsidized loans also have an interest rate of 4.45%. However, with unsubsidized loans, you’re responsible for all of the interest that accrues, even while you’re in school.
- Direct PLUS Loans: PLUS Loans are for graduate students or parents borrowing for their child’s education. PLUS Loans have an interest rate of 7.00%.
Although federal loans offer many perks and are cheaper than other forms of loans, there are limits on how much you can borrow. For example, a first-year independent student can only borrow a maximum of $9,500 per year. Even if you attend a public school, that amount won’t cover the total cost of attendance; you’ll have to pay the remainder in another way.
If you’ve exhausted your federal financial aid options and still need money to pay the rest of your bill, private student loans can be useful. With private loans, you can borrow as much as you need to cover the cost of your education.
Unlike federal loans, which are offered by the government, private student loans are issued by banks and financial institutions. Each lender has its own eligibility requirements, interest rates, and repayment terms, so it’s a good idea to look at several different lenders before making a decision.
Paying for acting school
When taking out student loans for acting school, it’s a good idea to review all your options to ensure you only borrow what you can afford. Doing your homework now can help you launch your career later on without the weight of student loans on your shoulders.
To help minimize your student loan debt, here’s how you can reduce your education expenses even further.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
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