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Undergraduate Theater Student Survey

Amanda talks to fellow undergraduates about their plans after college. logo

Amanda Charney, TMU contributor and sophomore at USC

Hello again! It's week two! This week, I talked to undergraduates from various colleges including USC, NYU, Southern Oregon University, UCLA, Humboldt State University, Indiana University, and the Urdang Academy in London. College students from all over contributed their opinions about working towards professional acting.

SO! On with the results from my survey!

• 65.6% of students polled know they do not wish to attend graduate school. Only 3.1% said they were definitely planning on it, and the rest were not sure. • Almost half the students polled plan to relocate to or stay in Los Angeles after graduation. 31.3% want to go to New York, and the remainder are unsure of exactly where they will start their careers • Nearly all responders said they planned to immediately begin auditioning upon graduation. • When asked, "Do you know you DEFINITELY want to pursue theater as a career?" 59.4% were positive, while 28.1% were only certain that they want to do theater some of the time.

This last point made me think. There is a significant number of people out there who are majoring in theater yet still are not positive they want to do it their whole lives. Is that a bad thing? Is it natural to have doubts about making a career out of acting?

Charlotte Wen, a BA student at the University of Southern California, is not letting diverse interests get in the way of her dream. "I actually decided I was going to become a theater major in August before we moved in freshman year!" she says. "I originally wanted to be an elementary school teacher, which I think I may still want to do in the future, but USC doesn't offer an undergraduate program in elementary education. So my mom suggested theater because I love it so much! So I went for it!"

Sarah Bartholomew, a sophomore of Urdang Academy in London, was determined from the start to exclusively study the performing arts. "Well, basically I chose to go to [school] in England because I didn't have to take other classes other than what I was studying. Because if this is what you want to do, you can't really waste time. But after I do the performance side of it, I want to go back and get an MA in something else."

What I take from these interactions is that many people have a wide variety of interests, and that is where the line between career-jeopardizing doubts and normal worries gets fuzzy. People who are involved in the arts tend to be multi-talented, and although they have a passion for theater, they want to explore other fields without losing that dream. Why shouldn't that be possible without the stress of wondering if they should be limiting their attention to just acting?

I, personally, have doubts and worries all the time. When I stress out in the beginning of the semester over the 5 auditions I have in two days, I wonder if I really want to live with these ups and downs the rest of my life. When I talk to people who are so intensely incredibly certain that they want to act and do nothing else, my stomach drops and I consider just giving it all up now.

The question that has kept me determined to do my best and take the consequences is this: What will I regret most in 10 years? When I consider the possibility of being 30 with a desk job, the part that kills me the most is that I will never know what would have happened if I had just tried. If I don't go for it now, I'll never get these years back.

So, should you go for it? The theater students who responded to the poll seem to shout, "I don't care if I should, and I'm going to anyways! I'm going to get out there and audition right after graduation and never look back!" Passion is a powerful thing, and when you're involved in the arts, it's the thing that drives you even when there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

My decision: better to pour your heart out doing what you love than to never take that leap and always live with the regret. It's true that acting is not for everyone, but if you love it and it makes you happy, I say…why not? Take a chance on yourself.


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