Scholarships for Actors

Use Your Talent to Pay for College

A career in acting is not only challenging, but highly competitive. You’ll need to prove your worth continually, but if you exhibit both talent and dedication to the theater you have a chance to win some of the available scholarships. When you review the following sample of financial aid material, you’ll see the following advice repeated frequently on different websites: thorough preparation for every audition is essential.

You must be able to demonstrate that you are in full command of your carefully chosen selection, that selection must make you shine, and you must accomplish that effect in a matter of a few minutes (as few as two or three minutes, in some cases). Sometimes actors discover they have a passion for a related field, such as lighting design or writing plays, so don’t limit your choices too soon. Theater school is the ideal place in which to learn how to use your own strengths.

Scholarships from Private Organizations

Irene Ryan Foundationactors scholarships for college

The Irene Ryan Foundation has established a tradition of awarding the annual Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships to winners of successive rounds in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The competitors are performers chosen from college theater ensembles to travel to the regional finals, and from there to the national auditions in Washington.

Regional winners receive scholarships for $500, and national winners are given $2,500 each for tuition and fees (any major is acceptable). To be eligible, you must be a full-time student with at least a 2.5 GPA. There are strict guidelines for your audition performance, so adhere to them exactly (although you can no longer be disqualified for not completing your set piece within the time limit).

Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts

The Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts has distributed college scholarships to performing arts students since 1987. While details on current amount and number of awards are not posted on the foundation’s website, the foundation will forward information directly to you upon request. Until 2010, scholarship winners were chosen during the Donna Reed Performing Arts Festival & Workshops, which lasted a week and featured theater professionals teaching subjects like singing, video editing, and scripting.

Due to financial pressure, the festival now consists of smaller weekend events that host the most popular workshops, but the scholarship awards are still the foundation’s core mission.

Las Casas Foundation

If you are a college-bound high school senior living in the San Antonio area, you can apply for one of the Las Casas Foundation’s Scholarship for Excellence in the Performing Arts. Plans for the current year’s awards include scholarships in four categories, with some placement awards in addition to those for winners and a total dollar amount of $70,000.

You must choose one category in which to apply, and for actors that means selecting a monologue or duet. With your application, you will need to include a media release, photo, resume, and biography.

Scholarships from Colleges

University of Iowa

The Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa has posted a lengthy page of scholarship information, grouped by type of eligibility (for example, new student as opposed to continuing student). Here are four examples of available aid:

  • The Iowa Center for the Arts Scholarship, for new students, rewards artistic talent and academic achievement. You must major in Theatre Arts with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and submit your high school transcripts, including ranking.
  • The Hatch-Billops Scholarship for Theatre Students of African or Caribbean Descent, also for new students, gives preference to descendants of Middle Passage Africans. You must aspire to a bachelors in Theatre Arts and profess a Theatre Arts major for your first two semesters, but if you wish to switch majors thereafter that is permitted.
  • The E.C. Mabie Scholarship goes to exceptional theater students who show a great deal of professional promise.
  • The Foster Harmon Scholarship in Theatre rewards both ability and hard work in the school’s theater program.

Temple University

Temple University’s Department of Theater has compiled a page of information on its scholarships, most of which are reserved for theater majors. Here are three of the awards:

  • The Theater Department Alumni Scholarship bestows $2,000 on a new student, based on grades plus your audition and interview. You will deliver a two-minute monologue, and you must also prepare a backup piece.
  • The Paul E. Randall Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, goes to a student who can show financial need. You must present a letter and resume directed to the selection committee stating what you will accomplish with the help of the scholarship.
  • The Doug Wing Memorial Scholarship, named for a local actor, seeks a very talented recipient who also has financial need.

Government Scholarships

U. S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts

The U. S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts program rewards exceptional academic and artistic achievement, including acting ability. The government portion of the program, described on the Department of Education’s website, bestows national recognition, while college theater programs compete for these gifted students by offering scholarship aid.

One example of such a scholarship is provided by the Department of Theatre & Dance at George Washington University. As an incoming theater student, you will pay no tuition, and in exchange you will meet the following requirements:

  • Finish a departmental major or minor related to your chosen field.
  • Take part in theater productions every semester, and audition for all productions.

You may contact the department directly for further criteria. The scholarship is renewable for four years, if you maintain your superior grades and continue to participate in the program.

More information on similar theater scholarships can be found here.


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