Applying outside of the box is so fetch.
I recently went to New York City to see Mean Girls, the new musical on Broadway based on Tina Fey's 2004 movie of the same name. It was excellent! The music was amazing, the lyrics were hilarious, and the cast was fantastic. I am not surprised it was nominated for 12 Tony Awards this year.
Sitting in the theater before the show began, I read over the Playbill to see what other shows the cast has been in. What caught my attention was not all of the impressive productions the cast has been in before Mean Girls, but where the cast members went to college. Julliard? NYU? Yes...and no.
Three of the four female leads (who play Cady, Regina, and Gretchen if you are a fan) went to the University of Michigan. The fourth female lead (who plays Karen) went to Baldwin-Wallace University in Ohio. Other actors with speaking parts went to Ithaca College, Elon University, and Carnegie Mellon University.
There were a few ensemble members who went to New York City schools known for being connected to the arts — two went to NYU and one went to Julliard — but the list of schools was predominantly made up of ones that are located all over the country.
My takeaway? Budding Broadway actors don't need to go to school in NYC to "make it" on Broadway. There are programs all over the country that prepare you for a successful theater career.
Take Drew University, for example, in Northern Jersey. Ranked #5 for Best College Theater by Princeton Review and home to NJ’s largest professional theater company, this hidden gem is a pipeline for future actors and industry agents.
But their location on the train line to NYC doesn’t just benefit budding thespians—it’s a breeding ground for future financiers and economists. Drew’s NYC “Semester on Wall Street" places students at the heart of the financial district to learn from professionals and understand the role of the U.S. economy in the global market. Drew proves that you don't need to go to a school in Manhattan to get that experience.
I started to think about all the other institutions with strong program offerings that often get overlooked because of their location or other academic reputation…
Want to work in journalism? This year, the New York Times employed as many summer interns from Penn State as they did from UPenn. Or perhaps you aspire to be a broadcaster for your favorite sports team? Try the University of Missouri’s legendary broadcast journalism program, or call a game with the NY Islanders at Hofstra University, whose college radio station is the only one in the nation to have an exclusive broadcasting contract with a major league sports team. Just north of the border in Canada, Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media houses three state-of-the-art studio spaces in the heart of downtown Toronto. If broadcast journalism is your goal, this space is not to be missed.
Think Parsons or FIT in NYC is how you’ll make it in fashion? Kent State University in Ohio offers fashion internships all over the world, as does the University of Delaware, Drexel University, and Marist College. No need to be minutes from the Garment District to succeed in fashion.
Interested in Golf Course Management? Excellence in this major is not just for warm weather junkies. Check out Rutgers University, who has their own course on campus, or the manicured landscapes at the University of Nebraska.
Think you have to be on the ocean to major in Marine Science? Think again! Check out Virginia Tech’s department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. By partnering with national organizations such as the U.S. Forest Service, students are offered hands-on opportunities and access to land and waterways across the country.
The same holds true for International Relations – you don’t have to go to college in Washington, DC to prepare yourself for a career in diplomacy. The University of Texas, located in the capital city of Austin, focuses on global affairs and has a required study abroad experience. Meanwhile in New England, Tufts University’s program stresses the importance of interdisciplinary topics ranging from economics to human rights to an intensive concentration of mastering a foreign language. Even Gettysburg College, nestled in the bucolic hills of Pennsylvania, boasts the Eisenhower Institute, a dual-campus government program with a location just blocks away from the White House. And finally, some California love. Students at Occidental College in Los Angeles can immerse themselves in global affairs through their “Oxy-at-the-U.N. Program.” Students intern on the floor of the United Nations or with other related global organizations, where they interact with delegates and experience first-hand events on the international agenda — a far-cry from the days of interns getting coffee and making copies.
Speaking of Washington, DC, George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is an urban think tank for STEM seekers. Its new $275 million Science and Engineering Hall officially opened in 2015, a beacon of research and laboratory space. This facility is the largest of its kind in DC and symbolizes the intrinsic partnership between science and government. GW’s academic offerings prove that you don’t need a technical institute to succeed in STEM.
Finally, are you an avid sports fan, have a deep appreciation for the movie Moneyball, or just obsessed with fantasy football? Then maybe Syracuse University’s Sports Analytics major is for you. A Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Analytics has become an invaluable asset to sports organizations all over the world, as many game-time and team decisions are driven by data and analyzing past patterns.
So, dig a little deeper. Apply outside of the box. And see Mean Girls!
•Erica Salmon, Alison Grill, and Melanie Talesnick - Admit U Consulting Contributing Authors