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Rankings for Film School Programs

If rankings aren't a huge factor, what should you look for in a film school?
film crew shooting on the street

As a prospective film school student, you probably spend time visiting various school programs' web sites, contemplating the pros and cons of each. You've likely also spent more than a little time wondering whether or not rankings for film school programs matter. And like all the other film students out there, you probably already know the answer to this question: yes and no.

Graduating from one of the top-ranked schools, such as NYU, USC or UCLA, gives you some instant credibility in the film industry. However, if these programs aren't a good fit for your personality, filmmaking style and overall career goals, the chances that you'll stay enrolled long enough to graduate become extremely slim.

It's worth considering that many lesser-ranked schools may have top programs in individual disciplines, even though they haven't attained a top national ranking for their film school program as a whole.

The fact that many schools have a strong reputation regionally, despite their lack of national acclaim is another thing to take into consideration. If you're looking to work outside of New York or Los Angeles, you may actually be better off choosing an art school in the area where you'd like to launch your career.

What to Look for in Film School Programs

Whether you're looking at top-ranked films schools or not, here are some things you should factor into your decision about which program to attend:

Faculty: When you're evaluating film school programs, be sure to look at the professors. Do you love (or at least like) your potential instructors' work? Do their interests seem to align with yours? Are they well regarded in their field? The answers to these questions are a good gauge of your likely success at a given school.

Strength in your specialty: This goes hand in hand with taking a close look at a school's faculty. Whether or not a particular film school has strong national reputation matters less than how good they are at training students in your particular area of interest.

Location: California and New York are media epicenters, which can be helpful when it comes to finding relevant internships and making industry contacts. For other locations, investigate the local opportunities. Is there a strong local TV and film industry? If so, does your school appear to have strong ties to it?

Access to equipment: Pay close attention to what types of equipment the school has on hand and how much time you're likely to get with the equipment you need.

Financial aid: Lesser-ranked schools may offer more grants (money that you don't have to pay back) in order to increase their enrollment rate.

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