If you're interested in acting then your best bet is to attend a college located in a city such as New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta where the market for acting is substantial. The top schools for acting are as follows:
- The Juilliard School, Drama Division (New York)
- New York University, Tisch School of the Arts (New York)
- SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theatre Arts (New York)
- California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles, also referred to as the "Julliard of the West")
- Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama (Pittsburgh)
- Boston University School of Theatre (Boston)
- University of North Carolina School of the Arts (Winston-Salem)
- University of Minnesota, Department of Theatre Arts & Dance (Minneapolis)
- Syracuse University School of Drama (Syracuse)
If you are serious about acting I have some useful advice:
1) Start while you're young. It's extremely important to get your foot in the door while you are young because getting high-profile gigs takes years of experience, connections and hard work. On top of that, you'll need a SAG card (which comes at a hefty price) in order to get access to high quality opportunities. You can get SAG cards two ways:
a) Get a speaking role in a SAG production
b) Work three SAG productions as a non-union background actor where they are substituting you as SAG so that you can receive a Taft-Hartley waiver. You need three of these pink slips to get your SAG card.
2) Find a career that allows you to work during hours outside of the normal 9AM-5PM. The vast majority of acting gigs occur between 9AM and 5PM Monday through Friday and give very little notice (sometimes same-day). Many times you aren't confirmed for a gig until the day or evening before the shoot. This is not at all uncommon and just how the industry operates. If you have a full-time 9-5 job, it will be extremely difficult for you to attend castings or gigs. This is why many actors pick up work-at-home jobs, bartending jobs or waitressing jobs. However, I suggest a career that allows flexibility to work-from-home.
3) Get a professional camera (i.e. DSLR), a microphone (i.e. Rode) and a light (very important). Many times you are requested to send in self-tape auditions and shaky videos with bad lighting and sound will quickly give casting directors a reason to weed you out from other actors who are professional, have been doing it for years and are competing against you. You can use an iPhone (they have great quality videos), but I HIGHLY recommend getting a microphone compatible with it and a tripod stand to hold it.
4) Sign up for Actors Access, CastingNetworks and Backstage. Actor's Access charges $79/year and CastingNetworks and Backstage both cost about $15/month. This is where the work is if you do not have an agent and agents won't pick you up without a significant resume, which starts with background gigs and small TV/film roles.
5) Search for casting agencies in your area in addition to signing up for the industry platforms and apply to as many as you can. Casting agencies function by collecting getting as many types of people as they can and as a result, it is fairly easy to get picked up by them.
6) Get professional images. You don't have to spend $500. If you have a DSLR and good lighting you can take them yourself. But you need a good headshot as well as images portraying various "types" (i.e. business, casual, dressy, cool and hip). Try to find a photographer who is willing to do TF (trade for). They usually do this when they need to build their portfolio. It's a win-win because neither of you have to pay each other. They need a model and you need a photographer, so they are willing to do trade work to get more images in their portfolio.
7) Don't get discouraged. The booking rate for actors is extremely low. You will apply to dozens of gigs and not get booked. Or, you could book 5 gigs and a month and not get anything for 3 months. This is just the nature of the industry. It's just like modeling and most of the time it will have nothing to do with your acting abilities and will be over something extremely nuanced and inconsequential that just so happens to be significant to the producer (i.e. you're 2" too tall).
Hopefully this helps and good luck! :)