A lot of students enter the university system fresh out of high school for one reason: it’s what you’re supposed to do. Get good grades; go to college; get a good job. Thousands of young people enter the university system every year as undeclared undergraduates with no real idea why they’re there or how college resonates with life. In our current system, it’s easy to spend years taking out student loans, doling out money for college and remain directionless, not even feeling any sense of agency over our own lives.
With tuition costs as high as they are, the former college browsing lifestyle makes less and less sense. Instead, why not wait to invest money in school until you know specifically what you want to get out of that investment. Once that decision’s been made, do you really want to spend two years paying for general education courses? Or would you rather streamline your education and focus only on learning skills you’ll use? A leaner education doesn’t mean a less robust one; it’s about learning to see a world in a grain of sand.
This is exactly what professional schools are all about and it’s certainly true of Portland Actors Conservatory. The school offers a two-year training program during which students gain all the necessary tools, equipping them to enter the highly competitive field of professional acting.
In contrast to traditional college instruction, PAC class sizes are very small and students receive plenty of individual attention both in and out of the classroom: smaller class sizes make it possible for instructors to tailor courses to the individual needs of students; and faculty are always available to help students overcome any obstacles encountered during training.
The teaching staff at the Conservatory is made up of working local artists: actors, directors, playwrights, etc. When they aren’t in class, students can find their instructors practicing their craft all over town. This makes these teachers uniquely suited to help students bridge the gap between the nurturing learning environment of the Conservatory and the professional world outside of it.
Real World Prep
In fact, the two-year program itself is designed to do just that: the first year of training is primarily classroom instruction; moving into the second year the focus is on performance. In the second year, students put on a season professional-level shows, in which students are involved with and/or responsible for every aspect of production. Plus, the school invites local professional actors to be a part of every cast; working with the pros gives students the opportunity to emerge from training and begin to be a part of the professional community.
Our current education system isn’t serving us and we need to facilitate change with a willingness to alter the way we define education. In other words, what we traditionally think of as higher education isn’t the only key to success. Professional schools like Portland Actors Conservatory offer one great alternative: in the style and quality of education offered; and in the benefit of specialized training, which cuts in half the number of years for which students must pay to attend school.
Change is needed and we all have our part to play. For students already deeply indentured to college and universities, innovative student aid organizations working to solve the student debt crisis have created new alternatives to help students manage debt. We need education that’s both affordable and teaches young people to interact with the world in a way that isn’t strictly academic. Playwright Bertolt Brecht once described his hopes for humanity: “There is a great deal to man, we say; so a great deal can be made out of him. He does not have to stay the way he is now, nor does he have to be seen only as he is now, but also as he might become. We must not start with him; we must start on him.”