Are you thinking of applying to a performing arts or musical theatre college this year but you are not sure what schools you should check out? 

Don’t worry, we have done some of the groundwork for you. 

There are a lot of different courses on offer and all colleges are slightly different. They might have a different focus on their training, the number of contact hours are different depending on course and/or college or they just have a different vibe. 

The best thing to do is to try to visit some of their open days to get a feeling for the college. 

If you are not auditioning this year but are thinking ahead a little then we would recommend checking out autumn, easter and summer intensives. Most performing arts colleges offer these and they are a great way to get a feeling for what it would be like to study there full time. 

Not all colleges are the same and not all colleges offer the same courses. Some only have degree courses, some only have diplomas and some offer both. Some also offer BTEC or A-Levels which can be a good option for someone about to do their GCSEs but is not ready for a 3 year course yet.

So what course or college you decide to audition for depends on your age as well as your strengths. You might want to do a pure dance course, or perhaps you are more of a triple threat…? But sometimes it might also depend on if you can get funding or not and what school you can afford. 


Degree courses usually have an option of student finance to cover part or all of the fees but there is usually no student finance available for diploma courses. 

Another thing to remember is that just because a college is right for your friend, it might not be the right one for you. Go with your instinct and pick the ones that you can see yourself training at for the next few years. You will make lots of new life long friends on the way. 

Also remember that entry to all these colleges are by audition. We will write a blog about what a typical audition day to a performing arts college will look like. 

You will also need to have passed your GCSEs and / or have gained a certain number for UCAS points through your A-levels or BTECs. 

So what type of courses do the performing arts colleges offer? 

BTEC/6th Form/AVT

This is an A-level course or a course equivalent to A-levels. It is usually a 2 year course which will then lead on to you auditioning for a degree or a diploma course. These can be private courses or part or fully government funded.


This is a 1 year course offered to someone the college can see has potential but is not ready to start a 3 year long diploma or degree course. It might be that you are a strong dancer but need to work on singing or acting skills. 

This course is most likely not funded by a DaDA or Student Finance but you need to self fund it.


This is a 3 year long course with a very similar training as the degree course. Some colleges offer their own ‘in-house’ diploma and some offer a diploma course validated by an awarding organisation like Trinity College London for example.

Most diploma courses are self funded but there are often an option to apply for a DaDA depending on your family income. 

This course is a good option if you are a talented 16 year old who doesn’t need a foundation course but is too young to apply for a degree, or if you just don’t want to do the academic side of a degree course. 


A 3 year degree course validated by a university. You will have to be 18 to apply for a degree course with most performing arts colleges. The fee of the degree course will be covered by Student Finance to some extent depending on the college and how much the total annual cost is. 

You can not apply for a DaDA if you are on a degree course. 


Going to a performing arts college or a dance school is not cheap! But there are different ways you can fund it. 


If you are applying for a diploma course you can sometimes also apply for a DaDA. 

A government DaDA (Dance And Drama Award) offers income assessed support for tuition fees and living costs. It is available at a number of high quality private dance and drama institutions in England. The intention is that DaDA will contribute to the costs of studying for talented young people who want to become professional actors and dancers. You must be aged 16 to 23 and show talent and a likelihood to succeed in the industry. Your joint family income needs to be under £90,000 a year to be eligible to apply. [2020] 

For more information on Dance and Drama Awards take a look here

Student Finance

If you are applying to a degree course you will most likely be able to apply for a student loan for part or the whole tuition fee as well as an amount to cover your cost of living. The amount they will grant you depends on where you are studying and how much your family income might be. Take a look here for more information:

Advanced Learner Loan

Advanced learner loans are available for individuals aged 19 or above to undertake approved qualifications at levels 3 to level 6, at an approved provider in England. Advanced learner loans give individuals access to financial support for tuition costs similar to that available in higher education and are administered by Student Finance England. So this can be a way of funding a diploma course if the college you want to go to don’t offer a degree course. For more information take a look here:


Most colleges also offer some type of scholarship. This is to their discretion and is usually based purely on talent. They all have different ways of selecting the recipient. There might be an extra audition before the course starts, an audition at the beginning of the course, or perhaps just as a lovely surprise after your first audition. 

Not sure about what colleges there are? Take a look at our list here! 

Decided on what schools you want to apply to? Here's our handy hints on how to prepare for the dance part of your auditions.

We hope this has given you some useful information! 
Please comment below if there is anything you feel we have missed or just to let us know if you liked it. 
Good Luck! 
Helena & Sarah
Back to blog

1 comment

Thank you so much for this information, it’s so so helpful. Although I have looked at college websites they are not all that clear with regards to starting ages and descriptions of foundation/diploma/degree courses, and it’s all a bit of a mine field!
I have a much better idea now thanks to your blog!

Michelle White

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.