How to Get Into Film School

Four Methods:Deciding if Film School is Right for YouFinding the Film School for YouApplying to Film SchoolDeciding Between Film Schools

Film school is a place for people who are passionate about film and television and want to be involved in the creation, dissemination, and discussion of these kinds of entertainment. Deciding you want to attend film school is a big decision, and a degree can take many years and be quite expensive. The kinds of skills you gain, however, can substantially help you in finding a job in the entertainment industry. From documentary filmmaking to animation to film criticism, film programs prepare students for an array of careers in movies and television.

Method 1
Deciding if Film School is Right for You

  1. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 1
    Explore the many possible tracks. Film schools typically offer a range of different concentrations, including filmmaking, screenwriting, digital media, animation, scoring, television, and film criticism. Figure out what your primary interest is early so you can find a few different schools that offer what you want. Choosing just one school to apply to is a mistake -- you need to have a few schools so that you can feel certain you will get in to one. If you plan on applying to the most selective schools, choose some that are less selective as well to ensure you get in somewhere. [1]
  2. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 2
    Weigh the length of time and cost. Although financial aid is available at most film schools, getting an undergraduate degree in film takes at least four years and typically costs tens of thousands of dollars. Some people involved in the film industry went to film school, but many did not. Having a film degree is no guarantee of a job in the entertainment industry. [2]
  3. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 3
    Decide if you like the structure of an academic program. For some, having classmates with whom to work and ready-made mentors in the form of faculty is too good an opportunity to miss. For others, the freedom to realize their vision on a personal project with their choice of pace and personnel outweighs the benefits of film school.
  4. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 4
    Look into other possibilities might show you alternate ways to get where you want. If the time and cost are too much, but college is still appealing, think about a minor in film and engaging in extracurriculars involving movies. Keep in mind that you could always return after you complete your college degree, this time as a graduate student and get a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in film. If film school and college are both unappealing, look for ways to get involved in the television and film community where you live. Explore the possibilities of public access television, experimental film fests/contests, or creating online video content. [3]

Method 2
Finding the Film School for You

  1. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 5
    Visit the programs to meet students and faculty. They can give you the best sense of what the program is like and whether or not it is what you want. Even if you cannot visit, the admissions office will be able to set you up to communicate with students and faculty about their experiences. Talk to as many people as you can to get the fullest picture of what it would be like to attend this school. It is a big decision and you want to get it right. [4]
  2. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 6
    Decide the size and location of the film school you want to attend. Think about whether you want a large number of people in your film program, or a more intimate group. Figure out where you want to be geographically. Los Angeles and New York might be right for some people, but there are film programs all over. [5]
  3. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 7
    Research the strengths of each film program. Not every school gives you the same background. If your interest is documentary films, you need to be at a place with a strong documentary track. If you believe you will end up in television, you should find a place that allows you to get experience in that area. Looking at the courses offered and the faculty specialties will give you a good sense of the strengths of each particular program. [6]
  4. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 8
    Explore the internship and placement opportunities the school offers. Make sure they are the kinds of experiences you want to have. Ask about what alumni have done and if there is an active alumni network that might help in finding opportunities after graduation. [7]

Method 3
Applying to Film School

  1. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 9
    Create a strong application. For a traditional college or university with a film program, this will mean both academic record and creative portfolio. For a film school attached to an art school, there will be less focus on your academics and more on your creative output. For any application, however, you should begin early and write and create multiple drafts of your application. [8]
  2. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 10
    Take the SAT or ACT exams. Most schools require these for admission. Take these tests for the first time in your junior year of high school (if you plan on going immediately to film school after high school) so you will have plenty of time to retake them if your scores are not high enough for the schools you want to attend. Most schools post their test averages so that you have a good sense of whether you can fall within that range. [9]
  3. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 11
    Choose appropriate teachers or mentors to write letters of recommendation. Be sure to ask someone who really knows you, your work, and your love of film. Schools take letters of recommendation very seriously and so should you. [10]
  4. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 12
    Write an excellent personal essay. For a traditional college or university with a film school, most will require some kind of written statement about you and your goals. Start working on this months in advance. Ask your guidance or college counselor to read your essay. They are often able to give you the most specific help and advice since they have experience and insight on the college process. [11]
  5. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 13
    Select the creative elements (portfolio) of your application carefully. This will often be an extra part of the application, and each school has different requirements. Check carefully for each school to which you are applying -- you might have to do a different portfolio for each one. Think about how you want to present yourself to the admissions committee. If you have done a broad range of film projects, make sure your submission reflects this. You could submit a short film or excerpts from different works. If you are less experienced, you might want to explain how recent your interest in filmmaking is and any projects you have in process. [12]
  6. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 14
    Keep track of deadlines for applications and financial aid. Get applications in early so that you are certain the schools received them. Most students will be applying for some kind of financial assistance. The form for government grants and loans -- the FAFSA -- is mandatory for many schools. The school to which you are applying may also have a separate financial aid form. Read each school’s policy about financial aid carefully to make sure you don’t miss any paperwork or deadlines. [13]
  7. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 15
    Be realistic about your chances. Most schools post the ranges of grades and test scores they accept from their applicants. If yours are significantly lower than that range it's unlikely you'll be accepted. Also keep in mind that many of the most prestigious film programs are highly competitive and accept a very small percentage of those who apply. Make sure you have a few backup schools in case your first choices don't accept you.

Method 4
Deciding Between Film Schools

  1. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 16
    Choose the school that works best for your situation. Looking at the schools to which you were accepted, look at the college's offer on a larger context. Did they provide enough financial aid that it wouldn't be a hardship to attend? Think not just about tuition but room and board and travel money, particularly if you have to fly there. [14]
  2. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 17
    Make a pro and con list to clarify your thinking. Look at the creative possibilities, the academics, and the school itself. Debate locations and financial aid offers. Think about where you can thrive and achieve long-term goals. [15]
  3. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 18
    Contact students and faculty to help make up your mind. If you're still not sure where you'd like to go, reach out to the students and faculty you have talked to and ask for their advice. Many of the students have probably been in the same situation and often have good insight into the final decision.
  4. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 19
    Make your decision and let the school know. Most places require you to let them know by May 1, so keep that date in mind as you're working on your decision. Let the other schools know that you will not be attending as soon as you can -- they might be able to offer your spot to another student on a waiting list. [16]


  • If you are put on the wait list at a school, there is still hope that you might be accepted. Sometimes you won't have a final answer until after the May 1 deadline, so it can get complicated to accept one school while waiting to hear about entrance into another. Decide if the school that put you on the wait list is worth waiting for. If not, take your name off the list.
  • If you don't want to major in film or attend a designated film school, you can still take classes in film. There are also many community art programs and schools where anyone can take film courses. You also might want to check out intensive summer programs that are often offered for high school or college students through art schools or art museums to help expose them to filmmaking techniques.
  • Even if you don't end up getting in or going to a film school, there are many opportunities to be involved in the creation of film and television as you work or get a degree in something other than film.
  • If you are set on film school and don't get in, there's always next year. Work even harder on your application. See if you can get suggestions from the admissions offices where you want to apply again for how you might need to improve.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Applying for Tertiary Education