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  • Writer's pictureIan Soares

Bridging the Gap Between Student and Artist.

How Berridge eases the transition from high school to collegiate arts programs.

Musical Theatre students singing together on stage
Musical Theatre students perform in their final showcase at Berridge.

Most high school arts programs, well-funded or not, are treated by most students and parents as an extracurricular activity. This can certainly be frustrating for the two or three students per school that have a serious interest in a career in the performing arts. I went to a New England private high school that had a delightful arts program headed by a small team of dedicated teachers. While most kids in my performing arts classes were simply students there to enjoy their time and occasionally dabble in one of the three productions done each year, I wanted something more.

I imagine it to be a consistent challenge for high school drama teachers to keep everyone engaged and challenged. After all, it is easy for uninterested students to quickly let their minds wander, just as it's easy for the more dedicated students to feel they're not being challenged enough.

Prior to freshman year of high school I had little interest in acting. Some students at my school had started getting involved with the theatre as early as elementary school, but it wasn't until I had taken my first drama class in ninth grade that I realized what I was missing. As I started to become more and more interested in acting and started to work on multiple shows, I started to feel as I if I was reaching the limit of what I could learn from my high school theatre classes. Right around that time (the winter of my junior year), my drama teacher handed me a brochure for Berridge's summer arts program. She said, "if you're really curious about a career in the arts, you need to do this. A multi-week arts program is going to give you everything you need to make a decision." Go time.

Collage image of students in film, studio art and Shakespeare acting classes
(Left) Student, Dwayne Young captures his shot as Director and DOP on set for his original short film; (Center) Studio Art student works on self portrait painting; (Right) Student, Gabby Martin performs as Puck in Shakespeare's, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The shift from a high school arts program to a conservatory (or similar) collegiate program can be a difficult adjustment at first. The expectations are higher, the work is more intense, and stress can be unmanageable at times. So, what can be done to ease the transition from high school to college?

Summer pre-college programs are offered at many universities in the United States. The benefit to enrolling in one of these programs is that you'll be able to get a taste of what life is like as an undergraduate student - if you're accepted. The big question is: what makes Berridge different from a summer program attached to a University? Keep reading to discover what makes us stand out from similar pre-college experiences.

  1. It's not an audition. In many ways, pre-college programs that are attached to a collegiate institution may feel like one long audition. You might be taking classes with the same faculty that will audition you for their undergraduate program down the road which can certainly add a level of pressure to your summer experience. At Berridge, we focus on making sure you receive the best training possible, at your own pace. There is no pressure to adhere to a certain standard of work- we just ask that you give us your best effort. After all, we are here to get you excited about creating art!

  2. We teach more than just Theatre. Many programs will offer students specific training in one area of their choice. We are excited to announce that in our Spotlight program, students can choose two out of our four available majors: Acting, Film, Writing, and Musical Theatre. At our summer in France program, students can choose between our Acting and Film major and will then have the opportunity to choose one of four electives to supplement their studies! (Musical Theatre, Directing, Improvisation and Writer/Performer)

  3. We have a global presence. Not only does Berridge have established programs in both France and the United States, we also have faculty that live and work all over the world! Whether you plan to study with us in Santa Barbara or France, many of our faculty members will be traveling in from their home countries and living residentially for the duration of each program. Many of our alumni have continued on to study at collegiate level programs across the United States and United Kingdom as well!

  4. The program is built around YOU. We understand that everyone enters Berridge with a different level of experience in their area of interest. Our programs are designed to emphasize the student-faculty relationship, giving each student one-on-one time with their faculty member to determine their desired learning outcome. With that in mind, no one experience is the same. Students enrolled in any of our majors may choose from a variety of electives and will also have multiple performance opportunities throughout their time at Berridge, many of which are completely optional like our Saturday night open-mic-style events!

Film students preparing shot on film set
Film students, Ramiro Cantu and Liezl Bitas work on set of Ramio's short film, Fugazi.

Summer programs serve a great purpose in a developing artists' life. They offer a taste of what higher education is like, often giving students their first "full time" artistic experience. High school programs may dedicate a three hour block of extracurricular time to the arts, but a summer program will offer a full eight hour day of arts immersion to simulate the life of a conservatory student. Before a student makes the big commitment to attend a four year college, it might make sense to get a feel for what that lifestyle will be like.


Applications are now open for all programs. Students will be admitted to Spotlight, Generate, Summer in France, and Creative Semester programs on a rolling basis following completion of all application materials. We hope to welcome you to the Berridge family very soon.

For information on our new scholarships, please click here!


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