Aspiring screenwriters often ask “what are the best screenwriting programs?” And although that question certainly holds merit, its answer is completely subjective. The truth is that there are no “best screenwriting schools;” for one person it may be YouTube, for another it may be an Ivy League institution. Still, we’re going to break down the pros of some of the most renowned screenwriting schools so that you can see whether or not they’re worth pursuing!
Screenplay Writing Colleges
Notable Alumni: Chris Terrio, Shonda Rhimes, David Goyer, Bryan Fuller, etc.
The University of Southern California Wells Division offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, a Master of Fine Arts degree, and Minors in Comedy and Screenwriting.
The University of Southern California Cinematic Arts department is one of the most renowned film programs in the world. As such, it should come as no surprise that its John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television is as competitive as it is.
College Gazette reports that USC admits just 3% of film-school applicants each year.
Best Screenwriting Schools in the World
- Notable Alumni: David Koepp, Eric Roth, Paul Schrader, David S. Ward, etc.
- The University of California School of Theater, Film and Television offers a Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting.
The University of California School of Theater, Film and Television isn’t just venerated for its state of the art equipment and distinguished professors, it's venerated for its low-cost of admission as well. For California residents, the 2021-22 UCLA undergraduate tuition was listed at 13,249; graduate tuition was slightly higher at $17,756.
That low-tuition cost comes at a price though – the Daily Bruin reported in 2019 that the School of Theater, Film and Television had a 4% acceptance rate!
Best Colleges for Screenwriting
Notable Alumni: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Ben York Jones, etc.
The Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree.
The Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University is a major player in the film-school game due to its impressive facilities and industry connections. Students in the B.F.A program are required to write at least two feature-length screenplays.
Best Screenwriting Programs
- Notable Alumni: Kathryn Bigelow, Simon Kinberg, Christina Lazaridi, James Mangold, etc.
- Columbia University offers a Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting/Directing.
Columbia University is one of the only Ivy League schools in the U.S. to offer a dedicated screenwriting program. Well, not quite dedicated – in fact, Columbia’s M.F.A. program is unique in that it is dual-disciplinary; that is, focused on screenwriting and directing.
Good Schools for Screenwriting
- Notable Alumni: Susannah Grant, Frank Spotnitz, Jacqueline Hoyt, etc.
- The American Film Institute offers a Master of Fine Arts degree program in Screenwriting.
The American Film Institute, more commonly known as AFI, is an especially-esteemed conservatory for students and faculty. That said, it’s small… like really small. In 2019, Data USA reported that the Institute had just 334 students! Tuition also isn’t cheap; in fact, it starts at $59,951.
Best Universities for Scriptwriting
- Notable Alumni: Corinne N. Brinkerhoff, Scott Rosenberg, Allan Folsom, etc.
- The Boston University College of Communication offers a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Screenwriting.
Boston University is one of the most prestigious non-Ivy league higher education institutions on the East coast. Many people wonder if Boston is a good place for aspiring screenwriters to study – and that perspective is certainly well-warranted; it’s a long way away from Hollywood.
But the truth is that Boston is a hot-bed for academics; and close enough to shooting locations in Atlanta and New York that in-person meetings are never too far away.
List of Screenwriting MFA Programs
- Notable Alumni (writers not just in the Screenwriting program): Bill Burr, Kate Boutilier, George Watsky, etc.
- Emerson College offers a Master of Fine Arts degree program in Writing for Film and Television.
Emerson College has produced some huge names in the entertainment industry, including Jay Leno, Henry Winkler, and Denis Leary – but did you know their M.F.A. degree program in Writing for Film and Television is one of the most unique in the country?
Emerson’s screenwriting is 100% online coursework with a 1-week residency at the start of each semester. That structure may not make sense for every aspiring screenwriter – but it’s probably perfect for some.
Screenplay Writing Colleges
- Notable Alumni: Travis Beacham, Brett Haley, Jeff Nichols, etc.
- The University of North Carolina School of Arts offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degree program in Screenwriting.
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts was the first public arts conservatory in the U.S. Over its near sixty-year history, UNCSA has produced big names in five fields: dance, drama, design & production, film, and music.
UNCSA tuition for in-state undergraduate students starts at $6,497, and $9,196 for in-state graduate students.
Top 10 Screenwriting Schools
- Notable Alumni (writers not just in the Screenwriting program): Donald Glover, Kenneth Lonergan, John Fusco, etc.
- The New York University Tisch School offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program and a Master of Fine Arts degree program in Dramatic Writing, as well as a certificate program in television and screenwriting.
The New York University Tisch School takes a bit of a different approach to screenwriting as compared to other screenwriting schools. Emphasis isn’t placed so much on the feature-length form but rather the dramatic reasoning behind effective storytelling.
Students in the B.F.A. and M.F.A. programs can expect to study prose, plays, and scripts.
Best Screenwriting Programs
- Notable Alumni: Brian Helgeland, Francis Lawrence, Glen Morgan, Winifred Hervy, etc.
- Loyola Marymount University offers a Bachelor of Arts degree program in Screenwriting and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for the Screen, as well as a minor in Screenwriting.
Loyola Marymount University has become a major player in the “screenwriting schools game” for its experienced faculty and its prime location just south of Playa Vista in Los Angeles, California.
LMU offers undergraduate, graduate, and minor degrees in screenwriting, making it an enticing institution for a variety of applicants.
Best Screenwriting Classes Online
If you’re not quite ready to apply to a degree program, then perhaps you should consider taking screenwriting classes online. In our next article, we break down the best online screenwriting classes, with both free and paid options. By the end, you’ll know where to go for immediate access to screenwriting education.