20 Best Undergraduate Degree Programs in Screenwriting

By Kelsey Fox
January 2021

Do you dream of seeing your story come to life on the screen? Choosing to pursue a degree in screenwriting can be a weighty decision. After all, the entertainment industry is a tough market! But oftentimes, those who succeed are those who have been formally trained in both their craft and industry expectations. That’s why Best Choice Schools went on the hunt for the 20 best undergraduate degree programs in screenwriting.

Ranking Methodology

To develop our ranking of the 20 best screenwriting degree programs, we started by compiling a list of colleges and universities offering just such a program. We considered bachelor’s degrees, as well as minors and certificate programs. We also considered arts schools, research universities, and liberal arts colleges. To narrow down our list to just the top 20, we used the following points-based system. Because different programs have different strengths, and because future writers look for different things in a writing program we focused our points system on less subjective qualities like graduation rate and class size.

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: 
Under $70,000 – 1 point
Under $60,000 – 2 points
Under $50,000 – 3 points
Under $40,000 – 4 points
Under $30,000 – 5 points
Under $20,000 – 6 points
Under $15,000 –  7 points
Under $10,000 – 8 points

Annual Percentage of 20-Year Net Return on Investment (ROI):
0-2% – 1 point
3-4% – 2 points
5-6% – 3 points
7-8% – 4 points
9%+ – 5 points

Graduation Rate: 
Below 60% – 1 point
Below 70% – 2 points
Below 80% – 3 points
Below 90% – 4 points
Below 100% – 5 points

Student-to-Faculty Ratio
20:1 and More — 1 point
15:1 and More — 2 points
10:1 and More — 3 points
5:1 and More — 4 points 

Note: Points were allocated based on out-of-state tuition. In the event of a tie, the school with the lower annual tuition was given the higher ranking. 

20. Bennington College
Screenwriting

Bennington, Vermont
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $55,950
Total Points: 8

Bennington College works a little differently than other schools. Instead of following a set series of courses as part of a degree program, students at Bennington design their own course of study. For those interested in screenwriting, the options are many. They include Scene and Structure, The Story Studio, and Advanced Screenwriting, to name but three. Those dedicated to a career in film will appreciate the fact that Bennington was the first college to include visual and performing arts as an equal partner in its liberal arts curriculum. 

19. Savannah College of Art and Design
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing

Savannah, Georgia 
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $38,075
Total Points: 8

Savannah College of Art and Design, perhaps known better as SCAD, offers both a B.F.A and an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing. The undergraduate writing program guides students through learning to draft stories for the theater, film, television, and animation. In some cases, students will have the opportunity to collaborate with other SCAD artists to see their written work come to life on the screen. One hundred-eighty hours of coursework is required. Classes include Truth in Acting: The Methods; Writing the Television Spec Script, and Improvisation for Writers, to name but three. Students at the private arts school will have the opportunity to learn from professional writers, including Mr. Holland’s Opus scribe Michael Nolin. 

18. Point Park University
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $32,750
Total Points: 9

Point Park University is a private university offering a B.F.A. in Screenwriting. The 126-credit hour program emphasizes both the theory of storytelling and the hands-on development of screenplays. Students complete a core curriculum tailored towards their interest in the arts before completing major coursework. Class options include Story Analysis, History of International Cinema, and Writing for TV Animation, to name but a few. A senior thesis is required, while an internship is optional. A number of successful Point Park University alumni are currently working in the entertainment industry, including actress Melina Kanakaredes, writer/director Gino Anthony Pesi, and comedian Dennis Miller.

17. Columbia College Chicago
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Television Writing and Business

Chicago, Illinois
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $27,176
Total Points: 9

Columbia College Chicago is a private college specializing in arts and media. Students interested in both writing and producing are likely to appreciate that Columbia’s B.F.A. includes both the skill and business of writing for television. Columbia students spend their first year completing courses such as Business of Media and Aesthetics of Storytelling. By the time they are preparing to graduate, students work on capstone thesis projects in an actual “writer’s room” environment — just like they would in the real world. Columbia College Chicago boasts a long list of notable alumni. The list includes SNL cast member Aidy Bryant, the rapper Common, actress Michelle Monaghan, and Pat Sajak, to name but a few. 

16. Academy of Art University
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Film, Television, & Digital Media

San Francisco, California
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $23,412
Total Points: 9

Academy of Art University is a private, for-profit arts school located in San Francisco. The academy offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts which can be completed on the San Francisco campus, or online from anywhere. Required coursework includes Characters & Backstory, First Steps in Television, and TV Pilot Creation, to name but three. Over the course of the program, students learn to develop engaging scripts in light of current industry standards. Some of Academy of Art University’s notable alumni include actress Raven-Symoné, fashion designer and author Lauren Conrad, and Shrek and Shark Tale director Vicky Jensen. 

15. Metropolitan State University
Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting

Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $8,114 (in-state), $15,428 (out-of-state)
Total Points: 9

Metropolitan State University is a public university located in the Twin Cities. The university offers a B.A. in Screenwriting. To begin the 120-credit hour program, students complete a series of five courses and an internship. They then move on to three elective courses of their choice. Potential coursework includes New Screenplay Forms, Writing for Video Games, and World Cinema, to name but three. Students may also choose to minor in such subjects as Theatre, Digital Media, or Creative Writing. 

14. Drexel University
Bachelor of Science in Screenwriting & Playwriting 

drexel-university

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $54,516
Total Points: 10

Drexel University offers a B.S. degree in screenwriting and playwriting. The program places a big focus on the principles of dramatic writing, while also providing students with opportunities for hands-on learning. Each writing course is capped at 12 students. Coursework includes classes like Writing the Short Film and Off-Campus Show Development. Students are also required to complete a senior project of professional scope. 

13. The University of the Arts
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $46,680
Total Points: 10

With a history dating back to the 1870s, The University of Arts in Philadelphia is one of the oldest arts schools in the nation. It offers one of the only B.F.A. in Screenwriting degrees on the East Coast. The hands-on programs allows students to hone their craft through intensive classes such as TV Story Analysis and Character, among to many others. An internship opportunity is available during the student’s last year. The University of the Arts has a long list of notable alumni, including actress Ana Ortiz, actress KaDee Strickland, and authors/illustrators Jan and Stan Berenstain. 

12. New York Film Academy
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting 

Burbank, California
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $32,542
Total Points: 10

New York Film Academy has long been a leader in filmmaking education. Students pursuing a B.F.A. in Screenwriting take part in an accelerated, three-year program of intensive hands-on experience. Unlike a more traditional program, this screenwriting program is all about building a portfolio of writing samples. By the end of the first semester, students’ portfolios will already consist of short treatments for two possible feature-length films, a short film script, and a developed treatment for a film. The Academy boasts a number of other screenwriting programs, including an M.F.A., and an Associate’s of Fine Arts. One-, 8-, and 12-week screenwriting workshops are also available, as is a 1-year program that does not culminate in a degree. A slew of successful industry figures call themselves alumni, including Bill Hader, Aubrey Plaza, and Damon Wayans, Jr., to name but three.

11. Chapman University
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting 

Orange, California
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $54,924
Total Points: 11

Chapman University is a private school located in Southern California. It offers a number of film-related degree programs, including a B.F.A. in Screenwriting. Over the course of the 66-credit program, students study the history of film, different forms of script writing, and the development process of film and television. Elective options range from Film and American History, to Theories of Personality, to Cultural Anthropology — all subjects sure to benefit a writer. A number of successful industry figures have graduated from Chapman. These include comedian Leslie Jones, actor Colin Hanks, and Stranger Things creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer. 

10. DePaul University
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television w/ a concentration in Screenwriting 

Chicago, Illinois
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $41,202
Total Points: 11

DePaul University is a private Catholic university located in Chicago. Students pursuing a B.F.A. in Film and Television at DePaul have the option of 11 concentrations, one of which is screenwriting. DePaul’s city location means students often have the opportunity to work on sets of real shows, such as Chicago PD and Empire. The screenwriting concentration consists of a series of core classes, plus writing classes on story development, film structure, and the art of adaptation, among other things. DePaul’s successful alumni are many, and include Gillian Anderson, Judy Greer, and John C. Reilly. 

9. Marymount Manhattan College
Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts w/ a concentration in Creative Media 

New York, New York
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $35,628
Total Points: 11

Marymount Manhattan College is a private liberal arts school located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The college offers a B.A. in Communication Arts which is flexible and allows students to forge their own educational path. One such path is a concentration in Creative Media. This unique focus immerses students in their choice of filmmaking topic, including Writing for Television, Screenplay Writing, and Storytelling Across the Media, to name but three. Marymount Manhattan College’s most notable alumni include actress Laverne Cox, actress Alexander Skarsgard, and actress Moira Kelly, to name but three. 

8. Judson University
Bachelor of Arts in Media Writing 

Elgin, Illinois
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $29,870
Total Points: 11

Judson University is a private Christian liberal arts school located about one hour west of Chicago. The university offers a B.A. in Media Writing. This unique program covers the history, theory, and rules of writing for “old” and “new” media. Required courses include Media Writing, Screenwriting, and Public Relations. This makes Judson’s screenwriting program a great option for those who are interested in more of the industry than just writing. 

7. Loyola Marymount University
Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting

Los Angeles, California
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $50,683
Total Points: 12 

Loyola Marymount University boasts the obvious benefit of being located right in Los Angeles. No wonder so many Loyola students find themselves interning on actual Hollywood sets! The university’s B.A. in Screenwriting consists of a series of interesting courses. These include Directing for Screenwriters, Writing One-Hour Episodic TV, and Writing the TV Situation Comedy, to name but three. Before graduation, students also complete a senior writing project. The list of notable alumni is a long one. Mila Kunis graduation from Loyola Marymount, as did director Francis Lawrence, actress Linda Cardellini, and actress Busy Phillips, among myriad others. 

6. University of Southern California
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen & Television 

Los Angeles, California 
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $58,195
Total Points: 14

Besides being one of the best universities in the country, University of South Carolina has the added benefit of being located in the midst of the filmmaking industry. USC offers a B.F.A. in Writing for Screen & Television. Over the course of the program, students work with real industry professionals in workshop-style classes. Required courses include Motion Picture Script Analysis, Writing the Half-Hour Comedy Series, and Advanced Feature Rewriting, to name but three. A few of USC’s most notable alumni are George Lucas, Judd Apatow, and Will Ferrell. 

5. University of Cincinnati
Certificate in Screenwriting 

university-of-cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $11,660 (in-state), $26,994 (out-of-state)
Total Points: 14

University of Cincinnati offers a screenwriting certificate which can be added on to any undergraduate major. To complete the certificate program, students take introductory-level courses focusing on storytelling and script formatting. Students are then able to decide if they’d like to focus more on television writing or film writing before completing a series of electives. Students graduate with a solid understanding of both the artistic and business sides of screenwriting. 

4. Central Washington University
Bachelor of Arts in Film Production w/ a Screenwriting Minor 

Ellensburg, Washington
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $8,273 (in state), $23,954 (out of state)
Total Points: 14

Central Washington University students who are interested in pursuing a career as a screenwriter can major in Film Production, but focus on Screenwriting. The 34-credit minor consists of courses such as Writing for Serial Media, Scriptwriter in Development and Production, and The Writers’ Room. A practicum is also required. 

3. SUNY at Purchase College
Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting and Playwriting 

Purchase, New York
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $8,923 (in-state), $18,833 (out-of-state)
Total Points: 14

SUNY at Purchase College is one of the only colleges in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in writing for both the screen and the stage. Purchase’s B.A. in Screenwriting and Playwriting includes courses like Plays and Playgoing, Writing for Television, and The Writer and the Documentary, to name but three. Classes average just 15 students at a time. Former Purchase attendees include Stanley Tucci, Edie Falco, and Parker Posey, among others. 

2. University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting 

Winston-Salem, North Carolina 
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $9,358 (in-state), $25,901 (out-of-state)
Total Points: 15

University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is a public arts school that grants high school, undergraduate, and graduate degrees. One such degree is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting. Uniquely, the first two years of the program are spent honing skills in a variety of filmmaking areas. At the end of a student’s second year, they are formally admitted into the screenwriting program. They they immerse themselves into screenwriting by preparing an entire feature-length script, then preparing it for the professional marketplace. 

1. Ohio University
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film w/ a Minor in Screenwriting/Digital Storytelling

ohio-university

Athens, Ohio (Main Campus)
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $12,612 (in state), $22,406
Total Points: 15

Those pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film from one of Ohio University’s branches may tailor their degree by minoring in Screenwriting/Digital Storytelling. The six-course minor begins with an introductory course on Media & the Creative Process. Students then choose between short form scriptwriting, or the more traditional script analysis and production. The final four classes come from a list of advanced courses which includes options like Adaptation, Non-Traditional Storytelling, and Advanced Screenwriting. 

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