How smart do you need to be to go to film school?


New Member
Hi, I'm currently a junior in high school in California. The college admission processes are coming by soon. Obviously, the college admission process is completely unpredictable (lori, cough cough) but I would like to know how hard is it to be accepted into a film school (yes, I know each school is different). Right now I have a 4.3 gpa with a low SAT score of 1040. I'm not happy with my score and I was wondering if "spending my summer studying for the SAT (or ACT) to improve my score is worth it?". I would really appreciate some feedback, thank you!

Chris W

As You Wish
Staff member
GPA is great but yes I would try to improve that SAT score. Some schools are very competitive and a low SAT score might not put you in the pool. It'll be worth it to at least try to get a better one. It certainly can't hurt.

Some schools don't require an SAT however.

And welcome to the site! :)


I didn't apply to undergrad for film, so I don't have a lot of experience with that exactly. However--

Before you are accepted into a film program (UCLA, USC, NYU, etc) I think you have to get accepted into the university first. Even if your portfolio is stellar, if your grades and SAT scores are not on par with their average student, I don't think you would get in.

So it depends on the individual school if a 4.3 GPA and 1040 SAT would be competitive or not -- and then you could be accepted or rejects for the the film program.

At least, as far as I believe this process goes. If you have a college counselor at your school I would reach out to them or alumni.


Active Member
From what I've heard getting into undergrad is harder academically than an mfa - my grades were the most average of average. 79-81% depending if you count overloaded courses or not (I think that's a 3.3 grade average?).

But grades are not necessarily intelligence, and there are many types of intelligence. And think of whether your endgoal is to get into film school or to improve yourself as a creator/filmmaker.

You could definitely do both, but - have your endgoal in mind at the end of the day. You can try your best to get good grades but never lose sight of the filmmaking aspect, and choose the latter a little more often. If you can become good enough at whatever it is you choose to do, it get exponentially harder for people to ignore you.

An MFA requires you to have a portfolio and I believe many undergrad film programs do too. So I may spend my time pursuing whatever it is that can make you stand out. And if you love film it makes it so much easier to grind out portfolio work, as opposed to studying for classes you may not love as much. If you're above cutoff I think it really doesn't matter as much as something like a portfolio.

Good luck!!!!! Keep exploring the site, it's been an amazing tool for me and many others :)


New Member
Hey Kira! I appreciate your advice, I will definitely take the time to schedule appointments with my counselor!


New Member
Hi BuddernScotch, I love your advice on the different aspects of standing out, especially on having an end goal and killing it. Ever since sophomore year, I've been manifesting a portfolio by creating films (leads to films festivals) as a way to stand out. This summer I'm also trying to focus on the visual supplements for a few schools to make sure I truly stand out! Again, thank you so much for your advice!


Supporting Member
Another option might be the ACT. I didn’t go to film school in undergrad, but when I was applying to undergrad I looked up the average scores for the schools in which I was interested. This helped me know what score I was shooting for. I also knew that I wouldn’t do very well on the SAT, just based on my PSAT score. So I opted to take the ACT instead, after verifying that my schools only required one or the other. I got in to each one I applied to.

I know most people take the SAT, but I didn’t and I did just fine lol. This was several years ago, so things might be different now, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask your counselor about it.


Active Member
Supporting Member
Maybe @IndecisiveElle @BuddernScotch @Septopus7 and @Kira can paint chime in as well.

To succeed in film you certainly need a ton of drive and initiative and test scores can be a reflection of that. Low scores mean lower drive and initiative.
I didn't have a traditional undergrad path so my personal experience isn't really relevant for you, but I will echo what Chris said. If you really want to work in film, keep your standards as high as any other program at the schools you are applying to. BUT you do not need a film degree to work in the industry or to pursue film as a graduate student. Figure out what path makes sense for you and work your ass off. If you are set on a film undergrad at a competitive school look up the statistics on other incoming freshmen and try to meet those scores. Don't forget you're more than test scores, especially now that everyone gets good grades and seems to test better than back in my day. DO NOT FORGET ABOUT WRITING A GOOD ESSAY TOO.

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