# Need help with choosing a school

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Looks like you've mostly gotten the gist of the general recommendations. A Computer Information Science is probably not the same as computer science. I suspect it's a lot more of an IT degree, focusing on practical interaction with databases and making business apps than learning the solid theoretical backing you need to deal with 30+ years of changing industry.

Personally, I think limiting yourself to something local is detrimental. Probably the best CS program that's closest to you is Georgia Tech. Otherwise it's a matter of going through the available programs, seeing what courses they provide and what level of support they'll provide (just because the courses are the same on the syllabus doesn't mean you'll learn the same stuff just as well).

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I was a bit like you... I had done this and that, and was getting into a rut of retail management. At the age of 26, I also decided to go back to school... I'll tell you what I did, which worked out well and therefore I would recommend to you.

First of all, don't let the age thing scare you. You sound like me at that point... I was concerned about my age, but I also felt like I was naturally gifted with computers and software development, and that I would excel academically and stand out. Your age is actually a huge benefit; having been in the real world and having done the "dead end" jobs gives you an appreciation for college that you may not have had at a younger age. I had dabbled in school at the traditional age, and I spent all of my time partying, blowing off classes that I didn't think I needed, and generally accomplishing nothing. After going back to school, I did 103 hours (almost starting from scratch) with a 3.96 GPA... I was shocked at how much easier college was the second time around. It was a much tougher and more reputable program than my first attempt back in the day, but it was "easier" because I wasn't distracted and, in fact, I was absolutely DRIVEN to excel, stand out, and start a new life that I could be proud of.

I knocked out basics at Valencia Community College in Orlando, then transfered into UCF's computer science program, where I embraced my new role as an academic nerd. For what its worth, the UCF Computer Science program is actually very good. The academic are great with lots of electives--I was also interested in game development, so I focused my electives on computer graphics (even did some graduate coursework as part of my undergrad), AI, physics, and I took as much advanced math as I could squeeze in. But UCF's biggest plus for students who take advantage is their very good relationship with local industry. The simulation industry is huge here, and taking an intership or "experiential learning" job in the sim industry is a great way to get very relevant experience for game development. I believe they also have some relationship with EA Tiburon here for internships, but I'm not sure about that.

By the time I graduated from UCF, I was going on 30 but I had 2 years worth of part-time experience in the simulation industry, doing everything from 3D-graphics and virtual environment development to haptics research--that experience has been indescribably valuable in finding jobs and in negotiating salaries. I went to work for a large aerospace defense company in Orlando doing a desktop sim for a fighter plane (to train new pilots), and I just took a job with a VERY large company in the Seattle area--I don't know if its appropriate to say what or where, but you would know them and they have game studios. My point is simply that a traditional CS degree is the smartest thing I did, and age has not been a factor at all. Take your time--don't jump into an accelerated program because you're worried about age, but it's okay to take summer classes every year--do your best to excel and stand out, seek out opportunities for employment as a student (UCF has an office for that), etc., and you will be absolutely fine.

I actually originally moved to Orlando from a small state with nothing to offer precisely because of Fullsail. I really thought that's what I wanted to do... they are very, very, very good at marketing their programs. The school looks like a computer geek's wet dream--and they make sure that you realize that on the tours--and their website even has an awesome vibe. Luckily, I couldn't afford it at the time, so I got into retail and then retail management; that's what eventually motivated me to go back to get my degree.

I don't have any negative feelings towards Fullsail (I work with a very bright guy who graduated from there), but I feel that I have a better education, a more reputable academic record, and more opportunity with my CS degree than I would have, and I got it for a fraction of the price of the Fullsail program.

That's my 2 cents... you remind me of myself 5 or 6 years ago, and I can't express how incredibly satisfied I am that I went the route I went. Since you are in the same area and UCF and its industry ties are within driving distance I thought I'd throw it out there, and enthusiastically recommend it. If you go that route and invest 3-4 years in school, don't be in a hurry... enjoy the ride and take your time to do everything as well as you can. You won't regret it.

ALSO:

It's worth noting that UCF, EA, and the state of Florida jointly founded a fully accredited Master of Science degree program for interactive entertainment at FEIA. It's a masters degree in game development that carries with it the credibility that comes with being awarded by the 6th largest public university in the country. I didn't go through that program (it's pretty new) but I know people who did, and a lot of them are going well for themselves.

[Edited by - smitty1276 on February 22, 2008 12:51:43 PM]

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 Original post by spyridonzI seen someone in an old post on these forums recommend getting a normal computer science degree, and then following it up with Digipen's Masters in Game Development.

Digipen does not offer a Masters in Game Development, they offer a Masters in Computer Science. Even better [smile]

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 Original post by spyridonzI seen someone in an old post on these forums recommend getting a normal computer science degree, and then following it up with Digipen's Masters in Game Development. This stood out as a really good idea to me. I would not have the possible restrictions of a game-only job, would save quite a bit on money, have a less stressful course, spend way less on gas money while saving alot of travel time, and have a masters degree that I would not be able to attain if I went to Full Sail.

You need to pick the school that will be best for you, not necessarily the best school. If going to the school of your dreams means you'll be $120,000 in debt when you graduate, it might be a bad idea for you. If finances are an issue, go to a University, preferably in-state, and get a degree you can afford. Following up your first degree by moving to Washington, spending another$18,780+ on tuition, and paying rent in an area where apartments average over $1,000 per month, I don't see how this is financially a good plan for you. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Thanks for the advice guys! Everything you shared about UCF sounded very good so I am going to look in to them. I also got a suggestion for the Guildhall at SMU. The thing I like about the Guildhall is the job placement program they have - it seems to be pretty successful, and that is a big thing that Full Sail was lacking. But are there any negative things I should know about Guildhall that are not obvious from looking at their information? I'm not going to rush in to a decision, I want to be positive by the time I make a choice, but so far its down to these 2 schools. Does anyone have any other information they would like to share or any other recommendations? Thanks! #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Quote:  Original post by gekkoYou need to pick the school that will be best for you, not necessarily the best school. If going to the school of your dreams means you'll be$120,000 in debt when you graduate, it might be a bad idea for you. If finances are an issue, go to a University, preferably in-state, and get a degree you can afford.Following up your first degree by moving to Washington, spending another $18,780+ on tuition, and paying rent in an area where apartments average over$1,000 per month, I don't see how this is financially a good plan for you.

Yes thank you for the advice. I know I have to pick whats best for me personally, thats why I am trying to make sure that I am aware of the best possible options are for me at the moment.

I'm doing some research on the Digipen option because even at the $18,000+ tuition cost, I would be able to get a CS degree and a Master's degree all at a lower cost then it would take for me to go only to Full Sail. It seems to be a pretty known school with direct ties to the game industry, which would help me out in the industry of course, and with a prior CS degree I will have a well rounded education that many game developers that only go to a game dev school would be lacking. The choice for Digipen is down the line though. My main choice right now is what school would be best for me to attend first. After getting my Bachelor's then it seems the best options that I know of at this point would be to follow up with the Digipen Master's degree program, or the suggested Master's offered at UCF. If there are any options that I am unaware of please let me know =) #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites To be blunt, the curriculum at Fullsail is lacking. Simply look at the course catalog -- not nearly enough mathematics and they have a tendency to teach things rather than theory and principles; The prime example of this is the fact that they teach full classes on both Direct3D and OpenGL, despite the fact that the differences are almost 100% syntactic. I'm sure they cover the theory as well, to some extent, but if the theory is taught well enough, devoting time to learning syntax is rather wasteful (but of course, they get to charge you for another 6-10 credits at$300+ a pop.)

Yes, there are some really great people that have passed through Fullsail, but I use the words "passed through" very carefully -- I don't think these people benefited a great deal by attending Fullsail, and I think they would have been better off at a traditional University.

I liken Fullsail to a military boot-camp, they give you the skills you need to do a job, but not necessarily the skills to build a career on. Some people simply have, or will develop, those skills on their own -- but there are far better educational facilities at which to develop them under guidance.

It sounds as though Smitty has been exactly, practically speaking, where you are now, so his advice should weigh heavily in your decision. Its not often that you receive advice from someone who so closely paralleled your situation.

For my part, I attended Digipen straight out of high school. I enjoyed it and feel that it developed my understanding of theory and principles well. I'm happy that I went there, and I've had no problems receiving employment and job offers both in and out of the games industry. That said, hindsight being 20/20, I may have been better off attending a traditional university first if not for additional background then for the time to mature more as a student. At roughly $14,000 per semester, Digipen (or a similarly pricey school) is not the place to spend a semester or two discovering that you have poor study habits or difficulty focusing on your coursework -- I learned this the hard way, at a cost of an additional year in school, .75 off my final GPA, and$25,000 in additional loans.

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 Original post by spyridonzTDoes anyone have any other information they would like to share or any other recommendations?
My only other recommendation, which I didn't explicitly make earlier, is that you should set out to become a kick ass computer scientist, not a game developer. If you are the former, you can do the latter.

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Original post by smitty1276
Quote:
 Original post by spyridonzTDoes anyone have any other information they would like to share or any other recommendations?
My only other recommendation, which I didn't explicitly make earlier, is that you should set out to become a kick ass computer scientist, not a game developer. If you are the former, you can do the latter.

Hmm.. so would I be better off going to Digipen over FIEA when the time comes to move on to a Master's program? Since they offer a masters in computer science and FIEA's is a masters in interactive entertainment?

For my Bachelors, at the moment I'm leaning towards UCF as recommended. Both Digipen and FIEA looks like good programs - but I am not familiar enough with them to make an educated decision on which I think would be best for me.

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Well I have been out of high school for nearly 3 years. I tried a year of college and I did poorly. Not going to class half the time (usually slept through them) or failing to study, I found it hard to get good grades. I decided to try something different. One day I saw a commercial for DeVry universoty online which offered Game and Simulation programming online now (it wasn't that way when I talked to a representative first out of high school).

Its 8 week long classes instead of the normal 16 week long classes at a traditional college. I get instant feedback on my homework, quizes and tests. This just makes me more motivated to get my classes done each week. Right now I am doing 2 classes at one time and here in a week I will be doing 3 classes per week. It is really nice being able to come home at night and do my homework on my time rather than being forced to be there at a certain time. That makes it feel more like a job, and I already have one of those.

Long story short. If you aren't sure you could give online classes a shot as they are only 8 weeks long. After 8 weeks if you don't like it than you can move on to a physical campus. I know DeVry offers both where you can attend both at the same time even. PM me for any questions about my experience.

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I second devry. Technically semesters are 16 weeks long, for full time status you take 4 classes in the 16 weeks but they break them down and instead of having 4 classes for 16 weeks you have 2 classes for 8 weeks, then 2 more for 8 weeks. Its great that way because you only have to concentrate on 2 classes at once. The above poster is right about all of the instant feedback and pretty much unlimited support. After doing online classes I dont know if I could go back to a regular campus (although at devry you can do both)

One word of caution, the classes are not to be taken lightly. They start off easy but will get pretty demanding and some can be alot of work. But I have learned so much since I started.

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 Original post by spyridonzHmm.. so would I be better off going to Digipen over FIEA when the time comes to move on to a Master's program? Since they offer a masters in computer science and FIEA's is a masters in interactive entertainment?

Nobody can compare those two of your possible futures for you. Nobody can say for certain which of those two courses of action will make you better off. The decision should be made when you're much closer to graduating with your bachelor's degree, based on your circumstances at the time, using a number of criteria to make your decision. There are good things to be said for an MA in CS and an MA in Interactive Entertainment. Having either of those under your belt (or should I say hanging on your wall) is likely to make you an attractive candidate.

If you haven't seen it yet, the decision grid I described at http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson25.htm is a very useful tool for making school decisions (or job decisions, or any other important decision).

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 Original post by spyridonzHmm.. so would I be better off going to Digipen over FIEA when the time comes to move on to a Master's program? Since they offer a masters in computer science and FIEA's is a masters in interactive entertainment?

Why is a Master's degree so important to you? If you spend 4 years as a traditional university to learn computer science, you have plenty of time to work on making games. Spend your free time reading books, getting together with other people who share your interests and make games.

If this is truly what you want to do the rest of your life, then work for it. For what it's worth, I know what it's like to go back to school. I joined the Marines out of high school, and now I attend DigiPen. I had to re-learn how to add fractions just to take the ACT and SAT so I could apply for school. It's a pain, but you're a little older and wiser now. If you really want to make this your career, put your heart and soul into it. I literally spend over 13 hours a day doing schoolwork. Your school may not force you to make games, but you can easily spend your free time learning on your own. What's important is you learn the science of computers, because without it, you won't be making games.

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 Original post by spyridonzHmm.. so would I be better off going to Digipen over FIEA when the time comes to move on to a Master's program? Since they offer a masters in computer science and FIEA's is a masters in interactive entertainment?
I wasn't meaning to imply anything about graduate studies... I think a BS in CS is sufficient to make you into a budding young "computer scientist". I'm not sure that you need a masters at all, and even if you do decide to get a masters the name of the program is a bit arbitrary... one school may call it "computer science"--with an emphasis on this or that--while another might call it "enteractive entertainment" (BTW, regarding the comment by Tom Sloper--who gives phenomenal advice--I wanted to clarify that the UCF interactive entertainment degree is actually an accredited Master of Science, not an MA.)

Again, I was coming from pretty much the same situation as you are, and if I were you I would go to school, take my time, excel academically, and enjoy the ride... but as soon as I had that BS I would get a job. Your age, as I said, can be beneficial to you at this point, but I would still whole-heartedly recommend getting yourself into a career path as soon as you realistically can... that may mean getting the BS and putting of the graduate studies for a couple of years until you are comfortably in a job.

And in case I didn't make the implication clear... you do not need any degree in "game design" or "interactive entertainment" or "realtime simulation" to get a job making games. Don't convince yourself that you have to have one of those degrees to get a job, or that you need to follow-up a CS degree. I filled you in on my results so far, and I'm happy with them, but what I didn't mention is that I myself was recruited by game studios. I chose a different path initially, but those opportunities were there for me if I had wanted them.

If you want a job making games, choose your electives wisely--take courses that are relevant to what you want to do--and get relevant experience in internships or "cooperative education" type jobs. Most importantly, if you are passionate about game development or anything else, then you are going to do a lot of that stuff for fun in your free time, as a hobby... build a portfolio of your work.

Do that and you'll have less debt, you'll be working quicker, and you'll be fine.

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 Original post by Tom SloperNobody can compare those two of your possible futures for you. Nobody can say for certain which of those two courses of action will make you better off. The decision should be made when you're much closer to graduating with your bachelor's degree, based on your circumstances at the time, using a number of criteria to make your decision. There are good things to be said for an MA in CS and an MA in Interactive Entertainment. Having either of those under your belt (or should I say hanging on your wall) is likely to make you an attractive candidate.

Ah yes, I know noone can make that choice for me, I was not intending for anyone to do that for me. Sorry I didnt clarify that a bit more.

I'm simply seeking some more information about my possible choices. Honestly I just have no idea what the real reputation of these schools are past what I can easily find on the internet, most of which was probably designed by an advertizing team. I'd rather hear the true reputations from people who werent paid to say what they say =)

Quote:

Well, I assumed since you said I should aim to be a kick-ass Computer Scientist, that the Digipen program would be superior because the Master is actually for Computer Science, where as FIEA is for Interactive Entertainment. Truth be told I do not even know what Interactive Entertainment really involves, but from their website it seems more along the lines of a game development program. I know little about Digipen and even less about FIEA. (I had never heard of it until you told me about it.)

I may or may not continue schooling after the BS. At this point I am very motivated, so if it was time for me to make my decision now I would probably continue on, especially seeing that the masters programs are typically only a year or less. I also am pretty interested in taking this as far as I can, so I am interested in going for a Masters not only for the degree, but for the actual education too, along with some learning situations along the way that would be hard to emulate anywhere else. When the time comes I know I may feel differently. I may want to concentrate on a job already, or I may be burned out of school, or I may just get a job offer I dont want to pass up. Yet I would still like to get a good early start on my research on all of my choices so I am more then prepared to come to a decision when the time comes.

I'm going to take electives relevant to game development for sure. I will probably be back here for recommendations for that when I am ready to make that choice too =).

I am beginning to work hard already, months before I am even going to be able to start school. I'm re-learning C++ to the point I was at 8 or so years ago (I havent used it in all that time, so I forgot much of it.) and have been spending 6-8 hours on it just about every day, trying to get myself in to the habit. I never got in to graphical programming much but I plan on working on that and learning some DirectX before I even go to school, so I could start working on my portfolio early, and I'll hopefully at least have something to show in it before I even attend school. I can then expand on it in my free time while I am at school, applying the knowledge that I have learned along the way.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone for all the responses up to this point. You guys have exceeded all expectations I had when I decided to post here, and I feel confident that I now have somewhat of an idea of the path I am going to take. I would like to give a special thanks to Smitty, as his advice has been more then helpful. It's inspiring to find someone who has been in so similar of a situation and had it work out for them. He also helped me regain some confidence about things I was unsure of, such as starting school at my age. When I came here I was worried that it was a problem, and now I see it as my advantage. Simple things such as this can be priceless.

Coming here has really been one of the best choices I've made for my career and future prior to attending school. If I did not come here, I would probably have attended Full Sail never quite being sure if it was the best option for me. Not to say that I would not succeed if I went to Full Sail, but this way will save me quite a bit of money, and according to the general opinion, I will be attaining a much more well rounded education, which of course opens up more options for my future. Thanks!

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a Florida spy wrote:
>I'm simply seeking some more information about my possible choices. Honestly I just have no idea what the real reputation of these schools are ...

"Reputations" is not a great criterion for choosing a school. Don't worry about appearances. Worry about whether you're up to making the most of whatever education you get.

I hope you looked at that decision grid I pointed you to last time. And I wrote about the importance of schools' reputations in this article: http://www.igda.org/columns/gamesgame/gamesgame_Nov05.php

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 Original post by spyridonzWell, I assumed since you said I should aim to be a kick-ass Computer Scientist, that the Digipen program would be superior because the Master is actually for Computer Science, where as FIEA is for Interactive Entertainment. Truth be told I do not even know what Interactive Entertainment really involves, but from their website it seems more along the lines of a game development program. I know little about Digipen and even less about FIEA. (I had never heard of it until you told me about it.)

By the time you get into a Master's program, it's all "computer science" whether they call it that or not. Any post-graduate stuff starts getting into specialization. The Digipen people decided to call their's a "computer science" master's, while FIEA decided to call their's "Interactive entertainment"... if you look at the curricula, they are pretty much similar. FEIA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which accredits most of the major universities in the south, while Digipen is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology... I don't know if either accreditation is superior to the other.

The reason you probably haven't heard of FIEA is because its a new program... they have small cohorts of students, and are on their 4th or 5th I think. You can go look at the graduates page and see where they are nowadays, and it looks like they place pretty much everyone so far.

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