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spyridonz

Need help with choosing a school

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Hey all! I'm new here and I'm posting because I've finally decided to continue following my dream of becoming a game developer, and I need a bit of help. I dont know very much about what schools would be best for me. I was at first amazed when I checked out the Full Sail page, noticing that it is only about an hour away from my house, but after reading up a bit I'm not so sure that is the best idea. Now dont get me wrong, I think the course itself sounds great - I would welcome the difficulty of it because I have complete faith that I am determined enough to pull thru, and I am sure that it would be a great experience to be able to work together with like-minded people and have that much hands on experience in coding, and I even think the campus itself is amazing. I started re-learning what I used to know of C++ and assuming I ever went thru with plans to go to full sail, I was planning on making sure my C++ skills were polished and that I worked a bit with the various API's enough that I was completely faithful in my knowledge before I went. I would want to be one of the top students in the course - I'm not saying I would be THE best, but I'm prepared to work enough that I'm sure I'd be ONE of the best. I think that is the key for success no matter what school you go to - but that stands even more so with Full Sail and their format. After researching a bit there are of course things that worry me about going. The obvious first one is the fairly high tuition costs. This combined with having to drive for at least an hour (close to 2 on rush hour) there and back would put a hurt on me financially. Second is that I have heard mixed thoughts on their bachelors degree compared to other computer science degrees. We all know finding a job in the gaming industry may not be a easy thing to attain after school, and I heard full sail doesnt have very good job placement at all, so the possible limits from having a "gaming development" degree instead of a "computer science" degree may hurt during these situations. Also the accreditation worrys me a bit, because I will never be able to follow up with a masters (unless I do their entertainment business one..) I 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. I know a piece of paper does not guarantee you a job, but in the end, I would be walking away with more for less - aside from it taking more time. So that brings me to where I need your guys help. I need to know which schools that are local to me are my best options. I currently reside in Wesley Chapel, Florida, zip code 33544. There are a bunch of local schools near me which offer various programs, and I dont know which I should look for. There are quite a few game development bachelors, but unless it is a highly acclaimed school would it even be worth going to, over a traditional computer science program? I heard I should avoid DeVry and ITT at all costs. Is a Computer Information Science degree basically the same as a Computer Science degree? Would Everest be a good choice? Also I want to be sure that the schools would be accredited and recognized by Digipen so that I would be able to follow up with the Master's program, as I dont think Full Sail's accrediation counts. Also.. I would just like to add that the accelerated course was one of the biggest things I was looking forward to with Full Sail. I've wasted years of my life on dead end jobs and I just turned 26, and finally decided to start programming again, so the idea of being able to be ready to find a job by the time I'm 28 was a great thought. If there are any local accelerated courses near me that would be a HUGE plus because I would much rather work very hard for a shorter amount of time. So if anyone could please share some helpful advice on what my best moves would be it would be greatly appreciated! I really have no idea what to choose and dont want to make any mistakes.

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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 spyridonz

I 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 spyridonz
I 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.

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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!

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Original post by gekko
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.


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 =)

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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 spyridonz
TDoes 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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