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kiwish

DigiPen or Carnegie Mellon (for undergrad)?

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Hey all, I just joined these forums recently after having found another thread ( http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=495470 ) when I googled DigiPen. I'm going into my senior year in highschool, so I'll be applying to college in the fall, and I'd been considering both Digipen and CMU. However, I figured that thread wasn't that much help since it's about the Master's programs, whereas I'm looking at the Bachelor's programs. Obviously, it's still a tough choice, since both of these schools have their pros and cons. Carnegie Mellon is an excellent school, obviously, and the only bad thing that comes to mind is their Early Decision policy. I want to apply ED, but if they accept me, it's binding - meaning I have to choose now whether I really want to go or not. Also, the Bachelor's programs in CS seem pretty general, whereas those of DigiPen are obviously more specific. However, I don't want to be "stuck" in the video game industry if I do go to DigiPen. That's what bothers me most about it. I wrote the admissions office an e-mail, asking them about it, and this was their response:
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Our largest and most popular degree program is the Bachelor of Science in Real Time Interactive Simulation. It's a focused Computer Science degree program - but notice that the degree isn't called Video Games or Games or anything like that. "Real Time Interactive Simulation" simply means any simulation that requires real-world physics and a programming framework. That degree prepares students to do more than just make games - it's the exact same degree that could prepare you to work with Boeing or another military contractor and simulate new aircraft - the degree prepares you to do any simulation, from medical to weather to military to CGI-work in films to nearly any new technology that requires a programming emphasis. Our education is based on building the programmer from the ground-up, precisely so that you'll be able to handle anything that is thrown at you (be it games or anything else). So while most of our graduates move on to companies like Valve, Bungie, EA, LucasArts, THQ, Activision, Blizzard, Zombie, ArenaNet, Nintendo, Microsoft Games Studio, or Sony Online - we've had a number move into more general programming positions with companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Boeing, among others.
Another attractive thing about DigiPen is that I've read that 98% of undergrads get job offers straight out of college, and each student gets an average of 2 job offers. However, this could all be DigiPen trying to appeal to prospective students more, so I'm not sure. (Also, DigiPen seems slightly intimidating since I'm a girl and I heard that only around 10% of students were girls. And the whole housing thing is weird, too, since DigiPen doesn't have dorms.) One thing I've considered is perhaps getting a Bachelor's at Digipen and a Master's (and/or higher) at Carnegie Mellon, or the other way around. Technically I could get a Bachelor's from both, in whatever order, but I don't want to spend too much time in school - unless this really is a good choice. Oh, and of course I'd been considering some other schools, such as Drexel, Rensselaer, and CUNY Baruch, but I think DigiPen and CMU are my top 2 choices. So, what should I do? P.S. Sorry if this is in the wrong section or something - I couldn't find a better one.

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Disclaimer: I'm a junior at DigiPen right now, and I hardly know anything about CMU, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

There are lots of good things about DigiPen (the placement rate, the math courses, Professor Mead (the best Computer Science teacher most of us have ever heard of)). There are also many bad/scary things about the school.

There's a big problem with cheating lately which the administration won't even aknowledge. There's a problem with trust too, in that the owner of the school (which is privately owned) thinks most of the students are liars and has said this on multiple occassions, and in the fact that they never tell us anything (for example, our Dean of Students isn't our Dean of Students anymore, and we're not getting a replacement, but we haven't been told any of this... or, for example, a number of our teachers are leaving to go work at the new Singapore campus, but we haven't been told that yet, or how over half of the "game" department left in the past year, and three part-time teachers have been hired on full-time, except we aren't allowed to know that either).

Being that this IS a game development school most of the students who attend are big-time gamers. Generally a large amount (I don't know if it's a majority though) of the student population is lacking social skills, and the work-load doesn't give them any free time to develop those skills in social settings.

DigiPen owns EVERYTHING you turn in for a grade, and does not allow you to distribute it yourself (i.e. on your own website, or on xbox live, etc). Granted they can be very flexible with this if it means publicity for the school (Portal is a great example).

Much of DigiPen treats you like a child, and with good reason. For many of the students this is a direct continuation of high school, where students have to be forced to study, and have their hands held in order to progress in the curriculum. However on the flip-side of that many of the courses are also of the nature "you need to know this in 3 weeks, no go research it", which is fine if the teacher gives you hints in lectures, or will help you if you have questions, but with a number of instructors at DigiPen they're either not willing or not knowledgable enough to help with questions.

DigiPen's tuition costs keep going up. They're about 30% higher than when I started attending. The surrounding apartment complexes keep raising prices too (and mostly lowering quality).

If you ever want to leave DigiPen a number of schools don't aknowledge DigiPen's Accredidation and therefore won't let you transfer DigiPen credits to them.

The school smells... like BO... a lot...

So, as I said, take this with a grain of salt. Some teacher's are phenomenal, the placement rate is amazing (although I don't know how honest 98% is), the chance to work on teams and complete game projects is invaluable, you are very close to a number of development houses which helps with finding internships. Also, since you're a female, there are I think a few decent scholarships available for you.

Oh, and the area is great if you're into biking/hiking/going to parks, etc, and Seattle is very close by. But most things close extremely early in Redmond and Bellevue (about 8pm), so if you ever do find some free time your choices can be a bit limited.

Picking a school is a tough call that only you can make for yourself. I'd say if you want to be VERY GOOD at C++ programming (and programming theory in general), and if you don't think you could find a good team of people to make some games with on your own that you should come to DigiPen, because even with all the crap those two things are invaluable, especially if you've never worked on a team in a production environment before... Just don't buy into the hype that DigiPen is some amazing fairytale place - it has more than it's share of problems.

I'd also suggest that you learn some programming on your own before coming here if you haven't already (make a tetris game or tic-tac-toe or something), because programming is what you'll be spending the majority of your time doing, and if you don't like it's a waste of time and money to come to DigiPen.

Good luck!

[edit]
P.S. I looked into RPI a bit in the past. Their program is only in it's second year - however you can dual-major with a traditional CS degree there. They're apparently having great response to their program after the first year, so hopefully they're doing things right... it probably doesn't matter to you but you should know that they have no idea how to accept transfer students into that program, and their transfer admissions guy is impossible to get in touch with.

[Edited by - c0uchm0nster on July 26, 2008 7:48:53 PM]

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If you can get in, go to CM. I checked that place out way back in HS, and if I could afford it, it would have been my first choice bar none. The atmosphere there are great, ALOT of social opertunities, reasonable greek culture, and a very respectable upper class party scene (I got the opportunity to drop into a few 2 years ago seeing as my younger cousin is now attending) The best thing is that school is considered one of the top graduate schools, and while I know your going for your undergrad, that alone makes it a very recognized and respected university, which will be a nice flag on your resume that really says something.

Of course CM is just really recently doing things with their gaming program, and I wouldent say its anywhere near as good placement as DP or FS for _GAME_ developers. Part of that is that DP is pretty much a Nintendo training house, so its really easy to move from DP to an internship with nintendo.

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@CouchMonster
That's too bad to hear, I had been hearing rumors of such happenings, but I hadn't yet heard the full story. I liked Digipen's full on programming approach, with the project based learning as well.

@kiwish
I've been looking at schools as well, I will recommend Rochester Institute of Technology since you are nearby. It didn't fit me personally, but you might like it more. CM is certainly a good school, though I haven't visited it yet. Any CS degree can get you into the video games industry if you build nice projects or demos on the side.

I'll be doing more research into Digipen, probably in the form of shadowing a student. Right now however, I wouldn't choose to attend. I like to take calculated risks, but I've calculated this one and currently it's a bit much. Sad too, I've wanted to attend Digipen since middle school.
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And the whole housing thing is weird, too, since DigiPen doesn't have dorms.

From what I hear it isn't that bad.

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Quote:
Original post by kiwish
However, I don't want to be "stuck" in the video game industry if I do go to DigiPen. That's what bothers me most about it. I wrote the admissions office an e-mail, asking them about it, and this was their response:


This is the one paragraph that throws up red flags to me (along with being worried about women being a vast minority at DigiPen).

One nice thing about University is that the male to female ratio is pretty even, you'll meet and interact with people from all disciplines and with a wide range of interests outside of their studies.

In the end no one but you can make your decision. Keep looking into both options and just go with your gut.

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Quote:
Original post by dashurc
This is the one paragraph that throws up red flags to me (along with being worried about women being a vast minority at DigiPen).

That's my thoughts too. A traditional university is better if you wish to have a broader range of opportunities after you graduate. And the poor gender ratio might be an issue too. I'd try to see if they've got any women alumni or student mentors that can testify to what life is like at Digipen.

If it were me, I'd try to get into Carnegie Mellon. They're a great uni by all accounts that I've heard, and since the Experimental Gameplay project started there I'm assuming they've got some hooks into game development at their Entertainment Technology Center.

But it's down to you and your preferences. I recommend reading through Tom Sloper's articles, especially the one on systematically evaluating between choices of colleges, and try to evaluate your options objectively.

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