How to tell a good school from a bad school


The best way to be successful is to always do way more that is asked of you. Sacrifice your time (a LOT of time) and risk making mistakes. Push the limits of your creativity, strength and sanity and great things happen it your work.


“our lab instructors i sadly can’t say the same”
“also the school does have a very high drop out rate and a very low graduation percentage… but it’s mainly the students fault, FullSail told us the program was tough as bricks and it will take dedication, but already half of our starting class has either failed classes or dropped out” ----iaarvin

Hey iaarvin,

Thank you for proving our point about the drop out rates and the lab instructors. It is always nice to know that a present student can give his 2 cents and agree with what was already mentioned.

Btw, I love your gallery images. A+ dude!!!


Ah the one thing money can’t buy.
You thought that was love didn’t you,… nope its dedication. :slight_smile:


lol thx man.

but i hope you didn’t get what i said about our lab instructors wrong, because the way our classes are set up is that, our course director teaches us everything in lecture and preps us on our upcoming assignment in lab while giving us tips and other tid bits of information. the lab instructors are just their to help if your having problems or trouble with what ever it is your trying to accomplish, and so far i really have not had a question they couldn’t answer. and of course teachers and lab instructors change from class to class, so i can’t really tell what experience the other guys have.

but anyways, last bit of information i forgot to mention about picking a school… you also need to pick the best one for your situation. things like family, loans, location, apartment or dorm, distance from school, distance to stores and places to look for inspiration or blow off stress… all of that stuff also contributes to your over all educational experience.


Very interesting thread so far. I can say from experience that there isn’t a lot different between the varying schools in general. Yes, there are some excellent schools and some really horrible ones, but all the rest in the middle are about the same.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of learning you like to do. I’ll give an example. Here in Vancouver we have many, at least 7 schools that teach CG in someway. There are three distinct types of programs that I will call: University, Tech College, and Focused Training.

The University method is what Emily Carr University teaches, which is based in fine arts and exploration. It is about trying different things and experimentation. The good part is that they have some crazy ass equipment you can play with and you get a degree. The downside is that they aren’t really training you for the industry. That’s not what it is about.

The Tech College method is what Ai Vancouver does. It emulates the structure of a university in that each class is focused on a single subject that is worth credits. The good part is that you focus deeply into the subject matter. The downside is that you are stuck learning something for 11 weeks straight, and then you may not go back to it for another term or two.

The Focused Training is what Vancouver Film School does. Terms are 8 weeks long and they have an overall focus. That means if you need to learn about about editing, you will get a few classes to get you where you need to be. The good part is that it covers stuff in breadth so you learn a lot of things all at once. The downside is that you need to be the type who likes to know everything all at once, a dabbler of all things you could say.

Once you know the style of learning you prefer, then you need to figure out what industry you want to go into. Say you want to get into the game industry, then you should be looking at schools in game development hotbeds, Austin, Vancouver, San Francisco, etc. The odds of having knowledgeable instructors increases by doing so. If there is only one local game company, you are very limited in who can be hired to teach.

Next, find out if they have entrance standards and if so, what they are. Many schools will literally accept anybody who has cash. I would say the majority do. The best schools will have high entrance standards, but they will also be the most intense which many people can’t handle, especially if you are right out of high school. Just because a school accepts everybody though, does not mean that they suck. It just means that there is a wider pool of people and the classes won’t be as difficult as they teach to a median.

As people said, go to the schools and check out who they have teaching, how their classes are structured, the quality of student work, etc. Talk to students and find out what they like/dislike. There will always be a bit of both as it all comes down to expectations.

At the end of the day it is the student themselves that will dictate what they get out of it. If you go into the school thinking that they will teach you everything you need to get into the industry, you will fail. If you go in thinking that you are going to learn everything you need to get into the industry, you will succeed. As the saying goes “I can teach you but I can’t make you learn.”

I hope that helps.


Airing Grievances Towards Employers, Companies, Persons is not permitted. You have already posted your views on this. Once is enough.


follow the out of school job placement for those who graduate and that really is the best mesaurment for the quality of the education. And DONT take the schools stats for job placement for truth, I know AAU (academy of art univ) for instance has some far fetched numbers for graduation turnaround.


At the same time I think some of this needs to be shown as fair warning for artists who may come right out from college and need to know the fair studios out there. Same with colleges who may not be sufficient and future students who otherwise think its a good choice should have a ‘consumer reports’ style review system for these insitutions.

  That's simply NOT going to happen on this site. We've given the members ample enough material to research each school to an enormous level. I've said this before and I'll say it again, our tiny and unknown little department has sent dedicated and talented students to Pixar, Firaxis, Rhythm, ESPN, etc but we also have students that have never turned a project in on time in 4 years and others that might have trouble putting a round block into a round hole. The point is we are not here to taint a program, off of a couple students experiences, or list schools in a 'consumer reports' style list. With website research and then one simple visit to a school you can gather pretty much everything you need to know, by meeting the instructor, coalescing with a couple students, and sitting in on a class (we allow all 3 here). Much of what is garnered from studies is still done with personal elbow grease. Obviously, we want people to come on and share their school experiences (good and definitely bad), but once you've had your say then there is no reason to keep beating the same drum. There are currently several specific school threads and if you'd like to start another, then that is fine (please do so under the correct sub forum area).  Don't forget that many of these programs change rapidly as well. In one year, we hired new instructors who were previously working in the field at Disney/Cartoon Network, Marvel, and NASA.


I’m not going after any single institution, more specifically yours. I was refering to diploma mills and sweat shop studios for the most part. I’m sure your school isnt a school students should be cautious of. And the consumer reports style list of schooling isn’t meant to taint or be vindictive. It’s to give a broad spectrum of critiques from the people who have gone through the program and depending on the accuracy of their depictions you should get a better idea of the performance quality, rather than school presentation/PR or how many students attend. Sitting in on classes is a great idea, and wish my school had such programs, but DONT. I wont name names, because I want to keep this in a broad spectrum.

The bottom line is students create their own success regardless of the environment. But an honest breakdown of the success to failure of these educational mills is a great start for many kids who arent sure and maybe dont have the resources and or time to make it to all the schools and personally sit in or talk with the instructors. Lets face it, most of these kids are going by presentation, advertising space, notieriety(spelling?) or budgetary reasons. Parents ive found are also suckers for big schools with university like programs ( ie dorms, grand 4 year programs) but miss the overall picture. After graduating I found a great deal of the best schools out there were small independent houses probably like ones such as yours mr. positive. And if an institution gets a bad rap becase of countless negative stories then isnt that the exact point of such a review system. Afterall there are COUNTLESS types of professional reviews and background info on schools in the ‘regular’ state university programs. I remember looking through stacks of magazines, articles and websites to fish out party schools and all business schools. If its a lawsuit or burning bridges a website is worried about with having a public review of schools then thats another thing entirely. We should catering to the future artists and not the administrative programs.


Yep I have to agree, but…

Coming from exp. take a course that is from a school that you’re Fed. Prov. or is State recognized buy the the educational system! Then look at at other training, i.e. cert driven courses.

Anyone here ever hear of AMTC,20g’s and 9 months in they shut there doors one night, and the whole building was empty the next morning, and there was no refunds.

But hey that’s my two scents. There is some real gold in this form on how and what to ask.
And some good points.

Always contact the local gov. educational board and ask what schools and or courses are recognized if the school is not listed as a local educational institute.


I’ve been 3d ing for 10 and teaching for 3 years…

My 2 cents

Find out about the schools industry connections> Where do they direct/ guide students after graduation, do they have internship programs etc What other interactions with the industry do they have?

Look at the quality of work that is output by the school> Ask yourself, is it useful industry standard? Remember, the work on the school reel is their best students work, not the average students work… look at it objectively

Contact a few students> Speaking to a few enrolled/ graduates is IMO the best way to really find out what a school is giving to their students, how happy they are with the school and where it has led them etc…

Who are their lecturers> do you get a good vibe from the work of their lecturers? are they passionate/ professionals etc…

Good luck


I agree with iaarvin, I’m in the same class with him and starting at this school I had my doubts about the CA, GA programs that are being run at this school. Three months ago I had some classes that I felt were lacking in course materials and being in a accelerated program I was felling like crap “I’m never going to get to where I want to be”. There are other classes that give so much information due to the instructors knowledge. If your trying to find a good school look into the instructors and make sure they meet your needs. I believe that every instructor should show you their demo reels and stuff they have done. At least then you can feel safe learning from him/her. There are alot of people that are in my class and upper classmen that are amazing artist and they are my competition but some do lack the drive being fresh out of highschool and in a different enviroment. Our school holds open labs outside of our schedule and I see only a couple of my friends in those open labs perfecting their craft not to say that others don’t work at home which is cool but too theres way too many distractions i.e video games and alot of parties. I find it really good to have motivated friends around to help bouce ideas, even though they are my competition. The industry looks foremost on your work, you can put out a decent demo by yourself or you can incorporate your friends in your work with different skills; Its a win win situation. Find a school that meets your needs Full Sail may get a lot of heat but it does truly depend on your level of motivation. Speeking of I need to go to lab…


Take a tour of the school, go through the buildings, talk to students. This is one of the best ways to learn how the school is. Go to the “Open Labs”, sit in on classes, talk to students on breaks, ect.


I went to school not knowing any of this and i wish i had known better. Very expensive (over 100k)
I wont mention the name for legal reasons but my school started out at being amazing they had a good team of professors who really wanted to convey their information. The school started getting cheap and lazy and hired all new teachers right out of their own program. people who were less concerned about teaching and more concerned about their own careers. classes were small and i could never get a hold of my teachers at all Zero industry experience. To be respectful i wont go into it more than that but i will just say this.

Just because its expensive doesn’t mean its good.
Just because a school claims to have industry professionals doesn’t mean they really do. You really need to put toghether a list of questions and go visit the school. Dont leave untill you get to see some faculty work, and some student demo reels. Some of these people that run these schools are really greedy and just failed in the industry themselves so they decided to start a school. good business decision for them but it saturates the industry with garbage. DO YOUR RESEARCH, stay focused , know what you want and go get it. no matter what stands in your way. Id recommend ringling , VFS , and animation mentor as i have heard alot of good things about these schools and thier student work dwarfs my school by a long shot.


I think I know what school you are speaking of.


Here were the symptomes for me :

-Graduated students with no experience start teaching

-The doctrine starts to be repressive, and the “teachers” dont tolerate the fact that a student might know more.

-The real teachers with proven industry exerience start criticizing the school’s policy

-The school director starts saying that laptops are better then workstations and that the best professional prefer working on laptops.

-The school director continues by saying since laptops are better he’s selling all the schools workstations

-The school director then says that since they wont be any more workstations we need to get a laptop and that he just happens to have a deal with Dell :slight_smile:

-The school director concludes by saying the school’s official laptop optimised for advanced 3d operations will be compulsary and that it’s just a thousand euros more. Needless to say not deducted from the school fees.

I used to believe that the school’s name was everything but in the end it’s all up to you. Today they are so many free tutorials and documentation available, you just have to make the effort to read those. Eventualy you’ll realise that most schools just want your money.

For the moment the best school I found is this forum :slight_smile:


One thing everyone should understand before getting into any arts program is that often times the best thing you get is a collaborative environment with like-minded individuals and instructors that are there because they love the craft. The quality or pace of the classes may be slower or faster than you would prefer, you can still get a lot out of a program even if it’s instructors have no industry experience. You just have to really push the instructors, remember that when you get into one of these programs they are paid (partly by you) to teach you and you deserve some respect as long as you are respectful to them.

I would also warn people to take the student reels with a grain of salt. You don’t know what (or how much) they aren’t showing or the personal story behind that really great piece the school has been showing off for the past 5 years. Bigger schools that have longer programs usually get better student content out as well (VFS) because there is a better chance of getting those really dedicated people to create something stunning.

One exemption on the student reels: for animation programs you can see if students are being taught fundamentals like squash and stretch, anticipation, etc… (go read the “The Animator’s Survival Kit” for the essentials). If most of the students don’t even try to put these basic principles into their animations they are either: unmotivated, lazy, poorly instructed.

In my opinion, go to the biggest school with the most students (NOT MOST EXPENSIVE) you can get into and make lots of friends. They will help you mature and grow as an artist and then once everyone graduates they can be great contacts into the industry (where a recomendation is worth as much as a demo reel), and of course they will give you something to do on the weekends other than practice your UV mapping skills!

Good luck!


If they have a commercial that says ‘Do you want to create videogames?!’

But as far as all the Full Sail stuff goes, I went there, I enjoyed it, loved the instructors and lab instructors, and have been working since I graduated. Not everyone I graduated with is working, but it’s the same at nearly any school. A handful of my good friends here in LA were former classmates of mine at Full Sail, and they’re all working :smiley:
It’s the school’s job to educate you to a point, they will give you the tools, you need to give yourself a swift kick in the ass if you really want to make the best of it. Hell I started at a tiny (can I say shitty?) college in a suburb in Minnesota, and they had grads working in the industry from that school (it was one of the dreaded TV commercial schools), so I guess in my experience, the school won’t make or break you, you will.


This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.