North Carolina to California!


Skip to the end for the condensed version.

It is 31 days, 3 hours, 2 minutes and 23 seconds until Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 12:00:00 Noon - The last day of my senior exams.

It is 39 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes and 8 seconds until Friday, June 4, 2010 at 8:30:00 PM - The day I graduate.

[left]As you can see, I get out of highschool very very very soon. I am indeed counting the minutes, the hours. And while I count, I research. Several very good threads have popped up here as of late, detailing tracks I want to go on when choosing my career path. I’ve a fairly specific choice - one that I’ve explored exstensively, and worked hard to figure out.[/left]

[left]My dream job, my absolute want, is to be a 3D Character Modeler. As such, a character modeling/modeling/texturing type track is exactly what I want, what I need. The problem is, I’m trying to figure out the best way to acheive it.[/left]

[left]No matter what, I will be spending one more year here at a community college to get my GPA up; my HS GPA is something like 1.2 because I refused to show up for my first two years, hating the school I was in beyond all reason. In contrast, my GPA for my last two years (After changing schooles) Is 4.2, weighted.[/left]

[left]So my research has given me two very distinct possibilities:[/left]

[left]1 year here. Head to California. Work for one year. Then take one more year of CC, and transfer into UCI for a BFA in Studio Arts. Then do the 2 year course at Gnomon.[/left]

[left]1 year here. Head to California. Attend AAU for 3, getting my BFA in Animation and Visual effects, Focus on character modeling.[/left]

[left]As you can tell, I really do want to go to California, seeing as my two top choices are there. [/left]

[left]So what is the general populace think of my two plans? I want to deffinately have a good art foundation, hense the BFA before Gnomon in an art feild, or the degree at AAU (which would also provide me with a good generalist art foundation, I beleive). [/left]

[left]Does anyone have any alternative plans? Improvements, and changes? I’m scouring for information - I know what I want to do, but the path there is very foggy indeed. I want to know the best way I can to get there, and part of me just really really wants to go to Cali. :3 Also, I’ll be paying for this somehow. There’s no help from anyone, no savings, it’s all me.[/left]
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[left]Condensed veresion: NC ----> Cali CC ----> BFA at UCI ----> Gnomon [/left]


[left]NC ----> BFA at AAU[/left]

[left]OR [/left]

[left]NC ----> Other?[/left]


Iiridellia, you are asking people to make career decisions for you,which they really can’t do and shouldn’t do. In addition, most people don’t know how one school compares to another because we didn’t go to all the schools in quesiton. Thus, how can anyone make a comparison?

I can tell you that if you work HARD, you could develop good skills from any decent program.

The best undergrad schools, reputation wise, for computer graphics are Ringling, SVA, Pratt, CalArts, University of Colorado,SCAD,UCLA , USC, Univeristy of California system especially at San Jose, Sheridan, Seneca College ( both in Canada) and AAU. The best trade schools for focused training are Gnomon and Animationmentor and Flashpoint academy. There are others that I have little knowledge about such as Digipen, Max the Mutt ( which has some strong 2d program in Canada), and many more.

You will get multiple opinions as to when to attend a trade school. Some will say, get your BFA first. Some will say go to the trade school in lieu of college ( which is NOT my opinion) and some will say you can learn all that you need to learn on your own.

If you go to the Schools forum and then to the Schools in North America forum, you will see a great post by Mr. Positive outlining the programs that are available in North America. Unfortunately these programs aren’t ranked or quality, and you should check out any programs of interest.


I’ve read through the Mr. Positive posts, and I’m aware that it’s nigh impossible for someone else to decide this for me. However, I’m looking for opinions - If this was your career path, your chosen desires, what would you do? In a way, I’m trying to get other people to look at the education they received themselves, think to what they would have changed, and done, and tell me so I don’t make the same mistakes.

I did some gimped price mapping, and right now the AAU route will cost me 117k, probably more. UCI to Gnomon, 99.7… Cal arts to Gnomon? 174. A lot of money… a whole lot of money.



UCI (if you’re referring to Univ. of Calif. Irvine) does not have a strong traditional arts program - I can say that definitively because I teach at the nearby Irvine Valley College and have taught several UCI students who take life drawing at the cc level at IVC because UCI only offers life drawing every so often, and their program is more conceptually / non-optical in approach. UCLA or USC might be more worth looking into, but really not many of the university programs have strong optical / skills based training, although they will offer you more than an art school in terms of an all around experience. Cal. State Long Beach and Cal State Fullerton are the state schools that are well known for their art programs here - Cal State Long Beach is very tough to get into, due to the popularity of the program, and the limited number of spaces. It’s even tougher to get in there now.

Santa Monica College (SMC) has a good art program (from what I understand) with several teachers that teach at private art colleges. It has good traditional and digital programs at the cc level. I’d recommend going there, then you can more accurately get advice from students around you.


Ok, I will give you some suggestions.

If money isn’t an issue, the best thing you can do is get a BFA from a top schools such as Ringling, Pratt, Calarts etc. and then get the advanced computer graphics certificate from Gnomon.

If money is an issue, which it seems to be, I still would go for a BFA. I might try a school that gives scholarships such as SCAD, Pratt, Leguna art and Design, RIT, or even AAU with the hope that you get scholarship money and then go to Gnomon. Without a scholarship, go to a decent instate university, as noted by Rebeccak, with a decent art program instead of those noted above. You might also want to consider Mass Art,which can be very reasonable even for out of state folks. NY state universities are reasonable for out of state people such as FIT. Even better would be to work in the state that has a decent in state art program and establish residency before you apply to their school.

If money is not only an issue,but you have no backing whatsoever, I might still suggest a BFA but pass up Gnomon. You might want to study some videos from Gnomon and others and self teach yourself.


Depending on where you are in NC, you might not be too far from ETSU, where I go to school. The program here is at least worth checking out, especially for the cost. The department website is


I moved from NC (Winston-Salem) about 8 years ago to Cali, then went to a community college for 1 year to get enough credits to transfer to a state Uni.

I then went to Cal State Fullerton to get my BA in Studio Art. They have a great animation program (traditional) and the art training was fairly solid. Ofcourse, UCI in general is considered a better school, but I dont know anything about their art program. UCI’s campus is also huge, and there is alot more going on, but CSUF is nice otherwise.

After graduating from CSUF, I then went to Gnomon for 2 years. Ive been working ever since.

One thing you really need to double check on is to make sure that the classes you take at the community college are transferable to a UC or a CalState, because not all of them are and some that will go towards a UC will not go to CalState and viceversa. If possible id suggest just going to community college in California. The community colleges here are much better than the ones in NC anyhow (unless things have changed in the last 8 years).


Slightly random, but I’m in Greensboro ATM. :stuck_out_tongue: So you’re from like… 30 minutes from me? GTCC here is also much more expensive then the CC’s there, and since I have to pay for it myself, that matters. I’d try and go this year to the CC’s there, but just… money wise, and family wise, it’s not going to work this year. So one year at GTCC it is. 10k, in state, living with family. Ick.

I will definitely look into the CSUF; that pathway you pointed out also seems extremely plausible, and has actually just bumped itself up to my first or second choice after just going to straight AAU. I want a BFA, you see, but AAU is sorta diminishing itself in my eyes.

@CPfitz14 - I quite want to go to Cali, but I DID look at ETSU. It just doesn’t look like it has the same level of… prestige? that I’m trying to garner.

@Taxguy - Thanks for the suggestions. I’m looking closely at SCAD and the likes. I understand the establishing residency thing - I’m actually looking at, wherever I go, working for one year before going to ANY university or community college to establish that residency. I will have some slight support from home, but the majority of it will be solely on my own dollar - or what seems to be the lack there of.

@Rebeccak - Cal State Fullerton seems to be a very viable option - you say that the programs there are good? Which ones, in particular, are you fond of? I’m really wanting to get a good artistic foundation under my belt - I can learn to use the programs, but what’s the use without being able to come up with a concept and a vision that is appealing?


Also doing a priceout for GTCC > Fullerton CC > CSUF > Gnomon, and it’s the lowest yet at 98.5 or so


I don’t have firsthand knowledge of CSUF’s programs. I only know them based on reputation. Traditional art and traditional animation seem to be their strengths. CSULB does not have a computer graphics program so far as I know, only traditional art and graphic design, both of which have very good reputations here for the state school level.

When I was in high school, I checked out East Carolina University - they have a good art program, I believe, or did back then, but that was aeons ago. If you’re looking to stay in state then that could be a viable alternative.

Regarding cc’s in CA - Sanjaychand is right, the cc’s here are very good. SMC and IVC both advertise themselves as the ‘top transfer’ schools in California. There are always transfer workshops going on.


I’m not looking to stay in state, honestly. I don’t feel like doing so will help me out in the longer run - I really want a bit of presteige to back my talent, and give some some security.

As for other schools - I’m mainly looking at CSUF, if only for the finances. It would but me semi-close to where Gnomon is. I’ll have a car (I plan on driving mine out there, when I move, with all my bags and my cat. >.>), and I’m sure that living in Fullerton is probably a lot cheaper than living in Hollywood/LA.
That would mean I could get there, work, get an established place, and have some level of security without being a crazy amount of distance from either sets of schools.

So, that being said:

You said their traditional arts program is strong? Should I go into that, perhaps, to get my artistic background in check, then head to Gnomon for application? I’m deffinately not Gnomon ready right now - that’s for sure. See attached senior project that is so bad, but I’m still very proud of it. :stuck_out_tongue: I think the only reason I’m proud of it is because I did it with things I taught myself, so I feel like it’s an accomplishment. XD


Definitely true, ETSU isn’t as prestigious as a big name art school. Whatever you decide, make sure you check out the labs and the software. When are they open, how crowded are they, is the software current. Whether the professors or good or bad; access to good computers and current software are key. No matter where you go, you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it, which I’m sure you’ve heard before.

If you’re paying close to $100,000 for your education, make sure you’re getting more for your money than just prestige. Also keep in mind that your talent is what will get you the job. Being out west will definitely help. To me, if you’re heading to gnomon anyway, it could make sense to go somewhere cheaper with good art classes and labs before heading to gnomon. Talent and a gnomon certificate will definitely hold some weight, without the extra cost.

I’ve always been hesitant to take out monster loans for a degree from a big name school. I know I won’t be making a doctor or lawyer’s salary when I graduate. However, I understand the benefits. Paying more will probably get you better connections, talented fellow students, and prestige. I don’t think either way is a mistake, it’s just important to know what your options are. My impression so far is that if you work hard, you’ll find success.

Good luck!


If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t go to a BFA program period. I would aim to go to a solid art school that is concerned only with the best art training and not with racking up accreditations from the state so they can feed off of student loans. My opinion now is that a school seeking accreditation actually lowers the quality of the art program by diluting it, placing hard restrictions on the amount of class time allowed, which forces the bulk of the students work outside of the classroom (homework) and away from the presence of a qualified instructor. While the university system may work well for other professions, for art I personally find it lacking.

If possible I would consider schools such as the florence academy of art, or the art department through However since schools like that are not accredited, very little financial aid will be available.


CSUF or CSULB > Gnomon sounds like a good path to me. Good luck. :slight_smile:


Er well I think you are talking of the Ringling vs SVA vs SCAD (or pick your popular CG program here). These schools and discussions are very difficult on informing people upon, because the schools are all over the map, and almost nobody can compare and contrast them better than anyone else. We can all go look at the student galleries of these schools the same online. The only suggestions could be in strength of specialized areas Ringing/Character Animation Stylized vs VanArts/Character Design Realism, or what not. Nevertheless, locally based schools are far easier to break down, especially for people working and training in the region, who might have more first hand knowledge. If you asked me for info on the midwest schools and CG, I’d be able to break that down rather easily. Saying that, I’m still a firm believer in visiting these schools beforehand once and making sure this is the correct fit and exactly what you want. I mean 1 visit for 4 years of your life and money seems like a no brainer to me. Shrug. Nevertheless, I defer to Rebecca on Cali info as she’s situated right there in the trenches. But if I was forced to choose, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to make a bad choice with Gnomon (especially for character design), unless money is an issue.

Some day, I’d love to see a thread started that discusses ‘diamond in the rough’ schools that cost 20 times cheaper than the bigger named CG schools and are still delivering top quality students. Definitely don’t want to derail the thread, but knowing firsthand that motivated students can get in to the top houses for tens of thousands cheaper is something I’d certainly love people to bring up more often. I mean we all know these mentioned CG schools are awesome, but at what cost financially… My colleague told me the other day that he will be in debt to SCAD for almost his entire life (which begs the question…What was the point!?). Whereas, I got my art/digital art degree from IU and haven’t been in debt in 15 years as it cost almost nothing in comparison. There is something to be said for that…I am still of the belief that getting hired is in three parts: quality of work, tenacity (I know people that have gotten hired and stayed hired because they were willing to do any job and whatever it took), and personality (no matter how great you are if you suck as a teammate and fellow worker, you won’t last long). So, I find it hard to understand why it’s necessary to drop a 100 grand on a school. But certainly reputation and low risk can be worth it to some. But what happens when supply can’t meet the demand (meaning 500 students want to get into the 50 spots available at say Gnomon), then where do you go? Just pushing for more varied discussion on the boards. Shrug.


^ Maybe these smaller schools need more exposure? Perhaps links to their websites and even ads on CG Talk might help.


I wouldn’t necessarily say they are smaller schools, in fact usually much larger :). Just far lesser known, because their specialization is not CG alone. In fact, CG is probably a minuscule part of their school makeup. Nonetheless, it doesn’t discount some very quality programs out there. In fact, many of the pieces we’ve plugged are from schools you’d never imagine. I’m not sure if advertising is necessary, however more threads on schools other than the main few might benefit some people. I’ll start a thread later this week, once classes end. Thanks for the suggestions Sanjay.


I like the ‘diamond in the rough’ thread idea. I have a few schools with good programs in mind which get overlooked and won’t leave you in debt.


gawl notes,“I like the ‘diamond in the rough’ thread idea. I have a few schools with good programs in mind which get overlooked and won’t leave you in debt”

Response: Ok, I’ll bite. Which schools are these?


I agree with you about the cost of studying. Obviously I can’t comment directly on US courses as I’m a lecturer in the UK, and have never taught in the US, but it astounds me how much money people will pay for an education at these schools! You could attend a top UK university and pay about a quarter of the costs I see mentioned here… I realise that the cost of education varies massively between universities in the US, and recently I’ve been teaching some exchange students from the US who have told me horror stories about the amount of debt that they owe, but I’m sure that if people considered what skills they actually need to gain employment versus a supposed top university name on their resume I think that a lower cost, perhaps not famous school that taught the same level of quality would be a more sensible choice. It doesn’t matter how talented the lecturers are at a college if the student doesn’t want to work hard themselves - yes, you need lecturers with industry experience and enthusiasm, but they don’t have to work in a famous school to give the same assistance! I graduated from a completely unknown college in the UK, and none of the games companies or arch vis companies I worked for have ever cared at all what my degree was (or even that I had a degree!), they all wanted to see my artwork, and after that, to find out what I was like as a person. The only jobs I’ve ever held where my qualifications have been deeply considered have been lecturer jobs :slight_smile: When I used to recruit junior artists for my teams, I never bothered looking at the university name - it was irrelevant; I saw plenty of bad showreels from top courses and also good showreels from unknown courses (and vice versa, of course!) - I looked at the artwork of the applicant. Paying to have a big name on your resume is a lot like designer clothing - it’s expensive, you can show it off to other people, but it doesn’t make your face look any more attractive :slight_smile:

hmmm I’m not sure if that helps your discussion, now that I re-read this it rambles all over the place… delete it if it’s pointless.