Should I stay [in school] or go?


There are lots of posts asking what school to go to and what not, but I’m asking should I finish?

I’m about 2/3rds finished with my Bachelor of Science in Media Arts and Animation. The first half of my schooling here has been great. The foundation classes in traditional art, graphic design, and 2D animation have been very beneficial to me.

My problem is that the 3D animation classes aren’t very…ambitious. If I think about it, all of my lectures have just been on learning the software, and not any advanced lessons in just the craft of computer animation. For example, they teach how to model, but not how to model well. There’s no “advanced modeling” class or “advanced animation” (although the 2D animation classes give you a good understanding of animation). After you learn the basics it’s basically independant study.

If I’m any good at all it’s because I do spend a lot of my own time studying outside of class (why do you think I’m on cgtalk?). But if most of my learning is done on my own why should I pay $5000 a quarter? Really at this point all of my other classes just seem like annoying distractions (the general education is pretty pathetic).

The only reason I’m still in school is because there’s security in it. Sure I’m wracking up thousands in student loans, but I don’t have to worry about those until I graduate. The job market is even more scary, but I also wouldn’t have to worry about that for another 13 months. And while the actual degree may not make a huge difference to employers it would still make the parents happy. :wink:

I guess I just resent that I’m gonna spend the next 13 months going another $20,000 in debt while I try and learn on my own while juggling my other classes. Maybe I’m just venting, but I’m curious to see what people think.


Stay in school. You can work for the rest of your life, wich will hopefully last for decades. Those few years in school don’t come back.
That’s my general opinion on dropping out by the way.

Don’t you think it’s a little weird to ask advice about such important matters from people you never met on some messageboard? Talk to your teachers, your parents or whoever you know you can trust and want the best for you.


Heh, I wouldn’t make a major life choice without talking to friends or family, but the more opinions I can get the better.


if the computer classes arent doing it for you , you might as well use the money to go to a more technical school since you already learned the traditional art studies part of it.

just cause you aint paying it now dont mean you wont be for the next 10 years after you graduate.

I went to a school to learn maya, halfway through the first class i jumped ship because i realized that the teacher didnt know enough to really TEACH.

yes school is important but dont go to a school that doesnt teach either


It’s a big decision, one that can last you a long time. You have to ask yourself if the price of staying is greater than the price of leaving, and I’m not just talking about the monetary cost. In accounting, we talk about the cost of an item being made up of those parts with a numeric and quantifiable amount placed on them and then there are the intangible cost, like opportunity cost and reputation. Are you working toward some form of creditation or other widely accepted degree? If the piece of paper you get when your done is worth nothing outside the school, you may consider leaving. But like my father says, that piece of paper does not indicate your life, it is something to waive in the employers face that says you can jump the hurdles and eat the crap your given and still accomplish your goals. Accounting may not be the most exciting profession and I am not necessarily going to do accounting when I leave. What I’m getting is a piece of paper that tells one and all that I can do this and do it well. I can think in educated ways and solve problems. Attending school is part learning and part proof of your ability to lead and to follow.

Rambling, I know. Just don’t leap into this thing. :slight_smile:


No question, finish your degree, its only years later that you really realize the importance of getting that bachelor degree. In the mean time there is always information on advanced subjects out there. Consider heading over to spiraloids modeling forum and read some of the past posts in the general section if you are interested in humanoid modeling techniques.


I think the reason why people ask questions like this on here is because they value the opinion of people who are actually in the industry and went through what they did… unlike parents who usually don’t even know how to boot up a computer.


Finish your degree… students loans have the best interest rate you can get and they can be deferred.

Whebn Iw as in school in the early 90’s there were few options for learnign 3d… I taught myself 3D while taking a Macromind Director class…we had Swivel 3d and Macromind 3d the instructors knew little about either. I learned from another student who is now working at Rhythm and Hues.

My first job though was with a company where two of the owners had dropped out.

For me it’s more about the feeling of accomplishment. If I had dropped out I might have missed the opportunity that ended up getting me into the biz. If you work is good enough now to get you hired that’s great but int he meantime you can focus on making it better.


Well, I say differently.

I went to CalArts, at the same price, $21,000 a year. I ended up leaving after 3 semesters, because I had learned the basics in animation, and didn’t want to rack up an additional $50,000 just getting better. I could spend $2000 on software and finish my learning at home, with a part time job. And that’s what I decided to do. Fortunaly, I found a job right before I quite school. And now I’m animating for a game company in Santa Monica. Either way, if you’re not being really pushed in school, you’re pretty much paying all that money to use their hardware and software. And that’s some expensive stuff. Of course if mommy and daddy were paying the bill, I’d stay there till the cows came home. But now I have almost $50,000 in student loans. Whopee!!!
Hope this helps.
Us poor guys got to stick together,



Originally posted by Babyhopper
[B]Well, I say differently.

I went to CalArts, at the same price, $21,000 a year.

CalArts is an extremely expensive school… I actually was considering it for it’s design program back when I was in 9th grade but my parents couldn’t imagine sending me off to California and paying whatever the tuition was back then. I did end up going to the School of the Art Institue of Chicago and studied art as few schools had 3d animation programs until the mid 90’s. SAIC wasn’t cheap … I can only imagine what it costs now. However back then it was much cheaper to get a degree than to buy a computer system with Softimage or Alias… much cheaper. I’m still paying off my loans from ten years ago but I see as the best investment I ever made because my friends from there are the best contacts I could have and that has rewarded me over and over again. Graduating doesn’t make any difference in that case but I’m proud of my degree and the time spent in art school… that was some of the best times of my life.

My roommate and I bought our first computer together and our first 3d program together.

On another thread apparently many people aren’t even willing to pay for software if they are learning… I guess it would be nice if education was for free but then how would I pay my bills in the meantime.

I guess times have changed… my Dad moved out of his parents house when he was 16 and put himself through art school working as a waiter… can’t really do that these days.


I have a sort of mixed response. I just finished my BS degree last spring, albeit it wasn’t in art, it was in engineering. And I really enjoyed the modeling (CAD, solid modeling) classes, and I found myself very interested in animation. I had a full time job already and had purchased an edu license of max, while saving up for the comm license. Ironically I ended up buying Maya instead, but thats another story.

Anyways, I even thought of pursuing a second degree at AI, but after careful review of the curriculum and meeting with the recruiters, looking at the facilities and reading reviews I came to the conclusion that I would be wasting ALOT of money. I decided if I wanted to pursue art further, I’d do it at a traditional art school spending a fraction of the money.

All in all, I say finish a BS/BA degree for sure. It will show accomplishment and perseverance regardless of your major. I think if you’re head to head with another guy for a job, where your work is about equivilent, the education will shine through. Plus I think you’re generally more eligible for managment jobs so if 10-20 years down the road you decided to change your path, you can much more easily.

As far as AI was concerned, I came the conclusion that they’re instructors were NOT very knowledgable and that the program was more political than educational. I had a real problem with paying $50,000 to have guys teach me stuff out of book I could buy and read myself. The first two years of AI’s program you could take at any community college for a fraction of the cost. After buying some good books, hanging out in the forums etc you will probably come out more knowledable than the AI grad. (all of the comments you mentioned in your original post I realized after researching their program) I finished my BS with less than $20,000 student loans and I think I’m getting more out of it.

So you’re in the position of being 2/3 way through and trying to decided if you should quit. Well, here’s my take. Finish a degree, but not nessesarily at AI! If I remember correctly, AI makes you sign a form reminding you that your classes may not be transferable to another institution. that’ll be the only hang up. If I werre in your shoes, I’d look into BFA programs at state universities. Find one that’ll accept your art credits in tranfer and do 3d on your own (or in condensed programs). Save youself the money man. Hell if there’s one thing I’m discovering, its that your starting career wont be making much money. Are you ready for a $300-$400 a month student loan payment?? wew not if I was gonna be a bottom boob in a 3d shop making peanuts (this kinda relates to the piracy thread about the super saturated 3d market).

Sorry to make a big speech about it. Definitely finish a degree, don’t simply stop. If you can, transfer elsewhere and get traditional art degree for ALOT less, and save your money. If you can’t well bite your tongue and get it done. To simply drop out is the worse you can do. It will show all of the wrong traits to potential employers down the road.


Employers like people that graduated, put the effort and finished university with a background in traditional arts and advanced technology, period…they’ll pay more and treat you better most of the time…and if someone is so beyond gifted that he doesn’t need school, then he wouldn’t be asking for such advice in this site…he would be working for a mayor game company or studio earning hundreds of thousands a year…go to school man, and don’t worry about money, there are plenty of loans out there…it’s your future and dreams at stake, not your pocket.


this should mix things up …

I dropped out of school when I was 17…a few months later I started work at a big film company here in the uk…working on big projects (bond20, Harry potter) most companys dont care if you went to school or not…its your reel that counts!!! a good reel= a good job! just get you foot in the door even if its a shit job, you’ll meet people in the biz,

but then again its your choice…



well, im in my third quarter at the art institute of colorado(actually fourth since i passed out of some classes) and im enjoying it alot. ive already have had some teachers that just really blow and are teaching things i already know. the big reason im going to keep going till im done, is the movtivation i get from going. i cant honestly seem myself sitting for four hours drawing models some other way then at class. or seeing other students stuff, which only makes me want to get better or when i have drawn something people like. ive already gotten a few scholarships, and going for more this year, so that should definetely help me out. and whos to say if you transfer, your not going to run into some sucky teachers. for everyone good teacher, there is probably like 5 bad ones. so for me, even though this is going ot cost me alot of money, i think it will be worth it.


Wow! All excellent comments.

tracer18 - A friend of mine transfered to AI Colorodo.

JasonA - Yeah, I’d be more interesting in transfering if more than half my credits were actually transferable. I don’t want to spend 6 years in college. Which AI are you talking about? The instructors are probably the best thing here at AIM. There’s three or four people who really know their shit, I’d seriously consider sticking around just to keep their input.

Neil - Exactly! Half of my family aren’t even sure what I’m doing in school. :shrug:

awnold - Oh, I love Spiraloid! I wish the images were hosted though, tired of seeing red-xes.

Azmodan Kijur - That’s a good way of looking at it.

I’m taking next quarter off to concenrate on getting a scholarship from Rhythm and Hues. I wont make any decisions until I know what working on my own without any school to “distract” me is like.

Thanks again for the comments!


it’s good to finish what you’ve started… I don’t think money should be the only reason for leaving school, but I understand


I think you can only get jobs like that if you’ve got the right name, tho… :slight_smile:

Originally posted by Jason S
[B]this should mix things up …

I dropped out of school when I was 17…a few months later I started work at a big film company here in the uk…working on big projects (bond20, Harry potter) most companys dont care if you went to school or not…its your reel that counts!!! a good reel= a good job! just get you foot in the door even if its a shit job, you’ll meet people in the biz,

but then again its your choice…

-J [/B]

p.s. I’ll try and reply to yer mail later… haven’t had a chance yet, sorry!! :slight_smile:


honestly, i go to parsons school of design and im dual majoring in communication design and animation…

im not learning much honestly…ive been questioning the education even before i went to art school…but after listening to my parents and being forced to stay basically…i feel that it was worth it.

ive gained contacts, friends, learned a lot about traditional methods that i was so shallow about before, and now that i look back, im really enjoying college and i’m going to miss the hell out of it.

i realize now that ill be working for the rest of my life…i want to enjoy it at this age right now, with friends and with fellow artists without worrying if im going to lose my job.

i feel actually lucky that im in art school right now despite the poor job market…

which reminds me, hey jason!!! heh, is Weta hiring interns!?? hahahahahahah


hey Wigaru I completely understand what your talking about, I also attend an AI(2/3rds done) and just like you i find myself learning everything on my own. I also contemplated the same thing your thinking about and decided to stay in school. Though you feel your not getting your moneys worth in your education, the fact you are so close to finishing makes me think you should just hang in there and finish. I personally started projects on my own and surounded myself with friends that have the same ambitions as myself. I take advantage of the fact that I can concentrate on my projects and further my skills because im still in school. I simply get the assignments from school out of the way and work on my personal projects. I think that though you feel this way this happens in a lot of schools. schools can only teach you so much , and those that arent satisfied with mediocrity are the ones that push to learn more. Stick with it man, keep pushing yourself on your own projects and you’ll stand out from the rest.


I’m in the same boat as a couple of you guys. I attend the Art Institute of California: Los Angeles and I only have about a year or so left on my BS degree, but I’ve had doubts along the way. I am focusing on Compositing/VFX/Post, yet am pressured to create a short film or do work that will ultimately end up as scrap when I assemble my reel because it doesn’t fit what I want to do as a career.

Before moving down to LA, I attended a community college for 2 years and finished up my GE. Some of the professors I had at community college for art were amazing, others were terrible.
I have had a couple of exceptional instructors at AI, which have had a significant impact on me. There will always be instructors, no matter what school you attend, that leave much to be desired.

My advice, is to talk to the instructors that are knowledgeable and ones you’ve had good experiences with, and find out more information through THEM, not the school. Most of the instructors at AI and other schools work in the industry, and teach on the side, which is all the more reason to get as much information from them as possible. There are a few instructors at my school that have helped land students with intern positions at studios in the area, but you have to stand out, show interest and get to know the instructor.

From my experience, the instructors are more than happy to help students that show interest in the subject outside of class. When I plan to apply for an internship, I plan on going through certain instructors, rather than through the school.

It’s going to be a difficult road, but I think it would be much more difficult without a degree. Just focus on what YOU want to do, not what the school wants you to do, and work on it in your free time while you finish up your degree.

I’m not an expert, I’m just like you, but I’ve sat through enough bs from instructors and the school to know their routine by now.

Pick a focus you are passionate about, land an internship before graduating, network, and get your degree! It should be all good from there. (At least I hope so)

Good luck! I know I’m going to need some too.