Full Sail University, Revisited

A little over a year ago, I wrote a review on Full Sail University’s Dig­i­tal Media pro­gram. It was met with a min­i­mal amount of con­tro­versy, with a few folks saying that the school was a joke, that Full Sail Uni­ver­sity doesn’t pro­vide the nec­es­sary tools for suc­cess, and they are now in huge amounts of debt with noth­ing to show for it. I’ve had more time to think about things since then, and fig­ured I’d write a follow-​up about some of the pros and cons of the Full Sail Uni­ver­sity Dig­i­tal Media pro­gram. Despite some of the crit­i­cism I’ve read, I’ve never really seen how this dif­fers from any other col­lege — a stu­dent will get out of the insti­tu­tion a result pro­por­tion­ate to what they put in. The ones who com­plain are the ones who are not tal­ented, are not ded­i­cated, or have unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions of what any col­lege edu­ca­tion can do for them. Every stu­dent I went to school with that actu­ally had the talent, the desire to learn, and put the time into the classes did great and are all in career-​related fields now. Some are web design­ers or devel­op­ers, some work in the video field, and others are involved in the video game indus­try. In all cases, these guys and gals showed tremen­dous amounts of ini­tia­tive through­out the 13 months that we were at school and now have good jobs to show for it.

How­ever, if you are an aspir­ing designer, video­g­ra­pher, or (insert cre­ative career choice here), it should be noted that no school can teach some­one to be cre­ative — and Full Sail is cer­tainly no excep­tion. I think schools like SCAD are better suited to tra­di­tional artists or aspir­ing artists who are look­ing to break into the design field. Schools like that exist to spend more time and invest in your devel­op­ment as a designer/artist, and Full Sail exists to teach people how to har­ness the mas­sive number of tools at their dis­posal to be suc­cess­ful in the design indus­try. That’s not to say that cre­ative people didn’t come out of Full Sail – quite the con­trary. There were a lot of amaz­ingly tal­ented design­ers that I went to school with — but I think the point is that these people were quite tal­ented before they even walked through the doors.

Admissions

That’s the dif­fer­ence between Full Sail and other design schools in my mind – Full Sail will essen­tially let anyone with a pulse (and a decent credit line) through the door, portfolio/talent be damned. This dilutes the talent pool, harms their long term rep­u­ta­tion, and will even­tu­ally make it dif­fi­cult for them to appeal to young design­ers who want to get into the DM field quickly with a robust skillset. The people who grad­u­ate from Full Sail and suc­ceed are the ones who were tal­ented before they showed up, and I’m not sure their pro­gram is set up (or will ever have the capa­bil­ity) to allow up-and-coming design­ers that simply need refine­ment the time to blos­som and be at their best. If they con­tinue to have no admis­sions require­ments, no qual­ity con­trol mech­a­nisms, and con­tinue to recy­cle former stu­dents as teach­ers (lab instruc­tors mainly), the number of grad­u­ates who feel like they ‘got their money’s worth’ will remain quite low. With all of that said, I still feel the school is worth every penny if you are a very spe­cific type of person — one who already has at least mod­er­ate amounts of design abil­ity but lacks the knowl­edge needed to get all of that cre­ativ­ity out there. Full Sail’s Dig­i­tal Media pro­gram def­i­nitely will empower you to take your ideas and express them in any number of fields — with careers involv­ing motion graph­ics, video pro­duc­tion, 3d ani­ma­tion, flash devel­op­ment, and web design & devel­op­ment being just a few. If you’re that type of person, you can handle long days (8+ hours a day of school is the rule, not the excep­tion), and don’t mind living in Orlando, this is a school that will have you in the design world within a year and a half. And a lot of schools cannot say that.

Placement

I think the one thing that has never sat well with me was this unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tion that Full Sail was sup­posed to ‘place’ you in a job related to your field of study. All col­leges offer some sort of job place­ment or career depart­ment, and I feel it’s any university’s best inter­est to help with job place­ment, as it reflects on their abil­ity to edu­cate their stu­dents. How­ever, when the grad­u­ates stop taking the ini­tia­tive and use the place­ment depart­ment as the solu­tion rather than a tool, prob­lems obvi­ously will begin to show. It would seem to me that a dis­pro­por­tion­ate number of Full Sail grads have unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions for what this depart­ment can do and should do, and when they are unable to hep them find a job in the city of their choice in the field of their choice, they blame the school for the fail­ing. As long as Full Sail touts this pro­gram to incom­ing stu­dents, they will con­tinue to expe­ri­ence this prob­lem, and get undue crit­i­cism from job­less stu­dents. It should be noted, of course, that most of the people with these com­plaints are not Dig­i­tal Media, 3D, Video Pro­duc­tion or Game Design stu­dents. The vast major­ity of these com­plaints are from the stu­dents that make up the record­ing arts pro­gram. If you’re a designer, or really a non-​RA stu­dent, you have little to worry about. You will easily find a job right out of school if you have a good enough skillset.

Long story made very, very short: I do not regret going to Full Sail one bit. I met some amaz­ing folks that I learned a lot with, and I know that I would not be where I am today with­out that edu­ca­tion. During those short 13 months in Orlando, I learned ten times what I learned at the Art Insti­tute of Atlanta. I’m not sure if that’s a huge plus for Full Sail or a huge neg­a­tive for AIA, but I can say that I came out much better pre­pared for a career deal­ing with dig­i­tal media after my grad­u­a­tion from Full Sail.

Ok, now what?

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