So, I STILL get comments on a post I made back in 2010 called "To Calarts or to SCAD, that is the question
", comments from art school hopefuls looking at schools and finding themselves in the exact same position I was in over 5 years ago. So, I thought I'd write an update sharing my thoughts on my overall experience.1. Overall, SCAD was awesome
It was awesome you guys. I went there September 2011, with only two suitcases, having never been that far from home by myself before, having never visited Savannah before, leaving behind a wonderful group of friends and one of the best years of my life in Arizona. It was terrifying, but it was worth it. I made so many great friends. I worked on some great projects - I was the lead background artist for the Powerpuff Girl segments of Double Rainboom, I created the student film I've been wanting to create for nearly half my life, and one of my friend's films that I animated on went on to be nominated for an Annie Award - a big freaking deal. I have a pretty solid portfolio, and a job! I got a job, you guys! It's not a big animation studio, it's a small advertising agency, but we create animations for Youtube and Google, and we're at the head of the industry, so that's pretty fantastic.
Here are the major pros I have for anyone who is considering SCAD and comparing it with other schools:
- Great teachers
. They have teachers with solid industry experience (unlike for-profit Art Institue of [Insert City Here] schools, which only cares if you have a master's degree regardless of industry experience). I definitely would not have grown to this extent if my teachers weren't so experienced in their field and so passionate about sharing their knowledge with others.
- Great resources
. The computer labs are pretty solid with all the latest software, there's peer tutoring if you're struggling with an assignment, the teacher's all have office hours, and there are so many events for most majors.
- Focus on Careers
. It's called the University for Creative Careers for a reason
- No art experience? No problem!
I know that sounds like a red flag, like something a dumb for-profit DeVry University type school will say, but SCAD recognizes that not every student has access to art classes growing up. Some school districts don't fund art classes anymore, some towns don't have recreation centers, etc. But that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. Kids without art experience will have an uphill battle - hell, kids WITH art experience still struggle at intro level courses. If you're not up for the challenge of being part of the arts, you wont last long.
- 4 Campuses & Online
- Savannah is the main campus, but there's a location in Atlanta as well if you want the Big City experience. And there's two satellite/abroad campuses, one in Lacoste, France, and the other in Hong Kong. They provide a great way for students to experience a bit of culture and broaden their world view a little. There's also some majors that can be done entirely online. Animation is not one of them.
- Savannah itself is amazing
. It's seriously one of the most beautiful cities in the country, with great architecture, tons of character and history, and fantastic food to boot. SCAD itself is interspersed across downtown Savannah, so it's a very very different experience from the usual college campus environment. Almost every SCAD building is a re-purposed historic building, but their facilities are still pretty top notch.
But I admit, there are some cons:
- It's expensive as shit.
Yes, I am drowning in student loans, and I even had a scholarship. If money is an issue, absolutely go to a community college first to get the English/Math/Science stuff out of the way first. SCAD transferred 90 credits for me. Apply for their artistic and academic scholarships, and there's need-based ones too, especially if you're a Georgia resident. Savannah itself (and Atlanta too) is fairly expensive. Much of the apartments around SCAD can be $1000/month or more. Fortunately, in Savannah at least, it gets cheaper the further south you get, and the parkways are pretty good to get you into downtown.
- Savannah isn't the safest city
and within the last year there has been a lot of violence on the streets. SCAD does its best to protect its students - you cannot go on SCAD property if you are not a student or someone with express permission. You must show a SCAD ID to even get on the buses. There's an after-hours emergency service provided by SCAD security where you just call them up, and they'll take you from a school building to your home off-campus, or vice versa. But ultimately, the best way to stay safe is the same way you stay safe anywhere - stay out of bad areas (you will know them when you come across them), don't go out alone at night, be mindful of your surroundings, of others, and your possessions. Don't let it deter you from seeking SCAD if it's where you want to go. Los Angeles and Atlanta and NYC have their bad areas too).2. It's what you put into it
Yes, the teachers and facilities and classes are awesome - I definitely would not have gotten as far as I have without the resources SCAD provided. But, they are just the beginning, and can only do so much. You have to do the rest of the work, and you can't just do the minimum effort and skate by on B's. Cuz in the end, it's not graduation that will get you the job. It's your portfolio. And I have seen many terrible portfolios come out of SCAD, from kids who got good grades even. But that's because their portfolio was ONLY the work they did in class, work that matches everybody else, or fell short of everyone else.. Whether they just aren't the strongest artists, or weren't using their time effectively, I don't know. Likewise, I've seen some kids struggle in classes, but end up with truly baller portfolios of outside work and projects. Basically my advice to anyone coming into SCAD - take advantage of every opportunity
. Work on senior films even when you're a Freshmen. Many seniors are cool with teaching you, and you will get a lot of knowledge that you can put toward your own student film. You could definitely tell who'd never work on films before - they had huge expectations to have big crews and underlings to do all the work, and thus they always crash and burned when the experience didn't meet those expectations. Go to extra lectures, life drawing sessions. Stay at Monty until 2am every day. Every moment you're not working is a moment you could get left behind. It sucks, but that's the rub. (Though don't do it quite to the extremes I did it - take care of your health). 3. It may not be for you in the end
This is scary to think about, but you might get to SCAD and find out that the thing you thought you wanted to do, whether animation or illustration or graphic design, it might not be for you. Maybe you just really struggle at computer programs, which means Visual Effects is going to be a struggle. I mean, if you love it enough you can get over hurdles like that, and you definitely should try, but if you reach a point that you really dread going to your classes and doing homework is more of a chore than anything, it may mean that major isn't for you. I have met more than one former SCADdie who found out last minute what their true passion was - one discovered motion media and loved it, another realized she loved 2D special effects animation and scrapped her senior film at the last quarter to do a short one with 2D effects. One girl who now works for SCAD realized her very last quarter as a Motion Media student that her heart lies with FIBERS, of all things. And one of my best friends and roommates dropped out of SCAD after two years when it was clear it was harder than she could handle, and she went on to culinary school instead, and loves it. Basically, listen to your gut. If SCAD isn't for you, you'll know it, and there is ZERO SHAME in transferring majors or transferring schools. One of the best parts about SCAD itself is the flexibility in majors - you can change subjects easily, and in fact your freshmen year is spent undeclared, giving you the chance for you to dive into other disciplines and see what you like. Take advantage of that, because even if you don't go into illustration or fibers or printmaking, the skills you learn there can influence the work in your major. 4. Okay, but, what's your biggest advice for someone going to SCAD, or anywhere really, for animation?
Don't be a dick
. I'm serious. Work hard and do well, but the people who make it in the industry are those that know people. The people in your classes, the people in your dorm hall, they're going into the same industry as you, and word gets around quick when someone is a jerk, or hard to work with, or a tyrant when it comes to directing a film. Don't ever act like you know everything. Don't shit on people who you feel superior to. No one will want to work with you, and though no one will remember the things you've said, they'll remember how you made them feel. Down the road, they may be working somewhere you'd love to work at too. If you go to school "not to make friends but to further your own career", you wont be able to ask them for a recommendation and expect to get one. Be kind. Learn from others and teach others. Network. But also, don't keep toxic people in your life. If you recommend someone for a job who is toxic or poor quality, that's a reflection on you. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Keep humble. And don't forget to be awesome (wow, I'm babbling).
Okay, and I guess my second bit of advice if you're doing animation specifically at SCAD, work on student films.
I know I said that above, but seriously, from the first Senior Seminar, sign up for senior films. Many directors will teach younger students how to use the programs, and even if you're just observing, you will learn SO MUCH. I learned Flash while working on Double Rainboom. I was background supervisor on two films before I even knew much about animation. I learned Toon Boom from seniors before I learned it from professors. I learned photoshop animation. I learned what does and does not work as far as directing goes, which helped me not crash and burn during my own senior film. One of my best friends learned to ink rough animation on senior films - she used that skill while still a student to do work for DISNEY you guys. So yeah, can't stress that enough - work on student films.5. Teachers / Classes Recommendations (mostly for Animation)
No matter what discipline you're going into at SCAD, or any school really, google "Rate My Professor" and do a check on all the professors for any class you're looking at taking. At SCAD, people are honest on these - they want hard but not insanely so, and they want to learn, not get easy A's. You'll hear about it if a professor is awful, but also hear which ones might best match your personal learning style.
Another tip - if a brand new professor shows up to SCAD and takes over a class, if you are able to wait to take them, give them a few quarters to get used to SCAD and what students are capable of doing in 10 weeks with two other classes to work around. Many new professors overestimate what students can pull off, especially when it comes to lecture classes.
If you're looking at going to SCAD specifically, here are my recommendations and tips, in the order you'd take these classes. Keep in mind, I'm a 2D character animator.Action Analysis 1
- Troy Gustafson, or if he's unavailable, John Webber. They're both former Disney animators. Troy did effects animation and Webber was character animation, but oddly enough, Troy has the stronger sense of anatomy, as effects animators were responsible for things like shadows and such on the characters. Avoid Baronian - she doesn't focus on figure drawing for animation, and every student I've seen come out of her class has struggled upon entering the next level of classes.Princples of 2D Animation
- I'd take John Webber over Troy if you really want to go into character animation, Troy if you want a more well-rounded view. I'll put it like this - if animating a flag waving sounds like hell, go with Webber, lol.Digital Form Space and Lighting
- last I knew only one professor taught this class, Valentine, and so many student hate him. I'll tell you the trick for getting through his class alive - don't try to follow along. Stay away from the keyboard, and take. notes. You'll be happy you did. His midterm isn't as terrible as he makes it sound, and if I remember right, he allows you a chance to retry. He'll tell you early on what the second half of the quarter is about, but I'll tell you now so you can ponder on it - you get to take a fictional character, not from a cartoon, and design a room for them. He has to approve any ideas you have, so come up with a couple.Principles of 3D Animation
- actually, ANY 3D Animation class, take Scott Wright. Don't take Scott for any 2D class though, he's not as strong there and doesn't seem to enjoy it as much. Also, if he ever does an illustration workshop, take it. He's amazing.Principles of Screen Design
- take Jan Carlee for this one. Don't take Simon. And don't be annoyed by all of Carlee's tangents and stories - they do serve a purpose. He is a master storyteller, and what seems like a tangent is actually a chance to learn more about how to tell a story. Also, they're just hilarious. I want him to write a book. Take good notes, and have fun on his projects. I recommend using Storyboard Pro for all his assignments - it'll go waaaaay faster.Media Literacy Theory
- do NOT save til your senior year, and DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TAKE IT WITH HAFIZI. You will regret it - I'm talking 200 pages of reading in 3 days kind of hard. I learned a lot, but goddamn I was ripping my hair out and I was just a sophomore. I don't even want to know how much that screwed over the seniors in my class.Digicel / 2D Production / Senior classes
- sadly, I don't have much advice for these ones. I took Webber for all the Digicel and 2D Production classes, and he was great, but he doesn't teach them all the time. Scott sounds like he's okay. There's new teachers for the Senior classes, and all I can say is don't take Professor Moon (in the catalog she has a very Asian name of unknown exact origin to me, but I can't remember it. Seuwn? Something like that?). Everyone I know who took her class didn't seem to like her very much.Character Design
- There are two character design classes at SCAD, one in Animation taught by Troy (last I knew), and one in the SEQA department, taught by Goto or others. GO WITH TROY. You should be able to get a waiver to apply Troy's class to a SEQA minor, just claim that all the SEQA classes were filled up when you tried to take it. The SEQA version is basically "Intro to Animation" for SEQA students, so you'll be bored out of your skull. Troy's is very much "Okay, you know about animation already, so let's learn how to design a character TO BE ANIMATED." Other Electives?
- best advice I have is do NOT take more than 2 Troy electives at once (I had to drop one), and save as many lecture classes as you can for senior year, so you can just have 2 hard studio classes and 1 easy lecture. I also recommend taking at least one Motion Media Design class, because After Effects is such a good program to know and the motion media industry is huge and only growing.
There are many teachers I didn't have a chance to take, or who are new. This list may even get thrown out as teachers retire or move on. But this is what I've got. Heed my advice.5. Savannah Recommendations
Haha I have to put this here. Here are some things I recommend in the Savannah area:
Zunzi's - don't question, just go. It's right next to Bradley hall. Don't go to Zunzi's 2, it's not as good. Get the Godfather, with everything.
Al Salam's - just south of Wallin, it's a cute little hole in the wall that sells falafel, gyros, and is amazing.
Egg Roll King - easily the best Chinese food I've had ever. It's in kind of a sketchy area, but it's a quick drive from Monty
Wasabi's - best sushi in the area, it's just down MLK from the bookstore.
Moon River and the Distillery - pretty good bar/grill type place.If you ever have any questions at all, don't hesitate to ask me on here or email me at melimsah at gmail dot com
(put "SCAD Deviantart Post" in the subject I'll know you're not a spammer).