Well, it’s been a little over a year since I graduated from Full Sail University now, which is absolutely crazy really. I’ve always wanted to write something about what I thought about the school, my experience, and if it’s ‘worth’ the cash you have to pay to attend. I guess after a year, I’ve had time to really think about it, and work a few jobs to see how the skills I learned have translated to a career in the Design world.
First off, I’ve always been more of a ‘coder’ than a ‘designer’. I’d like to think I have a good eye for design, and I’ve certainly learned over the years what works and what doesn’t. But I don’t think I’m the most creative person out there, either. I know what principles work, which don’t, and typically just make design choices based on that. When I enrolled in school in Orlando, I was hoping to get a better background than another Atlanta area school supplied me in, design wise. With that said, I think I did expect Full Sail to supply more design theory versus a simple crash course in certain applications.
Right out of the gate, I did feel like I was going to get a lot of that. Once our core classes were out of the way, some of the early classes I was in had names like Fundementals of Design and Computer Grahpics, real basic names that would lend themselves to being classes that would stress the ins and outs of the wonderful world of design.
I’m not implying we learned nothing about practical design concepts – we certainly did. I am simply saying I wish we had spent more time on it. I felt we rushed through that part of the courses on the way to how to use whichever application we were going to focus on that month. The practical knowledge we learned at school is second to none. When I left, I had intermediate to advanced knowledge in the following software: Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, GoLive, After Effects, Flash, Dreamweaver, Final Cut, 3D Studio Max, and a host of others. I learned, or honed my skills in, 5 different programming languages, and worked on tons of projects by myself and in groups. A lot of the things we churned out (in just one month!) rival anything I’ve seen from other design-related schools. When I left, I really did feel like a well-rounded designer, and felt I had a huge leg up over many other entry-level students due to the amazing number of programs I had learned.
However, this also makes a lot of the students who graduate from Full Sail Jacks of all trades; master of none as the saying goes. A lot of students come out of school and are kick-ass web designers, or they go to school for some other field we dabbled in but are masters in it. Full Sail students can speak the lingo, but can’t always deliver the goods as well as someone who has been doing it for years can.
Bottom line: is Full Sail University worth the price tag($40k or more, depending on living expenses & your specific major)? I honestly think it depends on so many factors that it’s impossible to say yes or no definitevely. I’ll be paying off student loans for the next 10 or so years, and while my earning potential has certainly skyrocketed due to the knowledge I acquired while at Full Sail, I’ve also been handcuffed by the loans to gain that very knowledge & skill. I pay approximately $6,000 a year right now to Sallie Mae to cover my loans from school. If you factor in how much I have to make hourly to pay that off, that’s almost $8,000 a year (before taxes) in income to pay off my debt. Did Full Sail enable me to make $8,000 a year more than I would have if I didn’t go there? Perhaps. The only skill that I use at my current job that I did not have before going to Full Sail was my background in Flash. I’d say I spend about 5 hours a week in Flash right now, so it’s hard for me to say whether or not it was ‘worth’ it or not.
I just think that it’s something for anyone considering entering a school like Full Sail. Really think about what you want to be doing with your life when you get out of school, because this isn’t some broad degree like, say, some sort of Business degree that will allow you to enter a huge amount of fields when you graduate. If you attend Full Sail and get out, odds are you’re going to get a job in your specific degree-related field, or you’re going back to college somewhere else afterwords. Of the 30 or so kids that graduated with me, roughly 10 of them are in Digital Media/Graphic Design related fields. The rest of them either moved back home with their parents and are doing nothing, or they’re back in school somehwere else.