A little over a year ago, I wrote a review on Full Sail University’s Dig i tal Media pro gram. It was met with a min i mal amount of con tro versy, with a few folks saying that the school was a joke, that Full Sail Uni ver sity doesn’t pro vide the nec es sary tools for suc cess, and they are now in huge amounts of debt with noth ing to show for it. I’ve had more time to think about things since then, and fig ured I’d write a follow-up about some of the pros and cons of the Full Sail Uni ver sity Dig i tal Media pro gram. Despite some of the crit i cism I’ve read, I’ve never really seen how this dif fers from any other col lege — a stu dent will get out of the insti tu tion a result pro por tion ate to what they put in. The ones who com plain are the ones who are not tal ented, are not ded i cated, or have unre al is tic expec ta tions of what any col lege edu ca tion can do for them. Every stu dent I went to school with that actu ally 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 design ers or devel op ers, some work in the video field, and others are involved in the video game indus try. In all cases, these guys and gals showed tremen dous amounts of ini tia tive through out the 13 months that we were at school and now have good jobs to show for it.
How ever, if you are an aspir ing designer, video g ra pher, or (insert cre ative career choice here), it should be noted that no school can teach some one to be cre ative — and Full Sail is cer tainly no excep tion. I think schools like SCAD are better suited to tra di tional artists or aspir ing artists who are look ing to break into the design field. Schools like that exist to spend more time and invest in your devel op ment as a designer/artist, and Full Sail exists to teach people how to har ness the mas sive number of tools at their dis posal to be suc cess ful in the design indus try. That’s not to say that cre ative people didn’t come out of Full Sail – quite the con trary. There were a lot of amaz ingly tal ented design ers that I went to school with — but I think the point is that these people were quite tal ented before they even walked through the doors.
That’s the dif fer ence between Full Sail and other design schools in my mind – Full Sail will essen tially 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 rep u ta tion, and will even tu ally make it dif fi cult for them to appeal to young design ers who want to get into the DM field quickly with a robust skillset. The people who grad u ate from Full Sail and suc ceed are the ones who were tal ented before they showed up, and I’m not sure their pro gram is set up (or will ever have the capa bil ity) to allow up-and-coming design ers that simply need refine ment the time to blos som and be at their best. If they con tinue to have no admis sions require ments, no qual ity con trol mech a nisms, and con tinue to recy cle former stu dents as teach ers (lab instruc tors mainly), the number of grad u ates 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 spe cific type of person — one who already has at least mod er ate amounts of design abil ity but lacks the knowl edge needed to get all of that cre ativ ity out there. Full Sail’s Dig i tal Media pro gram def i nitely will empower you to take your ideas and express them in any number of fields — with careers involv ing motion graph ics, video pro duc tion, 3d ani ma tion, flash devel op ment, and web design & devel op ment 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 excep tion), 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.
I think the one thing that has never sat well with me was this unre al is tic expec ta tion that Full Sail was sup posed to ‘place’ you in a job related to your field of study. All col leges offer some sort of job place ment or career depart ment, and I feel it’s any university’s best inter est to help with job place ment, as it reflects on their abil ity to edu cate their stu dents. How ever, when the grad u ates stop taking the ini tia tive and use the place ment depart ment as the solu tion rather than a tool, prob lems obvi ously will begin to show. It would seem to me that a dis pro por tion ate number of Full Sail grads have unre al is tic expec ta tions for what this depart ment 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 fail ing. As long as Full Sail touts this pro gram to incom ing stu dents, they will con tinue to expe ri ence this prob lem, and get undue crit i cism from job less stu dents. It should be noted, of course, that most of the people with these com plaints are not Dig i tal Media, 3D, Video Pro duc tion or Game Design stu dents. The vast major ity of these com plaints are from the stu dents that make up the record ing arts pro gram. If you’re a designer, or really a non-RA stu dent, 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 amaz ing folks that I learned a lot with, and I know that I would not be where I am today with out that edu ca tion. During those short 13 months in Orlando, I learned ten times what I learned at the Art Insti tute of Atlanta. I’m not sure if that’s a huge plus for Full Sail or a huge neg a tive for AIA, but I can say that I came out much better pre pared for a career deal ing with dig i tal media after my grad u a tion from Full Sail.