When looking for a school it's easy to get distracted by flashy advertising campaigns and glowing references from alumni. It's also a time when you could easily make a decision that you will regret because you didn't do your research. There truly are incredible schools out there, but there are also some that should not be allowed to teach at all.
Once you have narrowed down your list and you start talking with schools directly, here are a few questions to help you better understand which school is best for you.
What percentage of your teaching staff are working in the industry right now?
Be careful of schools that don't have any current or recent industry professionals. Many schools employ recent graduates that have little to no experience and just set you tasks, but are not able to help or give you relevant advice. Check current staff LinkedIn profiles to see what industry experience they have had in the past.
Who wrote your curriculum and what makes it better than other schools?
This will show you if they have strong internal educators or rely completely on external vendors to provide their training material. It will be pretty obvious which schools are setting the standard, and which ones are just following the herd.
How many of your students from last year have jobs?
This will help you understand how soon it takes for alumni to get a job and what percentage actually were employed. All schools will have this information, but really push for statistics and solid case studies here. If only a few people have jobs it means that the school is not preparing students properly and they will do the same to you. Also, ask how many of those students got hired back by the school. This can make the hire rate seem a lot higher than it really is.
Tip: Ask for names here if possible, then track them down on LinkedIn. Ask them directly if they would mind answering a few questions about their experience. Don't stalk people or be annoying. However, you will find that most people are super helpful and will share their thoughts openly.
What software will you teach me?
When you get this information, cross-check it against the list of recommended software here. Often schools will have contracts with certain companies which limits their access to industry approved software. Also make sure to ask if all their software is up-to-date and there are teachers they really know how to teach it.
What are the most common jobs people get after this course?
Make sure they are super specific with this one. Are graduates all working as Compositing Artists? Are graduates actually doing jobs that you want to do? Are graduates just working as Runners. This is a sure fire way to truly figure out what your employment chances are like after graduation.
Tip: Schools love to show all the films that their alumni have worked on. However, be careful with this one. Often they will use recent blockbuster films from alumni that attended 10+ years ago and were not the reason for the artists success.
Which studios do you have strong relationships?
Good schools will always work closely with leading studios. This means they will often have guest speakers, events and recruiters helping out to make sure the school is staying relevant and on track. Get the names of studios and do your own research, it will be pretty obvious.
What computer equipment and facilities will I get access to?
It's amazing how many schools don't even provide computers or even a working environment you'd want to spend time in. When studying visual effects, you are going to spend a lot of time at school, so make sure it's somewhere decent. Check there are enough computers to render your final project. We often see schools where they're asking students to render out final projects on their laptops.
How to Find a Good Art School
Now that you've got some good questions to ask, here is a list of some of the Best Art Schools in the World to get your started in the right direction.
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