College Decision- Help Me Decide

Help me decide colleges. I’m a transfer student from a California CC, but I also did two years at a a liberal arts college in MA. I am interested in studying film and working in Hollywood, like writing and directing, but not 100% sure. I currently live in LA and made connections at a few production companies in LA, but I am afraid I may lose those connections if I leave LA.

So here’s my dilemma: I’ll be listing the school, cost, why, and pros and cons, in order of ranking. Also, still not sure on what I want to do with my life.

I got into Columbia University in NYC, my dream school since I was like 13. But it will probably be between 50k-90k in loans. National Ranking top 10 or 18

Pros: Ivy League, NYC, reputation and prestige, top 20 colleges and universities nationally, great film program and other programs, name and brand recognition on resume, dream school, my resume will be read more than most other schools/applicants.

Cons: Student Loan cost (50-90k). Leaving my life in LA. I got into Columbia School of general studies, which is one of the 4 undergraduate schools at Columbia, which gives the least financial aid and is the less respected by some, but, I will just say Columbia University on resume and not distinguish. Sell my car/rent out car, major hit financially. Pay my car bill while in school, don’t know what to do with my car.

Boston University: Loans 8.5 k per year for 2-3 years. National ranking like 41.

Pros: Good school, Financial Aid is amazing for a school that costs like 80k, good film program.

Cons: Leave LA, Not a super great school for salary after, less than my liberal arts school in MA, rest start in LA, grade deflation, have to retake science, math, and other GE classes. Sell my car/rent out car, major hit financially. Pay my car bill while in school, don’t know what to do with my car.

Loyola Marymount University: Loans 80k without Financial Aid per year, or 41 k each year for 2-2.5 years or so.

Pros: Screenwriting major, top 8 film schools, Stay in LA, internship opportunities in LA/film.

Cons: Cost of attendance and loans, not a very good school outside of film, opportunities outside of film and even in film maybe be limited compared to competing with USC, Chapman, UCLA, ect, (this I’ll be the same everywhere, but maybe more since they are in direct competition with one another).

California State University Northridge - CSUN
CSUN: Cost, if I stay at my apartment, pay for my car and rent about 2.2 k, with financial aid, no real debt, but will have to work just about full time. If I live off campus and no Financial aid, about 8k in debt each year for 2-2.5 years while working almost full time.

Pros: Stay in LA, descent opportunities in film

Con: School ranking, very low, outside of film not good, even film is like 18, Cost could still be expensive.

What would you choose, please help and give your insight/input. Thank you!

I would absolutely choose CSUN, keep debt low, and continue to cultivate your local connections in the industry. Those connections easily put you ahead of students at the non-LA schools. CSUN has a good rep for Film in the LA area.

Start getting PA hours when you can. IMO, those can move you up the chain (2nd Asst Director and on) better than a degree from a higher ranked school.


Also, I’ll be homeless during the summers if I leave LA and give up my apartment…

I agree wholeheartedly.

WSJ ran an article entitled Financially Hobbled for Life. The first paragraph was about Columbia Film School. Granted it was about MS programs, but their median salary was under $30K per year…with a MS…from Columbia!

Connections, skill, and ultimately luck are what you need. Don’t build up a bunch of debt. Good luck!


It’s film. The national rank isn’t relevant and loans are a death trap in a hard to navigate field. Plus you have current connections to leverage. BU is fine but doesn’t help you keep your contacts. Columbia - going to Ivy just bcuz it’s Ivy doesn’t give you any film boost.

I’d be at LMU or CSUN. Probably CSUN which is well reputed in the industry. But I can’t tell which is cheaper for you. Whichever is of those two.

Good luck.

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What major were you accepted into at LMU and CSUN?


Film is a rather hard industry to get into a decent paying job in. Therefore, you do not want to get into a lot of debt.


Going to Columbia would be financial suicide, especially for a general studies degree. I would stay and try to keep up your connections and try to be as marketable as possible.

LMU and CSUN Screenwriting

Which is cheapest? Which do u feel a better connection ?

CSUN is much cheaper. BU and CSUN are about $8.5 each year, 2.5-3 years. LMU is like $45k each year.

Cross off the big debt schools. If you go east, go to BU. If you stay in LA, go to Northridge. There’s no reason to incur crushing debt for a little extra reputation-sparkle; it’s not worth it when you have such good funded choices. An incremental cost difference is one thing, but we’re talking orders of magnitude here. Way too big a gamble to buy magic prestige fairy dust that isn’t that isn’t that likely to lead to a debt-eliminating windfall.

So, BU vs. Northridge. I’d say Northridge, for the housing stability and ongoing connections you can make in LA, but if you prefer BU enough to deal with the disruption of going east, it’s a great program with great aid so it wouldn’t be a crazy choice. Choosing Columbia CGS over BU, or LMU over Northridge, for the massive price difference, is a big nope. You have two good choices; simplify the decision and focus on those.


Columbia is not really ranked 10-18. It’s 10-18 in the world. In the US, it’s (I think) the equal of UChicago (its version in Chicago…) and UPenn. Its real rank academically is probably about 6-8. And if its CS and Engg programs were stronger it would be right with HYPSM. Again, just like UChicago. The two are peers in so many ways.

That’s not really important – I just wanted to stick up for Columbia.

You should choose a school strong in your major, in an environment you’ll like, and at a price that won’t sink you in debt. If you’re aiming for a performance/entertainment/arts life, well – you might get lucky and land a big deal and make more than every engineer from MIT – but you have to understand, for every millionaire artist, there are thousands working to make ends meet, who are equally skilled or nearly so. So i would go for the best bang for the buck: great teaching, internship opportunities, low cost. Columbia is great, but if it would hang a $1000/month loan payment around your neck while you’re waiting tables, that’s probably untenable.

We’re talking Film, $50-90K in loans for 2 remaining years as a transfer student.

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Not quite as bad then, but still a burden post-grad.

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