MY take on MFA programs at USC, Pratt and SVA

<p>We were just checking out grad animation programs/computer art for MFA degrees at USC, Pratt and SVA. I thought I would share my thoughts.</p>

<p>First as to USC. I LOVE USC. I love the area, the school and the strong reputation of the School of Cinematic arts at USC. I even liked the people that I met. What I didn't like was the program! It is very fluffy. Most courses are required with very few electives allowed. In addition, I didn't see a lot of courses offered to begin with except in art history.</p>

<p>Moreover, the end result of their program won't necessarily be a demo reel, which is what the industry requires. As a top faculty member noted, "we are a research university and getting the masters thesis done and doing research is what we emphasize." Accordingly, I was really turned off by their program,which saddened me a bit.</p>

<p>We also spent some time this week at both SVA and Pratt.</p>

<p>Both programs are suprisingly similar in requirements and course offerings;however, SVA probably provides a bit more course choices. </p>

<p>What turned me off to both of them, especially SVA, is the large number of required art history and even humanties courses required by their programs. SVA for example required two art history courses and two digital seminars,which were basically art history in disquise. Four art history courses wouldn't be that bad until you consider that students only need 18 courses to graduate with the MFA plus two thesis courses. This is akin to taking 12 art history courses as an undergrad. Pratt only requires two art history courses but has other "unrelated" requirements such as humanities.Interestingly, none of the schools would waive the art history requirements for my daughter even though she took 5 art history courses as an undergrad. They argue that grad courses are very different, which I don't believe one bit.</p>

<p>If you want to develop strong 3D computer graphics skills, you would probably need to stretch out the MFA at least by one year in order to take enough course offerings in order to achieve an appropriate skill level, which is absurd. This also substantially increases the costs of attendance by one-third.</p>

<p>Pratt was the only MFA program that we inspected that promised a demo reel as part of the program.</p>

<p>One note of caution, SVA in particular has a LOT of hidden fees. For example, they have a mandatory health care fee, an activity fee, a whopping $1200 per semester computer fee and much more. If you look at this school, pay close attention to these fees.</p>

<p>I also think that SVA is a "for profit" school. If I am right, this means less scholarships than that of Pratt. They also have more of an incentive to cut costs and make money, although I did like the facilities at SVA as much as Pratt and maybe even more so. However, despite all this, most kids that we interviewed like their program at SVA. It also had good rankings by 3d magazine.</p>

<p>As for my daughter, she felt that Pratt has a more artsy and experimental animation feel while SVA was a bit more commerical and practical. I don't know if this is true or even if I agree with her assessment.</p>

<p>I did like the trade schools such as Gnomon and Sheridan in Canada, which were also highly ranked,but you only graduate with a certificate,which has its pros and cons.</p>

<p>I will be checking out SCAD,which admittedly does seem to have an interesting program with less crappy requirements and good rankings by 3D magazine.. SCAD,however, does tend to pidgeon hole kids into subconcentrations such as sound, visual effects or animation. In addition, SCAD is in Georgia,which makes me question their contact base and reputation in NY and other places.</p>

<p>Most of the schools do NOT give strong training in traditional art as part of the MFA program. You should have a strong art background before you consider these places. However, USC did have one full year of 2d animation, which also inculcates traditional drawing.</p>

<p>As for the locations, I loved both locations where Pratt and SVA are located. Pratt is in an up and coming area of Brooklyn. SVA is in Gramarcy Park,which is a hip area with a number of good restaurants and cafes. We had some great asian food and gread Gyro wraps. I also didn't feel unsafe at either SVA or Pratt, although you always have to be careful in any big city.</p>

<p>USC itself is very nice;however just outside of USC is a bit more tenuous and unsafe.</p>

<p>In short, Masters programs should be very skill-focused, without having to take a lot of crappy gen eds.I actually liked the trade schools better than I did the MFA programs because of this. You may have a different take on these places than I did.</p>

<p>taxguy lives!!!
I was hoping you and your D had a date at Gramercy tavern.</p>

<p>are you FINALLY FINALLY visiting SCAD?
raininguru would be weeping in the grave.</p>

<p>Actually if RA does respond it will be a little snarky such as, "Well taxguy finally has been turned around about SCAD." I don't think I will post my view of SCAD specifically to avoid RainingAgain's comments.</p>

<p>thank you taxguy - I am just looking at BFA programs in illustration right now but have read your older posts and found them very, very helpful.
As I told you on another thread bears and dogs, I was going to look at some of your older posts and as you warned me, I was a bit confused here and there but overall smiled as I read them and found some interesting information.
So, thanks to both of you and all the other posters who afford me another tool as I try to make by decision, which I realize in the end will have to do with the right match for me alone.</p>

<p>Yes, not only are Bears posts entertaining with a wry twist on things but they are very informative.</p>

<p>Oh yeah, except for her Coopers fixation!!! LOL Bears.
But she has a point, even if you aren't into conceptual Coopers is free free free and actually the graphics department is great, I think stronger than the other actually but that's just my personal slant.</p>

<p>taxguy, what was your daughter's undergrad? Just curious if it helps to have had some sort of computer animation/graphic design background before pursuing a computer-based grad program. D is going into Illustration, but she keeps checking the animation box for her other interests.</p>

<p>^Oh, and thanks for your replies when I had questions on SCAD last fall. You provided reference to articles so we could research and make up our own minds.</p>

<p>taxguy
you are kidding, don't be shy!!
if anything RA would embrace you like old comrade, long lost friend.
mom4
watch it, his D is the most qualified anything ever, done time co-op and all.
I was actually surprised that she wants MFA, not going straight into workforce.</p>

<p>She majored in Digital Design in undergrad which is mostly interactive with some motion. The problem is that she likes the motion part and not the interactive as much.</p>

<p>Yes, she could get an interactive/web design job tomorrow,but that is not what she wants.</p>

<p>Taxguy, will be looking forward to your ongoing MFA reviews. It sounds like you are just getting started. I appreciate the detail you add to your descriptions. D2 seems to think that she wants to do some kind of interactive design, but it seems way too introverted for her.</p>

<p>MFA programs and "skill-focused" are like oil and water. Skills are not what MFA programs are about, the student should really be already possessing the necessary skills to execute their visions. MFA's have certain requirements which usually include history, critical studies, and other "GE" type requirements to provide the breath of your degree. </p>

<p>I would highly recommend avoiding wasting time and money on any MFA programs in animation/computer art. There are only two I would recommend looking into on the west coast - AAU and SJSU (both which focus on 'dem skillz')
I have also heard positive things about SCAD and CMU. For a more technical bent - Texas A&M's Viz Lab</p>

<p>The fact is, most MFA programs will be fluffy. That is the nature the beast. The best programs will be ones that have a strong undergrad program that may provide the skill-based training you are looking for, or a program with a more technical/research approach. With SVA I'm not sure how the very disparate areas of sound, visual effects and animation can be seen as pigeonholing. Each area is so broad that there are many different careers for each of those pigeon holes.</p>

<p>If your daughter is looking to get into the industry (which is where I assume this emphasis on the demo reel is coming from), then a trade/vocational school like Gnomon or online training at gnomon, fxphd, or digital tutors is the way to go. </p>

<p>Unless your daughter sees herself teaching in the future, MFA programs are generally a waste of hard earned cash. And most schools that teach the real stuff couldn't care less if you had an MFA anyway.</p>

<p>Just an update, my daughter has developed some strong technical skills in the animation pipeline. She is a very quick study.</p>

<p>What she wants will be a lot of emphasis on storyboarding, storytelling, traditional animation training as well as honing her already impressive skills. She also wouldn't mind teaching in the future,but she wants to work on various animation projects.</p>

<p>Not a school suggestion, but for industry info:
Cartoon</a> Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation</p>

<p>Is this undergrad only?
<a href="http://www.cartoonbrew.com/biz/lmu-film-school-first-to-launch-fully-networked-creative-village.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.cartoonbrew.com/biz/lmu-film-school-first-to-launch-fully-networked-creative-village.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Why not just go the internship route? Do some corporate research, networking (e.g., n degrees of Kevin Bacon? How are <em>you</em> connected? It's funny at some levels, deadly serious at others), blind inquiries ... if you do it right, you can get foot in door. If you hang out enuf, people see you as a regular ... and then ... one day, you're in.</p>

<p>And don't just go for big-time, e.g., Disney / Pixar types ... look to <em>their</em> suppliers. Read those credit reels on all the movies (or look up the info). Lots of info there. The suppliers can have amazing flexibility ... or say "I can't help you, but Ms. Smith at such and such could" ... persistence.</p>

<p>I totally agree with Magreve. An internship or entry level job in the right studio would get her foot in the door. Her ability to learn fast plus her great art background will do the rest.</p>

<p>Has she identified artists in the field she admires and follows their work? Suggest she find a way to contact them (requires creative detective work--who do I know who knows someone in that company...?) and then email them and ask for advice on her career hopes, MFA thoughts, job prospects...? Some will even agree to meet her for lunch and discuss. </p>

<p>Wishing her good luck and lots of persistence.</p>

<p>Follow up on SVA and RIT's MFA programs: My daughter sent in her transcript directly from the originating school to SVA as was required by most schools.However, this is NOT what SVA wants. They want all information sent together. The transcript has to be in the original unsealed envelop and the same for recommendations. My daughter tried to follow up with SVA to make sure that they got everything. She called admission three times and only got a voice mail. It has been at least 10 days from the last call, and they have never called her back.</p>

<p>RIT on the other hand has human beings answering their admission calls. My daughter called the department, animation, and got to the dean , who knew of her immediately, Everyone at RIT was warm and forthcoming, and it was easy to speak to a person. In fact, the director of the animation program called her pesonally to congratulate her and said that they were looking forward to her becoming a student. I am not saying that she will choose the school with the most welcoming staff, but I have to admit that SVA reaction.... or should I say... lack of response.... was very disconcerting. We wonder what it will be like dealing with them if she becomes matriculated there.</p>