Seeking feedback on Game Design Programs

Hello! My son is a rising junior interested in Game Design and Game Programming. We’ve just finished up a four school tour…WPI, RPI, RIT and Champlain. He hoped for clarity and ended up with confusion :joy: He ranked three of the schools equally high (RPI just wasn’t the right vibe for him). There are pros and cons for each of the others, of course. I’d love any thoughts on personal experience with those specific programs - quality, how well enjoyed, level of support, career opportunities…

There will be others to consider before the time comes but these were first tier looks.

My son is a great student, entering an IB degree program, not a boatload of EC. Has taken a practice ACT and SAT but none officially yet. Definitely a math/CS kid, but who is very creative and likes design. He’s a bit socially awkward, not into partying, but does want to make good friends.

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There are some other threads. Game design. May include these and more.

I couldn’t find the recent threads but RIT and Utah of all places come up a lot

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Quick interjection and I hope this comes across as helpful advice, versus criticism. 1400 is a great score, but . . . now that I have 3 in college, I can say I’m not sure it’s enough for merit aid. Of course that depends on where she’ll end up. We’re in NJ, so similar experience as CT. I was “mean” and made my youngest take a number of practice SAT tests throughout the summer (Kahn Academy online - free). He definitely improved his score and did earn a significant merit scholarship. I wish I would have offered him the alternative of focusing on the ACT, which is my suggestion for your daughter. Very different tests; I’d pick one, have her study and then retake. Maybe I’m wrong, but from my experience, the colleges seem to base the merit $ on their scores. For point of reference, mine are at Oberlin, Dickinson and Lafayette. Best of luck to her.

I don’t think the OP has given stats. You are seeing the stats from the “chain” I posted - previous discussions.

Merit depends on the school - and then the stats of the student. But there’s tons of merit out there - if you look for it.

Hey there. We’re one year ahead of you, I presume, as my 18 year old starts school next month.

She applied to:
RPI
WPI
Virginia Tech
Utah
Michigan State
RIT
Miami Ohio
Purdue

She was accepted to all of these and most gave merit. Utah, ironically, offered no merit (and they were the easiest of these schools to get accepted into). Purdue also no merit since they only give merit to like 5 percent of applicants

We crossed off RPI despite large merit, she didn’t like the vibe or the city

I liked RIT a lot and they made a great offer, but she didn’t love the vibe there. She said it was very “industrial” feeling.

Michigan State was our sneaky runner up. They are ranked 6th in game design and we visited and were blown away with how gorgeous it was. She actually bought a sweatshirt and was about to sign. They made the best offer of all schools, cost would have been cheaper than in state UConn.

She ended up falling for WPI instead. They also gave a great merit award, a mix of her being a strong student, with a great portfolio, but likely also because they are trying to increase female population in an engineering school. WPI is closing in on closer to 50/50, where was RPI lagged behind on that.

So she starts at WPI next month. Can’t say much about the experience since it hasn’t started yet. They are ranked 5 I think in game design, and have exchange abroad programs in Japan and Sweden, proximity to Boston, and Worcester has like 7 colleges in town.

Miami Ohio was a beautiful campus, but they didn’t have as strong a program.

She also liked Champlain a lot. But in the end the fact that it’s a small school with not a lot of alternatives if game design wasn’t for her, she passed.

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@HankCT … Congrats to your daughter! Sounds like she looked at several we have. My son has really liked Champlain, WPI and RIT. He felt the same about RPI. He loved much about WPI… I’m curious to learn more about the program itself as that’s the one thing the tour didn’t give much of a feel for. Will your daughter be doing the BA or BS? My son likes Design and Programming both, so would like the chance to minor in Programming which is the one thing I’m not clear about the possibility of at WPI - we need to figure that out. We’ll definitely be curious to learn more over the next year! Hadn’t considered Michigan because he’s probably a smaller school kid. Though may look at UU since it’s not that far from home.

Thanks to everyone!!

[quote]… I’m curious to learn more about the program itself as that’s the one thing the tour didn’t give much of a feel for. Will your daughter be doing the BA or BS? My son likes Design and Programming both, so would like the chance to minor in Programming which is the one thing I’m not clear about the possibility of at WPI - we need to figure that out. We’ll definitely be curious to learn more over the next year! Hadn’t considered Michigan because he’s probably a smaller school kid. Though may look at UU since it’s not that far from home
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I think she is likely to end up with the BA. She is very strong on illustration, digital art and design. She took AP programming classes in HS and enjoyed them but not sure if she loves that. She’s also considering a dual major, perhaps in something as different as environmental engineering

WPI has a few novel things - if you get in, you can major in anything. You can go in for game design and graduate as a rocket scientist. They say if you get in, you’re in.

They also do quarters, instead of semesters. So you take 3 classes a quarter, which means the classes are 6 weeks long, and fewer classes at a time with more focus

Also, they have a lot of people who do game design major BS and double major in computer science, due to the overlap and because it’s also a nice option for people to have if they can’t find a spot in game design.

Following. My D23 is also very interested in CS with an emphasis in game design. She is touring RIT tomorrow, and after the info session and tour she is meeting with a student who just graduated from their GDD program (not arranged by the school; we have a friend who works at UR and knows people at RIT, so he put us in touch with the student). Let me know if you’d like the details of the interview (probably mostly the gist, mostly, because I am sure my kid is not going to take notes, although my hubby will also be there and he does have a good memory for details). Your kid sounds like the male version of my kid, by the way.

We found five different rankings of game design schools and did our own superscoring of the schools that showed up most often on the lists, which left us with the following top 6, in order: USC (#1 on 4 of the lists; was ranked #2 on the final list), DigiPen Institute of Technology, University of Utah, RIT, MSU, and NYU (although NYU only has a BFA in GD, so I don’t think it’s for her because no CS). DigiPen was the only school to unseat USC on a list, taking the #1 spot on the list compiled by 80 Level. My scoring system was incredibly rudimentary, we left off schools that didn’t show up often, none of the lists separated out which schools were better for the art side or the tech side, and some of the rankings use the other rankings to create their rankings, so take it all with an entire shaker of salt. WPI didn’t make the list, but I am keeping my eye on them anyway because they just bought Becker College’s well-respected game design department (Becker just closed; the game design major was apparently the only decent thing they still had going). So WPI might rise in the rankings quite a bit if they are able to incorporate whatever Becker was doing well with whatever they are already doing well. (Although Becker did not show up on many lists, Princeton Review ranked it very high and I do recall reading an article somewhere about how their GD program was quite good).

We are going to be out in Seattle to visit family in August and are doing an in-person tour of DigiPen while we’re there. We hope to hit MSU and UU during spring break, and we might just go up to tour NYU on a weekend sometime because we’re within driving distance, even though their program is a BFA (in game design, not art or illustration). We will probably not bother with USC, as it’s unlikely our daughter would get in. She’s a good student, but not USC level. I’d be happy to share/compare post-visit notes. I’d love to know what you and your son think of the schools after you visit them, too.

@JAF09 Thank you so much for sharing your process! We’ve just ended our 8 day tour to four schools. I’m happy to share our initial thoughts … Please know that these are simply mine and my son’s, based on who he is, and with limited knowledge still! I’d love to hear anything you learn and appreciate your insights!

We live in CO so have limited chances for traveling to Eastern schools, so we missed several worthy of seeing, including Drexel, Northeastern, NYU… My DS did several virtual tours through last year to get a feel. Virtually his by far favorite was Champlain…they did a great job and had GD specific info sessions which was helpful. We also did virtual tours for WPI, and RIT, which were less specific but he did like them, and liked their rankings. (Champlain is always in top 20 as well and comes in 3rd here, nationally and 7th internationally: https://www.gameschools.com/, but is very small and isn’t as well known in the land of college scouting) We may go see UU since they are in a Western Schools consortium of sorts with CO, so cheaper. I feel might be too big, but we’ll see. He’s not that excited. Might also go see USC, though more selective than he might be able to reach for. I’d like to look at Digipen as well. I have a friend who knows someone who’s son went there and is now working on Minecraft for Microsoft. My son has a thing about it because it’s for-profit, but we’ll see. I’d love to hear what you think when you go!!

When it came time to choose where to visit, we went East to his top 3, and since it was on the way also saw RPI. He ended up MORE confused because he REALLY liked all 3. (RPI didn’t give a great tour, no info session, low energy and just didn’t catch his attention or give a vibe he liked.)

I’ll share our list of top pros and cons for each…for my son THE number ONE priority is the Game Design program offered, above campus, location, or any kind of activities. Small is better, not interested in sports or Greek life. As mom, I’d love to be guaranteed he’ll find his people. : ) Though, no guarantees given on that!

WPI:
Pros -

  • Energy - it felt…sweet. Weird word choice maybe, but it’s what came to mind. People were super friendly, happy and welcoming.
  • Quarter system, though it might have downfalls. My son liked the idea.
  • Grading System - NRs given rather than Ds or Fs
  • Abroad programs - big seller
  • Really fun clubs, even Greek seems…sweet.
  • Campus is lovely, Worcester has charm, The Fix is really yummy. : )

Cons - not much really

  • Dorms are…dorms
  • I’m still not clear if my DS could combine Game Design AND Game Programming in any way. It seems you choose either a BA or BS track, and the two don’t meet. He really would like one that offers a Programming minor or double major and I don’t see it being a clear option.

RIT:
Pros -

  • Facilities, resources…money, honestly. They invest in tech, well.
  • It’s been voted one of the ugliest campuses, but we REALLY liked it. From the outside edges it seems industrial, but we felt, when touring, that it was like a little self-contained village that felt kind of nice. Lots of dining options, tunnels to help with the cold.
    *Co-ops
  • Nice overall feel - friendly, happy people.

Cons -

  • The campus IS isolated. Rochester is close, but not right there, and a bigger city than he’s comfortable with, more than likely.
  • The program seems great. It’s not a foundational program to the school, but they are investing in it, I think. I just don’t have a huge feel for the program itself.

Champlain:
Pros -

  • The program. It’s THE foundational program in the school - 35% of students are part of the “Game Studio” which includes 6 majors. So, a big community of “gamers” my son might find comfortable.
  • The curriculum. From first semester, first-year students are building games in teams with other game disciplines, mimicking the industry, learning teamwork.
  • My son can major in Design and minor in Programming, which he likes, and if necessary move into another discipline if he finds he likes it better.
  • Abroad opportunities. Taught by people in the industry.
  • Friendly, laid back feel.
  • For my son - size, and ease of getting around the campus.
  • Liked the Victorian dorms, especially after seeing others. : )
  • Burlington. We live near Boulder, and Burlington is much like it, but smaller.

Cons -

  • Campus here too - not AS pretty, I’d say because much smaller and in a neighborhood so not as much space. But, still liked it.
  • School isn’t as selective and that does bother my son a little. The program itself is more selective than the school.
  • Weather. Though doesn’t seem to top his concern.

That was a lot I know!! Would love to continue to hear others’ impressions! Always nice to get different perspectives, since our kids are all different!!