Confused: career change + undergrad/grad + international

Hi there,

Another ex-silent participant here :slight_smile: I know some of this has been discussed before. Reading this forum has been very helpful, but I still would appreciate any advice on my situation.

So here’s the short version of my story:
I’m 27, a software developer… with a B.A. in Psychology. I’ve missed my first chance at art school because for some reason I was certain I had to be an artist before going to study art. What’s done is done, though, and now I am looking for a second chance. More specifically, I’m torn between interaction design and the artsy digital media programs.

When I finally decided to do something it was already October, and so I didn’t have time to invest in a portfolio. Therefore, I had to aim for graduate programs that don’t require, or put less emphasis, on the portfolio. I’ve applied to several schools (SVA, Parsons, IIT) and am waiting for answers, but this board (and several discouraging replies I got - RISD, Pratt, more ) got me thinking whether I should be going for a second undergrad degree instead.

While I can use the software tools adequately, my sketching skills are virtually nonexistent. And although I’m working on it, I could definitely use some technical training. On the other hand, undergrad is a problem for three main reasons: time (in the US, away from family & friends, etc.), money, and age (don’t know if I’ll get along with 18 y/o kids). Even if we say the money issue can be dealt with, by choosing a public university (e.g. UC), I still don’t know about the others…

I’d be glad to hear your thoughts.

Another, more focused question: I saw Pratt was supposed to be welcoming to grad students without a design background. However, when I emailed them (MFA Digital Arts) they said the portfolio was an essential part of the application… :neutral_face: So what’s the deal?

there may be any number of factors, and I’m only guessing, but with the recesssion/layoffs there’s more competition among returning students.

Any portfolio, even a bad one, shows your commitment to career change - and likely academic sucess.

Art schools, especially the most expensive ones, are strapped for cash and (even in good times) admit more on your bank account than talent. (There’s more than enough rich kids with sufficient talent to graduate available)

start working on a portfolio.

well i would recommend a bachelors (I hear it over and over again here)
and for the 18 year old kids problem, arguably the best ID school Art Center College of Design has mostly people pursuing a second major as a career change, a lot of them from engineering…I heard somewhere the average age there is like 23 or something like that (not that its much older, but the student body is waaaaayyyyyy more committed and serious because this is their second time (or first) through college).
good luck with wherever you decide to go!

Thanks, but as I said money is one of the issues, and Art Center isn’t what you’d call cheap education. :unamused:
As an international student I’m eligible for neither FASFA nor federal loans. Funding myself for 2 years will be hard enough as it is, not to mention four. The only way I see undergrad working is a public university (and I’d love to hear recommendations).

Typically, at state schools, international students pay 3X in-state tuition.

what is your country of origin? are there any options there?

I’d take some drawing skills at a technical college.

as said before:
a state school is nice and cheap if you live in the state (I’m pretty sure its because resident’s taxes fund the school, so they get the benefits). If not, it becomes way more expensive:
U. Cincinnati in state tuition is about 9 thousand dollars. Out of state it shoots up to 20 something thousand. the same goes for pretty much every state school.
anyways
BYU is insanely cheap like $4000/year…I don’t know why though (I think you have to be mormon?)
other state schools: U. Kansas ($18000), Purdue ($23000), Appalachian State ($14000), Ohio State ($21000), San Jose State ($14000), San Fransisco State ($14000), CSU Long Beach ($13000), Arizona State ($17000), U. Cincinnati ($23000), Auburn University ($18000), Mass Art ($23000), VTech ($20,000)
so yeah not every ID state school, but i have heard ok/pretty good things about most of these

(Arizona Sate, V Tech, Cincinnati, Auburn, and San jose- I have heard good things about these schools)

But, you should probably look at coroflot at the work that comes out of the schools, pick your favorite, and visit them…its the only way to see if you really feel the school is for you…

keep in mind some of these schools require a portfolio, and it’s too late to apply to most of them now. Maybe you might want to take a year to work on one, write millions of scholarship essays, and then go to either a state or private school. If you work really hard on the folio, you might get some merit aid as well
hope this helped

some friends:
collegeboard.com ← tuition and other information about colleges
coroflot.com ← online portfolios
fastweb.com ← so many scholarships, you can’t read them all in one lifetime.
unigo.com ← students tell what the college “experience” is like
IDSA.org ← List of schools with ID
http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/ ← mostly high school seniors and their parents, but has a TON of information regarding applying to colleges, financial aid, etc. there are quite a few posts for internationals who want to attend school in the USA

good luck with whatever you decide to do

where are you located? there are other very good schools outside the USA. Top ones probably require a portfolio (and a good one at that) but have you tried searching for courses close to you before deciding to bank on the US? it would be WAY cheaper probably anyways.

I’m in the Middle East… I think the only alternative to the US is Europe, and it’s not that much cheaper from what I gather.

What are some recommended schools outside the US?

for interaction/digital media I’ve heard good things about hyperisland in sweden…just from word of mouth. i dont know if TU Delft or Eindhoven schools in holland have digital media (they have ID). Umea might also have digital arts, and its practically free even for an international student.

The thing with those schools is that their master’s programs put an emphasis on the portfolio. For example, TU Delft:

“At least one project should show a thorough researching and exploration of a product from beginning through intermediate sketches to a final finished rendering or three-dimensional model of the product. A descriptive paragraph explaining the design concept and solution should be included with each project submitted.”

(Hyper Island, by the way, offers only diplomas for English speakers…)

On the other hand, the bachelor’s programs aren’t in English (and some of them require a portfolio as well). My extensive search for “career-change” master’s programs in Europe has been fruitless, sadly. US is much more open-minded that way (or just plain greedy? :confused:)

US is greedier for sure, lots of schools will take your 2 years of tuition give you a diploma and wont care that you’re less qualified than a bachelor’s.

Your probably going to have to consider that college loans are a long term investment in your career, and do your very best to maximize your returns.

this means working hard to get into the best school you can - then being able to out compete the best student you graduate with for a choice job. then rising quickly up the ranks to pay off the loans by the time your kids enter college themselves…

If you are looking for a Master’s degree, I would suggest you apply for teaching assistantships. Usually they give you in-state tuition even if you are an international student, which is also my case.

Also, I would look into state-funded institutions rather than private ones. They usually have more opportunities for research and I have seen many people get accepted into programs and not have a design background.


Good luck!

Sounds good!
Do you have any recommendations for state universities with respected IxD/digital media programs?

If you know basic IxD software well enough to teach, that’s a great option!
Flash, C++, Java, XML etc. what software have you used as a developer?