Help with a Tough College Decision


I was admitted to both the Carnegie Mellon and the University of Illinois ID programs.

I got almost no financial aid from CMU and would end up with about 100K in debt. At U of I, my parents could aford to send me there, so no debt.

I really like the CMU program but worry that it is tooooo much debt. Any insights on either program would be appreciated


OH - I need to decide in the next 10 days!

Recent grad from CMU. Solid program where you’ll learn a lot about process and interaction design (even though you’re in the ID program) which will help you get a job. Absolutely zero taste in aesthetics/viable technical skills (CAD, sketching) - you’ll have to work on those by yourself. Professors are stuck in the 1980s. Great opportunity to take classes from other schools like the HCII (I got a double major there). There’s no co-op and support for finding a career is a joke. If you work hard, you’ll have a great time and come away with a really solid design process.

I know nothing about U of I, but I think CMU will give you a really strong foundation in design that you can apply to many other disciplines after you graduate. The program is shifting to an emphasis on interaction and service design. If you’re just in ID to make cool sketches and fancy renderings of cars, it is not the program for you.

Have you visited the campus? Do you like Pittsburgh? All important factors.


Edit: Just read over my post and the overall tone is really negative. I’m glad I went to CMU and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I met a lot of friends that I’m still close with today, and the overall environment of the school is great. It’s a pretty techy school, so if you enjoy that, it’ll be a great place for you to engage with stuff like programming/robotics. Make sure you make an effort to go out of the design program and meet other people. Ask around to help with research in the computer science school and you might get to help design robots, etc. Lots of great opportunities.

I’m sure you’ll get a great education at both schools, but I would absolutely go with UI. 100k in debt just isn’t worth it. You’ll be paying it off for years after you graduate, and especially in a field like ID where career prospects and salary are uncertain, there’s no guarantee you could even afford it. You don’t have to search far to come across horror stories of college loans and deep debt; I would strongly caution against it.

1ooK is a ton of cash … when I graduated from Purdue in 1973 I owed about 20K and I thought I’d never get that paid off; it took almost ten years. On the other hand, if you don’t get the “right” education from a school with strong faculty, access to internships, and placement services, paying less for an education won’t get you too far down the road.

Have you compared faculty CVs:UofI to CMU?

You also might want to direct some questions to the University of Illinois Industrial Design LinkedIn Group

Uof I search results for “industrial design”

I would also invite you to do a “University of Illinois Alumni Check-in” post in this forum (not technically a double-post) and it would give you an opportunity to get some direct feedback.

Opening sentence might be something along the lines of, “I’ve been accepted for admission to the UofI Design program, but am having a hard time deciding … any thoughts and opinions would be appreciated.”

Easier still, change the title (using “edit”) of THIS post to: “University of Illinois Alumni Check-in

Thank you all so much. Your thoughts have been really helpful. I will do the post in the U of I area. I’ve heard the faculty there is very hands off at the moment. Hate to say this, but they don’t seem to “care” if I enroll or not. Not a great feeling right now. I’ve heard you have to be very self-directed to get what you want out of the program. I’m going to ask at the other board.

Thanks again - still open to more feedback.

I’m a UIUC grad (as you didn’t say UIUC or UIC, let’s hope it’s the big school :smiley: ) , and I live about an hour away from CMU. So I have been to their studios and things and poked around a bit.

  1. $100,000. > $0 :open_mouth: I know I am having a really hard time with this one too, it’s just so close…

  2. both larger schools with good engineering programes and diverse student bodies. Both located in fun places. One has very steep hills and the other has no topography what so ever. Both schools have large well displaced alumni networks (UIUC having the largest for any University on the planet, just saying.)

  3. Smart people, unlike some schools both schools are schools for smart people so you will not loose here, I like reinforcing that point.

  4. Go look at the schools, and talk to students, and grad students. Ask the students what they like, and as the grad students what they think of the undergrad classes, and how well the kids jell together.

  5. Both have nice workshops, UIUC had large shops and that in nice, also the UIUC studios are larger but that is really not here nor there.

I know a guy who did his undergrad at UIUC and his grad work at CMU, I’ll see if he can post.

… and the other has no topography what so ever.

Kinda depends on what you consider topography… Flatville is a little bump in the road about ten miles northeast of Champaign; it’s aptly named, you can easily see the spire on the Lutheran Church from five miles away. On a positive note, it’s hard to get lost in that part of the world. :wink: