Tough Decisions for a Second Undergrad Degree

Hey All,
I’ve been reading this forum for over a year and a half now, ever since a friend who is earning her MID from GaTech pointed me to it.

After much debate, I decided to go the second undergraduate degree route and now it’s crunch time.

I’m a North Carolina resident, but after applying and interviewing at NC State, they told me my work was too advanced for undergraduate and recommended I apply to the Master’s. Well, too little too late; they told me this in February, I haven’t taken or planned to take the GRE, and my rejection letter informed me that I wasn’t necessarily given a place in the graduate program either (understandably.) I feel that I need a more core guided curriculum; I know my weaknesses are in my drawing, rendering, auto-cad, etc. I can draw for myself, but getting others to understand is another matter (and isn’t that what ID is about a good bit?) I don’t think I can get that on my own with no direction and will not get it from a Master’s program with everyone else beyond my skill set.

So now I have to pick from the other schools into which I was accepted. I have been accepted to SCAD and UIChicago and am waiting to hear from UCincinnati. It seems a common belief on this forum that UCin would be the best option due to their internship program, ties to industry, etc.

The thing is, I love Chicago! But I haven’t read anything positive on this site about UIC; just posts from the one lone guy who swears he’ll make it the design school to attend. His last posts were about two years ago though. I have read online that UIC is considered one of the top 60 (in no particular order) ID schools in the world (as of 2008,) due to their ties to Motorola and other factors. I’m torn because I have heard great things about SCAD, Savannah is a cool little town, but at the same time I’ve also heard the comment that “if you have a pulse and a checkbook…” SCAD will let you in.

I need honest opinions/facts/figures to help me determine which school will better prepare me. I plan on starting my own design firm after a few years of working for a company when I get out of school. Is UIC all that terrible? Chicago seems like it would be tied tightly to the design world. Will going to SCAD be that much better? Will UCin make me another design automaton?

I realize some people will say: “go where you feel most comfortable.” That’s a very true statement, but at the same time I need to be pragmatic. I will gladly go to a school in a hot and sticky Southern town for a few years if I know that I’m going to coming out doing my best design as opposed to spending a few years in a hip cosmopolitan mecca of up-and-coming urban cool. (Can you tell I’m still a little biased toward Chicago?)

Thanks for sticking with me on this long post. Any help y’all can give will be greatly appreciated.

what got you interested in design?
do you see yourself working in a particular area (furniture, toys, trans, or not)?
If you want to live in ChiTown when you graduate - then definitly go to school there.
If you just want a job, choose UC (95% placement within 6 months).

No_spec, thanks for your comment and questions.

I suppose really I’ve been interested in design all my life. Like many people discovering the field “later” in life (I’m turning 30 in a month, which I don’t consider later so much, but you know what I mean,) I was really just ignorant of ID as an occupation. It seems so ignorant of me in retrospect: all the gadgets and toys I enjoyed (and still do,) all of the furniture pieces I see in people’s homes and stores like CB2, Ikea, and local modern furniture stores, they all had to be designed by someone, but I never really thought of it until my friend went for her Master’s.

When I visited her at her campus studio and started talking to others there, I realized this was a field that I had been meant to pursue. I have been building furniture for a few years now, which came from helping my dad design and build deer hunting stands and feeders growing up. I’ve always been a creative problem solver and I often design my own clothing and costumes for Halloween. The collusion of science and art feels right to me, something that covers many aspects of my personality. Hard to believe, I was this close to going to dental school, but backed out after some soul searching. ID seems a natural fit for me and finally a career that I’m truly excited about.

I have no strict discipline I want to pursue, I’d like to get a broad education but have certain strengths. Furniture definitely interests me, and I would love an opportunity to study some in Italy to help with that pursuit. I’m not so interested in transportation, but that does bring to mind sustainable design which I would love to pursue with rigor. Toys would be great, I have two nieces that I would love to be able to supply with awesome non-discriminatory toys that would stimulate their already abundant imaginations. As I stated, I would like to have my own design firm at some point and be able to take on different projects in different areas (I foresee having others work with me in this endeavor with various strengths in different areas.)

I would like to live in Chicago, but honestly I’ve never faced one of their fierce winters. I do love the city though and see myself living there for a while. Eventually, I’d like to move back to North Carolina, but I don’t make definite plans that far out.

So, do you have an opinion on SCAD? Also, by your UC comment, their job placement is good, but I would hate to get out of school and go to work for a company that I feel puts out environmentally irresponsible, morally shady, or shoddy products, just to pay off loans.

SCAD and furniture are a natural (they’ve got a devoted dept)
you’ve read the comments about them, I think any school can be a great opportunity and vice versa (I’ve worked with good+bad from SCAD and UC)
a competitive group of close knit design junky’s can happen at any school! That’s the key - art schools often inspire competitiveness via ego, University students compete for the choicest internship/Co-Op.
the sheer size of UC means there’s someone great close by. and to me that’s the real differentiator. You learn more from the other students than your teachers,

Im currently living in Chicago, and I can telly ou that the winters are not that bad. One person bitches, so the rest join in. Maybe its just becasue I love winter and have lived in Michigan all my life, but I really dont think it is that bad.

I checked out UIC for thier grad program, and was really not impressed. I took the tour, and the woman who was giving it completely turned me off to the school. Granted she was an art person, so she really didnt care about ID at all. However, when we toured the building, I did not see one clue that ID even existed there. Not one model laying around or anything. She said that they do work ‘with industry companies such as motorola and cobra’/ I was a little turned off that the two companies she mentioned could be the same things, handheld radios. That campus was not very inviting either, as the building was cramped and dirty. I would highly suggest visiting and trying to meet with a prof, and not the art director giving the tours.

In the end I decided to stay away form it. To me it sounded like I would consult a prof when I needed to, and work on my own the rest of the time. I personally am still in contact with my old school getting crits from them on current stuff. So how is UIC any different than what I am doing now?

Hey RedCrow, I was in your position this time last year finishing up a degree at the University of Chicago, and I received some great advice from these boards I felt obliged to throw in my 2 cents. I’m currently a first year at UC and so far so good, I’ve been really happy with my decision, and for the most part have really enjoyed and learned a lot from the freshman foundations classes. I’m fortunate enough to have an exceptionally good foundations drawing teacher, so perhaps my experience would have been not as enjoyable had I been in another section.

A lot of what you go through in foundations is, well at least in my opinion, elementary and redundant. Conceptually I can’t say that I’ve learned anything “new” yet, but the experience of putting in all the hours doing what my at first glance seem like busy work has absolutely been worth it. I’m a big subscriber to the 10,000 hours to become an expert theory. Getting better requires mileage. It’s like practicing a new language it takes constant repetition before you can really begin to speak fluent “design”.

The opportunities at DAAP are pretty insane if you actually take advantage of them. The rapid prototyping lab is great, the woodshop and metal shops are great, there are great opportunities to take fine arts classes inside the college and outside of school in local art communities, there are great opportunities to do multi-disciplinary studios working with engineering and marketing, being part of a university system has its advantages, and if you do a little searching there are great teachers who are eager to share what they know. I don’t know how your first undergrad experience went but I know for me and a lot of my friends, it really wasn’t until the tail end of our Junior years that we really understood UChicago and all the possibilities that were offered, and then we were pretty bummed because it was too late in the game to really do something cool. It’s very nice to be able work the system in your favor from day one.

To some extent I will agree with what has been posted in the stereotype thread, that on average DAAP is lacking in innovation, and at times it can seem like it’s a factory pumping out “industry approved” graduates. BUT if you understand this going into the program and work around these short-comings it won’t be an issue.

The city of Cincinnati does suck in comparison to Chicago, though I don’t think Chicago is that amazing either. After a couple of years there it started to feel a little played out, like any city will. Cincinnati is no southern Florida, but I can say that I was happy to not be in Chicago for this winter. Cincinnati is in a rebuilding phase so there’s a lot of interesting room to maneuver and innovate.

Finally, and not to belabor the point but the co-op opportunity is great, you basically have 5 years to feel out the industry and if you select your co-ops wisely, you can take your potential future employer for a test drive. Also if you get Ohio residency tuition is relatively cheap for the caliber of education you’re receiving.

Now that I have completely gushed over DAAP, I will say that I think you’ll be fine at any of the schools you’ve mentioned (though I can’t really speak for UIC, the only experience I’ve had with them was people confusing University of Chicago for UIC!). Each school has its weaknesses and its strengths, so no matter where you go you’ll be playing off the strengths and patching over the weak spots. From what you’ve written so far you sounds very focused and ambitious and that will serve you well where ever you end up going.

Let me know if you have any questions about DAAP. Good luck with your decision.

Thanks everyone for the advice and comments. I really appreciate the help. Choto, your insight is especially helpful. I guess what I’m really looking for in all of this is someone from UIC to really convince me that that’s where my best opportunity lies. So far, I’m unsure of that. Now with April fast approaching and I only just now got word from DAAP that they got my transcripts and scores, I’m a little worried that that might not be a valid option. So if anyone reading this has anything good to say about UIC, sell me! I won’t be able to get up there before April to visit regardless, so I hope someone from up that way can give further insight into their school.

wow. can i just say that i am in exactly the same boat as you right now? i’m looking to go for my second under grad degree and have applied to UIC for the ID program.
my first degree is in mechanical engineering from the university of minnesota and i work for a fortune 500 in minneapolis. i too, am looking for insite on UIC.

i guess my main concern is does where you go to school really matter all that much? if this degree truely is your calling (and i’m pretty sure it’s mine. i mean the thought of doing this as a career makes me want to do cartwheels) shouldn’t that shine through in your portfolio?

if i learned anything through my engineering experience its that what you learn in class isn’t necessarily what you need in the real world. internships are invaluable and networking is the key to getting most jobs.
i didn’t go to MIT, Berkley, Michigan or any other top 10 engineering school, but I did get over 10 job offers from around the country because I was involved (did A LOT of networking through engineering societies like The Society of Women Engineers), I did well in school, had great relationships with my professors (essentials for good references) and was an intern at 3M and kodak.

i guess i don’t know how the design industry hires people, but i’m hoping its based on passion, quality of portfolio and compatibilty of your work style with the company’s culture because chi-town is really where i need to be right now and i really want this degree.

(first post, yay)

I am also in the exact same boat. I just graduated in december with a BFA in sculpture from Western Illinois. Lets just say if i know then what i know … I would have aimed a lot higher. Anyway, I almost transfered to UIC for ID and had the same experience as joyride. The lady doing the tour of the art program was unprofessional and didn’t seem happy about anything at all. What kept me from transferring, aside from the dull campus and the ladies attitude, was the fact that no matter what, you have to spend four years there, even if its a second bachelors. It may have changed but I doubt it. I was already a junior at that time and found that a lot of grad programs accept non ID undergrads so thats what Im working towards now. I may go the second bachelor degree route though.

I figured I’d point that out to you if you didn’t already know.