So what are the problems with AAU, first do not believe the advisors. The advisors there will tell you anything to get you to sign a check. The administration dept there instructs them to do anything to get you to enroll. A good example of this is that they will give you a hiring percentage such as 98% of their animation students get hired. Well that is totally wrong and inflated when indeed it is more like 10% and even lower in this bad economy. So don’t believe the hype and do your own research!!!
AAU advisors have earned a reputation of providing students with bad information and recommendations on classes. The advisors who are indeed nice people do not provide a helpful service to students. For example during my second semester at AAU I was told by an advisor to take the following classes Python\Mel and Shake. These classes have nothing to do with character animation and after taking their recommendation to the director of 3D Animation he then told me to no longer listen to my advisor but instead try to see him before I registered for classes.
Now if your thinking this is an isolated problem that only I have experienced well I can tell you that it is not. It is indeed a reoccurring problem that has not been solved. Instead most students avoid advisors and many go to the directors of their departments for advice. Which usually leads to other problems, as many of the directors don’t have time to see you so you are in most cases left to deal with the advisors unfortunately.
AAU has NO PORTFOLIO REQUIREMENTS!!! The grad program is suppose to have a standard but after talking to people and viewing other students work in class I can tell you there is no standard. The simple fact is this if you apply and sign a check you will get into AAU. The administration does not care about art but only money. So what does this mean for you well it means overcrowded classes, lack of personal help, and lack of available computers during lab hours. All of these are big problems but the most dangerous problem is that you may graduate with bad work, which will lead you straight to the unemployment line with a 90k student loan debt. AAU is known for just passing people along with bad demo reels. This lack in standards is a major concern, one that should alarm you! If you don’t believe me look up animation produced by Ringling, SCAD, EXPRESSIONS, CAL ARTS and etc VS Academy of Art University. You’ll see that there is better care and quality taken at these other schools.
*** ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY DOES NOT OFFER PIXAR CLASSES ANYMORE OR ANYTHING CLOSE TO THAT*** I was told Pixar left AAU due to the fact AAU was trying to impose its ideal of animation curriculum on Pixar animation classes. **But this is only rumor!***
The largest problem is the lack of 3D computer animation classes. The grad program only provides 3 animation classes for grad students! After this grad students have to petition to be put into undergrad classes where you as a grad student are forced to pay a higher rate for an undergrad classes. When I completed my second animation class I as was told by my advisor that now I have to petition to be put into undergrad classes because that’s all that’s offered to me! To correct this many students pursue other means of getting what they want via enrolling at other schools while still attending AAU. As crazy as this may seem I’ve heard many of students doing this to supplement what they are not getting from AAU.
AAU has a lack of quality animation teachers in the 3D computer animation dept. Currently there are four very well sought after teachers at the Academy. As you would guess this classes fill up very fast due to the popularity of the instructor. I myself having been in one of those classes can say that this isn’t one of the most ideal situations for learning. These classes can range from 25-35 students per class. This usually means very little interaction with the teacher as they are rushing through trying to give every student some advice on their work. Students who are new to animation and the software usually don’t receive much help from the teachers but instead are forced to learn from other students who actually do a far better job at explaining what the teacher did not.
The other thing to bare in mind is that some of the teachers are not there to be helpful. In one of my animation classes a fellow student asked a question about how to use the graphic editor in maya and the student was told by the teacher in front of a class that she was not going to explain how to use Maya in depth (an animation software) due to the fact that she is ultimately training her competition. Other teachers at AAU are lacking in other areas such as structure or being unprepared. I myself had a teacher who asked the class every class what was due because he did not know what was on his own syllabus.
The last thing to think about is the fact that AAU isn’t big on hiring fulltime animation teachers. They use contractors who are knowledgeable but are always great at teaching. These teachers are usually not around to help you after class to as they do work and do not have a office at AAU. So if you’re looking for help do not rely on them.
The Academy of Art University is a sink or drown program. You’re told by entrance advisors that you will be well taken care of and that even if you know nothing at all the program is designed to help you so that you can become apart of the workforce. Well this isn’t true at all, as their program is not set up to help you at all. Actually its best if you come with prior knowledge of animation in both 3D and 2D. The reason why I say this is because I went in with no prior knowledge and I had to do a ton of research on my own to get to where I am today. The classes are not designed to help you learn the tools needed be successful instead they are set to be more like seminars. Where you are believed to have knowledge and they throw a lot at you with very little explanation. Your best means of getting info that will help you along will be either learning from students or using youtube. As most teachers do not require you to buy a text book to aide you! If you ask me your not paying 90k to learn for your buddies or youtube!
The cost of AAU like other art schools is very high! After looking at other schools across the U.S. AAU was one of the lower priced options out there. But be advised you get what you pay for so I advise you to think real hard about this before you get 90k or 120k in student loan debt. I know of many students at AAU that feel like their money is going to waste. Due to poor instruction, lack of equipment, lack of resources and etc. I personally say take a hard look at all of your options before deciding on AAU. I’m a fan of Animation mentor, which is great and geared at teaching animation only.
Well folks this is my opinion on AAU based things that other and I I know have experienced. I just want you and others to really think hard before applying here and ending up in major debt like others and myself I know.
Since the guy above is neither a grad or online student, I'll try to help you out. I currently at working on an MFA Online at AAU, just finished my first semester in Illustration with a specialization in Concept Art.
How many classes in total did you take? My first semester I took 3 classes which is considered full time. Near the end of the semester I started working more and 3 classes turned out to be too many so next semester I'm going with 2 (half time). For my degree total I will need 63 units, each class is 3 units so 21 classes. Expect realistically to graduate 3+ years.
How much did you pay in tuition all together? Tuition is about $2500 per class and I was offered double that in financial aid so if you need help paying rent ect, you can use the money for that or just not accept all of it.
Do you feel it was worth the time and effort? So far yes, some of the assignments are annoying and boring but the first 7 or so classes is about teaching you the basics because alot of people don't really get that from a BFA. The core classes are about learning the lessons, these classes are not about making portfolio level work. Most of these in fact will look like crap but its the lesson behind it that is useful. Portfolio work comes after you've finished half your classes. I believe after 24 units you have to do a thesis proposal, your thesis will be your professional graduate portfolio. This is what you work towards for your entire 2nd half of school. All your classes after your proposal are to help you make your portfolio.
Has the MFA degree helped in your professional career where you feel otherwise you might have been overlooked? Since this is only my first semester I'd say not really but I have learned alot so far. I expect it really help my career until I get further along and get working on my thesis project (portfolio) because that is supposed to be a profession body of work. They will not let you graduate if its not. AAU also does give you access to their own job board with has a wide range of jobs, freelance work and internships that aren't posted on other sites.
Did you really grow as an artist as a result of the time you spent going through the program? So far yes. This first semester in Illustration I was required to take Clothed Figure Drawing, Drawing from Imagination (perspective), and Chiaroscuro. I don't feel like I got enough out of the perspective class to really fully grasp it but before this I never knew how to draw clothing and folds/fabric accurately so that was a huge help. The chiaroscuro class was very useful in really helping to see lighting and how shadows work. Part of the online class required students to buy a special kit which contained a female head, a male head, a torso and some basic shapes. Having this kit allowed us to set it up, light it and have a figure to draw from. The class was entirely in charcoal so you really got to learn the material, they didn't skip around materials like some classes do.
Would you have chosen a different course of study, or a different school, or a different approach all together? This was my back up plan in case I didn't get a full time job after graduating from UC Berkeley so it was kind of any online option for me. I also don't currently make enough so if I didn't have the AAU loans to help pay bills, I'd be homeless. I like the online classes because I don't want to waste 3 hours travel time each day +gas+bart just to get to a class. If the CA school is up and running and I could get a full scholarship to it then I'd absolutely switch but I'm not counting on it.
Were the online courses just as immersive and helpful than the phsyical classroom? For the most part yes except when it comes to needing a model. If you live with someone, then you are better off then many. For my figure drawing class almost every week we were required to use a model which meant either finding generic pictures to work from online or taking pictures of ourselves and I am not fond of that. The online program is relatively new so I'm sure alot of it will be reworked in the future. They also do have course evaluations several times during the semester so you can give feedback on the class and on the teacher.
typed out this long response...but it didn't go through. (dammit!)
I've been a fan/reader of conceptart.org for some time.
Just never bothered to open an account or contribute.
Maybe that will change.
I'm studying character animation.
I'm starting my 4th semester in the Spring.
I was talking to someone about the quality of AAU classes a few days ago
(not 'common_sense') so some of this is fresh on my mind.
I think the lack of responses is due to the 8-16 page thread
that addressed these questions.
There's also a 115-page thread at CGTalk about the school.
SplineDoctors has a post about the demise of the 'Pixar classes'.
These are very insightful.
How many classes in total did you take?
I've taken 8 classes so far. 6 classes for spring and fall. 2 in the summer.
3 online classes.
How much did you pay in tuition all together?
MFA tuition is about $840 a credit. Each class has 3 credits.
At this point...I'm at around the $40,000 mark (not counting coming spring).
I'm in campus housing at the moment.
All of it is in government student loans. Scholarships are almost nonexistent.
A sports program was started not too long ago and had a buttload of
money poured into though...
i won't rant about that.
Expect to pay full price regardless of your skill level.
Do you feel it was worth the time and effort?
When I think about if I've wasted my time, I end up wasting time.
Has the MFA degree helped in your professional career where you feel otherwise you might have been overlooked?
I going to share a secret with you...and you can tell NO ONE about this.
I'm actually not interested in getting a degree. I'm just in the program
for the education, location, and the loans. If I didn't have the loans...I would not be here.
Keep that to yourself.
In terms of quality...
the MFA program and BFA programs aren't that different.
There are a few who have experience in the MFA program.
There are a few who have no experience but are good at what they do.
Many are at a skill level that's questionable.
Did you really grow as an artist as a result of the time you spent going through the program?
I've learned some things in class.
Most of my growth has come from doing things on my own.
Experimenting. Sketching. Workshops. Exploring. Researching. Etc. etc.
If you only work in/for class, you work and work ethic will probably suffer.
Also: your portfolio starts when you become interested in your area of study.
Would you have chosen a different course of study, or a different school, or a different approach all together?
A different school?
More than likely.
Loans was an issue...and acceptance dates.
I came here because of the sell of the wonderful, magical, fantastic, and beautiful
world of the 'Pixar classes' that were being offered. And to get closer to
California's animation and Illustration world/industry.
I'm here now. At this point, I'm going to try to get the best out of where i am.
I've found out how much work goes into animating (traditional, cg, stop-motion, shadow puppets, etc)
and I appreciate and love it more because of that.
Were the online courses just as immersive and helpful than the physical classroom?
If you're not REALLY motivated (doing study outside of class), an online
studio class probably isn't the best route to take. You'll waste
your time and the time of people who take the subject seriously.
There are people here who produce fantastic work and people who work hard.
There are people who can produce fantastic work but have no work ethic.
There are people who don't produce fantastic work and aren't
willing to bust their ass to get to a level where they can.
There are people here who just care about graduating.
There are people who are here because they think ______
is cool and easier than a socially acceptable area of study.
This applies to the entire school.
I've seen a lot of the last four.
REALLY do your research about your area of interest and about schools
that offer what you want. But if you decide to go to AAU...
take advantage of its (physical/in-person) resources and BE PREPARED to deal with its issues.
That said, I'd really look at other schools before you settle on this one.
Last edited by animator; December 24th, 2009 at 01:04 PM.
great! thanks for the detailed responses. thankfully I've already discounted AAU as a possible alternative a while back because of the high tuition rate. I appreciate the time you all took to provide your honest opinions.
I'm interested in knowing more people's opinions on this. Currently I'm in the MFA program exclusively ALL online. And I will have to say I hate the cost of tuition. I hate the instruction and I hate the time it takes to get the degree. I mean in other fields you usually take 1 year to 2, but 3+ years....it makes me think that the college is after your money. But if anyone has more opinions please post.