I am a finishing up my senior year of high school. I have been accepted to CalArts and SCAD, both very good animation schools. I have a full ride at SCAD, and a pretty good scholarship at CalArts. I would have to take out loans at CalArts so I am not sure I am want to go into a bunch of debt, but its CalArts! Does anyone think it would be worth it to go to CalArts, or does school matter that much when you get out into the animation industry. With CalArts' reputation it is hard to turn down, but it is also hard to turn down a full ride at SCAD. it Does anyone have any input, I know i could get a good education at both schools, but I would like to see what people think. 



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Ability is more important than formal education, but with a school like CalArts you're looking at the connections you make while there as well as the quality of the school and knowledge of the staff. 

No one can think for you, but if you have the opportunity to go to college without owing massive debt, I would take it. You might never have that opportunity again. There are some animators working in stop motion who went to SCAD. The three important things are talent, attitude, and ability to meet deadlines. School helps in that you need a positive attitude to get along with the teacher and fellow students, you hone your talent in the class, and you complete homework as it is assigned and hand it in before it's due. You could go to any college and get those three things. I think the appeal of going to a prestigious school is that your instructors have been in the industry and know it inside out, and the students you meet become your friends who you might eventually work for or with.

The big question is, how are you going to pay back the debt? College is no guarantee that you will get a job straight away. Given the way the economy is, going into debt might not be the best option. Good luck. In the end, it is the student who makes the biggest difference. If you are driven, kind, and talented, you will get there regardless of the path you choose now.

I think Don hit the nail on the head.

I went to university a very long way from California  (in New Zealand) so I wouldn't know what benefits there may be from a specific school there.   But my experience was that my fine arts degree counted for nothing at all with employers.  

Me:  Hello, I've just completed Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury..."    

Employer:  "Not your fault, son."  

What they needed was to see my portfolio and get a sense of how I would suit them from the interview.  They wanted some experience in similar paid work, which of course I didn't have yet, and that made it tough to make a start.

I moved to a different city after university to find work, then another country, and although I keep in touch with a couple of friends from my student days, in my case that played no part in finding the job (as a propsmaker at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) that eventually led to me producing and directing my own animated films.  So I can say that where I studied, and who I met there, did not have much to do with my career.   Neither did what I learned there either, come to think of it - I studied graphic design, but it was my own stopmotion test footage done years later in my spare time, that led to me doing animated segments on tv shows.        

 But Don's point about who you get to know at college is a valid one -that does sometimes get you in to see someone.  (Then it's up to what you can show them.)  Or it might lead to a collaboration, like Peter Lord and Dave Sproxton, friends who started doing some claymation at the kitchen table, which led to creating Aardman.  So, them knowing each other led to something,  and university is a great place to meet others with similar interests and talents.  But when they took on Nick Park I don't think it was because they were so impressed by where he was studying animation, or because they knew him already.   It was because they looked at his unfinished film A Grand Day Out and saw an outstanding talent.    

You can teach yourself, and make films without going to any institution, and that will give you the all-important show reel.   But with the option of a full scholarship at SCAD (I have no idea what that stands for), doing that course instead of none would be a no-brainer.   Whether the additional cost of going to CalArts (which I have heard of) is justified is impossible for me to say from the other side of the world.   Would there be a difference in what you are taught?   Would you mix with more brilliant classmates?  

If you are interested specifically in Stop Motion, it is a tiny industry with only a few places that are likely to be hiring.   Some years there will be no jobs going at all,  or the film that is going into production is in another country.  The idea of carrying a big debt while looking for a start in a field with such limited employment opportunities would scare me.   I spent some years unemployed or working in unsatisfying jobs that only barely related to what I studied or wanted to do.  After studying in any artistic or creative field there is a strong likelihood of having to take unrelated work just to survive.   

Can't speak for everyone, but I go to college because I like it. There's no grade given for these workshops if you're not a full time student, but the exercises are challenging and the people are fun. It's kind of ironic I went to school at all, because until last year I had no desire to go to college. Thought it was a waste of money because of all you can learn now on the internet. It just depends on what you want to get out of it, but I'd say, go to school to learn what you can't learn on your own and have fun with it. And have a backup plan as well because there is no such thing as stability in stop motion. To that end, I'm just finishing up my 15th year in retail. That was never part of the plan, but whatever keeps you floating on a steady paycheck, do it. And keep the faith all the while. Never lose sight of your goals.

Sounds like you have some great options!  Congrats!  I would suggest taking the full ride to SCAD, especially with how the industry is right now.  One advantage you will gain by going to an art college is the ability to try out other mediums.  You'll have access to learn film making, writing, cg modeling, cg animation, editing, sound, etc.  Which in this day and age if you want to stay employed you need to have a well rounded set of skills.  Yes, you can learn all that stuff on your own, but if you have the opportunity to not have to "learn from your mistakes" and be lead in the right direction from the start....and it won't cost you anything......GO FOR IT! 

I am currently learning stop motion for that exact reason, trying to broaden my skillset so I can try to have less downtime between gigs...haha. 

 You're the only person who knows what's best for you.  So choose a school that offers you the greatest range of opportunities.  When you make your final decision, try to follow your gut and not your empty wallet.  

And if you do choose CalArts, I'll be one of your classmates this fall.   Most of my tuition will be covered by scholarships and grants, but I'll still have to take out a loan for my room/board/books.   

Yeh man, in the end its all about your portifolio.

In my opinion going to a school of arts its important because the contacts that you made.

Develops your talent by making and constructing things.

Good Luck.

Thanks everyone for the input! I will let you guys know when I make my final decision. 

Can I just touch on another very important subject? Do you want to live in California for the next four years? Or Savannah, Georgia?  It might be a culture shock in either place, but have you considered the cost of living, and the weather, and the city life in each place? Don't forget that you have to live there! 

I made my final decision yesterday,I decided to go to CalArts, I was able to get some more of a scholarship and I won't have to take out any loans. I think this will be the best decision and I am very excited!

Congratulations on your final decision Ian...........I have seen most of your earlier work on the W & G website, I'm sure you will do really well with your talent at CalArts


Congrats!  I don't think either option would be a bad decision, but that's awesome you worked out CalArts!  Look forward to seeing your posts here while in school.

Good Luck!

That's awesome Ian.  Glad you were able to barter something out with the school.  I'll cya in the fall.

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