art schools go, SCAD is really as good as they
get. I came from the Midwest, so I was
kind of limited in where I could go, and SCAD
was really the least expensive of those on my list.
For all the griping about tuition and how expensive
it is (yes it is expensive), SCAD is actually middle
of the road or lower compared to other private art
schools. I'm speaking as an Interactive Design and Game
Development undergrad alumni (within the last two months), so some
of my opinions are kind of sided to the School
of Film and Digital Media, where I spent 70% of
my time. I'm going to try to break down my
grading criteria here:
Friendliness: the faculty is warm and generally
receptive, as much as any of the schools I've been
to. Yes, there are a few jerks, but generally
once you have that professor, they warm up to you
pretty quick; they just tend to be less patient with
strange students making bizarre requests of them. Students are
pretty broad range. Being a pretty upscale and expensive
art school, you get a fair share of snooty kids
on mommy and daddy's paycheck, but you get far more
students passionate about what they do. Freshmen tend to
be either shy or extremely rebellious, as would be expected,
and upperclassmen are generally willing to help people if you
ask and don't interrupt a class.
Competitiveness: The school
is definitely competitive against other schools. Depending on whom
you ask and when, SCAD is either the top art
school in the country, or one of the top five.
Within the school, there's not a lot of push
and shove type of competitiveness, but art is a very
competitive field, so students are *constantly* fighting for attention, whether
they know it or not. You learn to recognize
the telltale-sinking look a student has when they think they
have the best project in class and the first person
at critique totally blows them away. But those that
thrive on that type of atmosphere are those that are
going to excel at this type of school.
The only two people I ever had trouble getting
in contact with were the chair of the department and
the president of the school. Obviously, they're both very
busy. Professors don't have research requirements; most only have
personal art projects they work on here and there.
Some professors leave right when class is over, and that's
it; some are there until all hours of the night
(occasionally) to offer help to students that need it.
Usually, as long as you're not coming to them the
day a project is due they will be willing to
help as much as they possibly can.
All art schools are “creative,” no matter what they say.
In the fine arts majors, creativity 'abounds.' That
is to say, they have more than their share of
new age post-modern found art trash-gluing crap. The painting
department is all but a joke at the shows except
the intro classes where they actually teach you to paint
what you see without sticking shreds of metal on the
canvas. The same goes for some of the sculpture
classes and photography. Some of the less 'fine art'
majors don't have as much of a problem with this,
since they are mostly focused on a working-world production environment,
and they are actually concerned with getting jobs after graduation.
The school stays at the top of the field
technologically though, and constantly listens to students if you know
where to put your comments and who to talk to.
Busywork: the first year is almost entirely busywork. You're
going to learn to draw. Again. You're going to
take color theory. Again. You're going to take figure
drawing. Again. And you're going to hate it,
because it's boring and repetitive, and you feel like you
know it. But after that first year when they
call for entries to the foundations show and your professor
urges you to submit something, you'll look back and realize
how much of a difference that one year made.
I always thought I could draw well until I had
to learn it again, their way (and *all* art schools
do this). After the first year, you're going to
still get some busywork in some classes, but you'll never
see a workbook, thank god. Some of the stuff
in the school of film and digital media can really
only be taught through boring exercises, but once you learn
the basics and get onto your own projects, you'll have
a lot of fun with it. The senior year
is a lot of fun and work with your studio
classes where you get to do essentially what you want
in your portfolio.
Scholastic success: in art school some people
get away with B.S.ing their way through school. It's
unfortunate, but it's true, even at SCAD. The only
consolation students have is that their portfolio is going to
suck, and they'll be living with their parents doing graphic
design they're academically overqualified for. The general education classes
are less flexible, as one would expect, however. You
either know it, or you don't. Some professors are
more rigid, and some more forgiving, across the entire school.
Quality of the Program: I'm pretty happy with my
degree. In order to be really happy, I would
have had to have just taken electives for four years
and not have to put up with any of the
other crap, and then get a BFA for it.
That doesn't happen here; SCAD is not a trade school,
it is an accredited art college, and that's an important
distinction. Students get a good overall education with a
specialization in what they want to do, rather than a
quick 2-year degree program. You will learn to be
an artist in your field, not just a grunt in
a chair. I came in a year before the
Computer Art major broke into four separate specialized majors, and
the first iteration of Interactive Design and Game Development had
three classes that people just complained nonstop about. It
took some time (changing core required classes means going back
to the accreditation board, and they have to re-certify the
entire major again, including auditing the school's financial status, the
faculty qualifications, the level of success of the students, and
so on), but they got changed. Yes, I hear
time and time again that some of the things people
really want to do they have to learn outside school,
but I hear that from students at every college.
Perceived Campus Safety: Oh boy, here's the doozy. It
goes back and forth on this subject: some people say
Savannah is terrible; some say it's not that bad.
It really depends on where you are. Yes, it's
not that bad, but for a city of its size
(100,000 in the city of Savannah, around 300,000 in Chatham
County) it is pretty bad. I stayed in an
apartment by the ghettos my first year, and there were
roaches, gang shootings, and constant screaming matches. But I
learned, and got an apartment out on Whitmarsh Island, which
is about a 20-30 minute drive (depending on traffic) and
it was so nice out there we could leave our
apartment unlocked. And best of all, when we had
three people in the apartment, it was actually cheaper than
the ghettos. It is important to know where to
walk in downtown Savannah, and when. Obviously, don't go
out after dark, and if you have to, drive, and
if you have to walk, walk in groups. The
school provides a personal security escort after dark, but it
is sorely underutilized. The SCAD busses are also a
great asset, especially when there's a group of students in
front of a building with a security guard at the
entrance. Most of the violent crimes happened after dark,
when students were walking alone. Yes, there are a
sizable number of such gunpoint muggings that happened in otherwise
“safe” areas of the city with groups of four or
five students. Yes, there was even a young woman
who was kidnapped at 2 in the afternoon from a
SCAD parking lot, and raped. I'm not sure that
any other schools in large cities have much better records
though. On the upside, if you have classes at
Montgomery Hall (where 95% of the computer art classes are
currently held), you get to park in a nice gated
parking lot, the largest other than the dorm lots, with
at least two security guards posted at night, and at
least three after dark, including one at the parking lot
entrance. Statistically, it is the safest place on campus,
but that is also because it is the furthest away
from the rest of the campus. You hear a
lot of horror stories, but a lot are repeated, and
among 7000+ students, it's actually a very small portion.
Overall, it *is* pretty safe campus. Every now and
then, though, something happens and makes it *feel* much less
University Resource Use: The college library is very
well stocked, even if most of the books are pretty
old, and for obvious reasons, there is little outside the
art fields. There is a great deal of money
invested in the school's growth, for obvious reasons. However,
it does occasionally seem like there is quite a bit
of money thrown around for sake of the college itself.
For instance, there is apparently a jail the school
bought that was condemned, and they hired an international artist
to come in and plant vines that now climb the
walls, put some walkways in, and claimed it was nature
reclaiming architecture. In reality, it was a bunch of
money spent on a pile of rubble.
*Most* of the buildings are pretty nice. Some of
the older ones are in pretty sad shape, but nothing
worse than a 70's or 80's house that hasn't been
renovated. At least they don't have roaches everywhere.
I do feel obligated, however, to note that one particular
building, the “fabrication shed” behind the architecture building was actually
condemned by the city. The school only used it
for building large student projects for architecture and furniture design,
and began the process of rebuilding it according to historical
standards (all of SCAD's buildings are historical). However, after
about 6 months, when all but one wall had been
pulled down and there were just tons and tons of
bricks laying in piles, SCAD announced it had 'run out
of money' to continue the construction. A little flaky
if you ask me.
Campus Maintenance: There are only
two things I ever noticed needed constant fixing (beyond the
fabrication sheds I mentioned above) are the skeletons in the
life drawing rooms and the touch-order stations in the Byte
Cafe of Montgomery Hall. The skeletons were constantly missing
their heads because stealing them was as easy as removing
a screw and lifting the skull off the spine.
Professors began to lock up the replacement skulls a while
ago, but they keep being stolen. Apparently it's the
new flaming dog poop. The order stations at SCAD
have been broken for months, and the school refuses to
fix them because supposedly it will cost $10,000 each (there
are two) to fix them, and the income the cafe
receives doesn't even begin to cover that. I wonder
why they bought them in the first place, and what
happened to the warranty.
Individual Value: In a big school,
it's easy to become a number. Sometimes I felt
like it, but that was usually when dealing with the
administration and having to rattle off my student ID number
instead of my name. However, if you get involved,
and become memorable, the school gets much more personal.
I was on a first-name basis with all of my
professors, including the chair of the department, was constantly involved
with suggestions for improving the school and departments, and for
providing events and resources for students (through Thirteen Thirty-Seven, discussed
below under clubs). It is sometimes hard, however, to
shake that feeling that you are just a walking 100
grand check to the college, but I think you're going
to get that no matter where you go. I
even got it at a local community college back home,
when the professors there weren't wallowing in self-pity at not
getting a job at a university.
Social Life/Surrounding City:
It's difficult for me to speak on this one, since
I gave up my social life when I went to
SCAD. I do hear, as often as I hear
about campus safety, “there's nothing to do in Savannah.”
There is stuff to do, but Savannah is a 'sleepy
southern city,' a city that happened to have a college
that grew into it, rather than a city that grew
around the college. There are clubs, bars, cinemas, etc,
but there's not as much nightlife as you're going to
find around the New England coast or western coast.
To be honest, it's a really good city to just
sit down and focus on college.
SCAD has just about everything extracurricular except football, which was
actually being started (for the third time) when I graduated.
Starting a club is literally as easy as getting
a group of interested students together, writing a constitution, being
able to argue how the club is different from other
clubs/organizations/sports, and being able to argue why you should get
as much money as you are applying for. I
was part of the founding group of Thirteen Thirty-Seven, the
Interactive Design and Game Development club, and it really was
that easy. It's lots of paperwork and bureaucracy, but
it's easy at least.
School work and challenges:
A lot of the early stuff is pretty easy, but
if you're just learning some software, expect to be wanting
to drive an ice pick into your leg sometimes.
Some parts go smoothly, and sometimes you build that marshmallow
sphinx and it melts in your car (true story from
one of my art history classes). Once you find
your groove, however, a lot of times you may find
it hard to stop on one project and finish the
one that is more pressing. I have my gripes
about the school, as everyone does, but I really loved