Finding a university that offers computer technology degrees is easy. But finding a quality school that fits with your learning style is not.
There are plenty of trade schools that advertise themselves as computer schools, but a quick check will show that the academic program consists of a few classes with outmoded technology. So do your homework. Some things to consider when picking a school:
Check to see how many computers are available for studentsí use. What are the lab hours? What software is loaded on every computer? Is the software up to date?Some schools only provide limited access to tools like Maya and 3D, and force students to sign up for time on computers. You will want almost 24-hour access to labs to work on those late-night projects. If you want to pursue multimedia studies, you will want the latest versions of the software, on computers and work stations that can handle large graphics-intensive files. Networking students should have access to servers and their own workstations to reconfigure.
Check the curriculum and requirements for a degree: what exactly is required to graduate with a degree from this school? Be wary of schools that rigidly force students to follow a set academic timeline, without regard to the studentsí own preferences or experience.
Are there enough majors (or areas of emphasis)? Beware of schools that offer just vague-sounding majors in Computer Technology or Information Technology. Each major should have multiple options. For example, a student majoring in Multimedia should have the option of focusing on digital animation, video production and web design, among others.
Do students have the option of designing their own academic program or taking independent study? Advanced-level students who are disciplined and focused should be given the opportunity to work on their own projects, like creating their own animated movies or game mods.
Beware of programs that only focus on mastering how to use the software tools. Thatís important, but only part of the picture.
A well-rounded technological academic program includes course work on game concepts and theory. A program that focuses on encouraging students to explore their ideas will mean an exciting, innovative school experience Ė instead of dull tutorials that you can get out of a book.
A technological program is more than just teaching about hardware and software. Employers expect professionals to work on teams. So if you ever want to climb the ranks, you will need leadership and organizational skills, like documentation, scheduling and project management.
On your campus visit, ask the students why they chose the school and how they feel about their decision now:
Has it been it worth it?
What are your teachers like?
Before you tour the school, schedule an appointment with a counselor and make a reservation for a tour. Don't try an unscheduled visit with the school's Admissions Office. Often, the counselors have already been scheduled and won't be available to help you. Some questions to ask:
What on campus social activities are available for students? How much importance is placed upon social and extra-curricular activities?
How many of the students receive financial aid? How does one apply for financial aid?
What dormitory facilities are available? What is provided in each room for students? What must they bring? How is housing assigned?
What kind of security services are provided?
Are there any museums, theaters, or concert halls in the area which are accessible to students?
What athletic opportunities are available for students?
What are the size of the classes and the faculty-student ratio?
Are professors easily accessible? Do graduate students teach any of the classes? How much emphasis is placed on faculty research?
What religious services are provided?
How adequate is the library for the number of students using it?
Are there adequate areas on campus for students to study outside of their dormitory rooms?
Do many students go home on the weekends? What is the weekend social life like?
Is there a dress code?
How close is bus, train, and air service to the college? How good is the transportation?
What is the biggest issue facing students on campus?
What is the campus atmosphere like?
What percentage of students go onto graduate school?
How are minorities and ethnic groups represented on campus?
How are roommates and dormitory rooms selected? Can students live off campus?
What computer facilities are available on campus for students? Are they adequate for all s students and easily accessible?
Does the college have tests to determine class placement?
What is parking like on campus? Are freshmen allowed to have cars on campus?
How difficult is it for a student to change a major or obtain a minor?
Are job placement services available for graduating seniors?
What kinds of co-ops are available? Which students are eligible?
Is there any interaction between local colleges?
(If it is a rural school) How easy is it to get into town?
What is the relationship between the school and the community?
Are cultural activities/opportunities on campus available?
How soon will a decision be made about my application? Have I completed all of the requirements necessary?
Think of this way: grades mean nothing if you want to succeed in the world of technology. If you leave college with a fantastic portfolio, you will succeed.
Look for a school that encourages students to complete a portfolio by graduation. Some schools offer portfolio classes to help seniors polish their final projects, write resumes and conduct a job search.
Check the listing of academic instructors and their credentials. How many have their masterís degrees or PhDs? Beware of schools that will draft their advanced-level students into teaching courses.
Are instructors required to have a set amount of office hours when they are open to giving students help with projects and advice? Do they act as advisors to students? Become involved with their projects? Enlist students to participate in the instructorsí own projects?
Check the academic credentials of the school. The accreditation determines whether you can receive federal loans or use your academic credits to transfer to another school.
Check how much transfer credits the school will accept, if you have already taken college-level courses. Some colleges will let you test out of certain basic-level courses like English and humanities, so look into that option. Testing out of core courses can save you big bucks.
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Fields and Facts about Multimedia
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UATs Arizona Masters of Technology Program
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