Scholarships, College, etc.

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Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by nullsquared » Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:56 pm

A little background info: I'm currently 15, turning 16 this August, and going into 10th grade (Sophomore year) next year. I live in the USA (NY to be specific).

How exactly do scholarships, etc. work? I'm quite poor. To the point where I'm not really sure how I'm gonna get into college. Considering college is just around the corner, I'm not exactly in the greatest situation.

My grades are pretty good (constant 96% in Honours Bio, constant 95% in Honours Math [1], constant 100% in Spanish II R (taking III R next year), etc.). I do have some low grades, though (Honours English, low 80s high 70s [2]). Sophomore year I'm taking AP Computer Science (my teacher let me skip the introductory course since I've been doing C++ for a while). Freshman year I competed in some college programming competition - my school's main team won 1st place, and my team (I was the only Freshman there, and I was also the only one to use C++ :lol:) got 10th place (out of about 40 teams). I'm definitely going to the competition again the coming years. Other than learning, I'm also on the Marine Fitness school sports team. And that's about it.

[1] I'd have a 100% if my teacher didn't insist on giving me low grades because I didn't take any of her notes. I think the fact that I was the only one to get 100% on her final exam proves that I didn't need her notes, but oh well.

[2] This was the most horrific teacher I've ever had. The only thing I learned all year was ... I don't know. Really, nothing. I learned nothing all year.

Anyways, besides, school, I also have lots of side experience. Started C++ when I was about 10. Right now, I'm working on the first release of Portalized ( http://www.portalized.org ).

So - the main question: what do I need to do to get a scholarship? Or some other way to make college pay for itself... :| Essentially, I want to be a games programmer. Any advice/information is greatly appreciated!
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by DanielSefton » Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:17 pm

I know nothing of how the US education system works, but in the UK we can get maintenance or 'student loans' which pay for "university" (college). You don't have to start paying it back until you get a minimum annual income. Is there anything similar in the US?

Seriously though, you have nothing to worry about. I bet if you applied for a job at a games studio now, you'd be employed regardless. :P
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by nullsquared » Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:25 pm

DanielSefton wrote:I know nothing of how the US education system works, but in the UK we can get maintenance or 'student loans' which pay for "university" (college). You don't have to start paying it back until you get a minimum annual income. Is there anything similar in the US?
I suppose there is, I'll have to look into it.
Seriously though, you have nothing to worry about. I bet if you applied for a job at a games studio now, you'd be employed regardless. :P
Heh, if only it was that easy :mrgreen:
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by xavier » Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:30 pm

Govt-guaranteed loans, Pell grants (grants in general) if your/your family's income is low enough, plus apply for every scholarship you can find. With luck, you'll get more than you need to attend and might be able to do it without any loans to pay back.

When you start getting ready to look into higher ed, they are more than willing to help you look into the financial aid options available to you (they being the financial aid departments for the colleges you apply to). Note that endowments currently are so overfunded at universities like Stanford that they are offering completely free tuition in some cases:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... .DTL&tsp=1
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by Kencho » Sun Jul 12, 2009 3:08 am

The best advisor here about how to enter the industry is Xavier, so pay attention to his advices. Anyways, you might find some useful info here: http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features ... mmers_.php
My personal opinion is that there's not much problem in the grades you got themselves, but how good you're at doing your job. I mean, if you finish Portalized and present it as your application demo, people will not pay attention if you have a masters degree or not. I might be wrong, but most of what I've read at Gamasutra said exactly that.

Be unique and good at your job :)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by xavier » Sun Jul 12, 2009 3:27 am

Agreed, I would not worry about advanced degrees if you have solid experience (you do). Get a BS in CompSci or Computer Engineering -- it will give you the rest of the theoretical knowledge you need (that you likely won't be able to pick up on your own). Plus, it's fun. ;)

Know your 3D math cold, and whatever other interests you have.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by JohnJ » Sun Jul 12, 2009 5:56 pm

Apply to cal grant, pell grant, and any and every scholarship you can find that possibly apply to you. Depending on how expensive the school you plan to go to is, you may also need to get a job to save up a few $10ks per college year (in addition to scholarships), especially if you don't like to have debt and your parents are too poor to contribute anything as in my case. Try to save more than you need so you have some spending money during college. You'll also want to make sure you have the highest SAT score possible. As mentioned, Stanford does give free tuition if your parents make under $50k/year I think, but to get into Stanford you will have to have immaculate SAT and AP scores and have taken practically every possible extracurricular course available (you also will need to be able to write a top-notch admission essay).
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by reptor » Thu Jul 16, 2009 1:55 am

Have you considered getting your education outside the United States?

You know, in some countries they give out excellent education for free. Like in Finland. No tuition fees. Bachelor's or Master's degree, you choose your level, and no tuition fees. No scholarship needed. No loan needed.

I'm sure there are many other countries which do the same as we here, Finland is just an example I happen to know (well I was born and live and studied here). The state actually gave me money to study, so they were paying me instead of me paying them. Of course it comes from tax money so I kind of do pay at some point, but not like I have to have all the money ready when I go studying. I really like this system because no matter poor or rich, you are guaranteed a good education if you have the motivation and talent for it. I don't think your education level should depend on the amount of money you have available to you, for young people this means most often that the money would have to come from your parents and it's so not your fault if they are poor so you get unfairly punished if the education system requires you to pay for it (at the moment when you go studying).

And don't worry about the foreign language skills, at least here in Finland not knowing our language would certainly not be a problem.

I'm just presenting this choice to you, whether it is appealling to you or not is of course entirely for you to decide.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by syedhs » Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:44 am

reptor wrote: You know, in some countries they give out excellent education for free. Like in Finland. No tuition fees. Bachelor's or Master's degree, you choose your level, and no tuition fees. No scholarship needed. No loan needed.
That is excellent... however one question remains.. is the privilege available to non-citizen as well?
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by warmi » Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:50 am

I don't think your education level should depend on the amount of money you have available to you, for young people this means most often that the money would have to come from your parents and it's so not your fault if they are poor so you get unfairly punished if the education system requires you to pay for it (at the moment when you go studying).
Well, it depends ...

So called "free" education tends to be unfair to people who either don't need or are incapable of getting a degree ( electricians, construction workers etc) . In essence, people at the bottom of the pay scale end up subsidizing education for others who then go on to make a lot of money.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by xavier » Thu Jul 16, 2009 6:36 am

reptor wrote:I don't think your education level should depend on the amount of money you have available to you
In the US, it doesn't. Anyone can go to college, regardless of income. If you can't afford it (or can't afford all of it), the public subsidizes you in many ways (subsidized loans, grants, etc -- all listed above). Whether you get accepted into Harvard, Stanford, CUNY, or the local community college, depends almost entirely on non-financial factors.

I'm sure University of Helsinki, The Sorbonne and Oxford all work the same way -- you don't just get in because you want to go there. You have to demonstrate that you can be successful there before you are accepted. And if I am wrong about any of those (in terms of entrance requirements), then there is something wrong there, not in the U.S. ;)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by jjp » Thu Jul 16, 2009 7:27 am

syedhs wrote:
reptor wrote: You know, in some countries they give out excellent education for free. Like in Finland. No tuition fees. Bachelor's or Master's degree, you choose your level, and no tuition fees. No scholarship needed. No loan needed.
That is excellent... however one question remains.. is the privilege available to non-citizen as well?
I don't know about all countries, where there are no or very low tuition fees, but at least in Germany it is. But moving half around the world for studying certainly is a big step :) And, as Xavier points out, it is unlikely that tuition fees will keep someone from studying in the US. Besides, there are some excellent universities in the US for studying computer science.
xavier wrote:I'm sure University of Helsinki, The Sorbonne and Oxford all work the same way -- you don't just get in because you want to go there. You have to demonstrate that you can be successful there before you are accepted. And if I am wrong about any of those (in terms of entrance requirements), then there is something wrong there, not in the U.S. ;)
In Germany you actually can get into almost any of the best universities, depending on what you want to study. Natural science, computer science etc. are not that popular and so there usually are no special entrance requirements. Instead the tests during the first semesters serve to sieve out bad students.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by _tommo_ » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:08 am

Well, getting out of US to study computer science looks like a big nonsense to me :)
US has for sure the best and most modern, most advanced courses, there's a point if everyone wants to go there to study...
i mean, in italy there still are universities that teach FORTRAN as primary language, if you get the idea :roll:
But yeah, they are (and will be, i hope) almost free if you are a foreigner or if you can't pay them.
jjp wrote:In Germany you actually can get into almost any of the best universities, depending on what you want to study. Natural science, computer science etc. are not that popular and so there usually are no special entrance requirements. Instead the tests during the first semesters serve to sieve out bad students.
Yes, also there when the applicants are few, the entrance test is really easy (or isn't required at all) but then the first year is really hard.
There was only one exam where they accepted more than 10% of the participants...
This doesn't apply to other fields like medicine or law, but they don't apply to this thread.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by mirlix » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:26 am

Of course, the USA has some really good Computer Science Universities. But this is also true for many other countries and I really cant say which university is the best for studying Computer Science. I think it depends in which direction you want to go. I selected my university based on the criteria that they have really good computer graphics lectures and some software engineering ones. So it really depends on your interests which is the best university, because each one is more focused in a special research area.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by jjp » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:53 am

In one's heart of course everyone knows that his university is the best :D Seriously though, I think the tougher/better (or however you want to call it) (cs) university programs are pretty similar across different countries. Scientists don't like reinventing the wheel - they derive courses from textbooks or base them on lectures from other universities. I know that a course on technical computer science from my university serves as the base for courses in several other universities. On the other hand I participated in an operating systems lab work that was pretty much identical to the OS/161 course from Harvard. And I bet that most introductory courses on algorithmics are based on the book by Cormen et al.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by nikki » Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:59 am

xavier wrote:
reptor wrote:I don't think your education level should depend on the amount of money you have available to you
In the US, it doesn't. Anyone can go to college, regardless of income. If you can't afford it (or can't afford all of it), the public subsidizes you in many ways (subsidized loans, grants, etc -- all listed above). Whether you get accepted into Harvard, Stanford, CUNY, or the local community college, depends almost entirely on non-financial factors.
What about non-US-citizens? Do they have that for them too?

(sorry if my question is stupid, I'm a bit inexperienced in the field)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by reptor » Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:05 pm

I wasn't trying to suggest there aren't the cheap option in the U.S. as well. I was pointing out it is possible to study abroad and get excellent education without paying a lot of money up front every semester and this isn't a dig at the USA.

I have actually a few years back done research on studying in the USA. I was considering coming there to study. I didn't, and one important reason was that I noticed it will cost me significantly more than to study in Europe, or in my home country. I am now not including the travel cost and getting an apartment etc., just talking of the cost of studying.

I felt it is an option worth pointing out to the original poster, in case he did not consider it already. I am in no way trying to drag the image of the U.S. education system down or wanting to discuss politics here. I did mention I like the system we have here and gave some reason but that's it.

It is up to the original poster to consider whether studying abroad would be a viable option for him. It is now told to him it is possible to get excellent education in foreign top level universities without having to pay loads of money up front to get to do it.

Consider also the experience of living abroad and perhaps even learning another language - I don't think it would look bad in your job applications.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by xavier » Thu Jul 16, 2009 8:33 pm

reptor wrote:I wasn't trying to suggest there aren't the cheap option in the U.S. as well. I was pointing out it is possible to study abroad and get excellent education without paying a lot of money up front every semester and this isn't a dig at the USA.
No dig taken. As I pointed out, you don't need to go abroad to get excellently educated for free in the U.S. As stated in that SFGate article I linked, Stanford, Harvard, Yale -- we're not talking community colleges here, and they all offer 100% free tuition (and it sounds like null's financial situation probably fits the criteria for free tuition).

Whether learning abroad is beneficial on one's resume is debatable -- if I were interested in a career as a CIA analyst or operative, particular areas of the world might be useful to live in, but given this:
Essentially, I want to be a games programmer.
it's not really something that US game studios will care about.

I would actually recommend a Stanford or MIT if null wants to learn some really cool stuff from top professors, that has games applicability.
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by _tommo_ » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:03 pm

xavier wrote:it's not really something that US game studios will care about.

I would actually recommend a Stanford or MIT if null wants to learn some really cool stuff from top professors, that has games applicability.
Also, he is in a position where he can learn anything related to games by himself, and faster than in a school... in that regard it is useless.
so i think unversity is good to have a more in-deep knowledge to be a more complete "IT expert", which is my reason to study.
After all you can't live only with games :)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by subquantum » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:16 pm

I second the dont-get-a-"games-degree". Get a CS or CE degree at a decent school, and you can apply it wherever you want. I'm currently taking Computer Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technoloy, and with the Pell grant, a loan from citibank (RIT has a thing with them), and some local scholarships, I wind up paying at most a thousand or so per term out of pocket, and I don't have to pay the loans back until I'm out of school. (That's how most loans I've seen work.)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by Kentamanos » Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:32 pm

Personally I pad my own way in college. It was a "state school", so it wasn't particularly expensive at all.

To pay for school, I was a co-op student. "Co-op'ing" is probably still fairly common in CS or Engineering schools. Basically every other semester I'd go to a job in the industry and make more money than I probably could have made straight out of high school. At the end I was making $14/hour back in 1994, which wasn't too bad.

It definitely causes you to take longer to graduate, but it's helps a bit when you graduate to have a couple of jobs in the industry on your resume (when compared to other recent graduates).
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by xavier » Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:38 pm

_tommo_ wrote:
xavier wrote:it's not really something that US game studios will care about.

I would actually recommend a Stanford or MIT if null wants to learn some really cool stuff from top professors, that has games applicability.
Also, he is in a position where he can learn anything related to games by himself, and faster than in a school... in that regard it is useless.
so i think unversity is good to have a more in-deep knowledge to be a more complete "IT expert", which is my reason to study.
After all you can't live only with games :)
That's why I recommended Stanford and MIT -- they are not "games" schools, which are often just glorified vocational schools (sorry Kojack, that's largely what they are here in the States) -- they concentrate instead on actual engineering. I would actually recommend a Computer Engineering course of study, rather than Computer Science -- in my experience, it provided me with a lot more useful knowledge that is applicable in games engineering, than the CS courses would have (due to more focus on hardware design).
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by Kencho » Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:59 pm

xavier wrote:I would actually recommend a Computer Engineering course of study, rather than Computer Science -- in my experience, it provided me with a lot more useful knowledge that is applicable in games engineering, than the CS courses would have (due to more focus on hardware design).
Totally agree here :)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by warmi » Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:49 am

xavier wrote:
_tommo_ wrote:
xavier wrote:it's not really something that US game studios will care about.

I would actually recommend a Stanford or MIT if null wants to learn some really cool stuff from top professors, that has games applicability.
Also, he is in a position where he can learn anything related to games by himself, and faster than in a school... in that regard it is useless.
so i think unversity is good to have a more in-deep knowledge to be a more complete "IT expert", which is my reason to study.
After all you can't live only with games :)
That's why I recommended Stanford and MIT -- they are not "games" schools, which are often just glorified vocational schools (sorry Kojack, that's largely what they are here in the States) -- they concentrate instead on actual engineering. I would actually recommend a Computer Engineering course of study, rather than Computer Science -- in my experience, it provided me with a lot more useful knowledge that is applicable in games engineering, than the CS courses would have (due to more focus on hardware design).
Either will do ... personally I think a well crafted math heavy, hard core CS course (and I don't mean just Java/c# and basic data structures) will be more useful with less noise than CE.
I don't know if they still do that but in my time ( early to mid 90s) I had to write my own mini OS complete with BIOS and direct hardware access (I still have a boxed copy of WATCOM 10 with DOS/4GW ! ) which is more than enough to grasp everything a game programer will ever face ( at least in terms of understanding hardware.)
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Re: Scholarships, College, etc.

Post by xavier » Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:15 am

At MIT they should still put you through the ringer, from what I understand. Ditto for Stanford. Neither are "Javaschools" ;)

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/ ... hools.html

However, a good low-level (down to the etching, IMO) understanding of computer architecture goes a very long way towards understanding the "why" of optimized software.
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