Tuesday, June 22, 2010

All great things start... now.

So I've decided to tear a page out of my friend Ryan's book and make myself a blog. It seems like a great way to keep track of how my college life progresses. I guess I should introduce myself first ;)

My name is Chris and I'm 30 years old, I've been a gamer for 26 years starting with an Atari 2600 which I still own and cherish. I'm starting college in a few weeks (July 6th) at DeVry University, I'm taking their online version of Game and Simulation Programming (GSP) Bachelor's Degree Program. I was in college 12 years ago at Tampa Technical Institute in (obviously) Tampa, Florida. I learned a great deal but the program there was still maturing and I lost out on a lot of information that newer students were given more freely. However, I also went through a lot of personal issues at the time such as a deepening depression due to my father's failing health and a huge Everquest addiction. In 2000 my father passed away and I dropped out of school and never tried to go back.

Move forward 8 years to find the company that was supposed to keep my student loans tracked, in deferment and out of default had done nothing for me and all my student loans went to shit. At this point in life I'm married, amazing woman who loves video games but is definitely a casual gamer. We work hard to fix my student loan problems and by 2010 I'm able to request student aid again. I looked at every school that offers programs online tailored towards game development.

My first choice has always been Full Sail in Orlando, Florida. It has had a great reputation and I've known a few grads that learned more than I thought possible. The sad reality was that I'm now a 30 year old father with a hard working wife and we can't move to Orlando (about 2 hours away) and me go to school 6 days a week between 40-60 hours a week. Also, $77k is a crazy amount to ask of someone with credit that is still being fixed. They have an online game DESIGN program but it has no math or programming, and the campus program requires you to have an extensive background already in math. Unfortunately I do not possess that background yet. The online game design program is very geared towards storyboarding, theory in game design, but I love to program and wanted a more well rounded program, so I kept talking with DeVry.

I was worried I'd become blinded by my love for Full Sail that I'd shrug off DeVry, thankfully I have an amazing wife who kept me looking at my choices. I spoke with a guy named Matt Weisburg who worked hard at getting me into his office to go over everything and take an entrance test to make sure my math, science, and english skills were up to par (remember I said my math stunk, nice foreshadowing huh?). Everything started crumbling as I sat at the computer in an empty room trying to decipher algebraic equations that I've just never done. I also made a boneheaded move on the writing portion, skimming through the instructions and missing a major requirement so I only passed science and basic math. This meant I would have to retest for the writing, and somehow learn math. I was also told 4 classes were not offered online and I'd have to figure a way to Orlando once a week which isn't possible being a stay at home father. Things were looking rather grim for our hero...

I went home after finishing some financial aid, stricken by a massive panic attack and filled with doubt on my future. I sat with my wife trying to make sense of it all, "how the hell don't I know math like this, I was always good at math dammit!" but finally calmed down and realized this could be a good thing. I called the next day and spoke with Matt, asked him about taking the pre-algebra and algebra 1 courses then move into the required pre-calc. That was very possible but we still had the major hurdle of Orlando. I informed Matt if I couldn't do 100% of my degree online, I wouldn't be able to attend DeVry. He said he'd call me back in 5 minutes to make sure the classes were only available on campus, now I don't know if this is a tactic used by campus admissions, but he called me in 5 minutes and said "Oh yeah the X next to those classes meant they were available online, it didn't mean they wern't" and just like that the problem was solved.

The next hurdles were Financial Aid, I'll not bore you with details but I found out the school will give me enough money this year to take 3 classes per term (2 classes in one 8 week block, 1 class in second 8 week block). However I couldn't get private loans which sucks but at least I'm now good to start! First block of classes are Pre-Algebra and Critical Thinking, followed by Intro to Game and Simulation Programming in the next block. Also all my books are online so they're a ton less than paper books and I can keep these forever just like a normal book.

So if you're still reading this small novel and laughed at my horrible grammar then welcome to my world :) I notice a lot of students in programs like these want the school to learn for them, I just don't think I can do the bare minimum and be happy. I want to do 300% of the workload asked of me and learn more than I thought possible. This is in my blood and it's what makes me happy.

I promise the next entries will be considerably shorter and I hope you find something worth reading. I look forward to writing again and may this journey be a long and adventurous one!

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