Where is money better spent, undergraduate or graduate film school? (1 Viewer)

Jacob Kessler

New Member
This coming fall I will be a sophomore at Pace University in NYC. I am not a huge fan of the school's film program due to its underdevelopment, lack of professional level resources, and overwhelming focus on film studies as opposed to film production (though it claims to have an even balance between the two), but I am there based on the fact that because of a parent faculty member I go for free. Though room and board costs are not omitted, I commute from NJ so the only costs I'm paying are for train tickets (which is nothing compared to the $20k a year room and board price tag). I didn't apply myself as much as I could have in high school (2.9 GPA, 1950 sats) so I didn't bother applying anywhere but Pace. But over the past year I worked harder than I ever had before at academics and finished the last semester with a 3.82 (which balanced out into a 3.5 for the year). I also finished with a slew of extracurricular activities added to my resume (Environmental Film Series organizer, Photography magazine editor) and two internships at different production companies. I decided to apply to transfer to several other film programs. Thus far I've been accepted to SVA, Pratt, and DePaul and have nearly completed my applications for Emerson and NYU (my top choice). This summer I'm also taking classes at NYU as part of the Filmmaking Certificate Program. With my improved academic standing, experience, and body of work I'm fairly confident that I can get into NYU's undergraduate film program. But at this point, I'm questioning whether or not I should move forward with the transfer application process or continue to improve my grades and skills while taking advantage of a free undergraduate education so I can raise the bar even higher for where I can go for graduate school (spending the money my parents and I have saved for that instead). Since a top tier undergraduate and graduate program would come out to the around the same price, it pretty much comes down to a choice between the two. Any advice to help with this tough decision would be much appreciated.
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
But at this point, I'm questioning whether or not I should move forward with the transfer application process or continue to improve my grades and skills while taking advantage of a free undergraduate education so I can raise the bar even higher for where I can go for graduate school (spending the money my parents and I have saved for that instead). Since a top tier undergraduate and graduate program would come out to the around the same price, it pretty much comes down to a choice between the two. Any advice to help with this tough decision would be much appreciated.

I think your doubts are merited. A FREE undergraduate education is a great opportunity.

It sounds like you are very motivated and that should get you far. Personally, I'd lean towards continuing to do the program at Pace but continue to enrich it with even more extra curricular activities, more internships, etc. I'd also look into PAing on sets and doing that as well.

That would continue to give you a good base after you graduate to even work in the industry for a while after undergraduate and then go to graduate school after getting some work experience if you decide to got that route as well.

A graduate program will also be more focused and there is usually a much better student to teach ratio.

I'd see what other people say in this thread too but if it's FREE personally I'd lean towards making the most of it and work and study your butt off.

It's cliche but film school really is what you make of it.... and you can make your film school experience a great one anywhere if you have the right attitude and motivation about it.
 

Jacob Kessler

New Member
Sorry for replying so late to this, but thank you very much for the advice. It made a difference in my decision to stay at Pace. Yet, I've grown so tired of the film program's inadequacy that I have decided to no longer major in it, choosing instead English and Philosophy. I still intend to pursue a graduate degree in film, but figured that I should take the opportunity of a free undergrad education to hone skills related to film rather than wasting it on a bad program. For my intended career path (writing and directing), English and Philosophy seemed to me to be the best choices.

Now my question is what should I be doing during undergrad to better my chances of getting into a top tier grad program? I already spend the majority of my time when not in school on film related endeavors; whether its working on projects as a writer, director, cinematographer, editor, grip, or PA and interning at production companies. I keep my grades high and take part in several clubs. What else should I be doing/are the schools looking for?

I should also add that my intention is to attend grad school immediately after undergrad (that is if I can get in so early).
 

IndecisiveElle

Contributor
FilmSchool.org Writer
Sorry for replying so late to this, but thank you very much for the advice. It made a difference in my decision to stay at Pace. Yet, I've grown so tired of the film program's inadequacy that I have decided to no longer major in it, choosing instead English and Philosophy. I still intend to pursue a graduate degree in film, but figured that I should take the opportunity of a free undergrad education to hone skills related to film rather than wasting it on a bad program. For my intended career path (writing and directing), English and Philosophy seemed to me to be the best choices.

Now my question is what should I be doing during undergrad to better my chances of getting into a top tier grad program? I already spend the majority of my time when not in school on film related endeavors; whether its working on projects as a writer, director, cinematographer, editor, grip, or PA and interning at production companies. I keep my grades high and take part in several clubs. What else should I be doing/are the schools looking for?

I should also add that my intention is to attend grad school immediately after undergrad (that is if I can get in so early).
Well rounded students, with backgrounds and interests beyond film, are looked at favorably by grad schools. Keep doing what you're doing with all the side efforts like PAing and interning for production companies and creating your own projects. That is what will matter the most in the long run. You may find, like I did, that you won't need/want graduate school right away if those jobs keep coming. If you told me in 2012, at age 25 when I finished undergrad that I'd be interested in grad school, I would have laughed at you. My goals and methodology to achieve them changed after a decade in the business. That'll happen. Try to figure out your goals (that will take time on set and on multiple jobs and possibly years to figure out) and educate yourself about the various paths to get there. No two filmmakers journeys are the same.

It'll sound cliche, and you're probably hearing this a lot, but trust me, you have plenty of time to figure out what your exact path will be. And I can also promise you that over time it will change.

Keep working, you'll make yourself a career one way or the other, based on your passion and hard work.
 
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