Regardless of whether you’re going to the best animation school in the world, or your local art and design college, there are four main things you need to get out of your animation education.

And the great news is: none of these things cost money!

Just lots of focus, attention and hard work.

1. You need good grades.

If you are at school, you need good grades. This point is so obvious, I almost left it out, but it’s worth explaining.

Unless you have years of industry experience, the best way future employers will be able to predict if you can handle deadlines and delivery quality artwork is by looking at your grades.

Simple as that.

Like them or hate them: grades tell people how well you were able to manage your time, and juggle commitments to reach a successful outcome.

So what defines “good”?

I would suggest a B average as a minimum standard. In American colleges that translates to a 3.0 GPA or above.

If you’re not meeting that standard, almost everything else in this post is secondary to getting to a point where you can product quality work, on time and show that you’re on top of your technique.

2. You need to experiment.

This might seem to contradict my first point, but when you’re learning animation (or anything for that matter) you must be prepared to break what you think works in order to get better.

No-one improves their golf handicap without first “unlearning” the mistakes in their golf swing. And yes: your performance will suffer in the short term.

But when you are a student, this is EXACTLY the time to do as much experimentation with your artistic process before you get locked in to doing things in a set way.

There is no better time that when you’re studying to take some risks and really change your workflow.

You never know. You might discover a way of working that triples your productivity.

3. You need a showreel.

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you can show.”

Not every piece of work you do at school is going to end up on your animation reel. That’s okay.

Your portfolio should only contain work that you honestly believe showcases your best art.

Having said that – if you’re doing assignments for college: why not approach them with the attitude that they may end up on your reel in the future.

It will help clarify the decisions in planning your animation when you begin with the end in mind.

4. You need to make friends.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

The friends you make at animation school will form the start of your professional network that will ensure you have the best chance of securing jobs in the future.

Do whatever you can to build and maintain your relationships with your classmates. You never know when someone you went to school with will be in a position to offer you a job on a project.

This is especially true in an industry as small as animation.

Best of luck in your studies, and I hope to see your work on the big screen soon!

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