There is much good advice to be found here. At the same time, confirm your questions with the colleges of choice. I have seen some wonderful insights by many here, and time spent here is definitely worth it. I have also seen some assumptions taken as gospel that will cost the the students thousands of dollars (some of it is downright wrong).

Someone has recommended, in various posts, to check out www.aicad.org. Excellent answer. If it is a good college, you can pretty much they will be listed there, with links, with good information to check into.

Also, watch for Portfolio Days coming to your area. This is where all the top art colleges in the US travel in packs, so that you may show your portfolio, get feedback, learn about the colleges right from the source.

Ways to see if it is a good college....
#1 Look at the artwork the college is putting out NOW.
Is it high quality?
Looking at it, do you wish you could be that good? (A famous artist from 20 years ago may look great for the school, but chances are the same faculty that taught that artist are no longer there.)

See if the artwork is the kind of work you like. For example, if you are a fine artist and you like abstract, contemporary art, the Laguna College of Art & Design is the LAST place you would want to go. We are a traditional, figurative program. For contemporary art, there are some outstanding choices out there. Use AICAD to check out the colleges and the portfolio of student work. Is it the style, manner and quality you seek? Laguna believes in strong fundamentals and a methodical approach over styles and a loose approach. Is one right? Is one wrong? We believe in what we do, but the ultimate answer rests with you.

#2 Find a Good Fit
Find a good fit with the program and the environment. For example, both Cal Arts and Laguna have a great animation program (Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Fox, were all just here to recruit). Both are southern California schools in the LA area. Both provide emphasis in 2D. There, the similarities end. Cal Arts, which has produced genius animators, is now very experimental (which can be pretty cool). Laguna is industry-driven, and we are prepping are kids to work for places like Pixar and Disney. They are much larger than us, and for some, that is incredible and ideal and the perfect fit. We are small, about 300. The kids at the schools tend to be quite different as well - as a whole.

Another thing about programs...look deeply into what schools offer. For instance, I read one student was torn between Illustration and Graphic Design. That is why Laguna offers hybrid majors (Illustration/ GD, Illustration/ Fine Arts, Illustration/ Animation). Other colleges provide some very good and unique solutions that could fit you perfectly. Again, check out AICAD, search through the schools, and find one that fits you.

As for environments, again, fit is essential. I've been to most campuses. Ringling has a beautiful, small college campus. Chicago is right there downtown, which in its way is very cool. Art Center is in some beautiful sprawling hills in Pasadena. Some schools are large and crazy, some are small and intimate? Which works for you?

The people factor is again something you want to get a feel for. For example, Art Center, with a great history, and still doing some great work, is mostly older students, and it has a very business-like feel. Does that work for the students there? Absolutely. Again, Laguna is very different, with most students straight out of high school, with a very casual, laid back feel. Will you work very hard in both? You bet.

So, whatever you do, VISIT THE SCHOOLS you are interested in. Catalogues are great, but they don't give you the full effect. If you like 2 or 3, try to visit the 2 or 3. It may not be cheap, but in the end, it is much, much cheaper than making a mistake. Statistics show that why most students become disatisfied with their choice is because they didn't do their research and they never visited the school first.

Last, but VERY IMPORTANT, make sure the college of choice is REGIONALLY accredited. What "regionally accredited" means is that other colleges will acknowledge your credits, should you ever want to take classes in the future, whether it be for a Master's or just to update your skills. In your generation, you will be periodically taking classes throughout your career. Any other type of accreditation does not mean squat. Without regional accredidation, your credits will not, will not, will not transfer.

I will be more than happy to answer questions if you choose to contact me at mhayes@lagunacollege.edu. However, I am hardly your only source. At all of these colleges, people are willing to help you. Is it our job to recruit? Yes. Could we make a lot more in the corporate world? Oh yeah, but most of us like helping young people.

You make contact me, but you should do the research first to discover the schools you like, and contact them. Go to Portfolio Days (see www.npda.org for schedules in the fall).

Last, still ask your buddies. Talk to the students at the schools you visit. After you meet the Admissions people, say thanks for everything, then strike out on your own, finding students on campus, and see what they say. They have to reason to tell you anything except what they believe. Don't be nervous about doing that. If a college, any college, isn't doing a good enough job with their own students, so that they may say they are happy, and don't want you roaming the campus, well, maybe you don't want to be there. Also, come prepared and ask the hard questions. It's your life, your future, and you deserve an answer.

Good luck.