Academy of Art University Reviews

2.18 out of 5 stars
(86 Reviews)
  • San Francisco (CA)
  • Annual Tuition: $22,308
31% of 86 students said this degree improved their career prospects
27% of 86 students said they would recommend this school to others
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Student & Graduate Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
Graduate Student - 7/6/2015
Degree: Marketing
Graduation Year: 2016
"I am a graduate student in the Advertising department. I haven't seen many reviews from grad students, and I don't think I've seen any from advertising students. I'm about half way through the program, and I love it so far. From my experience: the instructors are great, with the exception of one who is okay (at least for advertising, not sure about instructors for other majors). I do feel they can be too easy though. I like that they care about the creative fidelity of the work (not surprising at an art school), rather than the commercial validity that goes along with stereotypical advertising. There are mostly international students in my classes, mostly from China but not all of them. Yes, the advisors SUCK. If I had listened to my adviser, I wouldn't have had the right prereqs to take the classes I needed. Also, I wanted to take an elective in another department and my advisor said that particular class required that department's approval. I went out of my way to meet with a member of the department only to have them say I didn't need approval and I could totally sign up. As a graduate student, I've already learned how to plan my own schedule. I really don't need an advisor. Also, the professors in my program are actually very knowledgable and helpful in assisting me plan my schedule when I need advice. My advice: if you go here, skip the advisor and just talk to your department heads. Yes, this school is expensive. It's not as expensive in grad school though. We pay per unit, and while the graduate units cost more, we take fewer of them. 9 units per semester is full time in graduate school, and the program as a whole is 63 units. Total cost will be less than undergrad if you're looking into grad school. That said, yeah, they over charge. I had a professor explain that we really need to take advantage of all the services the school offers or else it's like throwing away money. And trust me, most people don't really take advantage. The school is very much a business. That has its pros and cons. I am only going here because of location and the fact that it has a Master's in Advertising. I honestly don't think it would have such a wide variety of majors and postgraduate degrees if it wasn't making all that money and again, behaving like a business. No other school remotely close to San Francisco offered a Master's in Advertising, so here I am. I benefitted in this case from the school's for-profit model. Basically, I can't say whether or not I would recommend the school. It really depends on your major and whether your undergraduate or graduate. I went elsewhere for my Bachelor's, so I can't say for sure, but I don't think I'd go here for undergrad. It would cost too much, and a Bachelor's is probably better for getting a broader-based degree. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of a field, that's what Master's are for (they are a much more focused degree). That said, if you REALLY don't see yourself changing your desired career and you KNOW you DON'T want to go to graduate school, well... I'm still not sure if AAU would be good for undergrad. AAU seems like a great graduate school, and at least I hear that Advertising has high job placement post-graduation (to the chagrin of one particular professor because he felt some of these students who got jobs weren't that good)."
2.6 out of 5 stars
Anonymous - 5/20/2015
Degree: Computer Animation
Graduation Year:
"I went to a Academy of Art University of San Francisco and got a BFA (Bachelor's Fine Art). I went to this private art school because my major, 2D animation was very specific, and the University had excellent instructor reviews. AAU is also a very rare breed of art school: It offers open enrollment which was necessary for me, as I had not performed well at my previous State University. For a specific trade, it is important to research the instructors before you go to college. Get an understanding of who is going to be teaching you, and what their industry skills are. If you don't do this, you may end up in a situation as I did. For an open enrollment school, the curriculum was unfortunately, hit or miss. Some instructors were incredible mentors, while others made you wonder why you were paying 3K per class when you could find better information on YouTube for free. Some instructors graded fairly, which means, those who performed the best got the highest grades, and those students who didn't, failed. Common sense, usually, but there were many cases where grading was very lax, and some students who should NOT be allowed to move forward, got passing grades. It harms the students who are working hard and performing well, and creates less motivation to advance. It ultimately harms the school, as they will approve students to graduate (meet industry standards) and churn out talent that is not acceptable in that particular industry. There was much operational miscommunication within the Administrative Staff. Ideally, a student should be assigned to one student adviser. Their turnover was high, and throughout my career there, I went through six total student advisers, and they harmed me more than helped me. Because of miscommunication when a student enrolls, I was one of MANY who advanced through core art classes, without ever knowing that Liberal Art classes were also required. No adviser ever caught this harmful trajectory, and it was my department head who notified me that my curriculum was in trouble. The story ends with a huge failure at the hands of the administration: A student in their final year at the university is trapped taking 10+ LA classes when they should focus their final year into demo reels and work the hardest on their core major. Any student should be made aware of this possible outcome, and that should be drilled into their head upfront. The biggest thing that I can say about my school is this: I was taught the necessary skills required to draw. What my school failed to teach was how to apply these skills into the real world. We were not taught soft skills, we were not taught business, we were not taught how to market ourselves properly, and we were not prepared for what lies after graduation. The information was all there, if the student was willing to seek consul from faculty. However, not every student knows this; especially students in the ESL (English Second Language) Program. It took me nearly two years after graduation to break into the Freelance Business (since there's barely any real employment for traditional animators). My experience breaking into the Industry has been shaky, and I've made many unnecessary mistakes along the way. I did not know how to negotiate for rates, or even know how to calculate rates for that matter. And lastly......Student Loans. I was aware when I enrolled at AAU of the impending cost that I would eventually have to pay back. I had a less than ideal upbringing, which is relevant: in my case, my single-mother makes more than substantial wages in comparison to where she lives. She never had savings, however, and there was no college fund ready for me when I left for school. When you're younger than 26, you are considered a DEPENDENT, and you don't qualify for many state grants. I grew to outsmart this issue eventually, and I legally changed my status to INDEPENDENT. The problem is, for my first three years of college, we took out MASSIVE Sallie Mae loans with my single-mother as a Cosigner, because it was our only option. My total debt for my initial 52K loan has climbed to 85K and sits at 11% interest. Since it is a private loan, it can not be consolidated, nor does it qualify for IBR (income base repayment). My monthly payment to SM (now Navient), is a whopping $980 payment each month. My balance for Navient has decreased by 3K, and I have been in repayment for three years now. My grand total debt for my education is around $140,000. I have not been able to increase my salary in the last three years, and I am forced to make minimal payments, which only extends the amount I will pay. From someone who will struggle in debt for the majority of my life, please consider my advice to you: *Do NOT take out student loans for college---ESPECIALLY private [art] schools. Find another way, even if it means postponing your education an extra five years or more. *Read about compounding interest. The school will not sit you down and make sure you truly understand the cost when you're 18 years old and impatient to get out on your own. *If you are dead set on a specific school, go to Community College first and take care of any electives you can. CC is affordable, and in my experience, my curriculum was better than that of my private school. Remember, the power is in you, the student, to say no. What is an educational institution with no student body? Do not be a slave to a broken system. Rather, do your research. Read. Do not settle. And make the system better."
3.3 out of 5 stars
Wendy Miller - 4/16/2015
Degree: Fine Arts
Graduation Year: 2018
"The Academy of Art University gives you the amazing opportunity to brush elbows with professionals in the industry. Their focus on classical training is admirable, the only major drawback is the price. At $2,500 a class, you better have a wallet to back your dreams!"
1.3 out of 5 stars
Regretful - 4/5/2015
Degree: Film Production
Graduation Year: 2015
"I have so many problems with this school on so many levels that I cannot possibly say everything I want to in this review. They main thing I want to say is directed to people thinking about attending AAU: STOP! DO NOT go to AAU. It is not worth the money! You will totally be better off saving the 120,000 G's. If you are serious about pursuing art as a career just get a job in the industry right away. You will learn soo much more, faster and more focused on your craft rather than taking useless/expensive classes just for the credits (not to mention you will actually get paid for that education instead of essentially taking out a mortgage) AAU is a CORPORATION - NOT A UNIVERSITY! All they care about is your $$$$$$ and will lie cheat and steal to get it. If you talk to past and current students they will mostly all say either 1)it is not worth it, or 2) roll their eyes and say"Eh it's an alright school." ALRIGHT!?! for the amount of money you are paying it should be the best damn art school in the country! and the fact of the matter is, it's not a good school. Most of the teachers have beef with the school as well. It seems to me that anyone you talk to involved with AAU is ashamed to be a part of it; that is, everyone EXCEPT for the greedy, callous assholes in the admissions office. They will aggressively state AAU is the best school in the world. Then, you ask them where they went to college and they say they never went to any skool. SO HOW THE FUCK WOULD YOU KNOW THAT ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY IS THE BEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD!?!? *yes that really happened to me. I will say it again, AAU will lie, scam and steal from you. Basically, it will waste your time and F*** UP your life. Save your money. DO NOT GO TO AAU!"
1.3 out of 5 stars
Ross - 11/12/2014
Degree: Photography
Graduation Year: 2012
"I greaduated AAU in December 2012. When I applied in 2006 they told me it would cost roughly $80,000 to get my BFA in Commercial Photography there. By the time I was done I was $144,000 in the hole before even counting in the interest. While I was there instructors were in and out the door every semester so it was random luck if you were to get anyone good. From my experience you had about a 1 in 6 chance of getting someone good. But probably 3 out of those 6 we pretty awful. From the time I started to the time I graduated the number of photo students more than tippled, studio hours decreased, and they in no way vaguely bothered to keep the amount of equipment up with the increased demand. (You could see how may of each piece of gear was available, or not, to loan out at any given time.) The LA classes were laughably easy and were maybe, MAYBE, high-school level. They charged about $1300 a month for a SHARED studio, while the market rate at the time was about that for a studio two building down the block , so housing rates are pretty much extortion. The available transportation was never on time, so if you had back to back classes you were pretty much always late for the second. Every year there they raised the tuition by something like $225 a unit (most classes are 3 units) One year they told us the reason for the tuition increase was to offer us perpetual CS6 suite licences which they are now pulling from everyone one. I can't even apply to consolidate my loans that I took to go to AAU because, banks, and credit unions (I've tried 2 banks and 3 CUs) don't believe that someone who attended the academy will be able to repay the loans. Just don't go. Is there value to the education they offer? Yes. Is it anywhere near $144,000 dollars (roughly $300,000 if you include interest over the standard repayment time, (roughly $1,300 a month)) that it actually cost. No. The Academy of Art University was the biggest mistake of my life."
1.0 out of 5 stars
J.M. - 9/19/2014
Degree: Video Game Design
Graduation Year: 2012
"Don't go here for the game design degree. Just don't. Please. Let me elaborate, You're paying this school for a degree that will teach you the skills you need to have a fighting chance at getting a job in the industry, right? I mean that's what you should be doing...Game design is an insanely competitive field ok? Most of the game design specific classes are a joke. They won't challenge you to do better and they won't fail you if you're bad. It's the worst of both worlds. You could be the worst artist in history but if you manage to at least show up to 3 or 4 classes you'll still pass. It doesn't even matter to them, because they already have your money. Need more convincing? One of the required classes is a "game history" course. Now, you figure that would entail some...oh say history of gaming right? Wrong. You get to pay $3000 for a class where literally all you will do is sit in the classroom for 3 hours every week playing random old video games that your classmates have haphazardly brought in. There is NO structure to the class whatsoever. No history. Just playing random ass old games people bring in on a whim. Welcome to the Game Design Department. Look, I get it, maybe you're hell bent on going to AAU. I'm not going to stop you. There are some really good programs. (The Illustration department for example, is fantastic) But please, just do me this simple favor, DO NOT join the Game Design program. If you want to learn 3d modeling software or Photoshop there are a million cheap online resources you can use. (Eat3d,, and many, many more) And guess what, I just saved you $100,000! Seriously that's how much this degree costs....probably more now since they raise their prices almost every year. You can thank me later when you manage to land your first industry job without having been saddled with so much debt that your grandchildren will still be paying it off!"
1.5 out of 5 stars
marie adams - 8/6/2014
Degree: Fashion
Graduation Year: 2009
"The Academy of Art is an institution that has great customer service to wheel you in, but they don’t deliver in assisting the students to a career. It is very appealing artistically to the students, and it has great fashionable glamour’s charm with the latest software and applications. The tuition is very high, and the teachers are not academically very good. They create programs to make it difficult to pass, so you can repeat the course which is profitable for their organization. The courses are very long with ridiculous and superfluous projects and modules that are not academically appropriate. Most of these courses are not transferable and when I left this university to attend for a bachelor’s degree, most of my classes were useless. I left the university after being given an “f” for two classes that I had participated and completed all class assignments. I complained and filled grievances, and they did not respond to my request and concerns or e-mails. My classmates were chock that I received the bad grade and my tutor who work with me through the entire course was also chocked! This institution has no integrity or ethics, and they don’t care about the students. I have an enormous amount of student loans and finding a job has not materialized. I am now back in another university working towards my bachelor degree with the hope that will lend me a future job. I would not recommend Academy of Art to any prospect students who wants to gain Academic and artistic abilities for a prospective career. This university is a mirage for making money and selling you a dream with negative results. Their marketing tactics and advertising are alluring to in trapped students."
4.8 out of 5 stars
Wendy L. Miller - 7/24/2014
Degree: Fine Arts
Graduation Year: 2016
"I absolutely love the school that I go to. The instructors are extremely talented and genuinely passionate about what they do. Every time you attend a class you leave feeling like greatness is a contagion and the more you are in this creative environment, the more it affects you! The only reason I wouldn't necessarily recommend my school is because of how incredibly expensive it is. Not only is the tuition more expensive than anything else my friends are paying, but buying art supplies really add up. If you are going to this school, be prepared to really commit to your field. The graduation rate is about 30%, which is understandable because it's hard to keep up with the expenses (especially if you're living in sf to go there), and the field isn't going to show you much return on your investment if you aren't willing to pursue art as a career and take it very seriously. That being said, there are countless student resources to help you through all your programs. If you reach out, there is definitely someone on the other end to help pull you out of the woods. The grading system is also something I really enjoy. It is representative of the critiques that you will receive in the field, and thus prepares you accordingly."
3.8 out of 5 stars
Mea B. - 7/24/2014
Degree: Film Production
Graduation Year: 2013
"This school really isn't there to help you. It's a tool that you have to be prepared to take full advantage of as a student. Don't allow the school to shape the coarse of your education. Meet with your program's leaders and rely on them and your instructors more than the administration and given advisers. You must work hard to get the best education at this school. They do have the facilities and some wonderful instructors. Get involved with projects with other students and as much extra curricular work as possible. Practice. Art is Practice."
4.0 out of 5 stars
Jess - 7/23/2014
Degree: Art & Design
Graduation Year: 2014
"Academy of Art was generally a good school to attend. I learned alot from the professors who worked or have worked in the industry. I was a little disappointed that there went many hard surface modeling classes, bit the classes they did offer were great, and i heard they are working on getting more classes started. Some of the organic modeling teachers were not that good at teaching, but i think they have also been replaced by better teachers. I did enjoy the classes that i took and the feedback you get from your teachers and class mates every week is excellent, it really helps you every step of the way towards your thesis project."