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My advice is to do some thinking on what you really want to do. Art and Design are very different disciplines (although there is nothing to say someone can’t do both) focusing on one or the other will help you get a clearer picture of where you are going with your studies so you don’t wind up spending huge amounts of time learning to model high poly characters when the most that will ever be realistically asked of you as a designer is a good greybox mesh.
Then do some research on what course and college/university you want to go to. Try talking to graduates and current students if you can, attend the open days and ask to see examples of past students work, especially if you go the art route.
NOT all courses are equal! I’ve heard of some right horror stories, but it always seems to be something people are wary of talking about. If something doesn’t seem right when at an open day ask pointed questions.
I went to Ballyfermot myself and I have nothing but good things to say about it. The course content is contemporary, accurate and useful and it prepared me well for working in the industry. Almost more important than that, the lecturers actually give a damn. You are not just another ass on a seat. All that said you will get out of it exactly what you put in.
One of the teams that entered DARE the same year I did was from South Bank Uni in London and they were very impressive. If they were representative of the going standard it could well be worth a look.
Teeside is another good one, I’ve a good few friends who went there.
Finally it doesn’t matter what University you go to or how good your grades are at the end of it, you won’t just roll into a games industry job at the end of it. They aren’t just waiting for you to walk out the door of the university to hand you a position. There are far too many universities producing grads for current demands.
You need to think about what you are going to do to get the attention of employers. You need to have a plan for how you are going to make contact with potential employers other than just sending a c.v and demo reel in the post. Recruitment agencies can be very hit and miss. Going to DARE or something equivalent is a really really good idea, but also going to recruitment fairs or anywhere else Dev’s are likely to turn up so you can actually start talking to people on the inside.
Finally pay some attention to interview technique, being able to talk to people will go a really long way.