I went to Collins.
I also co-taught there for a about a year after I graduated.
Ok, here goes: I had a bad experience. But I made the most of it, and I got a decent education out of it.
When I signed on, I went into the only animation course available at the time: Visual Communication w/ EMPHASIS on animation.
Do not take this course! lol
Make sure you understand exactly what kind of courses you will be taking, and BE SURE to find out what the other kinds of courses are available. There may be new ones by now. I graduated from Collins in Dec 2000, and taught there until Oct. 2001.
In my situation, as it turned out, a NEW course had become available that I was never told about. It was an Associates in Animation (also called AA).
OK, so here's how it is:
For an Associate's Degree (which is what I got) it's an 18-month span of time. You do not get a summer break. You get 1 week for Christmas, 1 week for Spring Break (in May), and a extra day for other holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter. You have class 5 hours per day, Mon-Thursday, with the labs open on Friday and usually Saturday as well. The have 3 class "blocks" per day, 8am-1pm, 1pm-6pm, 6pm-11pm. I had the 1pm-6pm class block, which, while an awesome break from getting up early in high school, is difficult when it comes to a job, because of the large break in the day. When I taught, I co-taught 2 classes a day, 1pm-11pm.
I will tell you now, that if you do NOT go on Friday and Saturday, you will NOT succeed! I know that's a strong statement, but each class is 20 days (5 weeks, Mon-Thurs) and that is just NOT enough time to really teach you everything. If you really want to stand out, you NEED to put in as much extra time as you can, either before/after class and on weekends. There are always Teacher Assistants there who (if they were anything like me) would be glad to tutor you.
For the VisCom course that I took, the first 15 months was stuff like: Illustration, Photoshop, Visual Communication, Typography, Printing, etc.... were these classes terrible? No. But were they 3D animation? NO! Only the last 3 months really got into computer graphics and Maya. Now, the AA course also has time away from Maya, but you've got classes like Traditional Animation, Life Drawing, etc... which are classes that can really benefit directly for computer animation.
I remember when I went, I really noticed the seperation between VisCom and AA... my Maya 1 class had about 30 students. That was cool. Maya 2? TWO students (and that's INCLUDING me). Maya 3? ME! Alone. Now, you would think: AWESOME! A whole class to myself! Nope. I was put in a Maya 1 class with... 30 other students. The teacher had no time to teach me the advanced stuff, because he was too busy teaching Maya 1 students the basics that I already knew.
However, I made the most of it: I complained about the situation to the Director, and got free classes as well as a job as a TA.
Two teachers that I know of that are still there are Ryan Heuett and Jeff Hall. Ryan is cool and good at teaching. Jeff is quite awesome, although very strict. He's had 10 years game experience and he's starting the new Game Program at Collins in the next month or so (should be great if you're interested in games).
So, let's get to your questions:
How smart do you have to be to go there? ... like do they pay alot of attention on school grades and sat grades.. or would they accept somebody with a better portfolio and attitude?
They do not pay attention to grades really. I had an exceptional ACT score of 30 that would have gotten me a good scholarship anywhere else, but they pretty much ignored it. They did have a CD-Design contest that I placed 5th (out of 180) and got a $1000 scholarship, though. Ask about such opportunities! They make it seem as if it's tough to get in, but, after seeing some of the people that made it... lol
I didn't have to show a portfolio to get in, but I've heard some did.
Is this place in a secluted area far away from everything, or is there always alot going on around it?
It's located in Tempe, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Tempe is a COLLEGE town. ASU is only half a mile from Collins, and there's plenty of nightlife locales. Let me tell you though... like any good parent
... you don't need to hang around them. The school is literally open to you from 8am-11pm. If you know what's good for you, you be in the labs whenever you can. I'm not joking! But, no, it's not secluded.
How would you rate the 3d program?
While I was a student, I would have rated it pretty low. However, after I got a job there, Jeff and I, along with a few other teachers, really revamped it, and I'd rate it quite good now. But again, I'll say, if you only go to class during your M-Th, 5 hr time slot... you won't excell. Out of each class of 30 I co-taught, only 1 or 2 really caught my eye as being achievers, and you WANT to be one of those two!
How are the teachers?
90% of the teachers are excellent, although some can be cocky. That's the way it is at any art school, though.
(if you went) Did you have a good time there? How old are most of the people that go for the 3d program?
To be honest, before I knew of the AA program (which was about 13 months into my 18 month tenure), I had a blast. I was taking courses in drawing, Photoshop, etc which beat the hell out of Grammar and Calculus! The vast majority of the students are pretty young... 19-25. Every now and then, you'd find an older person looking to improve themselves. I remember one student in particular who was about 58 years old. He was cool.
Do they concentrate mostly on animation?
Not in the Associate's program. It's all just learning the basics. If you really want to get into more complex instruction, you'd want to see about going for their Bachellor's course, as well.
Hope that helped.
Feel free to email or whatever if you have any more questions.