Full Sail University is a private, for-profit university located in Winter Park, Florida and geared toward the entertainment industry. It offers degree programs in Computer Animation, Digital Arts & Design, Education Media Design & Technology, Entertainment Business, Film, Game Art, Game Development, Music Business, Recording Arts, and Show Production & Touring, Web Design & Development. Full Sail awards associate's, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees after 12 to 21 months of an accelerated education.
The school is owned by Full Sail, Inc.
Full Sail was founded as Full Sail Real World Education by Jon Phelps in 1979 as a recording studio workshop. A film program was added in 1988, and the school was accredited to award specialized associate’s degrees in 1990. A third degree in Digital Media was added in 1995, followed by Game Design and Show Production & Touring in 1998.
Full Sail received additional accreditation in 1998, allowing the school to issue associate of science degrees, and 1999 saw the addition of a Computer Animation associate’s degree. In 2003, Full Sail added its first bachelor’s degree in Entertainment Business (designed to be combined with an additional Full Sail associate’s degree), followed quickly by the Game Design & Development program. The company was originally called Full Sail Recorders, Inc., subsequently Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts, and finally the name was changed to Full Sail, Inc. in 2000.
In 2005, three programs – Computer Animation, Digital Arts & Design (formerly Digital Media), and Film – were expanded and accredited to be offered as Bachelor of Science degrees. In 2007, the Entertainment Business Bachelor's Degree Program was altered to become the Music Business Bachelor of Science Degree Program , and the school introduced its first master's program, in Entertainment Business In June 2007, a Graphic Design Associate of Science Degree was announced
In January 2008, Full Sail introduced a second master's degree program in Education Media Design & Technology, as well as new bachelor's degree programs in Game Art and Web Design & Development.
On March 24, 2008, Full Sail changed its name to Full Sail University after attaining university status from the Florida Department of Education’s Commission for Independent Education. At the press conference announcing the change, they also unveiled a -long backlot, which includes 18 different city facades.
Full Sail has become known for offering an “accelerated” education – the school’s degree programs can be completed in less than half the time of a typical college degree – the associate’s programs are 12 months long, the bachelor’s programs are 21 months long, and the master's programs range from 12-13 months long.
Full Sail’s degree programs start monthly. Throughout the course of a program, the average Full Sail student will have two courses at one time, with one course occurring on three days a week and the other course occurring on two or three depending on the class. This course load can fluctuate, however, according to the student’s program and month.
Courses are generally four weeks long, but some are longer, and new courses start every four weeks. This schedule allows Full Sail a fluid, if intense, operating method. If a student fails a course for poor grades (as opposed to poor attendance), they can take the course over again the following month at no additional cost, as long as the schedule for the degree is maintained. If a student fails a class for poor attendance, however, they must pay the course cost again to retake it.
Tuition costs range from $33,000 to $80,000 for the entire degree program. In 2007, the school introduced a new program called Apple Launch Box - every non-Game Development student in the school now receives an Apple MacBook Pro, where Game development students get HP Laptops. The cost of this computer is an institutional fee which is currently $3,100, but may be higher or lower, depending on the program and software configuration. This cost is separate from tuition, as students possessing a laptop of equal or higher value are permitted to opt-out of the Launch Box program. Game Development students receive a Windows-based laptop with all software necessary for the course, but its cost is not included in tuition.
Student life, like the school itself, is different from a typical college. Since a new class starts every month, classmates who start at the same time frequently stay together throughout the program. Class sizes vary from 20 to 85 students, with a maximum number of 120 students in classes where students from different degree programs are combined. There are several groups and clubs within the different degree programs of the school, each oriented toward student interests. Students in the relevant degree program generally manage the groups, with an instructor providing support. Full Sail does not have on-campus student housing. Most students live within of the school in apartment complexes in the immediate area, often with roommates. The school has a housing department, which provides prospective students with information about local apartment complexes, and keeps track of students who are looking for roommates.
Full Sail is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, which is a national accreditor of primarily vocational schools and career schools within the United States. Most four year colleges and universities in the U.S. are regionally accredited, and do not recognize national accreditation such as ACCSCT (see ). Regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools would be required for Full Sail credits to be transferable to traditional four-year colleges throughout the United States. Requirements for regional accreditation would involve switching to a more conventional semester-hours based schedule, requiring a wider variety of general education credits, and utilizing teaching faculty with Master's or Doctorate degrees (see ).
Full Sail maintains a website with notable industry activity by alumni, called Grads on the Move