I'm in my 1st year at a state university. I'm working on a B.F.A in animation/illustration. What are some other options I can do to become experience in my field and to gain work experience? I realize this is a very competitive field so I hope to be as knowledgeable and known as possible for more job opportunities in the future.
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I would recommend creating your own regularly updated online comic at minimum. You could try to create animated shorts alone or collaborate with your fellow students. This will help you meet deadlines, possibly build an online following, and build a portfolio. You can take on freelance illustration work as a student.
One less practical suggestion is if you can afford it in any way, transfer to one of the top art schools. You will be competing with those kids.
However, if you are very talented, driven, fearless, and well above average at getting work done and meeting deadlines, you have a shot.