My name is Rick van Ginkel, as a game designer I run a small start up called Self Made Miracle along with three friends. We have been working from home as hobbyists for roughly two years before moving into our first, tiny office. As a former Game Design & Development student gone indie I have been reflecting on my time in school a lot and I like to share some well meant advice to those attending various game related schools right now.
Videogames are now more accepted by mainstream society than ever, as a result youngsters are becoming increasingly interested in game development. This results in game design schools accepting an increasing amount of students every year while, part due to the current economical situation, game development companies aren't hiring a whole lot of juniors.
As I have seen with graduates from my former school many of them end up starting their own companies, working in different fields or not finding jobs at all. If your passion is making games you most likely don't want to wind up working in a different industry, if you start your own company you will find out it requires a lot more than being a good game designer to succeed and I don't think any one wants to be unemployed. But fear not, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of becoming a professional in our beautiful industry.
No seriously, get connected. As a student I came straight out of middle school and was somewhat reluctant to dive headfirst into a whole new unknown community, turns out I was absolutely wrong. While in school you have the perfect opportunity to get to know people from the industry before you actualy need something from them. Industry vets and starters alike are usually happy to talk about their jobs and struggles to students. Besides learning from their experience, if you stay in regular contact with local and international developers they will eventually remember your name. Our industry is a small world, when the time comes you are looking for a job companies will prefer to hire someone they know over an unknown candidate. If you impress them they might even throw you some freelance work while still in school.
Don't just limit yourself to other game developers though, many different professionals ultimately contribute to the succes of a game.Marketeers, accountants, community managers, video editors, audio designers, journalists, lawyers and many more, at some point you are likely to need these people especially if you are planning to start your own studio.
Attend exhibitions and conferences most of them have specially low priced tickets available for students. If you think your money is better spent on beer think again, this is your future we are talking about. Besides most conferences end with a bunch of tipsy developers anyway, a great moment to slip them your business card. Dust of that Twitter account and start following fellow designers and developers, tweet about your projects and reply to others. Don't be afraid you have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain!