I have read that although it doesn't matter what software you use, they teach using (and offer rigs for) Maya. I don't have the time to go through every leading 3D animation package to know the pros and cons, or how they all compare. So, what I'm wondering is, are all the applications similar enough to follow along? Or would a lot of time/troubles go toward trying to figure out how to do the assignment using something other than Maya?
Also, on the same note, should I learn the software before applying?