The process for applying to architecture school can be confusing, to say the least. There are so many factors that students are unaware of that could alter their future in either a negative or positive way. Some students end up on the right path merely by accident. And some students end up on the wrong path by consequence. I’ll clarify some of the things you need to know in order to make sure you are on the right path.
1) Start the Application Process Early – The application process to most schools requires a lot of work. In addition to applying to the University, you also have to meet the Architecture Department’s requirements. Oftentimes this requires a separate submission of information, letters of recommendation, and a portfolio. Don’t put this off until the last minute, or you’ll be forced to have to wait another year to apply.
2) Know the Nuances of All of Your Application Requirements – Make sure you read the Application Requirements handout that the architecture department sends you (sometimes these can be downloaded from the school’s website). This is highly important because sometimes a simple mistake can get you a rejection. I know that some schools only accept digital portfolios, while others require hardcopy portfolios only. I would suggest creating an itemized checklist of everything that is required, so you can ensure that the application packet is completed correctly.
3) The Portfolio is Key – While the portfolio is not the only piece that matters, I will argue that it is one of the most important pieces. If your GPA and SAT scores are near-maxed, and you deliver a portfolio that displays no ounce of creativity, then you probably won’t get accepted (at least not to the architecture department). On the other hand, a magnificent portfolio can outweigh poor GPA and SAT scores (probably not at Yale, but at least at majority of the architecture schools). Just remember that the portfolio is your visual presentation to the architecture department informing them of why you deserve to be there.
4) NAAB-Approved Program – Possibly the biggest mistake that many prospective architecture students make is not choosing a program that is NAAB-approved. The NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) is the only organization that is allowed to accredit professional architecture degree programs. In a majority of the States, a professional architecture degree program is required before you can apply for licensure to become an architect.
There are many Universities that will try to “sell” an architecture program as something that could be NAAB-approved. Don’t be fooled. There are only three NAAB-approved degree programs, and here’s how you can identify them: Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), Master of Architecture (M.Arch), and Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch). If the degree you are looking into says something like Bachelor of Science in Architecture (B.S. in Architecture), then it is not a professional program.
5) Don’t Just Choose a School for the Rank – Everyone wants to go to the “top” school. This is understandable; a school’s credibility holds weight in the job market. But the thing to keep in mind is that these statistics change every year, and sometimes they change drastically. By the time you complete your degree, you could be in a school that started out #8 but now ranks #26.
Here’s my suggestion: instead of choosing a school for the rank, choose one that will allow you to perform at your best. If you believe you’d perform better in a big city environment, choose a school that’s located in the middle of an urban district. If you are someone who draws inspiration from nature, apply to a school that’s situated near the mountains, rivers, or ocean. The idea behind this is that you want to do whatever it takes to make sure that your creativity is at its best. Choose the school that will best suit you as a student of architecture.
For more information on NAAB-approved architecture programs, visit: