7 months ago
Admissions Advice

Extra curriculums for architect major?

Hi, so I am an international student that is interested in pursuing architecture. We don't have extra curriculums here in my country like in the US and the resources are very limited. Does anyone have any top tier 1 or top tier 2 tips as extra curriculums for the architect major? I'm especially interested in attracting ivy league school admissions.


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Accepted Answer
7 months ago

Just to clarify, becoming an architect in the US requires you to eventually pass the ARE (Architectural Registration Exam) proctored by the NCARB (National Council of Architectural Review Board) which is similar to the USMLE or BAR exam if you want to be a doctor or lawyer. There are only 3 pathways to being an architect.

1.) Earn a 4-year undergraduate degree in Architecture from an accredited college and then earn a 2 year Master's Degree in Architecture.

2.) Earn a 4-year undergraduate degree in a NON-architectural major and then earn a 3.5 year Master's Degree in Architecture.

3.) Earn a 5-year B.Architecture professional accelerated degree from an accredited school of architecture.

Once you've finished paths 1,2, or 3, you must intern for a registered architect for a minimum of 3 years before you can register for the exam. There are 6 parts to the exam and the passing rates are about 50%-55%, so many students of architecture have to repeat say 1/2 the exam over the following year or two. It will take between 8 and 11 years on average to become an architect.



The best architecture schools in the US are the following. This is the only list that matters because it is put together by the most reputable publication that all architects subscribe to (Architectural Record).


As you can see, there is only 1 Ivy League school on the undergraduate list which is Cornell. The rest are either private or state colleges. They are all excellent. 6 out of the 8 Ivys have a graduate program, Dartmouth and Brown do not.

Therefore, your idea of applying to an Ivy League college for architecture right out of high school only works if you want to go to Cornell. You can apply to Brown however you will have to apply to the Dual degree program at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) as well since 2/3rd of your classes for your architecture concentration at the undergrad. level are taken there. You will still have to go to grad. school after you get those degrees from Brown. Columbia has an undergrad 4-year degree, but you will still have to go to grad. school as well.

All reputable architecture programs require you to submit a portfolio of your talent. So as an extracurricular, you should be focusing on creating a portfolio of original work. This can either be pencil or ink drawings, paintings, sculpture, etchings, computer graphics, or other multimedia works. You do not have to show evidence of designing buildings or interiors of buildings. They just want to evaluate your artistic and creative talent and evidenced by your art portfolio.

Since architecture is a multi-disciplinary field of study, you should show evidence in your application that you have the innate ability to excel at these subjects - Math, History, English, Science (particularly Physics), and Visual Arts. If you do not have access to some of these courses in your high school, I would suggest that you take online classes.

Architecture School is very competitive for the 5 years B. Arch degree so schools like Cornell, Syracuse, Cooper Union, and Rice typically have an acceptance rate of 10%. It's probably wise to apply to 3 different types of colleges to ensure you get in somewhere. 1.) 5 yr. programs, 2.) 4 yr. programs and 3.) 4-year non-architectural major programs.

Lastly, as an international student, it's very important that you can score very high on your TOEFL or IELTS English reading and writing tests because that will be required. Almost all Ivys want to see the following course on your transcript so work toward having all that completed by your senior year.

-4 years of Math

-4 years of English

-4 years of Sciences (2 with laboratory work)

-3 to 4 years of an additional foreign language (not your native language so something different than the one you speak in your country).

-3 to 4 years of history including US History and European History.

With regards to other ECs that make sense, I'll make a list.

-Public Speaking and debate teams

-Volunteering for a non-profit like Habitat for Humanity that builds low-income housing.

-Working for either a non-profit that saves historical buildings or a preservation company that saves buildings.

-Working for an architect or designer in your own city or country

-Anything that involves design and fabrication. This can be a simple as designing and building your own skateboards or picture frames or something that requires design skill and fabrication build with real tools.

-Volunteering for your City on some kind of design council or even the parks, recreation, and natural resources board.

-Showing evidence of some leadership activity, either through sports, or community service.

One thing that you should keep in mind when you want to become a professional in a country like the US is that our standards for achievement and competency are very high. It's a big commitment to pick a discipline like Architecture to study because in order to reach your end goal it takes 10 years or so. Many students are better off getting a well-rounded liberal arts education for 4 years before deciding whether or not they wish to become a doctor, lawyer, architect, or other professional.

Hope that helps.

7 months ago

Hi, thanks for asking your question! @CameronBameron has provided us a superb answer. Their response covers everything I would say about admissions pathways to architecture, the academic classes you should keep in mind and the possible extracurriculars for you to pursue. I don't feel like I need to add anymore information below.

But to be sure, tier 1 and tier 2 extracurricular activities are notable because they show national/regional level initiatives that you have undertaken and/or demonstrate leadership and initiative. Try to aim for these in the architecture-related activities that you undertake. When it comes to making any extracurricular impressive keep in mind the 1) level of accomplishment (how many awards/honors you achieve) 2) the uniqueness of the activity (how common is it for someone to do what you are doing) and 3) the time commitment (how many hrs/wk and wks/yr are you participating). Another thing I will add is that architecture is a field with talents required for creativity, organization, artistry, originality, and appreciation for history. If you can show these traits in your ECs, you may get additional interest in your overall application from admissions officers.


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