I'm an international student from Argentina. I was recently admitted to Both Rice's B.Arch program and to Princeton University. Rice has a 6-year NAAB-accredited program that's consistently ranked in the top 3 for undergraduate programs. Princeton is Princeton though, #1 US University according to US News. Princeton's program is the average 4-year major with a B.A. or B.S. If I decide to become an accredited architect after Princeton I'd have to go to grad school.
Overall, I think I'm quite sure I want to study architecture (I'd love to work designing Disney's themed parks and campuses) but the commitment makes me kinda scared and I would love to explore different areas and fields. However, it makes me feel guilty to not go to one of the most prestigious architecture programs in the nation. The thing is that not going to Princeton also makes me feel guilty.
I just wish I could choose both.
I like Princeton's climate and campus better, but Rice's student culture better, I think. Rice gave me better need-based financial aid for this year, but they are both affordable for me, and this is just for this academic year and things could change.
Princeton comes with the whole ivy experience and opportunities, not to mention a powerful title, but I'm confused. Could someone help me out deciding? I'd truly appreciate it. :D
My dad is an architect. When he was 17 he thought he'd want to be an architect so he applied to only B.Arch schools and got into Syracuse and waitlisted at Cornell. While at Syracuse we also wanted to study business as well and got a BS in Finance and a B.Arch. But in hindsight, he told me it would have been better offering to apply to a better college and get a liberal arts degree.
1.) The most successful architects generally get graduate degrees from Harvard, Columbia, Yale even though it takes longer to do so. There is more professional clout going through the Ivy League and prestigious firms like Robert AM Stern would almost hire an Ivy versus someone coming out of SciArc, Rice, RISD, etc with 4 or 5-year degrees. And clients like to hear you went to an Ivy versus a less brand school even though the education is the same. And if you want your designs built, you know that you need to appeal to wealthy and successful people that value the brand of an Ivy education or MIT. When you are interviewing for designing someone's building, they feel more proud and comfortable giving the commission to a young architect from Harvard vs someone who went to USC even if the USC architect has a better design. The same is true about picking a doctor, lawyer, or someone who is going to be your next CEO. It's not fair or logical but that's the world we live in.
2.) Doing an accelerated B.Arch program is rather rigid and inflexible so you have to take core curriculum classes as soon as you start Freshman year. Therefore you do not get a well-rounded liberal arts education at all. It's very similar to doing a BS/MD program where you do a deep dive into your medical education and it's very hard to switch into something else after you've committed 2 or 3 years into the program. Most people grind it out or take an extra semester or two to finish rather than changing majors like CS or Engineering or Business.
3.) Part of being a successful architect is your future connections. So you are going to meet kids of wealthy, successful, and powerful people at Princeton, not so much at Rice (with the exception of Texas millionaires/billionaires). It's important to network with these people and join their eating clubs and keep in touch with them as you build your practice and future business.
4.) Part of being a successful architect is your overall intelligence. You have to be a great public speaker like IM PEI (MIT) if you want to get commissions like University Buildings, Museums, and International Projects. You have to have the ability to write well and express your ideas on paper and visually and through how you articulate your thoughts. My dad thinks that if he had 4 years of an Ivy education where he could take courses like Philosophy, Ethics, travel abroad and take Languages, study more humanities like advanced topics in English or History, he would be able to put his ideas into a better framework of how the rest of the educated world saw things and how they felt architecture fit into the world. When you go straight into a B.Arch 5-year architecture school it's like going to the Culinary Institute of America to learn how to cook. You immediately get your apron and clogs and knives and start chopping vegetables to get into the practice of being a chef. Your initiation is 1 day of orientation, then off you are running trying to catch up.
5.) Don't conflate the B.Arch architectural school rankings with the Graduate School rankings. Yes, you need either to become an architect but no one ever told my father there was a preferred path and it's not the obvious path. Being an architect is diametrically different than being a computer genius like Bill Gates or Marc Zuckerberg. You can't leave school after 1 year and become a billionaire architect. It's impossible. Since being a great architect requires a multi-disciplinary education and work experience, it's far better to be a very well-rounded educated person before you to a deep dive into architecture.
The only plus for going to Rice is that you might save a year of schooling but that doesn't make up for the quality of education, networking and friendships, and experiences you would gain at Princeton. Plus if you graduate from Princeton, it will much much easier to get into Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and Yale for grad school.
Hope that helps.
Personally, I may be biased, but I love Rice. The issue with the traditional 4-year major + grad school is that there is no guarantee you'll be able to get into a prestigious or even good grad school. It's cool you went to Princeton for undergrad, but what next? Hence is the appeal of an accelerated program, though it is true that it offers less flexibility. However, as far as I know, Rice doesn't really have a core curriculum and are generally quite flexible with their course distributions and offerings. And of course, just like for BS/MD, it's much easier to switch out of the Rice architecture program than to get in. So it depends; how determined are you to be an architect? Ivies have more prestige and Princeton has great teaching but does it really offer more classes? More advanced classes? Maybe, maybe not. I'd invite you to do a little digging into their course catalogs to see. Your education is what you make of it; no matter which school you go to, the opportunities are there should you be proactive enough to take them. Going to Princeton is not an automatic ticket to traveling abroad and becoming amazing at topics like philosophy and sociology. Classes are hard. I've heard that Princeton grade deflates; Rice is said not to. I'll second that Princeton's social network is probably stronger, though.
I think fit is really important; more selectivity doesn't always mean better fit at all. Ivy League is not a straight shot ticket to greatness and success; know what you can handle and what you're ready for. Some people regret going to Ivies when they weren't ready for it. Ultimately, it's up to you and how well you know yourself, your goals, and your strengths. Don't let guilt be a factor in either decision; focus on the pull factors instead.
Wow, congrats on being admitted to two great schools! It does sound like you have a hard decision. I don't have a background in architecture, so I will defer to @CameronBameron's response. I will say, however, that if you're unsure about your field, going into Rice's B.Arch program will not allow you to explore other fields the same way going to Princeton will, given its emphasis on a liberal arts education.
Best of luck making your decision!
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