5 months ago
Admissions Advice

Could you guys help me figure what I have to do in high school to get into an architecture college

Hey I want to study architecture but I'm clueless on how to go about it. Which ap courses should I take? What extracurricular should I have on my application?


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Accepted Answer
5 months ago

My dad's an architect so you won't get a better answer.

First, architecture is a multi-disciplinary profession. So you have to be a multi-faceted person capable of doing many things right. The top things you need to be a good architect are a creative mind, artistic ability to express these ideas, great presentation and speaking skills, technical skills like engineering, a deep understanding of context so which means architectural history/art history, and an interest in environmental design and issues.

So he would recommend that you challenge yourself with the following courses.

AP Calculus, AP Art, AP US History, AP Euro History, AP Environmental Science, and AP Computer Science. In addition, he recommends that you have some working knowledge of REVIT or SKETCH UP or some other industry-standard rendering software so you can experiment with designs. Most good architecture schools require a portfolio of mixed media work so be prepared to include sketches, pen and ink drawing, painting, sculpture, computer art, and anything else. They do not require you to submit architectural designs or drawings.

Becoming an architect is a long process and there are no shortcuts so you have to be practical and smart about which path you take. There are 3 distinct academic paths to becoming an architect.

Path 1 - Attend an accredited 5-year program like Syracuse, Cornell, or SCI-ARC. Then intern for 3 years with an architect, and then take your NCARB examination. Most people do not pass it 1st try so it might take a 2nd or 3rd attempt but you don't have to do the whole 2-day test over, just the parts you mucked up. This is the rush plan and it takes 8 years. The degree you get is called a B.Arch I.

Path 2 - Attend a 4-year architectural college like Ball State or Barnard ( if you are a female) then attend a 2-year M.Arch II program at another college for grad school. Then you intern for 3 years and take your boards. This is a 9-year plan. The degree is called a B.S. Architecture.

Path 3 - Attend any university or liberal arts college and get a bachelor's degree. It doesn't matter. Then apply to a great grad school like Harvard, Columbia, or MIT, or Berkeley and get what is called an M.Arch I which is a 3 1/2 year degree. https://architecture.mit.edu/architecture-and-urbanism/degree/march

Then work for 3 years and take your boards. This is the 10.5-year plan.

If you chose Plan 1, you better stick with it because if you change your mind 1/2 way through the program, none of your credits will transfer toward another bachelor's degree because the program is highly specialized. So if you want to change majors and become a marketing major in the business school instead, well you've just lost 2-2.5 years (may some of the history classes will be counted as electives) and have to start over as a freshman in another college. When he went to school 110 freshmen started and only 35 graduated after 5 years. The retention rate is at the top schools is less than 50%

If you chose Plan 2, you do get a pretty good liberal arts education as well as some architectural skills but overall after 4 years, you are a lightweight compared to someone that completed 4 years in a 5-year program. You can't become an architect unless you continue your education for 2 add'l years so for some people they just get burnt out and don't want to continue. You can't really get a great job with just a 4-year degree and can't become an architect without the graduate degree credentials.

Plan 3 takes the longest but in my dad's opinion is the best plan. Why? Well, you can study what interests you for the first 4 years and get a degree in something practical or not. It's up to you. Then you can decide whether or not you still want to be an architect. If you choose to apply to grad school, the choices in front of you are the best schools versus the undergrad schools. These schools carry more clout and will stick with you for the rest of your life. If this plan interests you, just try to get into the best 4-year undergrad school you can and work your butt off to get straight As so you can apply to Harvard or Yale, or MIT in 4 years.

Architecture requires a great amount of sacrifice and it is one of the most time-intensive college degree programs. If you do a deep dive into one, you will be busy like 60 hours a week compared to say 30-40 hours for liberal arts education. 1 studio class might only count for 6 credits but the time commitment for that 1 class might be 12 mandatory class hours and another 20 homework hours. So it doesn't map out like other college courses. In architecture school, you only get that kind of parity of 3 college units to 3 lecture hours if you take a technology class like structural engineering or environmental engineering. The studio class is brutal for 5 straight years.

So take your APs and then make use of your summer by having real conversations with architects. Perhaps there is an architect in your family circle of friends. If not, just reach out to a firm in the city you live in and ask if you can stop by and have a meeting with them. Since time is money, make sure you bring something to the meeting like a plate of cookies and coffee because you are asking them to use one of their billable hours to talk to you.

Good luck.


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