How to Survive Architecture School

Mar 07, 2011

Before choosing to enter a program in architecture, you no doubt did your homework. You know, for example, that it can be a grueling experience that requires students to spend countless hours on studio projects. Despite a reputation for difficulty, though, architecture programs can be manageable if you follow these tips.

By Douglas Fehlen

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Know What Awaits

Many students who encounter major challenges in architecture programs are overwhelmed by the time commitment required for classes. One good way to prepare yourself for the experience is to talk with students who are in advanced years or with program grads. Get specifics on what expectations will be at your school.

Establish a Schedule

Veteran students of architecture programs warn that it is very easy to fall behind. Studio in particular can be intensive, making it important to manage your time. It's a good idea to plot out a daily schedule that will allow you to complete projects. Adequate planning can help reduce (or maybe even eliminate) the number of dreaded all-nighters you have to pull.

Master Your Materials

Drafting, modeling and other architecture skills require a specific set of tools. Your school should provide a detailed list of what you'll need. It's up to you, though, to become efficient in using the materials. Also, familiarize yourself with important functions and shortcuts within AutoCAD or other drafting software you may use in classes.

Demonstrate Your Versatility

Going to school for architecture, of course, isn't just about drafting and modeling building designs. Programs in the discipline draw heavily from a diverse range of subjects, including math, physics and the humanities. Many don't appreciate the need for excellent writing and public speaking skills for studio presentations.

Stay Abreast of Trends

Architecture is an evolving discipline, one that must account for a wide range of aesthetic and functional considerations. You'll no doubt learn about trending topics like green building and urban sustainability planning in coursework, but do your best to learn more about these areas by reading architecture publications and blogs.

survive architecture school program graduate master

Embrace the Studio Process

In architecture programs, studio is about much more than just creating a final product. Part of your grade is likely to be based on how effectively you utilize presentations and discussions with professors and peers to make your project as good as it can be. Use studio time to gain insight from others and incorporate it into your work.

Prepare for Critiques

Many who struggle in architecture programs have difficulty with project critiques. It's important to be fully prepared for these pivotal occasions. Do your best to anticipate every possible question about your project that you may have to field from professors or peers. It can also help to practice your presentation in front of a fellow student in advance of the real thing.

Keep Your Perspective

While it's crucial to be prepared for critiques, it's also important to remember that most students - no matter how excellent projects might be - are pushed by instructors to do better. This 'pushing' is a normal part of architecture programs; try to avoid becoming defensive or disheartened if a presentation doesn't go well.

Diversify Your Life

Architecture is your passion, sure, but it's important to occasionally take a step back so that you can enjoy other aspects of life. After hours spent over a drafting table or in front of a CAD screen, getting in some exercise and relaxation is important. Engage in other activities that are important to you for balance in your life.

Not yet enrolled in an architecture program and thinking about a different career direction? Learn about whether law school may be right for you.

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