Monday, August 3, 2009

A word of advice for potential architects

Three years ago, I started applying to architecture schools around the country. Two days before I accepted my offer of admission, I talked to a friend who was already in an undergraduate architecture program, and he explained to me all about the differences between four-year and five-year programs. I think that making the decision of whether you want a four or five year program is an integral part of the application process, seeing as it simplifies everything and the decision-making process that is bound follow. I knew that schools offered different programs, but I didn’t know that these differences could have such a great impact on your experience in one of the country’s undergraduate architecture programs. I am thankful that I had that talk before I made the decision of going to a five year program, because otherwise, I might have gotten myself into something that I didn’t really want. However, I almost wish that I had those major differences clarified to me earlier on in the process, so I could eliminate the programs that I didn’t think would be a right fit for me earlier on in the process, saving me a lot of money and a lot of time!

So here is my attempt at making things easier for those of you who are planning on applying to undergraduate architecture programs…

There are two main streams you can go into as an architecture student. You can do a four year program, from which you will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture (some Bachelor of Arts programs are offered) which is a four-year program, or you graduate from a Bachelor of Architecture (more common) which is a five-year program. The University of Virginia offers a four-year Bachelor of Science in Architecture. I can’t say that one program is harder that the other, they’re just different. And you should base your decision not on what you want to do during your time as an undergraduate, but on what you don’t want to do. So here’s what it comes down to: to become a licensed architect, you have to do 10 studio sessions, and a number of hours of internship. Studio is basically where you’ll be spending most of your time as a student, where you have a desk set up and a drafting board/computer, and work on designs pretty much 24 hours of every day of the week. Now in four-year programs, like UVa’s, you don’t go into studio your first year, you go into studio your second year, which means that by the end of your four year, you’ll have done 6 studio sessions (one per semester). In five-year programs, you go into studio your first year, and therefore graduate with ten studio sessions, by which time you can sit for the licensing examination. The fact that you graduate with 6 studio sessions from four year programs automatically means that you’ll have do two more years of graduate school. Whether you want to go into grad school directly after you graduate or maybe work for a couple years then do grad school is another thing. However, the bigger picture is that you will end up graduating from school with a master’s degree as opposed to just a Bachelor of Architecture (that five year programs offer). That being said, students graduating from 5 year programs can go into grad school and graduate with a masters in 1 more year, totaling 6 years (which is exactly what you’ll be spending in 4 year undergrad school + 2 in grad school for the other option). So really, it ends up being the same, the only difference being that four year programs allow you more flexibility in terms of taking a bunch of electives your first and second years and being more active in the university community as an undergraduate student, buying you more time to find out whether architecture is really right for you or not.

The reason I’m thankful that I found out about the difference between the programs before I accepted the offer is that if I ended up in a five year program, it would have probably been too rigorous from the start that I wouldn’t have been able to do all the other things (academic and non academic) that a four year program has given me the flexibility to do.

So, really, it just comes down to what you want out of a learning experience and whether you’re really dying for the license to practice architecture right out of an undergraduate program.

Hope this was more helpful than confusing guys

1 comment:

  1. Assad, I might be lame for commenting on our own blog, but anyway...

    As someone considering architecture in the future, this was enlightening. Wooo.