Applying To Architecture School
Architecture is a complex field, and making sure you've got all the right admission requirements can also be a challenge. Here are some key points to get you started so you know what to look for.
There are approximately 70 universities and colleges offering accredited undergraduate programs in architecture in the US. Some have limited-enrollment programs with competitive admission; others offer open admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, entrance requirements can vary depending on the school's size, whether you are applying to a private or public institution and whether you are applying to a school using the Common Application.
In terms of admission requirements, generally students applying to universities and colleges in the United States apply to the institution in general rather than to specific departments or programs. Applicants to some architecture programs, however, must meet the general admission requirements for the university, but also specific requirements for the Architecture program. This can include grades and specific required courses. Schools -- particularly private versus public -- differ in their competitiveness, but each university or college usually has a rough threshold below which admission is unlikely. Therefore, students often apply to a range of schools.
While some college architecture programs have open admission, in which case admission is all about timing, admission to most undergraduate 4 or 5-year architecture degrees is typically very competitive and admission is granted based on portfolio assessment, academic requirements and personal qualities. Portfolio requirements vary depending on the program and the school, but usually include between 7 and 15 works. Portfolio requirements vary greatly, so be sure to check the program's website carefully.
Depending on the size and values of the school, admissions criteria can vary from the formulaic and objective to more subjective factors regarding the student's "fit" for the institution. In general, students are assessed according to the following: overall academic grades and GPA, grades related to their intended major, core grade point average (English, academic math, laboratory science, foreign language, speech), class rank, SAT or ACT score, personal statement, personal background and experiences, and information provided by the high school counselor. Institutions give different weight to these criteria: for example, some universities and colleges do not require or even accept the SAT for admission, and due to the high volume of applicants, some institutions do not require an interview.
Students with a record of scholastic excellence in their first 3 years of high school may qualify for early enrollment, which involves a recommendation from your principal, approval from your parents as well as scores on academic tests. Rather than reject students outright, schools may "wait-list" you and offer you admission only if another student who was admitted decides not to attend.
University and college semesters generally start in August or September for fall term and January for the winter term, and the application process itself usually begins in your senior year of high school. This process involves submitting an online or print application form directly to the university or college by a specific deadline. Universities and colleges in the US usually have their own application forms, with the exception of institutions that use the Common Application. The Common Application can only be used to apply to member institutions (about 345 in the United States) which have agreed to use it. In the Common Application process, copies of online or print Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges. The same is true of the other required forms, which allows you to spend less time on applying for admission. Each member institution has a specific deadline for when they will accept the Common Application, and once a deadline has passed, you will no longer be able to submit your forms. Some universities, however, have their own supplement to the Common Application, so read each school's admissions information section closely.
In both types of application you need to have your official high school transcripts sent directly to the institution from your high school, and you should be prepared to pay a non-refundable application fee of about $25-$70. Some schools will waive this fee if you use the online Common Application. Application deadlines are generally between November and January, and there may be specific deadlines for submitting the portfolio or SAT score for scholarship consideration.
In addition, many universities and colleges have implemented a system through which students can apply at a time other than the most common deadline. This is called the Early Decision program, and it permits you to apply a few months early if you agree to attend the school if offered admission in mid-December. Early Decision does mean less choice, but it also means you only have to submit one application--if you get into your top choice. You can only back out Early Decision's binding agreement if the financial aid offered is not enough. Similarly, the Early Action program means you apply early and find out the results early, but you are not bound to the school if accepted. Within Early Action there are the single- and multi-choice subprograms: single-choice early action schools only allow you to apply early to one school while multi-choice early action schools let you to apply to many schools. Further, rolling admission is used by some schools with a large number of applicants. It means you can apply any time between the fall and spring and get your result a few weeks later. You therefore don't have to apply to all of your schools at the same time, but be aware: it means earlier applicants get first acceptance. So apply as soon as possible to your rolling admissions schools.
Community colleges generally offer open admission in which students are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. However, admission to most community college architecture technology programs also require Grade 12 completion with satisfactory standing in specific courses such as English and math. These colleges therefore may or may not have cut-off dates for admission and may instead process applications all year round. Others have specific deadlines after which applications are no longer considered. Community colleges and technical institutes with internal scholarships and grants may encourage early application in order to qualify for these awards and financial assistance. Application again consists of an official application form, a fee, transcripts, and any of the additional requirements mentioned above.
No matter which way you apply, two things that are not required but highly recommended are a campus visit and interview with admissions counselor. Knowledge is power, so be sure to seek out the people and resources that can help you get as much information as possible before you apply to your architecture schools.
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