You’ve got it all figured out; you’re going to university to study architecture! You’ve got a solid life plan in place and you can’t wait to get started. Now there’s only one thing left to decide – where are you going to go to architecture school?
Choosing a university is a big decision for every student; after all, you’re going to be spending a great deal of time and money at whichever institution you pick. You probably don’t even need to be told how important it is to pick the right one for you. But just how does a person go about deciding which architecture school is best? There are some basic steps you can follow to help you with your decision.
The first thing you need to look for is accreditation. In order to get your architect license in the United States, you absolutely must graduate from a university program that has been approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). No other kind of accreditation will do; it has to be NAAB.
The next thing you could do is consult an official ranking of architectural schools. DesignIntelligence publishes an annual ranked list of architectural schools called America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools – if you’re still in high school, your school guidance counselor might have a copy you could look at. This guide ranks schools from different categories of architecture and design on criterion like student satisfaction and job performance by graduates.
Okay, now that you’ve gone through both of those steps, you might have narrowed your choices down, but you probably haven’t settled on one school yet. You can be sure at this point that you’ll be attending a high-quality school, so now it’s time to evaluate your choices on some more personal criterion.
Start by looking at the size of the school. Is it a gigantic university with tens of thousands of students, or a smaller college only a few times the size of your high school? When it comes to university, size matters – both types of schools have their advantages and disadvantages. At a large school, you’ll have more choices for classes, extracurricular activities and volunteer work, but on the downside, your classes (especially in your first two years) will be huge, and personal attention is hard to come by. If you’re a shy person who has a tendency to get lost in the crowd, a large school may not be for you. On the other hand, small schools offer plenty of personal attention, and you may find yourself on first-name basis with your professors in your tiny classes, but your choices of classes and extracurricular may be more restricted. If you’re an extremely outgoing person who wants to try a bit of everything, small schools might be a little too stifling for you.
Another good step to take is to visit the actual campus. The lifestyle of students at a downtown, urban campus is much different from those whose university is in a tiny, rural town. Tour the campus, walk around the nearby area, visit local shops and restaurants; try to get a general feel for the place. Choosing a university can be like picking out a wedding dress – sometimes you just know when you’ve found the right one. It may seem like a lot of effort to go to, especially if the campus is far from your home, but remember that you’ll be living there for the next four years.
Finally, one of the best things you can do if you’re having trouble making up your mind is to talk to people who already attend the schools you’re interested in. Do they like their school, or do they wish they’d made another choice? Check out the alumni – do graduates of this school end up designing great buildings or collecting unemployment? If you’re finding more complaints than praises, it may be time to-think attending that university.