This is it. You’ve got your acceptance letter in hand, your scholarships and student loans are all lined up, and you’re ready for architecture school!
But what, exactly, are you ready for?
In some ways your experiences in the very first year of architecture school won’t be too different from what your peers in other programs are experiencing. There’s a big gap from high school to university that all of you will have to contend with – bigger classes, more homework, higher standards, shorter deadlines – and you’ll find yourself taking a few of the same general degree requirements as everyone else, like English, introductory math and psychology. At this stage of things, you don’t want to be getting too close to your architecture classmates just yet. Architecture programs have a much higher dropout rate than other programs in their first year, as students realize that this career path isn’t right for them and switch into other majors. But after that initial exodus from the program is over, you and your remaining classmates will likely be receiving your diplomas together on graduation day.
Something that will dominate your time throughout your degree is the Architectural Studio. You’ll probably receive around 12 hours of actual instruction in the studio per week, but you might find yourself spending upwards of 40 hours in there (both during the school week and the occasional weekend), exploring your passions as you hone your architecture skills. Many of your architecture classes will be based entirely around projects – you’ll be put into small groups (cooperation is a crucial skill in architecture) and given a problem to solve. The building you design to solve that problem could be presented in a number of ways, with sketches, computer drawings, scale models and computer-generated 3D models being the most common.
Now, instead of submitting completed work to a teacher for grading, as years of schooling have trained you to expect, you’ll have to present your work to a panel and receive detailed critique. Who’s on that panel? Professors, professional architects, and other professionals who are related to the type of building you designed. Your project will be thoroughly critiqued, and every design decision you made will be praised for its effectiveness or alternatives will be suggested for a better design. With all of your projects being given such serious real-world attention, it won’t be difficult to motivate yourself to produce your absolute best work.
There’s no doubt that your years in architectural school will be busy. There will be a lot of long days in the studios and maybe a few overnight architecture sessions in the studio. If being an architect is your passion, school might very well be your haven – while your classmates in other majors pore over theories and take a variety of unrelated courses, your time will be overwhelmingly devoted to learning exactly the skills you’ll be using every day in your career. As you can imagine, this kind of program isn’t well-suited for the average party animal – you won’t be having the college experience you’ve seen in movies, joining fraternities and passing out drunk on lawns. But don’t think that you won’t have a social life. The life of an architectural student is not a solitary one, and you’ll be spending your days in the studio with the classmates that will become your best friends. The coffee-fueled adventures you’ll have together at three in the morning while you’re putting the finishing touches on your designs will be the memories you carry with you long after architectural school is over.
What is architecture school like? It’s busy, it’s focused, and if architecture is what you really want, you’re going to love it.