Preparation in High School

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The education and experience required for a career in architecture is acquired in stages. The process begins with your choice of an architectural career and proceeds through your formal schooling, internship, licensure, and professional years. Once started the process never really stops.

Formal schooling and internship, from secondary school to licensure, will usually consume from eight to ten years. This allows for five to seven years of professional study and three to four years of internship. While this process cannot be appreciably accelerated, even for the gifted student, it can be made more meaningful and productive by an early career decision. If you make your career decision early in your secondary school years, you will tend to focus your attention on those junior and senior high school courses and activities that stimulate the talents and interests vital to a successful architect.

As you approach your decision on an architectural career, consult your school's vocational guidance counselor. The counselor will assist you in making this early decision by helping you identify your talents and motivations, matching these against the requirements of the profession, and suggesting secondary school courses and extracurricular activities that will strengthen your overall capabilities. Later in your secondary education, the counselor will focus your attention on those colleges and universities offering courses in architectural education that most nearly match your particular interests and capabilities.

Among the most important skills required in architectural education and practice are ability for communications and a power for scientific reasoning. Consequently, artistic, linguistic, mathematic, and scientific skills are important prerequisites to a college architectural curriculum. Your aptitude in these areas should be identified and developed as early as possible.

Specific entrance requirements vary from college to college. Certain guidelines may be mentioned, but you must always check the requirements of the particular school of your choice. General guidelines include graduation from an accredited high school, with rank in the upper one-third or one-fourth of the graduating class or, in some cases, with a B average, and 15 or 16 units total in:
  • English, 3-4 units' mathematics, 3-4 units
  • Science, 2-3 units
  • Social studies, 1-2 units
  • Foreign language, 1-2 units
  • Other, 1-2 units (history, economics, other appropriate electives)
Beyond your secondary school academic record, certain other materials may have to be submitted, including:
  • Record of Scholastic Aptitude Test; other specialized tests of the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) administered by the Educational Testing Service, Box 592, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, or Box 1025, Berkeley, California 94704. Some schools also will accept test scores from the American College Testing Program (ACT), Box 168, Iowa City, Iowa 52243.
  • Recommendation of school principal and other qualified persons
  • Health record
  • Evidence of personal qualities, educational and career objectives, basic skills in visual arts
  • Record of any special tests administered by the particular school to which you are applying
These add up to a most impressive set of academic and extracurricular requirements. They emphasize the value of an early decision on a career and an early investigation of the precise requirements of the particular school you choose. Again, you should discuss these matters with your school's vocational counselor early in your secondary schooling. The counselor will have many suggestions on how you should shape your secondary school activities to prepare for college admission. Although it is the rare eighth-grader who is actively preparing for his or her career at such an early age, the decision process might be started then.

Whenever you begin, the first step is to consider two or three careers, including architecture, that interest you. Then you need to research which colleges offer the best training in these fields. If possible, you should match your academic and extracurricular choices to the admissions requirements at those schools. Closer to the date of your graduation, you will need to narrow your choices of schools and begin visiting college campuses in person to select the one that will best meet your needs.

In implementing your educational plan, you must remember two principal points. First, you must make your own arrangements to contact colleges, take the required tests, and write for information. Your guidance counselor can advise you on these matters, but it is up to you to carry them out. Second, most arrangements must be made months in advance. For instance, many college admissions applications must be submitted in February for September matriculation.

Do not be overly concerned if your preparation thus far has not followed a specific route intended to result in a career in architecture. Many people do not establish their career goals until much later in college or even after graduation. For any important voyage, however, once you know where you want to go, it always helps to have a map. Once you commit your life to being an architect, you can say you are one. However, it takes some very specific steps to convince the rest of the world to allow you to practice your profession.

To skip college is not in your best interest professionally or financially. Likewise, merely entering any available college is a luxury you cannot afford. When you enter a course of instruction, it should be with the full expectation that you can meet its required level of performance as well as manage its costs. Therefore, choosing the college program that is best suited to you is extremely important. This may mean that you should start in a junior college or small liberal arts college, later moving on to a larger university for your professional work. Or, you may find that your first years are best spent in a college in your hometown where you can live at home, saving up for the last years at a more distant school. In any event, the choice is not just a school or combination of schools, but a total undergraduate and professional educational program that will meet your particular needs
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