How good a student are you? If you are in the top ten percent of the class, your choice of colleges is largely unlimited. Below this, your choice is somewhat restricted. This is to your benefit, for if you entered a school having higher performance requirements than you can match, you might soon be buried under an impossible academic load.
What kind of school is best for you? Are you prepared to go immediately into a college curriculum that leads directly to a professional degree in architecture, or should you spend the first years in a liberal arts college?
What size school is best for you? The relative advantages and dis-advantages of large and small schools are obvious but too often are not adequately considered by many young people.
In debating these questions, you have three excellent resources at hand: your parents and/or other adult family members and friends, your school's vocational guidance counselor, and any of your friends currently in their final undergraduate or early graduate years. Your friends who are currently completing their college work have the freshest possible view on what it is like to attend today's college or university.
The second group of factors to consider in choosing a school focuses on the college:
Are the school's architectural programs accredited by the national architectural accrediting board? If its programs are not accredited, the school's graduates may receive only partial credit toward those academic requirements needed to apply for licensing examinations in most states. The types of programs offered by schools accredited by NAAB are not necessarily identical. In fact, they may vary considerably from school to school. As you plan your visits to various schools, you will want to brief yourself ahead of time on the program choices. Such information can be gained by writing each school separately or by securing a copy of the publication Guide to Architecture Schools in North America. The publication can be ordered from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006. This is a very complete collection of information that will brief you on almost every question you may want to ask when you visit schools.
What are the specific admission and degree requirements of the school, and what does the school have to offer? What requirements must you meet to earn your degree in architecture? What is the content of the required and elective courses? What level degree will you earn? How many years will it take? How large is the college student body? What are the qualifications of its faculty? What kind of physical facilities are available both for academic work and for residence? These facts are related in the catalog of each college. Also, they are briefed in the statistical information publication available from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture at the address noted above.
Your best source of guidance in discussing any college is the college itself. If possible you should plan to visit the schools of your choice and talk directly with their admissions officers and with the faculty members responsible for interviewing possible applicants. Recent graduates are also good resource persons. Older alumni can be helpful even though most colleges have changed considerably in the last decade. Of course, your guidance counselor is usually your first source of information and your best overall adviser in comparing facts gathered from a group of schools in which you may be interested.
The third group of factors to consider focuses on costs:
What does the school cost, and how will you pay for tuition? What are the tuition costs and other fees for resident students? For nonresident students? What is covered by tuition payments? By fees? When are they payable? What are the estimates of the cost of room and board? Are there scholarships available? Jobs on campus? Is this a work-study program school?
Have you considered travel costs to and from home and college? Will you need to finance your education through loans such as personal, college, private organization, or government loan?
Actual dollar costs for tuition, fees, room, board, travel, and incidental expenses vary considerably throughout the over one hundred architectural schools in the United States and Canada. However, we can offer some guidelines.
State-supported school in your own state. Budget at least $5,000 to $8,000 per year plus travel.
State-supported school outside your own state. Budget at least $7,000 to $15,000 per year plus travel.
Private school. Budget at least $9,000 to $30,000 per year plus travel.
After bringing together all the costs associated with each school you are considering, you should make out a tentative budget covering the full college period and detail as accurately as possible the first two years. Only then will you appreciate the considerable investment you are about to make in your education. Colleges often assist students in outlining a complete financing program. Also, your parents and your school's vocational guidance counselor will be of vital assistance here.
THE SCHOOL ALSO CHOOSES YOU
Earlier we discussed the attitudes, motivations, and aptitudes necessary to be a professional architect. Obviously similar attributes are important to a school seeking applicants to its program. However, schools don't mistake the decision to enter an architectural program with the decision to enter the profession. So you should not confuse the two either. You are allowed to use school as a trial run. Concentrate on the task at hand: successful application and admission to a school of architecture.
Generally speaking, academic programs are looking for students who demonstrate a good balance of analytical and creative skills. Early inspiration to be an architect tends to emphasize aesthetics. As a student matures into an architect, the aesthetic ability is assured and learning the rudiments of building and engineering science play a greater role.