Best path to architecture - Waterloo, McGill, UBC?


Keep in mind I'll be in grade 12 NEXT year, and so all of these are of course relying on my acceptance. Also, for Grad school, I want to study at McGill, UBC or else somewhere in Europe...


Waterloo - Option 1: Doing my undergrad here is probably my top choice due to the amazing coop program, and it just feels right to me. 

Mcgill - Option 2: I like that the program does a little more on the engineering side because I feel like that's really useful to know about. Also, I love Montreal and think it'd be a great place to live.

UBC BEDS - Option 3: With this program, I like that I could do my first 2 years somewhere else in any program. Architecture is not my only interest, and I really just like to learn so gaining knowledge in other subjects would be nice. I'd still get my Bachelor of Environmental Design and graduate with a portfolio/architectural knowledge to prepare me for my Master's.

Unrelated Bachelor, Architecture Master - Option 4: This is starting to tempt me and is definitely competition for my top choice. Similar to the above, I'd like to be able to learn other things while I still can. I'd probably want to get either a dual degree in physics or astronomy and visual arts or something else down the arts road (B.Sc and BFA or BA) at UBC or else do something similar at McGill's Art and Science program. If I didn't do architecture, I'd almost definitely try to become an astronomer. It's the only other thing that I think could keep me interested my whole life. After that, I'd want to get my Master's in architecture. I just worry I'd be less prepared for my Master's and would have a harder time assembling a portfolio. Is it easier or more difficult to get into a Master's program than an Undergrad program?

Thanks to anyone who answers this! I've already posted it on student awards, but didn't get any response.

May 16, 13 11:08 am

I'm the "unrelated bachelor" type and I did a science undergrad at McGill. Since you mentioned McGill a bunch...

- Assembling the portfolio isn't that bad if you are artistically/creatively active through your undergrad. There's usually a campus gallery or clubs, etc that can provide incentive to produce stuff while you study something unrelated

- McGill doesn't have a fine arts department, and even though you can take art courses at other schools, it's extremely rare that this works out. Just a heads up.

- The only reason why Architecture is "engineering"-y at McGill is because it's technically in the faculty of engineering and therefore you have to take the "engineering first year" courses (long story). I don't think any of the core curriculum is especially engineering-based. Someone might be able to correct me on this.

- And again regarding McGill: arts and science is a weird program. A lot of people complain that they don't get enough depth in any one field. Be sure to read up on the specifics of it if you're leaning that way.

... Montreal is a great place to live, though. Waterloo not so much. The idea of doing that 7-year thing (I think? or is it 6?) at Waterloo with no chance to try out other fields would be a huge turn-off for me. But on the other hand, it is supposed to be an excellent school.

May 16, 13 1:18 pm

If Waterloo feels right, then it feels right.

McGill is an amazing school in an amazing city. Yes, the a-school is within the school of engineering, and you take the rigorous classes with the engineers.  They are on a 4+2 system and do NOT have a 3+ M.Arch. so you couldn't go there later if you did an unrelated degree.  And, yes, I agree with your thought that the way it is taught at McGill makes it useful.

3+ after a 4 year unrelated degree is a tough way to go.  And, depending on one's undergraduate major, assembling the portfolio will require varying amounts of effort.  Doing it over the course of 6 months, prior to applying, and while working at something else is not the way to go, when there are people that have a "closer" major to architecture who have been burnishing their portfolio exhibits for all the years of their undergrads, possibly sprucing them up in the summers between.

It sounds like you have it dialed: Option 1 and Option 2.

May 16, 13 3:04 pm

@observant Thanks for the info! I was completely unaware that you couldn't get your arch master's with a different undergrad... Definitely good to know. I'm not crossing the option of an unrelated bachelor off my list though, but Waterloo Arch is still my first choice. Just way harder to get into.

@Trffl I don't really care too much about lack of Fine Arts. The only reason I'd do that at UBC would be to have something prepared when it came to portfolio time, but I'm more interested in the other classes within the Arts faculty. The draw of physics is the only thing that makes me doubt architecture sometimes though, so I'd be okay with dropping the Arts and doing straight science.. I personally hate Waterloo (as in the city) but the way the program is set up with the coop, I wouldn't mind the limited time actually spent there. I'm living in Europe right now (exchange program) and the idea of being able to pick 6 different cities/countries around the world to work just really appeals to me. One of my main problems when it comes to my future is that I just have way too many interests, and this extends to where I want to live, so I think it'd be good for me to actually experience living in some of these places for a test run. Are you doing your Master's in Canada? If so, do you mind my asking where? Just curious since I'll potentially be in a similar situation, with a bachelor's in science from McGill... Thank you!

May 17, 13 5:17 pm

I was completely unaware that you couldn't get your arch master's with a different undergrad

You CAN ... just not at McGill. 

You can at Toronto and UBC, though, and those are great Canadian universities.  At a few others, too, such as Calgary et. al.  I think it would be a great combo, though ... if they had it - a McGill  3 year M.Arch. with some of their technical content, too.

May 17, 13 5:56 pm

I heard Waterloo's architecture school isn't part of the main campus but located in another town, separated from university life.  You have no interaction with students from other faculties, nor can take part in most of the uni perks..  You could but its just tough.

May 17, 13 7:23 pm

Yeah,  agreed. I've worked for both an architect and an engineer (that happened to work together on a lot of projects) and there seems to be a sort of constant struggle, and as much as I don't want to be an engineer, I do think it'd be good to learn more about the science of architecture as opposed to just the design.

Waterloo's campus is in Cambridge, but I think that's almost preferable to being on main campus. I wouldn't want to live in res anyway, and I feel like there'd be less distractions there. If I were to be stuck there for the whole 5 years it'd be different, but interspersed with the travel perks of coop, I don't think it'd be a problem.

May 19, 13 5:52 am

Again, correct me if I'm wrong but the additional "technical content" of McGill's program is first year engineering courses... Really basic stuff that is not really going to be that helpful to you. I'm talking stuff like general chemistry and electromagnetism.

May 20, 13 1:35 pm


Yeah, it looks like it resembles what a CE would take.  I don't know why they don't tone it down, but when you get into architecture, it stays in architecture.  It almost seems like the first year would be the hardest, at least for me.  Physics + Chem + Engineering Math.  But, if you can put up with it, you're a grad of Canada's best university, in a great neighborhood, and in a phenomenal city.  Now, whether it is Canada's BEST architecture school, that I don't know.  But it's up there.

May 20, 13 1:39 pm

The first year isn't really that bad, it's just Calc 2 that messes everyone up, and sometimes the second term of physics (in which case you retake it in the summer)... After that it's a straight-up arch program. You don't actually learn any "engineering" in first year. Math is taught -very- theoretically at McGill.

May 20, 13 1:47 pm


I totally agree.  Just take Physics, both of them, in back to back summer half sessions, which leaves the first year for more time spent on math, and on chemistry, which I never took in college.  This is whether it's McGill or anywhere else.  Physics almost belongs in summer, by itself, so you can both concentrate on one topic and have time left over to enjoy the summer.

May 21, 13 6:00 pm

I would pick Waterloo.  Any leg up in terms of getting your foot in the door of working in an architecture firm the better.  with the co-op you have a system set up, whereas in the other programs it's all on your own, setting up summer jobs.  opportunities are there for big name foreign offices after some experiences in local firms etc..

plus the term in Rome is mandatory.  that's pretty sweet.  generally students from there come out pretty skilled.  

May 21, 13 7:26 pm

^ ^ The term in Rome isn't mandatory. But essentially everyone does it.

May 21, 13 11:26 pm

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