2010 M.Arch applicants, commiserate here!


Early this morning, I was looking through last year's forum and noticed that it was launched a year ago today. It seemed from the general response that to consider it too early to start obsessing over the thoughtful/terrible advice and the stats of your peers (competitors) and what has become the ever-debated, mythic lore of the respective values of reccs, GPA and portfolios--was an exercise in self-delusion over just how soon December will be here.

I'm an M.Arch I applicant with an as yet non-existent portfolio, who hasn't taken the GRE yet.

I'm attending the summer studio at GSAPP.

Bon courage, comrades!

Apr 14, 09 12:01 pm

do your GREs, to get it out of the way

Apr 14, 09 1:55 pm

second that! GREs out of the way ASAP.

Apr 14, 09 2:12 pm

my words of logistical advice:

- figure out why you want to go the schools to which you will apply.
- understand the tools you will need to layout your portfolio.
- figure out how you print a portfolio waaaay in advance.
- fill out your scholarship forms.
- try not to be scared. be inspired.

this will make for a more informed, empowering, and de-stressed application process. you can make it a positive experience!

good luck!

Apr 14, 09 2:46 pm

find a print shop that has a high quality laser printer, one that prints without the waxy texture of Kinkos. print on double sided glossy cardstock full color, design with page bleeds, make it pleasing to look at. have them trim it and bind with a spiral. i tend to think that committees like simple design that shows your work more than your graphic design abilities (unless your work is graphic design of course).

take lots of practice tests, at least 4.
pay close f#@$ing attention to your application components, because they will be numerous and varied school to school.
if you have no arch background try to take an arch drawing and theory course now, if you can, or the prep courses mentioned above. they will help immensely. the theory course helped just as much as the drawing for me. and don't be discouraged with your lack of background. i've heard from several sources that liberal arts people are very desirable, and that MArch 1 is the better model anyway.

and for godsake, be patient--you have a year to wait. hahaha!

Apr 14, 09 3:26 pm

make sure you know the right deadlines for each school. i fucked up bad this time on my harvard app because i mixed it up with princeton's, which was the next day. i had to get a kinkos near harvard to print my portfolio and courier it there the same day. i had a rather unnerving phone call from kinkos asking me whether there was a mistake in my numbering because it looked like there were some pages were missing. i went through it with them and it sounded fine, but not actually seeing and checking the portfolio out in my own hands haunted me through the whole ordeal. not likely that this would have been the only factor in my rejection, but it certainly didn't help.

also, check whether schools need two sets of transcripts. when you order transcripts get 2-3 extra copies. i had to send 3 to different schools because they had either lost them or i only sent one instead of the two required.

if you have a 3 year non-u.s bachelors degree check whether the schools will accept it. i went though the whole process with ut austin and got a letter at the start of april telling me that my australian bachelors degree from a decent school was not equivalent to it's u.s counterpart.

i am so glad this is over for me.

Apr 14, 09 4:28 pm

Does anyone know of programs that are focused on architectural design but allow for significant exploration into urban planning and design?

Apr 22, 09 9:41 pm

Here's my 2 cents on lessons learned from a 2009 M.Arch applicant:

I agree that it is definitely NOT too early. Apply to NO more than 5 schools. You will be in way over your head if you apply to more and you are just throwing away money to Application, Transcript, and GRE fees. That is the lesson I learned. You must be able to find 4 or 5 schools, at the most, that cater to your design + academic desires for graduate study. Any more is just silly and shows that you might not know what the heck you want in a grad program. Pick carefully. If you have a poor GPA, an average portfolio, have recs that could have been written by your mother, and are from way out of state, don't apply to Yale.

Portfolio Portfolio Portfolio. InDesign. Definitely print early and go through a few trial runs. Make friends with the print shop, be nice, and pretend like you have no idea what is involved in printing (but don't be an idiot). They may feel bad for you and maybe cut you a few deals. Be the starving artist that you are.

Talk to as many people from the schools you want to attend as you can. Express your genuine interest in their program. Call them once a week with a different question, even if it seems like you are being annoying. You never know who is on the other end of the line and may have some say in your admission or rejection. Don't just be another applicant. Sell yourself!

Apply in-state, if you have the opportunity. Your education is what you make of it. GSD, GSAPP, Yale, Princeton are all great, but look at what you have near you geographically and weigh your options. It's going to be a great feeling coming out of school 20-30k in debt compared to those who are well over 100k in debt after grad school. And there is nothing wrong with state-school programs. Often, they have really good opportunities like Study-abroad and assistantships, etc, as well.

Stay inspired, be creative, and work hard. Good luck to the 2010'ers!

Apr 25, 09 9:03 pm

blackbook - to answer your question.....PENN

Apr 26, 09 10:56 am

I was planning on applying for 2010, but when I went to NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology) they told me that I should just apply this year (have till June 5). I live in Princeton NJ, and was thinking about Princeton's program, but it is super theoretical, and I've lived this stuff for almost 20 years. So even though it sounds cool, I want something I can use quickly, so NJIT fits the bill.

I am running to put this together as I am a working designer right now (My Bachelors is Interior Design) but I have not done any hand drawing in over 10 years. My GRE's are great, my GPA was 3.9, so that's cool, I worked for 2 large architecture firms before I went solo for design and continue to work with some big names in NYC, so I think my references should be solid. My Portfolio consists of completed work, a few line sketches, etc. I know it should have more photography, and real art (oil, acrylic, charcoal, etc.) but I am way busy and have just today begun working with a local artist to create some work for my portfolio. I am not sure I can get everything ready by the deadline. should I just cash this in and go for next year? Sometimes I feel ill. BTW, I am 44 y.o. my daughter attends Smith College, and my son will graduate high school in 2010. (stop laughing!!!) I am the oldest architect student EVER! I just really, really want to finally become the thing I always wanted to be.

Someone talk me down.....

Apr 27, 09 3:59 pm

I would wait the extra year and give yourself as many options as possible. At this point in your life I would think that another year would be worth the opportunity to study at the program of your choice without deadlines negating fantastic programs like Princeton's.

Apr 27, 09 4:21 pm

As soon as this semesters finals are done in two weeks, I am going into full time application mode (amongst two summer research projects, of course) studying/taking GREs, portfolio construction, letter writing, and letter gathering. I will be around to contribute to the collective commiserating here, for sure!

Coming from a way-too-long 8-year Bachelors in Arts in Mathematics, with a Minor in Computer Science, applying for MArch 1 programs in-state, out of state, and one possibly abroad. It's going to be hard to bring the number of applications that I want to send out, down, considering I would like to include a couple schools I *know* I could get into as well as a few I would be seriously pumped to get into.

Apr 28, 09 6:41 pm

2010 march applications here I come!

I've been out of school since '07. Applied half-heartedly in '08, was rejected by 4 ivyish schools, and now I'm back at it. I'm very torn between many much I really do want to go back to school (sometimes I really do, sometimes not), how much I want my future in architecture to be focused on professional practice or academia, how much money I want to spend, etc etc. I hear the advice about applying to only 5 schools, but in my eyes I'm having a very hard time picking out a handful of schools that specifically catch my eye. Its a bad combo of not having a clearly defined direction for my future studies, and the fact that most schools claim a desire for students to pursue their own ambitions...hmmm.

Well anyways, I'll probably apply to a handful of "top programs", mainly because I already did and I feel the reapplication process is easy. But then i'll also throw in some more non traditional top programs such as sci-arc (please spare me comments on my semantics; just using generalities here) . I'm terrified that my list is somewhere around 15 schools at this point.

looking forward to some commiserating

Apr 29, 09 12:20 pm
Living in Gin

Oh God, here we go again.... I'm throwing my hat into the ring.

Schools I'm considering (and my likelihood of actually applying to them):

Harvard GSD (for certain)
University of Cincinnati (for certain)
Columbia University (probably)
City College of New York (probably)
Yale (probably)
Pratt (maybe)
U of Oregon (maybe)
UW Seattle (maybe)

As you can see, I've still got some decision-making to do, and my choices have as much to do with location as they do with the reputation and the program itself. Ideally, I'd like to get my M.Arch. in whatever region I decide to settle down in, but that's ultimately up to the admissions committees. This list will likely be in flux until I actually send out the applications.

My GRE's are done, thank God, and I attended the summer architecture studio at Columbia in 2007.

My GPA is solid overall... I started my undergrad in 1995, left for a few years, and I'm now finishing it up. My recent grades have pretty much been straight A's, but I got some shitty grades early in my academic career that weigh down my overall average.

I think I have some pretty solid recs lined up. My portfolio is still a work-in-progress, and I suspect I'll write my personal statements at 3AM the day before the application deadline.

I went through all of this in 2006-2007 and didn't get accepted at any of my choices... I still had a lot of work left to do on my undergrad degree then, and I was applying exclusively to top-tier programs. I like to think I'm somewhat wiser this time around.

Apr 29, 09 12:35 pm

Other than a few details we're in very similar situations.

whats the deal with these summer programs? I have a bs arch and have been working in architecture for 2 years since graduating...does that mean such a program is not for someone like me?

Apr 29, 09 12:39 pm

LiG - cool, I didn't know you were apping to grad school this next year!

I'm having to think about all this stuff now as my third year draws to a close. I guess my first step is figuring out where I'd like to apply. So, I have a few questions for whatever kind souls would like to be of some help!

1. What graduate schools in Ohio have noteworthy programs, besides UC? (where I currently attend)

2. What are some solid west-coast school choices? I'm not very familiar with that area. (ex. UCLA, Sci-arc)

Anyways, here's what I've sort of mentally settled on for now.

Plausible List

University of Cincinnati

Wish List


LiG, I'm not familiar with Oregon and UW in Seattle. What are their programs like? Are they expensive?

Thanks guys, looking forward to alot of commiseration!

Apr 29, 09 2:29 pm
Living in Gin


It certainly wouldn't hurt, but with a BS Arch already, it might be somewhat redundant. Your experience at any summer program will depend on what you decide to put into it (of course) and the quality of your studio critic. If your BA Arch degree and your subsequent work experience is largely of a pragmatic/technical nature, a summer program at a more theory-driven school like GSAPP might be a good way to round out your portfolio.

I was fortunate at GSAPP to have a great critic, and he taught the summer program as if he were teaching the first semester in an M.Arch. I program (albeit condensed into a six-week period). It was intense as hell, but I had a great time and created some pretty cool stuff. Several of my classmates got accepted into places like GSD, Yale, and Princeton the following year. My only regret is that I had to start working part-time about halfway through the program, and I wasn't able to put as much effort into my final project as I wanted.

I've made a point to stay in touch with my studio critic and keep him in the loop as far as my academic plans go, and he's offered to write a recommendation letter for me. As a bonus, he's now the director of one of the M.Arch. programs I plan to apply to... A little networking action never hurt anybody.

Apr 29, 09 2:44 pm

yeah I certainly have enough theoretical material to draw off of in my portfolio. it's the networking thing I'd love to get in on. unfortunately I suck when it comes to networking, ha

Apr 29, 09 2:46 pm
Living in Gin


1) Ohio State has a solid reputation as well. I think Miami University and Kent State may also have M.Arch. programs, but they don't seem to get mentioned here as often as UC and OSU.

2) From my decidedly East Coast perspective, UCLA and Sci-Arc seem to be the biggest names out west... UC Berkeley and the University of Oregon also have decent reps, with more of a focus on green design. Others might be able to chime in with a more complete picture of these programs.

Apr 29, 09 2:49 pm
Living in Gin

Nobody is worse than schmoozing as I am... More than once in my life, pure dumb luck has made up for my lack of social skills.

Apr 29, 09 2:50 pm

I went to osu's arch school as an undergrad. Solid program, great profs, great facilities. It gets a bad rep as a school in general, but the arch program is a different, and I feel much higher quality, animal.

Apr 29, 09 2:51 pm
"but they don't seem to get mentioned here as often as UC and OSU."

Where's here? Do you live/work in NYC?

UC Berkeley and the University of Oregon also have decent reps, with more of a focus on green design.

Ok yea, this makes sense - I've heard these names thrown out quite a bit.

That's great, Villan. How'd you like the building/studios? Seemed like a pretty cool environment when I visited, albeit alot different than UC. They're definitely going on my plausible list.

I guess the question I have to wrestle with now is whether I want to 'pay for the name' and apply to those ivy-leagues, or make the most of an [i]affordable[i/] education somewhere.

LiG - you seem to be the networking queen. What do you think? Do you feel the networking opportunities at Harvard/Columbia/Pratt etc. will be worth the cash?

Apr 29, 09 3:13 pm

Yeah its definitely different than UC...more of a focus on theory/history and less on professional practice. For me that was ok because I was able to switch over to "professional mode" after a heavy dose of just thinking about floating glass boxes for 4 years, but some might feel cheated with that kind of education, who knows.

The scogin building was great, it was so complex that I was able to think about it CONSTANTLY, and from that perspective (an architectural text), it was successful. Plus, if you avoid high street at 17th you'll NEVER have to see an Eisenman building on campus.

Apr 29, 09 3:21 pm

While I'll concede that what I guess what we could call the "brand recognition" of an ivy or highly reputable school gets played for way more than its worth--there seems to be a PC backlash on these message boards in the form of the assumption that "networking" is the only way that these programs may be superior to those at other schools.

This seems intrinsically flawed to me, just in considering how networking stems from a school's faculty and there must be value in studying under/with prominent architects other than a name drop or a reference. It isn't an MBA--we aren't going to job/client interviews disguised as classrooms--we're there to learn the most mind-blowing, of-the-moment, forward looking, perspective shifting concepts from the most brilliant minds we can get our hands on, right?

There will always be obnoxious arrogant people who will ignorantly make their choices, and inform their decisions on brand names, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us should feel the need to pretend that schools are created equal just like we pretend that people are.

Apr 29, 09 3:27 pm
Living in Gin

Sorry... "Here" is Archinect.

Yeah, I currently live/work in NYC.

As for networking being worth the cost, that always seems to be the million-dollar question, and it's something I struggle with as well. Although I plan to apply to some expensive schools, I'm not sure I'd actually enroll at one unless they were willing to offer me a pretty substantial scholarship package.

Back in 2007 I would have been happy to take on $100k in student loan debt to attend Cornell or GSD, but the collapse of the economy has forced me to re-think my priorities. Hence, the reason for having a few more state schools on my list this time around.

One of the things that makes UC stand out for me (aside from the fact that I grew up in the Cincinnati area and still have a lot of friends and family there) is the co-op program, which offers networking opportunities that rival or surpass any Ivy League school. Combined with the fact that UC students are eligible to apply for in-state tuition after their first year and Cincy's dirt-cheap cost of living, UC is by far my best value.

Most of the NYC schools actually share a lot of faculty members, so even if I went to City College (where I'd be paying peanuts for in-state tuition), there's a good chance I'd be studying with faculty who also teach at GSAPP and/or Pratt. That said, I did some math a few months ago and discovered that UC is still cheaper for me than CCNY over the long run when I factor in the cost of living difference.

Apr 29, 09 3:36 pm

Blackbook - good point, and I suppose my comment earlier pretty much sums up alot of the thinking in archinect, as my pliable, impressionable young mind has soaked up much of what's said.

I don't know, maybe it's just an issue of differing mentalities. I tend to think of my situation and prospects very pragmatically. In other words, I view grad school as a means to an end (a reputable, glamorous job somewhere). Maybe that's why I'm examining this choice from a 'networking/connections' point of view?

I don't know. I wish I was more enamoured with the nobility of design, yada yada. I have a few studio mates who really go out of their way to be like this, and they rub me the wrong way. Ok, reeling this tangent back in...

Blackbook, I think you're right. But the networking/connections part is more important to me than a mind-blowing, forward-looking education. Do you hate me for that? =(

Apr 29, 09 3:43 pm

Not at all... I didn't mean to express a singular goal in higher education--nor to assign value judgments on various perspectives--just to suggest that there appears to be a contrived "every school is above average" mentality that ignores the educational experience and environment almost altogether.

Apr 29, 09 3:52 pm
Living in Gin

I have a similar dilemma regarding the theoretical/practical focus of a program.... I tend to be a very linear thinker, and while I'm an extremely visual person with a pretty good design intuition, I find that most abstract writing and heavy theory gives me a splitting headache and causes me to lose interest. I'm far more interested in creating a solid, well-crafted design than in trying to become the next Peter Eisenman. My bosses at work usually like me because of this, but studio critics sometimes want to strangle me.

There's two ways I can deal with this issue: I can go with the flow and pick a practice-oriented program like UC that seems to mesh well with my strengths, or pick a more avant-garde theoretical program like GSAPP to help bolster my weaknesses. I'm all about expanding my horizons and learning to think in new ways, but at the same time I don't want to spend 3+ years banging my head against a wall. I'm wondering if anybody else is facing this dilemma?

Apr 29, 09 4:03 pm

LiG - we could go to UC together!

Although word on the street has it they're really boosting their expectations and lowering their admission numbers for the next year. Or maybe that was this year. I don't know, I've just heard people in my studio talking about it a lot.

Apr 29, 09 4:09 pm
Living in Gin

Wouldn't surprise me if most schools are tightening up on admissions in a big way... I suspect 2010 will see a deluge of laid-off architects taking advantage of the down economy to head back to school. Meanwhile, schools are cutting budgets and possibly slashing incoming class sizes. I think this economy has become a perfect storm for architects no matter where they are in their educational/career track.

Apr 29, 09 4:25 pm

Finally this thread is serving its intended dual purpose of support + terror.

Apr 29, 09 4:33 pm
Living in Gin

Doesn't support + terror pretty much describe architecture school in general? Think of this thread as an appetizer before the main course.

Apr 29, 09 4:40 pm

I then once you enter the architectural profession drop 'support' from that and just call it terror.

on a side note, any applicants in the process of buying a new computer/software(such as rhino/adobe/etc) to help you in making a portfolio? I didnt really want to go this route but I think I have no other choice. The software is whats going to kill me. It seems a shame that, even though i'm not a student, I will be paying non student prices on software producing, basically, academic stuff.

Apr 29, 09 5:00 pm

AND then once you enter the architectural profession drop 'support' from that and just call it terror.

Apr 29, 09 5:01 pm
The software is whats going to kill me. It seems a shame that, even though i'm not a student, I will be paying non student prices on software producing, basically, academic stuff.

You should email me about this, I might have some tips.

Apr 29, 09 5:24 pm
Living in Gin

I'm lucky enough to have a pretty good computer at work with all the apps I need for my portfolio.

My 5-year-old home computer is showing its age in a bad way... I'm hoping I can nurse it along until I'm ready to buy a new machine for grad school, but I'm not very hopeful about that.

Apr 29, 09 5:42 pm

yeah I have a pretty sweet setup at work too, I just know Im not going to want to spend more time at a place I'm at 60 hours a week working on my portfolio

Apr 29, 09 5:43 pm

few questions for a potential 2010....

whats a decent GPA?

Any tips on portfolio from someone without any previous arch experience?

Could you defer admisison live in a state or a year then get in-state?
I know this unlikely, already in debt with a B.S. in Environmental Science and want to save wherever possible.
good to discuss with fellow potentials

Apr 30, 09 2:18 am


I applied to MArch programs this year wanting the same thing: a strong architecture program that had significant opportunities to interface with urban design and planning.

After a ton of research, school visits and conversations with students, I eventually applied to MIT, UC Berkeley, and the GSD; I will be attending Berkeley in the fall. In my opinion, these 3 programs are in a different league than the rest in terms of cooperation between the schools.

The main thing to keep an eye out for is the nature of the relationship between the Arch and Planning depts. There aren't too many schools which are really top-tier for both, and even fewer where the faculty and students get along/collaborate.

Frankly, I think that MIT is the strongest in this area hands down. Cross-discipline collaboration is totally the name of the game over there: 3rd year studios frequently include grad students from 3 or more degree programs, including engineering, computing, etc. And they have some great urban research units over there as well.

That said, the GSD and Berkeley both have their own strengths, and faculty that are at the leading edge. Just a question of what you specifically are interested in within the huge "field" of urban design.

Apr 30, 09 10:31 am
Could you defer admisison live in a state or a year then get in-state?

I don't think so - but I'm curious to know if this is possible.

Apr 30, 09 10:37 am

If the school allows you to gain residency while you're a student, there's no reason that this wouldn't work. That said, it seems like a lot of grad programs don't give deferments.

Apr 30, 09 10:42 am

For good reason. While I sympathize with your financial situation, this method seems a little selfish and cowardly--if you need in-state and feel you can be accepted and work in the state of your choosing--move, establish residency and then apply.

Apr 30, 09 10:49 am

Living in Gin, I thought you applied for this fall as well. 2009. or am I mistaken

Apr 30, 09 11:19 am
Living in Gin

No... I was thinking about it, but decided to take another year to wrap up my BA degree at an easier pace and get my finances in better shape.

Apr 30, 09 11:31 am


selfish-maybe, cowardly- i dont think so. I have worked/lived in 5 different states in the last 5 years, so the idea of investing in A state then coming across benefits such as "in-state tuition" I don't feel really applys to my situation nor do I consider myslef to have any loyalty to just one state.

Apr 30, 09 11:48 am
Living in Gin

As far as I know, relatively few M.Arch. programs allow you to defer enrollment. Even if they do, most schools make their residency determination at the time of admission, not at enrollment... This is mainly to prevent people from doing what you're asking about. To get in-state tuition, you pretty much have three options:

1) Apply to a public school in whatever state you currently live in (assuming you've been there for at least a year and can prove it).

2) Move to a state and live there for a year and then apply, as blackbook suggests. Finding work in the meantime will be difficult in this economy, though.

3) Apply to schools in states that allow you to apply for in-state residency after your first year. I think Ohio and California allow this, and there may be others. You'll have to check with the specific schools for details, though, and there may be certain procedures you need to follow.

(As a side note, the University of Cincinnati offers a "metro" tuition rate to residents of certain counties of Northern Kentucky, and this tuition rate is only slightly higher than the in-state tuition for Ohio residents.)

Also, keep in mind that many schools (public and private) have endowments that allow them to offer generous scholarship awards to incoming students. If you're an exceptional candidate, a school may offer you a free ride or at least a decent scholarship even if you're coming in from out of state. But you won't know until you actually apply and get an offer.

Apr 30, 09 12:08 pm

thanks for the info L.I.G.

Apr 30, 09 12:16 pm

Hi! My guestion is - what's the average age of people who apply to MARCH programms in US?
I'm currently a third year architecture student in Moscow and I'm thinking about applying for a 2010 MARCH programm in US - I'll be 20 years old at that time and I'm afraid I'll be the youngest and the most unexperienced ( if i manage to enter any MARCH programm at all)? I was thinking about graduating at home at first ( I'll be 22 at that time) and then apply for a US MARCH programm, but my family thinks I have to do GRE,TOEFL, prepare my portfolio and apply as soon as possible...
By the way, do you know, in general, what chances do foreigners have in this applying process? May be I should better try to transfer to a BARCH 4th or 5th year ( which I don't want very much)?
One more question - What is GPA?
And, sorry, for being such a nerd - the last guestion - what software is a MARCH aplliciant suppose to know? I know AutoCAD, ArchiCAD, 3dsmax ( not a pro though), Sketch up, render Artlantis, Photoshop.
Thanx a lot and sorry for grammar mistakes if you notice any))

May 1, 09 4:03 pm

any potential UVA's ???

May 3, 09 4:53 am

as far as defer for in-state (or defer in general). these are the schools at which i know you can do it:

NC State - I'm doing it right now...
Virginia Tech - my friend goes there, looked at that option, but ultimately decided against it.
Pratt - ha. no in-state discount there tho.

don't know about any others, but thought i'd throw that out there.
throw north carolina schools as well as virginia tech on the list of residency after 1 yr of school.

best of luck to all of those applying!

May 3, 09 1:50 pm

When's the best time to take my GRE? In spring or christmas break of my fourth year?

May 4, 09 9:42 am

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