If you don't get into an Ivy league do you waste a year and apply next year?


Im on a H4 visa in the US which doesn't allow me to work. I had applied for masters at Harvard, Yale,  Rice, UTSoA, Wash U St Louis and Michigan Taubman. 

I got into Michigan and Wash U and Harvard and Yale rejected. Waiting for the other two. 

I really wanted to go to Yale because their faculty and visiting professors is unbeatable. So many relevant names and practising architects in their faculty list. I wanted that kind of exposure. But I din't get in. 

And the work environment is so energetic and I have read that people there get trained to become leaders. I want to be a leader. 

Does it make sense for me to waste a year given that I can't work here in the US to try applying to the schools again? Or should I pick one of the two schools and work doubly harder on getting the exposure that these schools naturally provide? 

Mar 7, 18 4:12 pm

How lacking are the rest of the schools when compared to the Harvard and Yale? 

Mar 7, 18 1:22 pm

Bjarke Ingels, Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, Herzog & de Meuron, Rem Koolhaas, among others, didn't come from any of the Ivy League schools---but Ivy League schools hired them teach classes to their students. They all had experiences and a form of thinking that these Ivy's want them to bring to their institution. So if you're wondering what the other schools lacked compared to that of Harvard and Yale, think the opposite: what do Harvard and Yale (and other ivy schools) lack that the other schools were able to produce.


That's an interesting point


Ren Koolhaas went to Cornell.


Tell that to Harvard: I don't think he was a student under a particular program in Cornell, probably took a few electives, but I believe he was there training or as an RA to Oswald Mathias Ungers.


He was enrolled with a full time course load in 1972 and 1973, and less than full time until 1975. He had additional academic training at other universities that aren't listed on the Harvard profile. It's interesting that he's chosen to leave gaps rather than include the full extent of his long academic history.

Non Sequitur

It's just school.  The name matters less and less as your career progresses. It's what you make out of the programme that matters.

Mar 7, 18 1:26 pm

The name doesn't matter to me as much as the people in the school and the exposure that they give. They have the best architects and thinkers in the world teaching the students.


How to balance that out with other schools?


They certainly have a good marketing department that's convinced you of this.

Non Sequitur

Tduds, you beat me to it.


I went to an Ivy-ish undergrad, and a state school grad. I found plenty of satisfaction in both.

Have you toured any of these schools? Have you questioned the faculty and students about what they're doing and how it aligns with what you want to do? There is no single definition of "best." I toured a certain Ivy and found a lot of their students to be almost insufferably haughty. I toured a well regarded east coast school and found it dully conservative. Both schools are *good*, but neither fit for me. Until you ask the right questions of the places you're looking, you're risking jumping into the wrong fit based on someone else's idea of quality.

Especially at the graduate level, what you make of your education is far more important than who's around while you're doing it. Take a little time to figure out what you want to do when you're done, and work backward from there to find the best path for you. 

Mar 7, 18 1:48 pm

what’s “Ivy-ish?” there are eight Ivy League schools; yours either was one or wasn’t one


Technically, MIT isn't Ivy.


technically? membership in the Ivy League is a binary condition; there aren't degrees of "Ivy-ishness." that doesn't mean that schools outside the Ivy League necessarily have lesser programs (I'd certainly rank MIT's graduate programs far above Cornell's, for example), but the term "Ivy" is a very specific one.


Yeah it was MIT. Didn't want to give it away but I sorta gave it away.


Literally, the Ivy League refers to the 8 schools that are in the Ivy League. But, as colloquial shorthand, it's come to signify a "League" of elite American institutions. In that sense, "Ivy-ish" was meant to refer to school that are widely considered to be around the same tier in quality / prestige, but not literally part of the old sports conference. MIT, Stanford, CalTech(?), etc. etc.


it's only ever non-Ivy students that use this "colloquial shorthand," and it comes across as a manifestation of a bizarre and unnecessary inferiority complex. you went to MIT, one of the most elite universities on the planet -- it being a non-Ivy could not matter less.


You may be right, but this is all so far beside the point.


it's really not. the thread is about the perceived vs. actual value of attending an elite graduate program. when you (and others) use odd qualifiers like "Ivy-ish," you indirectly devalue exceptional schools, like your own, that don't happen to be members of the Ivy League, which contributes to the general perception (which is especially strong among international students like the OP) that the Ivy League schools are the only ones that matter. and I say this as someone who attended two Ivies. 


But my reply was explicitly about dismantling that very perception. Don't get hung up on one word.


and yet by using that "one word" you actively reinforce the perception you're trying to dismantle. there's no such thing as "Ivy-ish." there are Ivies and non-Ivies, and there are elite programs in each group.

I agree that school is what you make of it, but I have noticed a correlation between “elite schools” and portfolio quality. Also, not that it’s everybody’s prerogative, but people from “better schools” also seem to have jobs at top performing firms more often than people who went to state schools. That’s just based on people that I know personally and internet scouring I’ve done. I went to a state school btw, this isn’t an Ivy League plug, just something that I’ve noticed trying to remain unbiased.
Mar 7, 18 2:47 pm

I've noticed this too. I did not go to an ivy and am happy with the schools I went to - didn't even apply to any ivies. Not sure about portfolio quality per se, but have noticed that these schools have more jobs at top firms. ("Top firms" meaning firms ran by starchitects, getting the big money jobs, getting all the press.)

The Starchitect firms that don't pay well and who foster a toxic work environment, those are the places you want to aspire to be a leader in?


Yes very true, Peter! Good point!!


What if you want to be the principal of your firm at some point. Will working with starchitects help?

Probably not as you might not have a chance to learn all of the aspects of practice as starchitects tend to keep tight control over how they deal with clients and the initial phases of design. Some firms land small projects and hand it to a junior person at the firm to figure out (wile under supervision and control of an architect) I got started with a bunch of storefront renovations that I got to manage somewhat independently before I took on progressively bigger things.



  If you want to teach or have a career in academia then an Ivy League school will definitely help.  Otherwise in terms of practice it also helps but not necessary. You can 

1) Go to Michigan (because it is a good school) and then decide if you want apply again to Harvard or Yale while at Michigan 

2) Finish at Michigan and then do a MDES at Harvard or if they have something similar at Yale do that

3) Wait one more year and apply again.

I guess it all depends how much money you can afford to spend on your education and if you want to teach afterwards. But do not go into too much debt! That will just hurt your career options.  

Mar 7, 18 3:21 pm

A non slacker student (which OP claims to be) will have zero problem turning a taubman M.Arch into a GSD M.Des or an M.Arch II


For the record- I do believe U of M is just as good as the GSD or other Ivey schools. However the GSD name does miracles to even the average student in terms of connections.


@archinet how important are those connections ? And how good are the connections in Michigan?


if you are an international student- which sounds like you are, then the tuition at Michigan is the same as GSD or even more. The "connections" you will make at the GSD outstrip Michigan- especially outside the US. Make no mistake the quality of education is the same if not better at Michigan. But the connections of GSD go beyond the US and in your case is probably more beneficial. You can always go to Michigan then just do an MDES at GSD or Yale if you want.

In some places the Yale and GSD name could work against you as there is a lot of regional tribalism in architecture and those two schools have (fairly or unfairly) earned a reputation as not being competent technically and being obsessed with design thinking and theory at the expense of more practical architectural practice matters. Noter Dame has a reputation for being wholly committed to classical architecture at the expense of new thinking even though that may not be the case now the past performance and perception in the profession of the current alumni creates an image of the typical person coming from that school and it takes decades for that to change. Every school has an image and you will be taking that on as a benefit and a burden.

The Ivy league influence is greatly overstated. It only matters if you think you will not be able to learn and grow in a school that is not the most expensive and exclusive. Many respected faculty and leaders of our profession did not attend the Ivy league schools. 

U of M is an excellent school I know many colleagues who are both leaders and amazingly competent came from there. Most of the people I dealt with from HGSD and Yale not so much. Educational pedigree is not a guarantee of any success.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Mar 7, 18 3:47 pm

I know many UT and Rice grads that went on to work in very famous offices.  I think the networking opportunities are there at those schools if you make it a point to seek them out.

I'm wondering what you think can do over the next 12 months that will result in being admitted at Yale or Harvard and not rejected by them once again.

Mar 7, 18 5:15 pm

Just go get a 5 year B.Arch at a State School. 

Mar 7, 18 5:22 pm

The great thing about Ivey's is that you develop relationships with people outside your architecture program and because other professions tend to make more money than architecture, those relationships can potentially become useful in business endeavors down the road. 

While the same is also true at U of M and other non-Ivey league schools, you are more likely to meet people who you can take advantage (from a networking point of view) later, as opposed to sooner... This is NOT a law, but more a rule of thumb. State schools tend to educate children of blue-collar and middleclass people whose connections run as deep as the class they come from. 

Mar 7, 18 9:38 pm
Tinbeary There there

The last sentence makes Pa and Ma very upset.


you are more likely to be surrounded by wealthy people at expensive colleges, than at state schools.

Tinbeary There there

Where are the hardest working students?


Hardest working students are at private design schools - Parsons, RISD - because those have ingrained university-wide cultures of killing yourself in the studio. Hardworking is not a good thing, when taken to those extremes.


"Hardest working" makes no difference. Say you work really hard and get the best grades etc etc etc but you have absolutely no idea how to put a building together... you've just pissed 200k down the drain, worked really hard, and if you still want to become an architect, you start virtually from scratch when you enter the job market because you have no experience. So if you want to be the type that hires the real architects, go to the Ivy's and learn design... if you want to work as an architect, you get a bigger bang for your buck at a state school...


You go to U of M to become a good working architect. You go to Iveys to teach or become a principal of a firm that employs working architects. 

Mar 7, 18 9:41 pm

lol U of M is a very, very good consolation prize to yale/harvard, and a motivated student @U of M will have no barrier to teaching or becoming the principal of a firm.


@BulgarBlogger I want to be the principal of a firm someday. So according you Michigan won't give me enough exposure to get there?

If you want to be a principle you do not need a Yale or Harvard degree, you need good competent work that is on time on budget and does not result in litigation because of poor design decisions. This is taught at many good schools not just Yale or Harvard. In Architecture people get ahead because of what they do not where they are from, leaning on an Ivy League degree is not going to get you as far as doing good competent work.


If you're good at what you're doing it doesn't matter where you went to school, if at all...the list of names posted in the second comment says it all.

Those Ivy league schools apparently aren't even that good at training you to become a great architect, they are simply great at hiring great architects. Only if you're into HR, Ivy is where it's at...

Mar 8, 18 3:29 am

Agree with bro randomised ^

If you check the backgrounds of their faculty, only a fraction of them have a solid Ivy education/background. Many of those professors come from different schools and are primarily hired for their expertise and experience. Basically, the pedagogical experience you're having in these schools is a result of different people coming from different backgrounds enriching not just the curriculum/program, but the school brand also. 

And to echo 27458 ^: As with most schools, even Ivy's have gaps to fill that other non-Ivy schools don't (and vice versa). Those names mentioned above I believe all taught at Harvard, but not a single one of them went to an Ivy School. Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas are from the AA (London), Patrik Schumacher finished at University of Stuttgart (Germany), Herzog & de Meuron are from ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Bjarke Ingels is from KADK (Denmark). Heck, Tadao Ando is a self-taught architect (formerly a boxer).

It's what you make out of and what you become after the program that will have more resonance to your practice than where you studied. 

Mar 8, 18 4:02 am

How important is the pedagogical experience of the different people, backgrounds and culture in my education? Do other schools have it too? It's so many great people teaching the courses there.

Just as important as the fact that most of the professors teaching in these Ivy League schools are people coming from different backgrounds in terms of culture and education---also teaching in other schools that are not Ivy League. Do other schools or other MArch programs have it too? Yes. Coming from an Ivy school is great on paper, but it doesn't make you better or a cut above from the rest. You want to be a principal in a firm? Harvard or Yale or U of M won't teach or make you that. That's all up to you. 


You can't know for sure what the right path is until you have a clear definition of what your goal is.  "I wanna be a leader" is a bit vague.

Mar 8, 18 8:41 am

echoing some of the comments above, education is probably not so different but I have seen the connections angle play out many times for ivy graduates. It is a real and powerful tool that is undeniable. That side of things may or may not matter when getting started in your career but it sure does later on. 

However you make your way it will be your ability to work like a mad person as well as a seriously unreal ability to maintain self-awareness that decides success. Having those things plus a network of wealthy friends does not hurt.

for what it is worth ETH, AA school, Danish Academy of Fine Arts, etc are not exactly the bottom of the barrel colleges. And Ando has a twin brother who runs a construction company (the boxing thing is a nice story but not the important story for his success). If you cant go to an ivy then having a family with money or connections doesnt hurt. If you can do both, like Maki or Johnson, even better.

Mar 8, 18 9:06 am

The value of school is less about what you are taught, and more about what you learn by being proactive.  The TIME that school allows you to practice, study, and think is far more important and valuable than the lecturing, or in the case of most starchitects, the blabbering.  

Mar 8, 18 11:31 am

Some people keep trying and do get accepted after some number of years.  The admissions committees vary, so what they're focused on one year may be different the next, and if you're dead set on a particular school it may be worth the gamble.

But you may have your particular circumstances working against you. Usually these repeat candidates focus on finding jobs in firms while they wait out a year -to develop experience, portfolio material, stronger references, etc.  You're in the US on a non working visa so you can't do that here. What will you do if you wait? A gap year spent doing nothing is only going to hurt you, both in terms of career earning potential and appeal to future admissions committees. Can you work in another country?

Mar 8, 18 11:35 am

Michigan just hired a new Dean, his focus may be important to the OP

Mar 8, 18 12:56 pm

What will define you is how creative you are when put up against constraints and boundaries on projects. If you want to spend money on prestige in hopes of getting into a starchitects door - so be it. Let me know how that environment turns out for you when you are working 80 hours a week for low level pay.

Wish people could just cut the bullshit when it comes to trying to get into the best program and work for BIG or OMA. As if having Nikes will make you run faster than anyone else - meanwhile the kid who never had shoes in his life runs laps past you and is happy.

Mar 8, 18 4:01 pm





Nobody who couldn't afford to pay for Ivy in the first place made a huge impact afterwards, those hundreds of thousands in debt tend to hold people back at some point. It's the people who are already privileged who profit from such institutions and that's how they want the status quo to remain.

Mar 9, 18 2:46 am

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