Is going to top colleges worth it?



Im only a rising sophomore and I have Plenty of time to decide what universities I want to go to. I see lists of the same old same old “top architecture schools” and we all know college is super expensive. My state doesn’t even have an accredited program till masters so I’ll be going out of the state for college most likely. 

Long story short. Is it worth paying 50k a year for an architecture degree and going 5 years usually? Architects make decent pay (80k in my area after like 5 years) but is being in that big of debt worth it? Only cal poly tech has a cheap tuition and is pretty good.

Jun 25, 18 1:28 am

don't fall in the trap of confusing top dollar colleges with top colleges

Jun 25, 18 7:02 am

Architecture degrees are not great investments.  If Cal Poly is good and cheap then do that.  Better yet, do your homework on the profession before you decide to incur debt trying to be one.

Jun 25, 18 7:49 am
Non Sequitur
You’re a fool if you think $50k/year is anything but absurd.
Jun 25, 18 8:01 am

It’s not absurd, other schools are way more expensive. But being able to get cheaper education but good anyways would be good if scholarships and financial aid aren’t an option.

Non Sequitur

It is absurd to pay that much for an architecture degree.


My school already is 30k a year and I’m only in high school


To put it in perspective, my first salary was about what you pay for high school.

Non Sequitur

who pays for high-school? man... your country is broken.


Careful, NS. The disease we have seems to be contagious, and I dont think Canada lacks for xenophobes.

Non Sequitur

We're still a little far from that cliff's edge Pete... but I see where you're coming from.


Move to Canada if you want an Arch degree


I'm not sure the OP is from the U.S. but if he is in U.S. and assuming I get this correctly, he isn't attending standard public school is free. I suspect he was attending a private school for high school.


I’m a she and yes it’s a private school

Non Sequitur

Then I guess wasting money is not a new concept then. Go forward and spend more of your family's money chasing a $200k arts degree.



Rephrase: what state do you live in?


Now.... you're name is becoming familiar. Didn't you post some thread back in March or something?

Non Sequitur

^Correct Ricky. See Kraye's history. There was actual good discussion in that thread.


wasn't a bad thread.


MN and yes I did ask in March about even considering. The best outweighs the worse and now I’m taking one step at a time and trying to learn as much to be prepared. Archinect helps me see what people say if that’s complainers or genuine people.


Are you in CA? Cal Poly SLO is like #2 or #3 in the country on DI rankings and has a 5 year program, so if that is instate go for that. Cal Poly Pomona has a 5 year B.Arch as well.

Jun 25, 18 8:32 am

no unless im able to say family lives there. And I know that and that’s mainly why I’d want to go there. My 2nd choice as of now is UT Austin but I’d need to look into the actual program. I love the vibe and campus and I’ve heard the program is good.

Jun 25, 18 8:48 am

UT Austin is an excellent program. I know a few grads that secured jobs at top firms. In-state tuition is low there as well.  An out-of-state candidate may have problems gaining admission, as the architecture program is a selective major.  The Austin employment market seems very healthy.


Look into “in-state tuition waivers.” Texas offered them in the past and that’s what I used to come from out-of-state and be automatically given in-state tuition as part of my scholarship package. Your 80k after 5 years figure is certainly possible but not exactly the norm. Be very careful about the debt you take on.


If one moved in a year ahead of when they begin taking college to 1) work and earn some money, 2) gain residency status for lower tuition rate and so forth.


For grad school, yes. For the OP going to undergrad, no.


More thorough answer:

"A resident for tuition purposes is someone who meets the requirements set forth in the California Educational Code, Section 68000-68084 and 68120-68134, and Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, sections 41901-41915."

(another university in California reference: )

Meet the latter and you should be good. Two years working a full-time job in California (or equivalent) can be a good experience.


It might be a little bit of a problem factor or hurdle and fuss to go to say... Cal Poly Pomona. It's easier for me because of my age but anyway, if you are going to be paying out-of-state tuition, you might still want to work and save up money to reduce your debt load and cover expenses above the calculated cost of attendance that they estimate because its usually a little low and kind of bogus. There is also moving expenses. 


Other states may have a friendlier residency establishment requirements than California. However, the reason I was suggesting attaining residency status in California and begin when admission when you are 19+ years old is that tuition will be significantly less. Money you earn and put away (ie. save) can reduce how much loan you need to take out. You begin the process prior to establishing formal contact. You could go to community college to take some courses that are part of your general ed requirements as well especially if you do that during a 3 year period prior to formally establishing residency status. This can reduce your actual cost. 

It can help that you get into California or wherever you plan to go to college and begin your professional career in for some period of time before attending college. Gaining in-state tuition is a cost saver, you can build connections in the area for jobs and so forth while building up money and gaining a little maturity and some work experience that could look positive when entering the profession when seeking jobs at an architectural firm after college/university. It's okay to start an architecture degree in your early 20s. You probably wouldn't ant to wait until you are in your 40s or 50s but you can also take time to find yourself what career you really want to do even if it isn't architecture. 

Community college and some early work experience can open your eyes to possibilities. Gaining work experience doesn't have to explicitly happen in California or the state you want to go to if it isn't the state you live in. In any case, take your time to make sure the decision you are taking after high school graduation is the one you really want to take. 

If I was living in California, I'd probably would have went to one of multitude of community colleges for general ed courses and any one of the universities in the L.A. area. There are a lot of them. Since moving up to Astoria, Oregon, I went to the local community college because for community college & lower division general education requirements, it made sense. Granted, my degrees weren't the AAOT but I took the education that was effectively the equivalent of one by enrolling in more courses than I needed to so if I wanted to transfer to a university, I could. I wouldn't necessarily suggest stopping at community college level education. It depends on the occupation.


I would not particularly be able to move to any other state as of now. My current schooling is the best in the state and I hope the schools average of 31 on the ACT will help me. Cali isn’t somewhere that’s desirable in the long term (as it is literally burning down) but it has great opportunities. If I could somehow get residency that’s be great! Also community college I’m not sure I’ll do, but work experience is something I will. Thanks for a good statement!


Kraye, I'm not talking as of right now. You are in high school at this moment in time. I'm talking about after graduating. Work experience even not related to architecture is a positive thing. However, California isn't the only state that you should consider. 


In the case of California, it would be a good idea because tuition is highly subsidized. Other states would be different but tuition is usually less at a community college for general ed courses like Writing, Math, Physics, etc. Considering some ~90 credits of general ed courses from a community college can save thousands of dollars. Think about it. You can take community college while working and effectively getting residence in many states. I'm looking at how you could reduce your cost in order to save money. You can even take community college in Minnesota. Most courses will transfer and significantly reduce the amount of general education courses you have to take even if at 75% of them directly transferring. They are options. You're in Minnesota so keep in mind most states will have strong articulation for students transferring from neighboring states. You have North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and potentially Nebraska and even Michigan that you may also consider. So if you take community college credits, consider architecture schools in neighboring/nearby states for ones that offers you significant articulation of credits.


As a current student who is probably a little more loan conscious than most, I couldn't imagine coming out school with an excessive amount of debt that was unnecessary and would take the rest of my working life to pay off. I was instate and one of the only options for accredited programs. Its not a top school but its certainly less expensive than most and I feel like in the end it doesn't really factor into the profession all the much. If i were in your shoes I would probably find the least expensive options. I don't know what that would be, maybe not going to architecture school right away and doing something similar with plans to get a masters or maybe just doing the bachelors at the out of state school. I would research more and figure out what you can do the most inexpensively. You also have to factor in the added costs of being an architecture student in the form of a laptop, printing, materials, software, and also less likely having time to have a job on the side like most other college students. It adds up really quick and can easily be several grand in the time you are there which just adds into more student loans if you aren't careful. While I can't totally say just yet, I think the profession (as with any job) would be much more enjoyable if you were excessively in debt while beginning your work. 

Jun 25, 18 10:22 am

you mean "...weren't excessively in debt while beginning your work"?


cal poly slo is an excellent school

Jun 25, 18 12:16 pm

Oh, man. To be able to relive college in SLO. That would be fantastic.


half hour from the beach, 1 hour from sta barbara, what could be better?


0 minutes from the beach, living in santa barbara, and city that lets restaurants have drive thrus


Santa Barbra is nice, that’s where family is too and it’s underrated tbh


If one top college is good, then several is great.

Jun 25, 18 2:44 pm

It depends. Getting out of college with no debt will feel amazing, can you do that? If so, do that. Working, scholarships, in-state tuition etc are all good. Go to the best school you can that gets as close to free as possible. Going to a good school does matter. You don't have to go to the best school no matter what, that will backfire. You are looking for appropriate value here and only you know that. Good enough works. Don't go to a bad school, that will be hard to overcome. SLO is good, go there if it is a possibility.

Jun 25, 18 2:53 pm

True "elite" colleges are absolutely worth it for the formal networking (alumni network, internships, etc) and informal networking (classmates, clubs, etc). On a whole your colleagues and professors will be some of the most talented in the country. Those networks will reverberate throughout your life both professionally and personally.

In architecture, those advantages are somewhat mitigated by the fact that architects don't make that much money. But the question to "are the worth it" really depends on you... such as if you go into academia it is absolutely worth it.

With all that being said if you can get into Cal Poly SLO then go there. It's consistently been ranked as one of the best B.Arch programs in the country plus it's cheap. It's a no brainer.

Jun 25, 18 7:21 pm

Connections are good and reputation is good. If scholorships and low tuition are Included, then it’s way worthwhile. But I wont shun out other colleges bc their tuition is 50k a year, there’s many ways to get free money as my STEM camp instructor said.


That maybe true but you have to secure them. That can be highly competitive. I wish you best in doing so but it can be difficult. Add to that, architecture isn't the field within STEM that is most desired to finance. I was working in a STEM field that is probably one of the most desired field in STEM that these programs are looking. Investment in the education is often capitalized by the same people who venture capital invest. Is it possible for you to get STEM oriented scholarship.... sure. It would be a little more challenging to get than someone in computer/information technology or other high demand venture capitalized STEM field. Architecture is more a fringe STEM field because sometimes it is recognized as STEM and sometimes it is not as it may be seen as an art. Keep in mind what the scholarships and grants approval committees interpretation. I don't want you to over expect. Try but don't expect. If you are rewarded such 'free money', I would wish you best and congrats upon attaining. One thing in real world, it isn't yours until it is in your bank account (or student financial aid account). You have some time to attain. When I started, the money availability for college education was more limited than is now.


"Worth it" is so very subjective - nobody here can evaluate "worth it" except you.  But, I'd say don't take the sticker price tuition at face value.  I and others have written many times here about our own experiences with the private, higher-ranked, "name brand" school ending up being the better deal for us financially.  Again it's highly individual - there are so many factors: but If you've got very competitive grades and tests scores, a strong portfolio, and will be able to pull together several excellent recommendations, then you may be a highly sought-after candidate who can come out ahead in grants and scholarships at a private university - particularly if you fall somewhere in the middle to low end of the applicant pack in terms of financial resources.

Personally I got a better deal with my private university than at the public colleges to which I applied - even the in-state ones.  The private school had much higher tuition, but also had much deeper pockets - i.e. far better endowment - but there's also the fact that, because of the make up of their respective applicant pools, I was comparatively needier among my private school classmates than I was among those who applied to the public schools, and that meant that I qualified for a bigger slice of the financial aid pie at the former.

Apply to the schools in which you're interested and can see yourself attending.  Don't rule out any of them in the application process solely on the basis of tuition.  See where you get accepted and what they can offer before you decide which are worth it for you.

Jun 26, 18 12:57 pm

Yes, I understand Rice University has both a "no loans" policy for lower and middle income applicants and a $10,000 USD overall cap on loans to undergraduates over their course of study. Most public schools will blindly load you up with the maximum permitted amount of student loans.


out of state costs for top programs are similar to privates now

almost worth taking a year off to go live in the state of the program you want to attend

Jun 26, 18 6:07 pm

The very very top programs like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and MIT are worth full price even for a degree like architecture.

Where you have to be careful are the 2nd tier schools (Columbia, Penn, etc) that have the same ~$50,000k+/year price -- those are def not worth the full price for a degree in architecture.

Or God forbid you pay that much at 3rd and 4th+ tier schools (USC, RISD, etc).

Jun 27, 18 1:11 am

Setting aside any evaluation of your ranking/tier opinions, the OP is a high school student intending to apply to 5-year B.Arch programs. Nearly all of the schools you've listed offer only the M.Arch, so are irrelevant for her purposes. Cornell is the only Ivy still offering a B.Arch - where do they land in your tiers?


100% agreed. FINALLY someone gets this right!


Thanks for the summery reputation of schooling helps a bit espeically for jobs right out of college


Update: Someone mentioned a school I know Someone goes to and now on google it gives the cost going to that school (approx) after financial aid and stuff. Does that happen for anyone else?

Jun 27, 18 1:52 pm

a lot of applicants are questioning the value of the degree at any cost, especially the lost opportunities one could of had in other fields.  After a  few years in the field many wish that they had taken another path, regardless of what school they attended.

Jul 8, 18 10:03 pm

Architecture rquires investing time and money. Worth going to a good college but worth the money? Sometimes the most expensive are not necessarily the best.

Jul 9, 18 4:40 am

Your parents are paying $30k a year for your high school (obviously a toney private one) but you are obsessing about cost of college?  Are they blowing your potential college fund on high school and then expecting you to pay your own college?  None of my business but seems odd.

Anyway,  you need the Ivy if you want to make starvation wages at a starchitect firm.  Otherwise, the school won't matter much in the long run.  If you know where you want to settle down and practice, go to a school in that area so that you can plug in to the network and get the lay of the land.

I repeat:  research the profession before you research the schools.

Jul 9, 18 7:34 am

I don't think the Princeton architecture program is ranked very well at all. They were trying to boost their ratings by hiring the Spaniard as dean and then found an excuse to can him to bring more of the special snowflake faculty crowd.

Jul 9, 18 9:31 am

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