Seeking input on summer architecture programs


Hi all,

I am looking into summer intro-to-architecture programs and hoping to hear from some of you who have done these programs in the past. Currently I am looking at the programs at Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard. Open to others, but I'd like to be on the east coast.

My situation: non-design background, out of school and working in real estate economics for several years. Applied for M. Arch I programs this year and was accepted to several good schools. Can't afford the program that felt the most right to me, and can no longer picture myself at the other schools. I haven't submitted my decision yet, but I have almost made up my mind to reapply in a year. Hoping that having a bit of architectural content in my portfolio, as well as a year of refinement and deeper research on specific programs, will result in better offers next year.

Specific questions:

  1. Basics: Which program did you do and when? What was your prior background? Did you end up pursuing an M. Arch and where?
  2. How did you feel about the quality of instruction? I know many programs are taught by grad students who may or may not have any teaching experience.
  3. How much variation was there between different studio groups? I am worried about getting stuck in a group that doesn't match my interests.
  4. For those who did the Cornell or Columbia programs, were you able to get credit for the course when you started your M. Arch? 

I would also love to hear about specific studio prompts and/or see the work you produced there. 

Thanks in advance to all with input!

Apr 12, 19 6:24 pm

1. DD at the GSD a couple of years ago. B.Arch from Texas. Yes, at the GSD. 

2. I thought it was fun. We had some interaction with professors and current students. 

3 Idk what you mean

4. lol, you’re not getting credit for that. People with architecture degrees struggle to get credit for courses they took as undergrads. Take it for what it is, a learning experience that gives you a glimpse of what architecture school is like

Apr 12, 19 7:41 pm

Interesting that you went after getting a B.Arch. I thought most people, especially at the GSD one, were coming from non-design fields. Did you end up using work from that experience in your portfolio even though you had undergrad work to include?


At some point I’d like to teach, which is why I went to grad school in the first place (m.arch II). It’s slightly different for a post professional degree because everyone already has an architectural background. No none of that work was ever considered for my portfolio. I was already living in the area at the time and figured it would give me something to do while I settle in.


If you're doing it to learn more about the field, and to develop work for your portfolio then it might be a good move.   But if you're doing it hoping to gain an edge in admissions it may not get you what you're looking for.  Some people do it hoping that they'll make faculty connections that will help their chances - and that may happen sometimes, but for the most part the faculty involved in these summer programs are pretty junior, and sometimes they're grad students - I taught in one at my university between my 2nd & 3rd years of M.Arch - they're not necessarily people involved directly in admissions or that have much clout yet with anyone.  Also these programs are somewhat of a cliche with admissions committees:  rather than making you stand out as a unique candidate they can have the opposite effect of making you "just another career disco alum" - to the point that there's some stigma in having attended them, and some people don't admit to it (though you can tell from the projects in their portfolio.)

I can't speak for all summer programs, but in my experience your 3rd question is kind of a non-consideration.  These programs are too short, too entry-level, and much too conceptual for anybody to really be sorted into projects or groups specific to personal interests.  The vast majority of students are people without architecture backgrounds, who are considering career changes or who are just interested in architecture as a hobby, and the project programs are very simple and very wide-open for interpretation.

And no, you won't get academic credit for them in any M.Arch program.  It's possible that if you took a summer class that exactly duplicated some core course requirement of your M.Arch program that you might be waived from that requirement - but that would just let you take an elective instead - i.e. your credit requirements would be the same.

Apr 12, 19 9:36 pm

Thanks for the reply! Did you actually do one of the programs or just teach one as a student? And which program was that? I am definitely seeing it more as an opportunity to get exposure to studio life and get some architectural content for my portfolio. I feel like that was my application's biggest weakness: no proof-of-concept for my architectural abilities.

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