Feedback on my eligibility


Hey everyone, I am looking to apply to the fall 2020 intake for an MArch I spot at UBC or UofCalgary (I am Canadian and living in Alberta). My background isn't straight forward so I am just looking for some insights or feedback from those in the professional world about my eligibility or holes I have that I could fill in the meantime as I do have some time before I need to apply.

My experience:

Interior Design Technology - Diploma from NAIT (2010)

Bachelor of Technology in Tech MGMT - Degree from NAIT (2019)

BIM Technician - Certificate from the Digital School Design College (enrolled, 6 month program beginning in two weeks)

GPA: 4.0

GRE: n/a haven't taken

Three academic references secured (fantastic relationship with my teachers., they have promised to provide incredible references to me when I apply this fall/winter)


Spent the last 9 years working as an Interior Design Technologist and Project Coordinator (same company).

The BTech degree I focused on Sustainability, Project Management, and Leadership (combining three streams, though the streams are undefined and loose). Besides Project Management, other courses like Innovation (using recent tech), Risk Management, Quality Control, Environmental Impact Assessment.

I enrolled in the BIM certificate to get up to snuff with Revit, AutoCad, etc. and this is a sure fire way to make sure I am current and even advanced in some cases.

I am worried NAIT isn't a major player, a degree with a 4.0 might not hold much weight outside of Alberta. Just looking for some honest/constructive feedback. Thanks!

Jun 11, 19 3:28 pm
Non Sequitur

Architecture grad school applications do not care about your software skills, or even if you can detail a building.  They care that your can demonstrate the ability to think, design, research, etc and it is up to you to demonstrate this in your portfolio.

Tech school and software certificates get you employed, but are often deterrents if they take up the bulk of your portfolio.  Do you have any significant built works where you shared a large percentage of responsibilities?  What about side projects or personal art?

Grades, once you've passed the minimum for entrance, don't mean much and although I've never heard of Northern Alberta tech before, certainly a graduate school in the western provinces will have... for better or worse.

Jun 11, 19 3:41 pm

Thanks for the quick reply! NAIT is well known in Western Canada as a competitive tech school, more for pumping out workers, though. I have a few really interesting projects I can show, I love concept work and developing thoughtful and intellectual design work. Some of my school projects from the degree that I can showcase is innovative furniture design which I drafted and had 3D printed. Unfortunately, I have mostly interiors for personal projects and I don't know if that is strong enough against the buildings in other people's porfolio's. I am interested sustainability through regenerative design and bio-mimicry. I could come up with a proj ect to do on my own, not sure if that is worth any merit though? And yes, I totally understand that the schools won't care as much about software capabilities, but I am looking to be as employable as possible at the outcome of all of this. My husband is an engineer and a BIM/Revit expert and because of his tech skills he's been head hunted more than once and is making WAY more than others in his field because of it. So I am trying to be pragmatic too.

Non Sequitur

Everyone wants a BIM expert and that's not just limited to A&E fields. I know many general contractors who would kill for one at the moment. The real problem is finding someone who knows the software and construction equally. 

 But I digress. 

You currently live in Alberta, right? Then contact Calgary and set up an appointment with faculty. If you are persuasive enough, someone will open themselves up and help guide you through your portfolio materials. Worst case, show up to the open house which will probably by fall of 2019 and get to know some of the people involved with grad school admissions. Don't use the too far or don't have time argument... too many never take the opportunity and that's a shame. 

As for the work, you need to show creative and problem solving thinking while demonstrating you understand design basics (scale, perspective, shadow, etc). Remember that you'll be competing with folks with no design background.


Thanks for the tips! I am in Edmonton, so visiting Calgary for a weekend is not a problem at all. I could probably swing heading to Vancouver too. I might miss the open houses, depending on their dates as I am in the UK for three weeks in September, but have no problem searching for other students or faculty open to chat about the programs. My professional experience has actually been more on the construction management side and product specifying. I did do a renovation for a locally owned high end restaurant that I did some heavy concept work on and incorporated their branding and did some really interesting work with that turned out beautifully so I am planning to feature that in my portfolio. I think where I am mostly stuck is that I know there will be applicants with no design background, and they won't expect them to know how to detail or what a typical wall assembly is, but because I do have some experience- at least in a related field- I might be held to a higher degree of expectation while not being at the same expectation of a BArch. I've tried to look through this forum and Issuu but it seems to skew either building heavy or art/photography heavy and I am in this sort of gray middle area.

Non Sequitur

One thing that you will consistent is that progress and idea development is paramount when choosing how to display your projects or artwork in your application.

Non Sequitur

Stupid phone. *one thing you will find consistent*


Perfect! Thanks :)


The admissions don't care about software skills and all that truly matters is the portfolio. Demonstrating design thinking, creative skills and research diagrams, etc. Other than that, reference and grades comes next. Tip: look up portfolios on issuu from past UofC grads for ideas on what the administration is looking for and the breadth of work to expect at UofC.

If you are interested in regenerative design and bio-mimicry, you should seriously consider UofCalgary. They focus a lot of their research in that sort of field and also emphasize on parametric and systems design. The school has recently invested a bunch of money in new machines, 3D printers etc. and has a very well equipped workshop that would further your interests in design/ building.

For the sake of comparison, UBC is on paper a more "prestigious" school than UofC. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter all that much if all you are looking for is a job after graduation. In addition, your work experience will net you a much better salary than any inexperienced graduate from any grad school.

Sustainability is a joke unless you have actual credible research and background in it and know what you're talking about. Grad schools and most faculty professors don't really give a dam about it except for comprehensive studio. Most professors prefer to skip over the "idealistic" sustainability nonsense and jargon and instead rather focus more on design theory and speculative thinking.

As for jobs after graduation, the job market for architects and graduates in Calgary appears to be in a slump right now. My graduating class had roughly 30-40% leave AB to find jobs in other provinces... and those that stayed in AB took 3-8 months to find positions locally. However with your work experience, you have a way better chance for job placements than your fellow peers who have no experience at all.

Just my 2 cents.

Jun 11, 19 4:27 pm

I know of the professors that do the portfolio review and have been thru the process myself. If you're serious about attending Calgary, send me a message and I'd be happy to help!


Thanks for all the info! That is really helpful. AB is in a slump all over, it is really tough to break out or get in anywhere new. I wouldn't say that getting a job is the most important factor, it's just that I have hit the ceiling of where I can go as a Tech. and want to make sure that my next steps and choices ensure that I am employable and desirable so I can keep moving forward. I'd be applying to the MArch I, so if I got in to the 2020 intake, I wouldn't be out till 2023 so hopefully things start looking up by then!! I am quite serious about UofC, I will def. message you, thanks for the generous offer!


No problem.

Did you mean Foundation year not MArch 1? Because foundation year route is 3 years long unless you applied for the advanced placement. MArch 1 is 2nd year, MArch 2 is 3rd year.


Sorry, yes. Foundation year!


Even though people above are saying that software knowledge won't get you far, I actually think that you would have no problem with your current credentials. All MArch grad students are grouped together in either those with arch undergrads or non arch undergrad degrees so since you don't have an undergrad in architecture you're applying up against people from all majors, walks of life, previous experience. Having such a large experience working in a somewhat related field puts you in a pretty good position I would think. In the meantime, if you are working, get deeper into the nitty-gritty designed portions of the projects at work and use that for portfolio. Just my two cents from recently going through the grad school process albeit in the US. 

Jun 11, 19 4:41 pm

You can pick up software pretty quickly and easily. The main factor of consideration is talent, creativity and artistic ability. And with the proper motivation and discipline, anyone can pick up software skills during foundation year.


@babyarchitect1 That's a fair point. I guess I feel more pressure having some related skills that I need to prove myself a bit more than wholly non-design applicants. I am very creative I just want to build the portfolio really carefully so that I stand out. With NAIT being lesser known, I want to be able to show more potential than a traditional university grad. I mentioned this in another reply but I do handle more project management and product specifying now, less nitty gritty design, so I am trying to find how to use my job intelligently to build my portfolio while remaining realistic that I might not get in. The other rationale for taking this BIM course is so that if I don't get in in this round, I can look for other jobs in my field that get me closer to working on interesting designs.


Don't sweat the tech background, I too have a similar tech background as well. If your portfolio is strong, you'll do just fine. :)

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