Low Gpa to M.Arch Advise



I am a recent graduate in Biology from Occidental College, and I was hoping to learn more about making the transition to a M.Arch. I currently have a 2.5 gpa. My schedule was very loaded with football and work study which was difficult. I understand this is tough, however I am motivated to do what it takes to overcome this. 

I am thinking of taking a semester of courses at a cc (what would be some good courses to take?) before going to LAIAD for a year to develop a portfolio and develop relevant skills. General advise, especially from those who have overcame the same situation as I am in, would be greatly appreciated!

Thank You

Oct 1, 19 10:36 pm
Non Sequitur

Why do you think you're going to succeed in M.arch?  

What do you know about architecture, building design, and the profession in general?

Oct 1, 19 11:24 pm

I think I am going to succeed because I have faith in myself. I am excited to put in the time to rebuild myself on the road to a M.arch, and the knowledge I will gain. 

I do not know much about architecture, building design, or the profession. But I do know that after visiting a firm yesterday, speaking with the principal, and with his architects, I smiled the whole way home. I saw myself working there, and enjoyed seeing the process and typical day. 

Oct 2, 19 12:30 am

Seriously, WTF?


Did something I say upset you? I’m genuinely here with good intentions, and to learn more. It took a lot for me to post this. So, if you have no positivity to bring then please don’t waste your time...

Non Sequitur

Rmm... faith is not worth much... especially considering how poorly you took your current university degree. A shit GPA is not something that sneaks up on you. You know in advance that you're tanking and you choose not to make changes. If you think football and work take precedence over academia, then architecture is not for you. It's a serious time consuming degree that requires, at minimum, excellent time managing skills and dedication... plus all the other things like creative thinking skills, design flair, knowledge of physics and materials...etc. 

Can you sketch? Do you know what scale and proportions are? Can you put together an artistic and intelligent application portfolio?  It takes more than bullshit faith and an hour in a arch office to make it through the door of the school... and much more to make a successful career out of it.  Hopefully you're not carrying any tuition debt on the 2.5GPA degree... because with low academic scores like that, good luck finding funding for a $100k M.arch. 


I appreciate your transparency, and after all you have said, I am still motivated to move forward. Do you have any advice on the questions I asked?

Non Sequitur

By questions, you mean which courses you could take? The best option would be to start with basic life drawing courses at some adult art school. Not only will this help you build some skill and quick drawing techniques, it'll give you something that will contribute to an application portfolio. Pottery, painting, sculpture are all other media to explore that help demonstrate the basics of design (Light, shadow, scale, proportions, etc.). Avoid nonsense like photography unless you're an accomplished photographer or you can develop/process a sexy black and white pic from 35mm film in a dark room. Computer generated modeling also helps as does animation however, you'll need a good foundation in design + software skills to make anything convincing.

Just remember that plenty of folks jump into M.Arch without an arch background but few do it on a whim.  Most already have an artistic portfolio of something they can draw upon and elaborate for their application.  What do you have that could become part of a successful application?


Thats great advice. I took sculpting freshman year and received very good feed back for my plaster sculpture. I also enjoyed making a model of the watts riots out of cardboard. So I think I’ll stick with that subject moving forward.

Non Sequitur

Not a bad start, but models are very difficult to showoff in portfolio. You'll need very good lighting and well framed/focused pictures. Do try and expand on your skillset. Models + abstraction + trial and error can generate fascinating spaces.


Okay, that makes sense. Thank you for the insight.


Look up some MArch programs and see what their entrance requirements are.  Many require calculus 1 with a physics course or two.  You may need to take whatever math is required as a pre-req to calc 1.  Additionally, you'd want some drawing classes at a minimum.  You need to build a portfolio from nothing so drawing, painting, etc., to show you understand perspective and can convey your ideas by hand would also be useful.  I took AutoCAD at community college back in the day to prepare to go into architecture undergrad and it was a huge help.  Being taught CAD by a draftsman, he was well-versed in the ins and outs of CAD and worried less about the design.  Any software classes like that would probably give you a leg up once you get into school, but I'm not sure that would be anything you'd include in a portfolio. 

Oct 2, 19 9:17 am

Thank you for the advice! I will definitely look into taking these courses.


this is what they dont teach in arch, pretty aint it

Oct 2, 19 4:35 pm

is there any shroedinger dirac stuff in bio?

Oct 2, 19 4:45 pm

No they don’t, but I am familiar with physics. I took AP physics and Calc in HS and did well. These are the courses I’ll be taking next semester at cc.

Non Sequitur

rmm, don't pay attention to Jawknee. He's a delusional fool who writes incredibly violent and inane metal music lyrics and has no concept of architecture, physics, structures, academia, words, and life in general. Dude is fucked but entertaining.


Oh ok lol


Some people with low GPAs do get into M.Arch programs.  There are over 100 accredited M.Arch programs in the US.  This forum tends to attract a lot of discussions from those who are trying to get a spot in the most selective top 10 or so (and sorry, but the reality is you have virtually no shot at those and your application would be unlikely to get past an initial screening by administrative assistants to even make it to the admission committee.)  But on the other side of things there are programs with >70% acceptance rates, whose cut-offs are lower and who will make more exceptions to them.  

If you craft your application to show aptitude for architecture, and improvement and maturing in academics, you'll probably find a spot somewhere.  Your chances are better if you had decent grades in courses related to architecture (art, history of art or architecture, math, physics, materials...) - because then you can make the case that you have good potential for architecture but didn't realize it until late, and you weren't as well suited for your undergrad major.  Your chances are also better if your undergrad grades in your later years were better than in prior years, instead of vice-versa.

Oct 2, 19 8:21 pm

Hi, thank you for your insight. I will keep all that in mind when putting together my application.


some design-oriented schools pre-screen portfolios first


Not all of them screen portfolios first. Some do an initial admin screening that culls by incomplete applications, missing pre-reqs, and GPA's that are well below stated minimums. Now that portfolios are mostly digital there's probably no such thing as the "returns box" but when I was architecture school (at one of ostensibly the most designy-of-the-designy) we used to watch the giant refrigerator-sized 3-sided plywood box in the department office fill up with portfolios after each round of cuts. The first rounds happened in the weeks after the application deadline, before the admissions committee even started meeting - the box would already be partly full when we got back from winter break. They wouldn't send any the returned portfolios and rejection letters until the end of admissions season, so they all went out at the same time and there wasn't any way for the applicants to know how far they'd made it, but many didn't make it any further than the department secretary's counter.


Yeah sorry I edited my comment to say *some. probably during your response.


I came from a similar boat to yours (2.75 undergrad gpa in english literature). I quit my job to work in an architects office who also happened to do construction management and consultation (which is a huge plus).

I exhausted every connection talking to every family friend, friend, relative etc who was an architect to gain varied insight into the field from both the academic and professional side.

My portfolio ultimately consisted of a lot of writing, illustrations, sculpture and other visual art which was neatly photographed and organized.

Make sure you immerse yourself in CONTEMPORARY architecture and more specifically how architects work nowadays (NO frank lloyd wright references allowed)

I took the Making and Meaning program at SCI-Arc and I would say it gave me a pretty good idea of the culture of architecture school and specifically a studio class.

I also reached out to specific contacts within admissions offices to get an idea of what they're looking for, and they tended to provide some very helpful info outside of the norm.

What I'm saying is it isn't impossible but you have to work harder to sell yourself to schools that you're interested in. You don't have any knowledge or context with architecture and architecture school has an extremely high dropout rate -- which means they want to know that you will be dedicated to this and wont treat it like some art project.

Would love to answer any other questions you had.

Oct 3, 19 1:23 am

Thank you for your reply, what were some of the main things admissions mentioned that was outside of the norm?


depends on the school and the advisor, I would just say get to know them on a personal level


I'd suggest taking a summer program to get an intro to what architecture is about. You don't need any experience and you'll end up creating things you can put in your portfolio if you do end up applying to a M.Arch program.

Oct 3, 19 5:18 pm

I was thinking about doing a year long program at LAIAD.


I'd say if you are concerned about money and time, a summer would be more productive. In my M.Arch program many students with non architecture backgrounds took a summer program and seemed to be able to keep up with the course work. M.Archs are long and expensive so any time and money you could save, i'd say do it.

Oct 3, 19 7:59 pm

I was only thinking spending more time since my gpa isn’t the best. I figured if I showed more courses and spent more time on a portfolio it would benefit. What do you think about that?


I think thats one route. GPA matters the least... I would work hard to get a strong portfolio, good recommendations and a decent GRE score and those will outweigh the bad GPA. That should be enough to get you into a M.Arch program.


Okay that makes sense, I appreciate your advice.

Amelia Dennis

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Mar 24, 20 12:55 pm

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