Colleges in Florida, USA - Any Opinions Welcome, The Good, the Bad, and the Etc.


I've found several posts discussing Florida's architecture programs, but they were all 7+ years old. Since a lot can change in that time, I would like to ask for some fresh opinions about the topic.

The Main Details: I'm about to enter the second semester of my first year in an architecture transfer track. I'm considering options for which school I plan to transfer to, and I want to hear as many opinions as possible before I set plans in stone. I am specifically talking about the accredited Floridian schools that appear on the NAAB's actual website  (link). This narrows down my options to FAMUFIUUFUM, and USF. I am open to hearing about other schools, but I am very wary of them. This is Florida, I can't drive down the street without seeing about seven different shady, unaccredited "schools". 

The main schools that are recommended to me are UF, FAMU, and UM. My professors highly respect and recommend UF, but it seems to be an extremely exclusive school, so I'm not going to bank on getting in. I am also hesitant to go to a university that only offers a Master's program with no Bachelor's, which is why I'm considering FAMU and UM. I know the least about FAMU, but I haven't heard any strong bad sentiments towards it. I'm leaning very strongly towards UM, and it seems like a good school, but I'm a little worried by the controversy surrounding its philosophy. I've heard from many people that it teaches a very staunch New Urbanism approach, which people don't seem to be extremely fond of. I do actually appreciate New Urbanism, but I'm interested in learning about and working with different kinds of architectural philosophies, and I'm a little worried that going to UM might make people pigeon-hole me as a New Urbanism fanatic, which could make the job market a little interesting to navigate - at least for the first few years.

"Why would you go to an architecture school in Florida?": I am aware that Florida's architecture programs aren't super prestigious. I am also aware that a large chunk of Floridian architecture is so ugly that even the boxiest of Soviet brutalists would cry. However, I'm currently paying for college through Florida Prepaid, which can only be used for schools that are in Florida. If I were to leave the state, I would likely have to saddle myself with student debt, and I would like to avoid debt as much as possible. I am - with trepidation - open to transferring to a college outside of Florida, but if I were to decide on that path for my education, I would like to at least earn a Bachelor's in a Floridian college first. Herein lies my "should I bite the UM bullet?" dilemma.

Other Details: As you can probably tell, I'm making a lot of my decisions based on finances, but my circumstances are very fortunate, and I have a comfortable amount of leeway. My Florida prepaid affords me enough credit hours to cover a bachelor's degree, so the only finances I need to worry about are the cost of living at the college + the credit hours that specifically make up the Master's program. I say this because I am also open to hearing about any tips for ways to avoid debt, including scholarships, but I kind of want to avoid taking away an opportunity from someone who needs it a lot more than I do.

I lean very strongly towards getting a Bachelor's Degree (B.Arch) because it offers me a unique opportunity to go to school outside the USA. It might be more feasible for me to finish University entirely in America, so I'm not sold on this plan, but it's something to consider. Some background: my dad is American, but my mom is Spanish (as in, a Spaniard, a citizen of Spain, from the country in Europe. I know this is probably over the top, but I've literally had grown American adults ask me if Spain is part of Mexico.) I have a dual citizenship in the USA and Spain, which makes it very easy for me to go to school in pretty much any country that is part of the European Union. Currently, a lot of schools in the EU have programs that allow European citizens to earn Associate's and Bachelor's degrees in the USA, and then transfer to a European university for a Master's program. I would either have to go to FAMU or UM in order to do this, because European Architecture schools require you to have an accredited Bachelor's in Architecture in order to transfer to their Master's programs from an American school. Moving to a whole different country is a pretty drastic measure, so I'm not 100% convinced that I'm going to do this, but if it appears to be something that would strengthen me as an architect, it would be a good opportunity to have open to me. I am, however, willing to eschew this completely if I find an American school with that offers me an extremely good program.

That's my whole situation as it stands right now. I'd like to hear any and all opinions/stories/insults about Florida's Architecture programs. You can be as mean about it as you want. I'm not not one to get emotionally invested in schools I haven't even been to, so you're not going to hurt my feelings. Sorry if my wall of text is ugly and full of typos.

Dec 31, 19 1:36 pm

I went to UF for my bachelor's and master's degrees. I know most of the architecture faculty. I also lived in Tampa for 9 years near USF and know some people there. 

I would auggest you shift your priorities a bit. Unless you want to teach at a university, prestigiousness of your university means very little to your long term career. 

You really should visit as many of the universities on your list as you can. Narrow down your list to maybe 3, apply to those 3, and then decide based on which accept you.

Culture of the university, the city, the size of the program, the facilities, all of those things mean a lot to your happiness in your time there.  Like how your feel about big cities vs college towns, large classes vs small, do you love or hate college sports...  expand your narrow focus to other things that are important to who you are.  I say this because by the time you've been in the architecture field for 10 years, no gives a crap what university you went to.  

UF is a good program.  You have nothing to lose by applying. It is also much bigger than the other programs.  Like any other university, the faculty varies in their quality and teaching style.  For decades there was a "UF style" that was known and recognized. The founders of that style have retired and new younger faculty have brought in more parametric design and a wider range of design flavors.  I would say an advantage of the program being large is that you can probably find faculty whose design tastes align with yours.  

But I will say it again - visit the programs, walk around, ask questions.   Find the place that feels best as a place to live.

Jan 7, 20 10:38 pm

Hi, thanks for answering.


Continuation: (pressed enter to try and make a paragraph break, instantly posted the comment. As you can tell, I'm not the best at social media.) Don't worry, prominence isn't exactly the highest thing on my list as far as schools go. From the start, I was already planning to apply everywhere just to be safe. I didn't actually think about prestige until I started reading posts about colleges, and everyone seemed to be putting heavy emphasis on it. Most of Archinect's University threads seem to devolve into people insulting each other for going to schools that aren't at the top of their league. That's kind of what made me go, "Hm...If my possible future colleagues and employers care this much about prestige, maybe I should actually put some thought into my school's reputation." But like any other profession, I doubt that my choice of University will matter much outside of the early part of my career. I do plan to visit as many colleges as I can starting next semester, and learn whatever I can about their culture. This website has been pretty good for that, since I can message (read: annoy) people who have gone to these colleges, and ask what the experience was like. As a side note, I live pretty close to USF. I've heard plenty of good things about it, and I've heard that they have a good program for students who want to focus on urban development, but I don't know a lot of the finer details of their program (which I plan to change pretty soon.) Going there would also save me some good money on housing, which makes the school more tempting. [Sorry for making an even uglier wall of text, but it seems I'm not allowed to use paragraph breaks.]


Also: many major architecture programs have a study abroad program. Or multiple.  At UF you can spend a semester in Italy or China. They may have more, I haven't looked in a while. Don't be too close minded to only B.Arch programs as a means to get international experiences.

Jan 7, 20 10:40 pm

Yeah, the study abroad programs are a good point. In the week-or-so since I posted this thread, I also ran into one of my professors and talked to him about it for a while, and he made some good points about why it would be a better idea to try and find one school that fits me extremely well, instead of transferring around to a few different ones. Not gonna lie, one big factor for me in the international transfer idea was the fact that the NAAB-accredited schools in Madrid have some financial programs in place that would make it very economically efficient (*cough* I mean cheap *cough*) for me to go there. I know some people who have been stuck paying student debt for years, and now I subconsciously avoid it like the plague. I think I was also a little freaked out by the idea of studying at a school and having to apply for a master's without getting a bachelor's degree. What happens if I transfer to a university, spend ~2 years taking classes there, and then I don't get accepted into the the master's program? I apply to someone else's master's program? I transfer my credits to another degree track? I fake my death and illegally cross Canada's border, eventually becoming a hermit moonshiner in the Yukon wilderness? What if the bears get me?


Haha. If you do reasonably well in the undergrad program, the master's program will always accept you... because they already know you. The majority of their grad students are always people who stuck around from undergrad.


That's a relief to hear. When I found this site I didn't have a ton of information about what it's actually like to be in the process of getting a M.Arch, and hearing from people on Archinect helps a lot. It's definitely a lot less daunting after talking to people who have already been through it. Thanks again for answering, have a good one.


I went to FSU with the knowing I'd pursue an M.arch, finished my undergrad in 3 years, and went out of state for my M.arch. I went to undergrad at a school that didn't offer architecture with the intent of pursuing it as my masters. For me this approach worked. Got the low cost FL education and then moved to place with a program I wanted to be in and in a place I wanted to live, build a network and work (I had no intention of living in FL beyond college). Also, I enjoyed my 3 year M.arch cohort of folks that all came from different professional backgrounds (from art to bio, econ, urban planning and beyond), and professionally it's helped me to have degrees in 2 fields. 

Though I applied and got into UF, I had no desire to go there. Everyone's situation is unique as mentioned earlier. Going to the schools and speaking to faculty/previous students is invaluable. Visiting UF and FSU made the decision for me. Can you picture yourself living in Gainesville, Miami, etc for X number of years. 

Jan 9, 20 3:42 pm

Oh wow, you gamed the system pretty good. That's actually really cool. When I made this post, I had just finished reading a ton of threads where people were REALLY caught up on school prestige, which made me kind of worried to go to a school that isn't super well-known. After talking to some more people about it, though, I don't feel like prestige matters as much as finding a program that fits me well, and building a good network. Networking is honestly everything now, regardless of what career we're talking about. I'm also kind of iffy about whether or not I want to stay in Florida (I am so tired of being burnt and mosquito bitten all the time.) However, Florida seems like the kind of state that desperately needs more good architects around. I mean, no offense to Florida but...look at the place.


I’m mostly going to echo Jeremyt’s input. Go visit the schools, don’t worry too much about prestigious schools unless you want to teach.

I valued my education at UF, and that education has only increased in value since then. I made it through without any debt thanks to Prepaid, Bright Futures, and living below my means ( many many weeks $20 groceries). I do not come from a wealthy family. I only took on debt recently for graduate school and definitely feel education costs are bloated. 

UF Pedagogue: The school is extremely diverse and the teaching style tends to be more student-led classroom(which I think is great) There is a “UF style” lingering and but you can certainly design outside of it. They emphasize drawing / thinking.  A lot of students here go on to top ten colleges. I wish they would bring more “big data” and illustrator to their teaching but overall a great foundational start to the profession. Students couple there undergrad degrees with construction management and a number of other degrees. 

FAMU is more technical than UF, as it is a 5 year accredited. FAMU is also diverse but the work isn’t as...prestigious... to use your word. They are certainly prepping you for the profession. FAMU grads tend to end up in Florida from what I gather....if you are looking to bounce beyond the panhandle, ask when you visit colleges where alumni are finding jobs/ moving to :) 

USF has former UF teachers and seems like they are attracting sci-arc alumni to teach as well. I don’t know much about it beyond that.

Jan 11, 20 10:27 am

Thank you for the input, it really helps a lot. Are there examples around of UF's style? I've heard a couple people mention it, but I haven't heard any specifics about it. Comparatively, when I was looking into UM, I was able to read plenty of posts critiquing the "UM style" in depth, so it feels like there's a strange absence of data about the "UF style." Then again, that might be a good sign in favor of UF, since people only seem to post about UM's style when they're roasting it harder than Thanksgiving dinner. I was also getting a big impression that school costs are pretty bloated, but it's a relief to hear that the good old "ramen 'till you drop" lifestyle can help me with that. I still have yet to speak to advisors from FAMU, but I do appreciate a good practical approach, so I'll be sure to do my homework on them. Also, yeah, I'm not sure if "prestigious" is the best word to use (sounds like the description of a private catholic school for rich 10-year-olds) but it was the best adjective that came to mind. I even tried, but it gave me synonyms like "exalted", which would be even stranger for describing an architecture program. Good thing my English professor won't see this.


You can find examples on the internet, however, it's always best to just go in person and make your own mind on these things. 4+ years is a big investment!

Jan 12, 20 8:25 pm

I have lived in Florida all of my life and so I faced the same doubts and considerations at one point. Being from Miami I also know the UM and FIU programs very well. My family is not well off, there was no savings for college, and I am a first generation student. Most of it was paid out of pocket with Florida aid and federal help.

I graduated from the University of Florida in Spring 2019 for undergraduate so I can provide you with an up to date perspective on it. I have transferred to a private institution in the Northeast for my Graduate Degree. I still have acquaintances in the Graduate Program at UF that I speak to regularly. 

Overall, the program at UF is a good all around curriculum with its own style. If I could describe it best I would say "Analog". A lot of hand drafting,mapping, speculating, and modeling. The drawing and drafting techniques you will learn there and you will eventually combine it with digital post processing. Alot of linework with watercolor, texturing, and overlays. I had a decent digital understanding before transferring in from community college, so the hand modeling and analog designing was an added welcome. If I had to compare UF to UM or FIU, I would state that UM/ FIU teach you design to incorporate you into the workforce in Florida ( Architectonica /HOK/ etc..) while UF teaches you intuitiveness primarily with a brief focus on workforce integration later. Depending on what you are seeking this may be a pro/con for you.With UF you will undoubtedly need to pursue a Master's. Many from my graduating year transferred to other institutions around the US including European Schools (Delft).

If you wish to visit Europe UF has a Vicenza program that runs every semester either spring/fall where you take credit courses along with a studio in location. I personally have not attended but had many friends who did and they loved the experience. Again, a lot of city sketching with an added bonus of traveling to other European countries by rail.

The faculty is primarily composed of older GSD Alumni with a few from the neighboring clans in academia. The school is undergoing a slight change as the current dean is on his last semester and a new interim dean has been appointed. 

If you excel and contribute during your undergraduate time there,the graduate program at UF can become affordable if you chose to extend your stay. You can also transfer out to other institutions of your liking after if you wish to pursue your education/ outside of Florida.

If you have any lingering questions feel free to ask!

Jan 13, 20 1:34 pm
You have a lot of ambition towards the profession and if you continue down this path, possibly the discipline as well. I say that because you mentioned that you are open to the idea of going abroad for a European Degree. You have enough curiosity that could lead you to great opportunities.

No one here has mentioned Valencia>UCF, it’s basically the same pedagogy as UF. Though it isn’t accredited it could be a viable option and it’s centrally located, not to mention the tuition it is to attend Valencia>UCF will save you a lot of money. I attended Valencia College, transferred to UCF, did a study abroad to China with UF and graduated with no debt. I built a strong foundation with spatial organization and composition, a skill that is very valuable because it applies to all scales, regardless if you are interested in phenomenas or abstractions.

This is one approach towards an architecture degree in Florida. You can then decide to work in the states or abroad, SPAIN, and get your Masters degree later on. It is very useful to know what you want to do or explore at a graduate level so you are not applying aimlessly. University of Southern California was my go to.
Jan 13, 20 5:45 pm

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