UMich (no $$$) vs NCState (half $$$)


Hey guys!

I recently got admitted as an international student into SCIArc, Pratt, UMich, NCState for an M.Arch 3g. I chose to go to UMich and accepted their offer pretty early. Things have changed allot since the pandemic though.

Since visa processing is suspended, I am unable to attend UMich this fall. They say I have two options: pay the same tuition for online classes or defer to fall 2021. Being as eager as any working individual to get back on his feet asap, that does not sound good. In addition, my finances have also taken a hit from COVID.

I have been able to get my admission offer reinstated from NCState and am now looking at it as another option. The fees minus scholarship is less than half that at UMich and I have heard that it is a good school. Also, they have a new batch of students beginning from Jan 2021.

I'm here ask your opinion on the following:

1) Assuming that I apply myself to the best of my potential anywhere, is paying twice the money for a better known and appreciated college like UMich worth it in terms of facilities, networking, job opportunities, etc ? Am I truly making a stronger investment into my future by going for a better ranked school?

2) I have heard good things about NCState on the forum and elsewhere. However, my only concern is that they have a high acceptance rate. I want to be surrounded by people that will challenge and inspire me and I'm worried that might not be the case at NCState.

I hope to hear from you guys soon. Thanks!

Jun 30, 20 9:09 pm

1. I don't think that UMich gives you any better networking or job opportunities than going to any other school. The alumni coordinator will tell you about Linkedin and the alumni development director will send out lovely fundraising emails. Paying full without access to the equipment is ludicrous, your time would be better spent submitting entries to architecture competitions. I think if you're going to go to a school, take the cheapest option and crush your projects

2. Don't worry about those around you. There will be those you think are better and those you think are worse than you no matter where you end up. 

Jul 1, 20 6:05 pm  · 
1  · 

Thank you SpatialSojourner,

I agree, paying those fees for online instruction is ridiculous. I was talking about paying full tuition next year for in-person classes (hopefully).

Also, by networking, I was talking more about making useful connections with other students who have similar goals. As much I love and prefer the solo approach to things, i think architecture really needs me to get out of my shell and build lasting relationships that will support my career. 

But then again, I am a 3g student who hasn't even started the program. Many people in this forum with more first-hand experience than me say "take the cheapest option". Do you think that is the right option even if I am comparing it with in-person instruction next year at NCState?

Jul 2, 20 12:18 am  · 
Umich is not that exceptional. They have cool equipment but it’s not a particularly well connected school
Jul 2, 20 8:45 am  · 

I would go with the significantly less expensive option. Networking is all what you make of it.  These are both big state universities with plenty of opportunities for making contacts (and neither is all that impressive of a magnet for the super-rich-and-well-connected.)  The caliber of your classmates at either won't differ all that much.  UMich is ranked higher, mostly because of faculty credentials and facilities, but it always gets a more than healthy share of stereotypical Midwestern meat-heads.  NC State is a solid program that is attracting a lot of international students lately.  Either one will have its share of talented and dedicated students, and not.

But if it were me, I might defer admission right now if I felt strongly that I wanted an in-person experience.  I would work for another year or two, even if not in architecture.  I can tell you from personal experience that some universities that are publicly indicating that they're returning to in-person on-campus instruction this fall are simultaneously negotiating with their faculty which 30% to 70% of them are still going to be teaching online through '20-'21, because they do not have enough space on campus to address safe social distancing and class size caps for anywhere near all classes and programs.  It's likely that wherever you go in the US you'll end up with somewhat of a hybrid experience at best, and all of the universities of course have contingency plans to go back to 100% online instruction if whatever confluence of COVID, flu season, and public fears and policies dictate it.

Jul 2, 20 9:25 am  · 

I attended an online course and found that it was harder in many ways.  

Jul 2, 20 9:57 am  · 

Thanks for the useful response eeayeeayo,

Your advice and information on deferral was very useful. Looks like I might just choose to defer to fall 2021. Also, wow! is the difference in quality of education and student body really so little between these two schools? The acceptance rates and rankings had me believe otherwise but I couldn't be happier to change those beliefs..

At the moment, NCState is allowing me to defer to spring or fall next year. Do you think I should even be considering spring? I am unfamiliar with the US education system so please excuse me if this is a silly question. In case I go for a spring start, should I be expecting any issues with my academic calendar, internship prospects and/or class scheduling due to the misalignment of my start date from that of regular batches of students?

Also, thanks for your input on online classes Steve, noted.

Jul 2, 20 1:32 pm  · 

There are very few M.Arch programs that have an option to start in the spring, so in some respects it could be an advantage, because if this means you graduate in the winter then you'll be job-seeking at a time of year when most new grads aren't. For some firms (such as those doing school and university projects, or winter resorts) winter and spring are their busiest production seasons, because the majority of construction happens in the summer.

I can't see why it would be likely to affect things one way or the other for something like summer internship prospects, unless starting in the spring means you need to do one or more summer semesters.  Assuming you have summers free to work at firms then they're not likely to care much exactly how many semesters  of your M.Arch you've completed.

Whether or not there will be academic scheduling difficulties depends on the particular program and how popular a spring semester start is. If there's usually a large group of students starting in spring then the course offerings are probably worked out well for that option. If it's a less common option that only a handful of students choose to do then you'll probably run into some snags.


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