Transferring MArch program

Herzog and The Moron

Hi guys,

I'm having a rough start to grad school. I'm keeping up with the work just fine and actually really like my professors but I just don't feel very engaged by my current school's approach (the way I did throughout undergrad, GSD Design Discovery, My job, and even working through my portfolio for apps). I fully understand the importance of the fundamentals and starting small but there is no clear trajectory which makes it really hard to get excited and begin to explore how the smaller exercises will support the end goals of our final projects. We've spent a lot of time investigating and replicating existing objects and moments and have yet to actually design anything (4 weeks in). Is this normal?

Don't get me wrong, I want to make this work, and I hate feeling like I'm complaining because I want nothing more than to be able to throw myself into my work and believe in, or at least understand why I'm doing what I'm doing (I know professionally that won't always be the case). It's hard to admit it too myself but I've looked forward to beginning my MArch for a long time and its just not getting me as engaged or excited as I had hoped and as all my past academic architecture experiences have. This leads me to believe that I may not be in the best fit program. 

I got accepted to a bunch of the mid tier (top non-ivy) schools and one of them is where I am now. I'm wondering if other people have had similar initial concerns but were patient and it worked out or if these are all signs that I should look into transferring? If so, how possible (if at all) is transferring MArch programs? I'm currently in a 3 year program and Ideally I wouldn't start from scratch since I'm already going to complete my first year here.

Who can I talk to to get advice on this? Should I bring up my concerns to my current school or will they either brush them off or blindly discourage me? Is there any reason not to reach out to the schools I turned down about potentially transferring? How might this be received?

I know I need to give this more time and thats my plan but I also wanted to see how and if other people have gone about this so I can start thinking about if its an option I want to consider.

Any suggestions encouraged. Thanks!

Sep 21, 22 10:56 am

First, love the username.

Second, every time I get discouraged in the profession (which happens a lot, if I am being honest) I have to take a step back and remind myself why I am here, why I fell in love with architecture and design and give myself some space to realign my compass. To be able to grow as a human is a slow burn and architecture (and school) is not an easy grab. I think that is subtly one of the reasons why we are drawn to it....or at least in my mind. I love the challenge, knowing some days will be shit and I will be drowning and other days I will feel like I am on cloud nine after solving some technical problem or just feeling "aligned". I find peace knowing that this is an up and down but I care about what I do and that in of itself brings me satisfaction.

Honestly, school for me was such a reprieve from society. I was able to throw myself into something all day, everyday and not let the norms of typical society weigh down on me. It was my escape. I surrounded myself with like minded individuals, who I could shoot the shit about my qualms, professors we hated, ones we liked and that really helped. Those friends I made will never be over taken with those in the professional world, it just won't ever happen. I am a terribly introverted person mind you.

Do you have any professors who you can buddy up with that you feel are aligned with your vision for academia and the profession? If there are a few, hell even one, go for it. Take a seminar course with them, pick their brain. For me, this made all the difference in the world when I hit my masters. I found two professors who cut through the bullshit and we jammed out on philosophy in the profession, a ton of reading and this offered me a break from studio and structural courses, etc. Feeling like I am part of something aside from just the ins and outs of studio again, really allowed me space to grow as more than just a studio grunt.

I would encourage you to take a breather, go for a fucking walk or a weekend away to give yourself some space. At the end of the day if you keep finding yourself in your head about how much you hate it, it maybe worth looking at other schools if you want to transfer that badly.

Until then, HOLD FAST partner, you are one of us.

Sep 21, 22 11:11 am  · 
3  · 

It is possible to transfer to another M.Arch program but It's not likely to have many credits transferred since they all have very different curriculum. 

Good luck! Good things will come.

Sep 21, 22 5:23 pm  · 
1  · 

Investigating and replicating 4 weeks in is quite normal.  Most 1st year curricula kind of suck in US schools.  Too many of the exercises are unduly indirect in relation to the subjects allegedly being taught.  I don't know if switching schools will make it better. 

As long as your program has you designing something that looks like buildings by second year, you should be fine.  Know that you probably don't have the best professors either.  First year studio is usually the shit end of the stick when it comes to teaching gigs.  The higher level classes usually have the stronger instructors teaching them.

Sep 22, 22 12:35 am  · 
3  · 

Not designing anything "architectural" 4 weeks in is normal at plenty of well-regarded schools. It can be frustrating if you are a practical type. I suggest walking through the upper year crits and seeing what kind of work is being done. Also, keep in mind that unless you are on scholarship you can interpret assignments rather liberally and use them as opportunities to learn a certain technique or workflow. Worst case, they pass you with a B. I had to design weird objects for most of my first year. I knew I wasn't strong at rendering so I took it as an opportunity to brush up.

Sep 28, 22 5:08 pm  · 
2  · 
Herzog and The Moron

Thanks for the words of encouragement and advice everybody. I accept that design-wise the first year might not be what I was most excited for. I actually consider myself fairly conceptual but my main complaint here is the lack of structure and direction in why we're doing what we're doing and what we are supposed to be learning from and working towards through it. Similarly the different courses feel pretty incohesive with each other and the overall trajectory is not yet evident.

The part of grad school that I was most excited for was the comradery and social bubble that EnigmaticOne refers to and I was pretty confident that that would be possible at any school but I'm currently sitting in a studio that I've only seen over 20% full during studio meeting times. The studio culture is not what I was hoping for to say the least.

I still have time to make this work and that is 100% my plan but just as I make sure I'm fully prepared for each assignment I have I want to make sure I'm fully prepared to transfer if in a couple months I decide I want to submit those applications. 

So the questions are:

Does anybody know how these concerns and line of thinking could be received by my current faculty and administration? I'd ideally have a couple of them write letters of recommendation if it came to that as I'm doing well in the classes, but I don't know if they would be hesitant to support me in what might be seen as jumping ship. Similarly, will the schools I reach out to to ask about transfer policies judge me for already looking into this option?

Sep 28, 22 8:06 pm  · 

Can you tell if the lack of studio participation is limited to your class or is it typical of the whole school? If your school is allowing this level of disengagement across the board, I get why you might want to leave.

Sep 29, 22 12:19 pm  · 

Writing rec letter is part of being an academic; every now and then you run into a bad apple but if you do well in someone's course generally they'll write a letter. I wouldn't bother getting into the details. Just tell them for personal reasons or because of such-and-such specific interest you want to go to another program. People drop out, change programs, take hiatuses, etc all the time. People are unhappy in the first year all the time. it happens. You can say the culture isn't a fit if you really want, but that's not a conversation you have to have.

Sep 29, 22 6:32 pm  · 

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