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Stuck in a low GPA hole and unsure how to proceed with accreditation (Canada)

davidchipperfieldsglasses

Hi all. My career goal is to become a licensed architect in Canada, but I am struggling to find a path due to the reckless decisions I have made in the past. 

A bit of background: I graduated with a BDes in Industrial Design from a Canadian school in 2021. I did this program because no architectural undergrad is available in my province. During my last two years of study, I was a very unsuccessful student for reasons entirely within my control. I won't go too much into it, but I became very passive about schoolwork and didn't bother handing in most projects and skipped many classes. My CGPA for my degree came out to 2.7 and my GPA calculated over the past 60 credits is 2.5. Two F's on my transcript and six withdrawals in total. 

Needless to say, I am not an ideal M.Arch candidate for any school in Canada. 

My question for this forum is what would you do if you were in this position? Do you have any feedback or suggestions on any of the following options?

I should mention the schools I am looking at are: University of Calgary, University of Manitoba (Masters preparation program+MArch), University of Toronto, and Carleton University.

I am currently looking at the following options for accreditation in Canada:


1) Apply to M.Arch programs with my poor grades anyway (3 years)

This is the "hail mary" option and I would be relying on showcasing my industrial design projects from undergrad in my portfolio. I can touch up industrial design projects, drawings, paintings, and sculpture I did in my undergrad and use these in my portfolio. I did very well during my first two years of study so I can get recommendations from second year studio professors without issue. Highly unlikely to be admitted except for extreme cases such as application counts being low for that given year. Application will probably not even be viewed as every school in Canada states a 3.0 minimum at the least. Getting past these minimum requirements often requires the department submitting your application to the dean for their approval and decision rests upon the dean. 

All in all probably the worst option at this time. I have talked to admissions officers from all above mentioned schools and only UofT was able to guarantee that I would still be considered for admission, pending external review by deans office due to the low GPA. Other schools gave vague language and could not guarantee that portfolio/recommendations/statement would be viewed regardless of GPA. 


2) Do one year of open studies at my local university then apply for M.Arch (1 year open studies + 3 years M.Arch) 

This option is somewhat better than option 1. If I were able to do two semesters of open studies (24 credits) and achieve A- (3.7) or above in all classes this would increase my last 60 credits above the 3.0 threshold. 

Downsides here: GPA calculation varies by school and admission officers were vague in regards to whether open studies extra to the degree will be calculated in admissions GPA. For example, UCalgary advisor I spoke with stated that open studies grades will be "considered" by admission committee but not weighted in overall calculation of admission ranking. (UCalgary weighs all applicants on a scale of 100: 40 points from undergrad GPA, 40 points portfolio, 20 points recommendations, essay, experience and other considerations) Im guessing this means that any courses extra to the degree will fall under the last 20 points of admissions weighting. 

Basically, I would still be relying on external review by the dean of the faculty for any admission with this method. Although success might be marginally more viable than option 1.


3) Complete a second degree in Architectural Science at Athabasca then apply for M.Arch ( 3 years BSc + 2 years M.Arch)

This option is perhaps the most expensive and time intensive upfront (Syllabus is more lengthy but is part time study) but does offer the clearest path to an M.Arch since it would become my primary GPA calculation for any program I apply to. Another benefit is that I could work as a designer/drafter between finishing this program and starting an M.Arch. Because this is an accredited program I would be able to apply to 2 year M.Arch programs. 

I would be able to get some credit from my BDes to bring down total time to 3-3.5 years for this program. This would be full time study online. 


4) Complete Architectural Technologist diploma + gain work experience as technologist then apply for M.Arch ( 2 years AT diploma + X years working + 3 years M.Arch)

A decent option overall in terms of building real work experience but I think that I would still be held back by my undergrad grades here. None of the schools I talked to calculate grades earned in Technologist diplomas as part of their admissions GPA. The technologist diploma would still be an extra consideration to my undergraduate GPA. 

However, I both UofT and UofC advisors told me that in appealing admissions to the dean of the faculty it is important to have lots of working experience in the specific field of study and there is precedent for those with poor GPA but lots of work experience being admitted to the respective programs. 

Risk here is that I could be pigeonholed into drafting or unable to find work in architecture at all. I have spoken to a few technologist grads who were only able to find work in manufacturing or hvac design.


5) Complete Architectural Technologist diploma then start RAIC syllabus ( 2 years AT diploma + 10-12 years part-time study) 

Overall I think this option is feasible for me but I am very conflicted with this one. It is incredibly time intensive and probably requires more dedication than all other options. I know an M.Arch is intense but maintaining consistency in courses for 10 straight years while working full time sounds much more difficult.  

The downsides here are numerous. The main one that sticks out to me is that I will not be able to advance in salary as quickly and earning potential will be capped at the level of an intern architect for the next 14 years. Even longer if there is a major recession and I am out of work. Furthermore, I don’t know how my work experience under the syllabus will be viewed by employers. Would I be competitive for associate or project positions after finishing the syllabus? Lots of questions with this one. 

I thank anyone who has taken the time to read all this and I appreciate your time. Any and all feedback is appreciated. 

 
Jan 29, 24 6:39 pm
davidchipperfieldsglasses

I should also add I am considering just applying for AT/drafting/design jobs at Arch firms and building experience then going to apply for the M.Arch. Unclear how my chances at an M.Arch would benefit though, as I have seen users on this very forum rejected from UCalgary despite years of experience in architecture firms. 

Jan 29, 24 7:36 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

There is a lot to unpack here but first things first, why architecture?  You are aware that the education is very demanding and entrance to schools (even low tier UofT) is highly competitive?  What makes you think you could do better in a graduate program when you can't handle basic undergrad-level stuff?  

Second, all schools have a GPA floor for entry and unfortunately, that 2.7 will be with you front and centre.  Some students can overcome low GPA with stellar portfolio but they at least need to meet the min GPA requirements for entry.  What do you have for stellar folio material?  I doubt that 2.2gpa over the last 2 years was because you spent too much time preparing your M.arch folio.

With all that said, UofT will be your only real chance.  It's the largest school and they take the largest cohort each year.  It's a mediocre m.arch school and a piss poor design undergrad school, but take what you can get.  The fact that they are willing to consider a 2.2 GPA applicant reinforces the already bad reputation.  

Not sure if possible post-graduation but perhaps you can approach your undergrad and redo courses?  I did something similar in undergrad where I redid several classes (in addition to my regular work load) to remove a few Bs and turn them to As. If not possible, the best option will be a few years in a technical college and there are loads of those around.  Look at architectural technologist programs and other related fields but it will not be design nor will it replace your existing GPA baggage.  If architecture really is your calling, then really consider looking into the RAIC Syllabus program as you've noted.  It's a self-guided program run by volunteer architects and is a replacement for the traditional M.arch path.  It's long (10yish) and applicants need loads of self discipline, but this way you can still become an architect despite your undergrad results.

You're worried about maintaining consistency in academia? Oh baby, do I have some news for you... the real architecture world is far more difficult than school.


Jan 30, 24 8:43 am  · 
1  · 
davidchipperfieldsglasses

Thanks for your reply, Why architecture? Mainly, I can't really see myself doing anything else. I have been on this path since highschool and I consider the last 2 years of my undergrad as a huge problem but I can't change it so time to move forward. I could just focus on Industrial Design but its an incredibly niche job market (just compare ID on Bureau of Labour Stats vs Architects).

Jan 30, 24 2:42 pm  · 
1  · 
davidchipperfieldsglasses

I will look more seriously at the syllabus because it may be my only shot, and I will probably apply to M.Arch at UofT at the very least, but you are right that I need a near-incredible portfolio for any real chance there. I have various projects from my undergrad but nothing that can stand up to the work that is done in BSc, or BAS programs like TMU and Carleton.

Jan 30, 24 2:58 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

^grades/GPA are used twice in the application process. The first is the main floor cut off which will vary each year depending on the quality of the applicant pool. I don't remember exactly what it was back 20y ago but I recall something about 3.0gpa as the floor with 3.6gpa being the average. The other time grades are used are for tie-breakers if there are few spots left and a decent pool of remaining applicants. A stellar portfolio and solid reference letters + statement of intent might be your ticket.

Jan 30, 24 3:18 pm  · 
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davidchipperfieldsglasses

I'll add that I have looked into other careers seriously: Civil Engineering, Urban Design, and Urban/Community Planning. The same GPA barrier exists if I want to pivot to any of those paths. Mainly that I either need a masters degree (in the case of Urban Design or Planning) or that I need to be admitted to a second undergrad (Civil Engineering). There is a civil technologist pathway to becoming a Civil Engineer which involves 2 years in a civil tech program then 3-4 years in a BSc Eng program. Some days I do think that maybe I don't have the creative chops anymore and a more scientific career like Civil Engineering would be better suited to me.

Jan 30, 24 3:18 pm  · 
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ziming

I think if you go College Confidential and use the "Chance/Match Me" to get a group of credible comments explaining what is your most suitable pathway would be based on your current status. Then, i recommend checking out achivar.com there are many MFA, MArch current students /alumni teaching portfolio specifically for that particular major and university (if you decided to go down the creative industries).

Feb 2, 24 10:07 pm  · 
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Almosthip

I am an architectural technologist that is currently over half way through the RAIC syllabus program.  Let me start by saying its hard work.  You need self discipline to complete the coarse and studios.  Not an easy route at all.

Additionally I don't think that Athabasca Architecture Degree is accredited by the CERB, unless you are registered in the RAIC Syllabus program. 

Jan 30, 24 12:58 pm  · 
2  · 
davidchipperfieldsglasses

Ok I might have misheard that. I think the alumni I talked to told me that the Athabasca BSc gives you advanced credit for the 3-year M.Arch at UCalgary and cuts your foundation year course-load in half.

Jan 30, 24 3:03 pm  · 
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davidchipperfieldsglasses

How has your career progression been impacted by taking the syllabus route? Are you still able to take on new roles while doing the syllabus, or are you in the same position/pay range you were 5 years ago?

Jan 30, 24 3:06 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

I am an OAA supervisor for a syllabus student and am tangentially involved in my local RAIC chapter... From my experience, career movement is slower and many get snug in a technologist role because that's typically what they are first hired as (need office change for role change but hard without design or project management experience). I know 3 very successful syllabus graduates but the churn of mediocre applicants is high. (it attracts all sorts of weirdos...). Ahip is better positioned tho.

Jan 30, 24 3:12 pm  · 
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kenchiku

The main issue with a low GPA is the school worries about giving you a seat over another potential student, only for you to slack off or drop out due to the demanding workload. I think what you have been doing for the last 3 years since graduating can greatly help or hinder you here. Have you been working in the field and producing new work? Applying to MArch three years post-graduation with a bad GPA and only projects from that time is not going to look good... Applying to MArch three years post-graduation with a bad GPA but three years worth of new projects and professional experience is going to show you may have just had a life slump in school but got back on your feet.

Jan 31, 24 7:17 am  · 
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davidchipperfieldsglasses

For the past 2 years I have worked as a junior estimator for a medium-sized masonry/stone contractor. I guess there is some skillset crossover with architecture, but I have not had any design experience other than a summer job with a wayfinding/signage firm. Any portfolio projects I could throw together would be unsolicited designs or touching-up school projects. I could probably get a full time position with the wayfinding firm I worked at, might be better for building a portfolio and then applying to M.Arch.

Jan 31, 24 9:32 pm  · 
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kenchiku

So you haven't been doing any design work, either professionally or leisurely (sketching, competitions, etc)? Are you sure you want to pursue architecture? You were passive about school and did poorly and haven't pursued design post-graduation. From an outsider's perspective, it seems like you are more interested in the idea of saying you're an architect than actually being an architect. What drives you to pursue some of these rather lengthy options your considering?

Feb 4, 24 9:21 am  · 
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smaarch

Here's to optimism. I'll reply but I don't know how things have changed or anything  about  the admission system in Canada. So for what it is worth....you remind me of me.
I would look at places which have open enrollment - NYC has CUNY and NYIT. While they may not be regarded as the "best" you can get a solid education. Just remember the trajectory of your education and practice is set by you.
Just check on reciprocity back to Canada 

Jan 31, 24 7:29 pm  · 
2  · 
davidchipperfieldsglasses

Hi thanks for your reply. I am familiar with NYIT having a low bar for admission. I will look into CUNY too.

Jan 31, 24 9:48 pm  · 
1  · 
smaarch

I'm a bit distant these days but I taught at NYIT for many years. If you wish - you are welcome to contact me.

Jan 31, 24 9:57 pm  · 
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gual

I went to Dal and there were lots of students who did something similar to option 2, or did a very short program of some kind (like a 2-3 term thing at an art school) to bump their calculated GPA a little higher. So I would call each school and get the exact low-down on how they calculate and whether "open studies" is any different than short diploma-type programs. Tbh doing some unique spatial art/design stuff will help you get into a school just as much as getting technologist training, as it will diversify your portfolio.

If you've been making cool self-motivated stuff over the years (maybe you paint or sculpt or make tables...) then option 1 isn't a bad idea. But if your portfolio is predominantly student stuff I would reconsider.

Feb 2, 24 5:26 pm  · 
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nabrU

Just get your rich parents to send you to the AA then you can climb the ladder at an affiliated practice by providing jobs. Easy.

Feb 3, 24 3:33 am  · 
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bowling_ball

I have a friend in this boat. Moved overseas to get her Master's there, partly because she couldn't get a job in Canada. Nobody here gives a whiff where you went to school, so she's in for a rude awakening when she graduates. I don't think she's ever had a job in her life.

Feb 3, 24 4:39 pm  · 
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whistler

I for one like any avenue where you get a diploma as Building Technologist. Not a fan of the Syllabus program, but the Bldg Tech will give you real skills that can be applied in arch school and in real jobs while doing school and after.  Most Arch students graduate without a clue how to draw and detail a building.  You will gain some good insight and better technical skills in my opinion.  Arch school will teach you how to design / program and solve problems through design.  The bldg tech will hale with everything else.


Feb 5, 24 4:36 pm  · 
1  · 

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