2007 M.Arch applicants, commiserate here!


In the spirit of Guiggster, q+, and others who were applying last year, I thought it'd be nice to start a "let's all moan together" thread and uh yeah. I will commence the procrastination process, feel free to contribute when necessary.

So I'm a non-arch applying to only one school (Berkeley) and ... already having doubts that I'll make it in. Almost done with personal statement and recs, but have to get cracking on the biographical narrative that Berkeley requires, plus do something about that portfolio. (Doesn't help that I'm in Japan and no one seems to know where any print shops are. It's either Kinko's,, or buying a printer that I will probably only use for the portfolio and then have to sell/give away when I move back)

Biggest worry is that I don't have a drawing/painting/art background, and whatever I've done is nothing near spectacular, so all the work in my portfolio is derived from my old film projects... which is fine except I feel like my entire portfolio looks like a graphic design book and will come off as fluff to the admissions committee. Blahblahblah...

I'm taking a week off from working on stuff cause it's going nowhere... I know I only have one application to do, so I'm sure you other folks don't feel sorry for me at all hahaha, but just needed to share.

Alright, the end. Oh yeah - I guess I'm feeling the pressure cause I set a Nov. 15 deadline for myself, I'm working at the same time, and friends who keep ringing my doorbell and want to hang out every night...

Oct 24, 06 2:17 am

I'm working on apps for schools in the US from a distant edge of the Pacific, New Zealand! Print shops charge a fortune for decent printing. Knowing how clunky the post can be here, I have to cut the deadlines by an extra week. Other than that, not much to complain about. I'm happy to be applying to schools and I know the time is right to go to school.

Statement is done, portfolio on the way... What me, worry?

Seopee, do you have sketches, things that show your process? Show that you can be analytical, even if it isn't architecture work.

Where are you working in Japan?

Oct 24, 06 2:50 am

I have "sketches" (storyboards) for one of the projects on post-its which is my general mode of process, but they're very stick-figurish... at the same time, they really match up to the final product, each shot, etc., so maybe that'll work. Also did a research project during study abroad analyzing Tokyo cityscape from an acoustic point of view. I'm just being lazy, don't want to hash it all out yet.

Should I put text for the film projects (some of them are experimental) and explain my process or reasoning behind what I did...? Everyone seems to be saying "your work should speak for itself" -- I hate that they can't open the portfolio and have an embedded quicktime movie in each page.

Currently working as an English teacher =P in Hokkaido. It's like 40 degrees here, and going to snow next week -- I need to get back to a place where snowmen don't live.

Oct 24, 06 10:40 am

Uh oh. Here we go, 2006-2007 edition.

Are those of us applying to non-MArch grad programs welcome on this thread as well? My parameters are a little different but I too, get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I think of completing my grad apps.

Oct 24, 06 10:43 am

yeah, can an MFA applicant from an arch background commiserate with y'all?

I am just getting my little packets (what schools I'm applying to, their various forms, my resume and a mini-portfolio) to my recommenders. I haven't even started personal statements, and my portfolio is going to be a work in progress until probably the middle of December. My deadlines aren't until January and February, but I still feel like I'm behind...

Oct 24, 06 10:52 am

I am getting that stuff to my recommenders right now too! I am in trouble though, I can't figure out who would be good to approach for my 3rd's hard because I am applying to more technical programs so I am having trouble deciding.

I too feel like I'm behind. I have set deadlines for myself of January 1st but the real deadlines aren't until Feb-Mar. Why am I freaking out? Is it because I have NO IDEA how to start my personal statement? Yeah, that could be it.

Oct 24, 06 11:12 am

uh oh...and so it begins.

i've got the statement of purpose, gre, and prereqs out of the way. working on "little packets" for recommenders (nice, rationalist) and muddling my way through the quagmire that will eventually become my portfolio.

also trying to figure out a format for my resume/curriculum vitae. any suggestions?

seopee -- maybe you can grab some stills from your films that really show a sophisticated/beautiful/compelling composition within the shot? demonstrate your design skill through your choice of shot. particularly if you have a strong visual style. supplement these images with a couple of brief text blurbs that describe what's going on in the shot (either directly or abstractly). since a film is a series of snapshots shown in quick succession, it doesn't seem like a stretch...just have to view your work from a different perspective. most of all, no matter what your background, let the portfolio itself be the best example of your visual design potential. people on this site have submitted written work, mathematical proofs, you name it, with success. a lot of my creative output over the last few years has been music, so i'm in the same spot. good luck!

oh yeah, non-arch background...geographically constrained so i'm only applying to 2 schools (SCI-Arc and UCLA). semi-annoyed that UCLA moved their deadline up (Jan 5 last year) to Dec 15. i imagine they're hoping to do a better job of letting people know a bit earlier this year.

Oct 24, 06 11:47 am

haha, yeah, that could be it. I came back from San Francisco feeling like I could FINALLY handle that, but haven't had time to actually sit down and work on it yet, so the nervousness is sinking in again. I really recommend visiting a school, talking to their admissions rep and relevant program director, etc. for figuring out the personal statement. I know it sounds wierd, but basically, having to represent myself, who I am, what I want to do, how their school fits in to that, verbally, made me realize that that's all I have to do in writing, and it made me feel a lot more prepared to actually write the thing.

I told my recommenders to have their letters out by Dec. 15th, so I want to have my statements of purpose and apps done by then too, and my 'base' portfolio done by then, so that all I have to do at that point is process the portfolio into the different preferred formats for each school, and fill out the financial aid stuff.

Oct 24, 06 11:54 am

oh, and that was in response to WonderK, brocolli just types faster than me....

Does everyone end up giving the recommenders the same sort of package? I had thought I was being ultra-prepared and even pretty creative (it was a nice-looking setup, put my new packaging skills to use), but now it seems like everyone's doing the same thing.

Brocolli, format the resume similarly to the portfolio. Visual unity is a good thing!

Oct 24, 06 12:00 pm

DubK -- like rationalist mentioned, i felt that thinking through the process she recommends really helped me really galvanize why i want to go into architecture, why grad school, why this or that school. i know you're coming from a different perspective having already been in arch for a while, but it got the juices flowing so to speak. just do be afraid to revise a lot or even start over as you go through your thought process.

Oct 24, 06 12:04 pm

thanks rationalist -- i was thinking of putting the resume on the back page of the portfolio, so i'd be in line with your recommendation. i was planning on putting down relevant experience and education, but is there anything else you'd recommend i include (informationally that is)?

also, since 2 of my recommenders are non-arch folks (a drawing instructor and lieutenant colonel in the air force) i thought it helpful to at least put together a bullet paper describing the skills needed for an arch career and most importantly, an arch student. that and a resume are really the extent of my "package". your approach is quite a bit more involved so you're definitely ultra-prepared!

Oct 24, 06 12:10 pm

BJet- like the choices of recommenders - is there a story behind the airforce connection?

My references for grad school were an union business agent, two undergrad arch-professors, and one hollywood production designer...

Oct 24, 06 12:19 pm

I also put down my affiliations (LEED, Alpha Rho Chi), and awards I'd won in undergrad, and had an 'objective' category, so they had a basic statement of what I wanted to do and why, without my needing to write the whole statement of purpose yet. The bullet points sound like a good idea for the non-arch folks.

DubK- describe your references to us. For instance I would characterize mine as, 1)elective professor, FAIA, associated dean, excellent character/leadership reference, 2)first year studio prof and thesis panel member, knows my approach well, and 3) graphic design prof, doesn't know me as well but shows that I'm working on preparing for my chosen field. Maybe if we know where your first two are coming from, we can help suggest where to look for the third?

Oct 24, 06 12:20 pm

Quickly because I actually do have work to do today:

recommender #1 is a female architect who I respect greatly. I worked for her at a previous job and she is now director of Campus Planning and University architect. That's the professional reference.

recommender #2 is a former building construction and studio professor. He is now Associate Dean. That's academic reference #2.

The other one or two recommenders should probably be quasi-academic in nature as well. I have a couple of people lined up but I am having trouble making the final leap to approaching them. How important is a direct academic relationship? I.e., one is a professor that I know personally through school and community activities but actually never had him for class. Argh this is frustrating.

Oct 24, 06 1:49 pm

ok, i'm not applying until the next go-round, but i thougth i would offer my support to all of you. best of luck!

here's my second hand $0.02 ...
this past weekend I saw David Lewis (of ltl) speak at an Emerging Professionals Conference in St. Petersburg, FL (soon to be covered as a 3-part blog). well...he stuck around after his keynote presentation (for the whole weekend, in fact)...a few of us 'between undergrad and grad' people had a chance to speak with him (he is the director of the MArch program at Parsons). In short, his thoughts regarding application packages were (as I recall):

-letter of intent and portfolio matter the most...
-grades and GRE are 2nd...
-letters of rec serve to back-up the above stuff^ (unless your letter-writer knows someone on the admissions committee)...

-for portfolio - put your best project 1st, your 2nd best project last.

he also mentioned something along the lines of: 'ok, so they can write, check' in reference to the letter of intent. i took that to mean that although the content is important, the use of it as a demonstration of ability to represent yourself via written word was the main objective of that piece of the pie. we were, however, a bunch of pre-MArch-ers with arch undergrads, so...this advice may have been specifically directed. ?

ok. heretoforth I will avoid this thread like the plague. good luck!

Oct 24, 06 2:40 pm

thanks AP! ...for your advice, not your promise to avoid the thread.


treekiller -- not too compelling a story really. i spent 5 years active duty as an officer in the air force doing acquisition program management for satellite systems and been doing the same thing as a contractor since then (6 years). my direct customer is this lieutenant colonel and we have a great working relationship. he's an excellent guy and i thought it'd be helpful to get a rec from the person who is directly impacted by my work.

my third recommendation will likely be my instructor from a community college architecural design class i'm currently taking.

so 2 educational and 1 professional.

Oct 24, 06 4:12 pm

will be checking in for useful info (for next year or the year after) from time to time.

good luck everyone.

Oct 24, 06 9:17 pm

Seopee: If you're in Japan, you have access to some of the best printing materials on earth!! Okay, so maybe not in Hokkaido, but if I were you, I'd go to tokyo rather than kinko's. Try the shop Sekaido in Shinjuku or they also have a branch in Ginza. I'm in Hong Kong now, but flew all the way there just to pick up some of that great Japanese paper last week so I can bind my own portfolio. You might want to buy a printer too - you can get a pretty sweet one for less than you might think. We all know English teachers in Japan are loaded anyway!!

Oct 24, 06 10:57 pm

ah, this brings me back

Oct 25, 06 1:33 am

hahahahahaha... thanks for all the suggestions/encouragement (wow, after a day at work, had no idea i'd come back to this many replies!) needless to say, anyone is welcome to this thread =P we're all in this together eh? in addition to m.arch, i'm actually considering a music therapy masters at nyu at the same time... so uh yeah, any pre-meds out there? come on in!

kark-- what kind of paper did you get? i'm actually "surveying" the schools i work at and seeing what resources they have available in the faculty room, hehe. no nice photo printers yet though... (okay okay, I'll get a printer =P)

so far, ditto what everyone else has said. i gave my recommenders a semi-verbose package: personal statement, resume, document that had all the relevant addresses, deadlines, info about the school, etc. and a fun japanese postcard for them to mail back to me when they send the rec in. even though that pit of my stomach feeling comes and goes daily, seems like everyone's really on top of things -- well done chaps!

Oct 25, 06 2:28 am

WonderK -- about personal statement -- rationalist/bjet already said it (who you are, how you got interested in the field, what you want to study, why, why this school, etc...)

haha, i won't add anything revolutionary, but i started out (silly me) thinking this was just another one of those essays where you could write it start to finish in one go, let stream of consciousness happen, see where it takes you, and add a blurb about the school at the end. yeahhh... luckily, i have people willing to be brutal, and even though my original draft made for an "easy/entertaining read," it really didn't go anywhere in terms of providing clear reasons and direction for why urban design, why this school ... actually, reminded me much more of an admissions essay for undergrad, where you can kind of just be freeflowy and not to the point and show creativity blahblah. which comes across as extremely unconvincing.

anyway, i think just sitting down and writing is the best way to start =P (duh seopee), even writing about how much you hate the admissions process is fine haha cause it's still germane, and i think eventually your thoughts will swing back around to "i hate this process, but i'm still applying BECAUSE..."

then when you get it down on paper, things are forced to become more concrete, it's easier to see what still rings true and what doesn't, and especially when others read it (actually i think just talking to a good friend or sibling about why you're applying and what makes you excited about the field is a good first draft -- if they can record the conversation haha)

okay, you get the gist. i found whenever i was browsing a school's website, reading articles or faculty bios, a "ding ding" would go off in my head -- and then i started copying/pasting those blurbs or taking note of what was going on that made those "dings" happen, narrowing down what exactly in the field makes me want to study it. especially when looking at course descriptions, i saw the classes i would be excited about taking cause it related to my interest in ________.

sorry, i know most of what i said was obvious common sense, but i'm sure your statement will turn out great. :) ganbatte ne (good luck)

Oct 25, 06 3:15 am

Thanks seopee! I am working on all of this tonight. I will be back.....

Oct 25, 06 8:29 am

oh, good luck DubK! I've got so much work for my night classes that I'm not going to start the personal statements for a couple more weeks. I really hope that things calm down by then so I'll have a little more time....

Your third recommender sounds fine. My only other suggestion would be to ask a prof. from a course more distinctly relevant to the area to which you're applying. If you did well and he likes you.

Don't diss on writing it in one shot! I'll do several edits- I go in waves and edit for length and relevancy together, then structure, then word choice, then grammar and spelling together. It'll be a heck of a process, but it all begins with me and a bottle of white zin sitting at my computer for three hours or so and just banging something out. I think the CCA essay comes first since my visit to them is what has really helped my ideas coagulate.

Oct 25, 06 10:58 am

portfolio rough draft done, letter of rec out, getting transcripts out now, have not written a lick on the personal statements...four schools I am applying to are dec15th deadline...I am sure it will come faster than I would like.

Oct 25, 06 11:51 am

wait, so jason- it's ok to get your transcripts & scores sent before you've done the rest of the application? They'll just know to hang on to them even though they don't know that you're applying?

Oct 25, 06 11:58 am
Living in Gin

Another prospective 2007 M.Arch. checking in. Schools I plan to apply to: Cornell, Penn, GSD, Cincinnati, and Oregon. Right now I'm barely keeping my head above water with my job and current school work, so my portfolio and personal statement will probably have to wait until after the fall quarter. However, I'm taking the week off after Thanksgiving, which I intend to use to finish my portfolio and take care of other related tasks. What I really need to be doing right now is getting my reccommenders lined up, and making arrangements for the GRE.

I'm a little worried that I may not have my BA in time to start my M.Arch. in the fall, and that I won't have the required calculus and/or physics classes done by then, but I'm trying not to think too much about that stuff right now.

Wish me luck...

Oct 25, 06 12:13 pm
Chili Davis

Unfortunately, I'm not graduating until December of '07, so my application process will be delayed by an entire year! On the bright side, I get a half-year off between undergrad and grad to further explore the psychologic effects of alcohol on the human brain, advance my exploration in the world of photography, relocate (possibly?) and spend some q.t. with the g.f. and the dogs!

Oct 25, 06 12:24 pm

for all those 'nectors gradschool wannabes stressing about those pesky personal statements - for WonderK on thread central a few weeks ago (in case you missed it) i wrote:

architecture personal statements 101:

'As a kid, I played with_________ and became interested in architecture'

'I visited ___________, and fell in love with the power of architecture'

'my______ was an architect, and I used to play with their mayline as a kid, so I was destined to become an architect'

'i built a ___________ and now I want to build bigger things'

'Architeture is cool, I am cool, your school is cool'

'I'm the first person in my family to go to college, SO LET ME INTO YOUR GRAD PROGRAM.' [emphasis optional]

'I like _________ & ______ __________. And I make a mean creme brulle, so I'd be a great architect.'

'I have a green thumb (and know how to roll a dope joint), so I'd make a great landscape architect'

'I like big toys, dozers, cranes, and mike mulligans steam shovel- architecture would let me play with these things.'

'I wanted to be an artist, but my parents told me to major in something that paid real money, so I choose architecture.'

'I dropped out of medical school to become an architect because the liability insurance is cheaper.'

Oct 25, 06 12:31 pm

and for those leaving architecture...

'I wanted to be an artist, but my parents told me to major in something that paid real money, so I choose architecture. That sucked, so now I want to go to art school!'

Oct 25, 06 12:41 pm

Someone please weigh in on the whole timing issue. Like, do I tell my recommenders to send their letters straight to the school, and then the school creates a folder for me or something (even though they might not get my application until a couple of weeks later)? I requested to have my transcripts sealed and sent to me via mail. I was planning on sending these in on my own, is that OK?

It feels really weird to be freaking out about this stuff especially after watching the whole saga go down last year.


Oct 25, 06 12:58 pm

the letter thing is out of your control - that's why it creates major freaking.

Most schools are leniant on late letters of recommendation, as long as the rest of the application is gotten before the deadline - so breath...

Oct 25, 06 1:01 pm

Wonder K- usually the schools want you to send everything in together. Are you still applying to Texas-I thought you had said that in a previous post somewhere-if you do and get in let me know-I will be starting there next year-I don't know if you remember me-we met in Cincy a year ago-had the whole archintect meeting with 5 and others.

Oct 25, 06 1:20 pm

but treekiller- what if the letters get there EARLY? Like, they are the first material recieved? Do they automatically start a file for you based on just those, or do they throw them away because you're not in their system yet?

DubK- for most schools that will be fine. Check the admissions websites to be sure, because there are a few out there who prefer them sent directly from the schools to prevent tampering. I keep an excel file with all the different schools' preferences just for junk like this- sent direct vs. together, slides vs. cd, 3 recs or 2, how ridiculous is the application fee, all that junk.

Oct 25, 06 1:27 pm

this thread is great. I'm assuming we'll also have the "2007 Portofolio Post" up after Christmas.

Oct 25, 06 1:32 pm

r- don't know, but some schools may start files when you request the app packet. Give them a call or a heads-up email if you hear that the letters are on their way. or have them sent directly to you in sealed envelopes to be included with everything else.

Oct 25, 06 1:37 pm

rationalist - yes, the same as sending transcripts to a school you are transfering to before you transfer or apply. Records are records.Transcripts are merely records being sent from one school to another...many of the schools I am applying to state that they want transcripts sent directly to the school from which they were attained...others are ok with sealed official transcripts sent to me and then forwarded to them in the packet along with portfolio and other material.

It should would be much easier if there were some standards betweeen programs.

Oct 25, 06 3:25 pm

yeah, the whole fragmented submittal timing thing. i was wondering that for GREs too. i took mine back in may and did the freebie score forwarding thing to the 2 schools i'm applying to. i left wondering whether these schools will even know what to do with them since they just barely finished with the '06 stuff by that time.

will i have to pay those skinflints at ETS more money to resend the scores?

Oct 25, 06 3:33 pm

On the submissions process... at least at UC DAAP you fill out an online app, they open a folder for you awaiting the arrival of materials, and if everything is received by the deadline, they assume you're an applicant. So their system is built around letting things trickle in. From a cursory informal review, most schools have moved to online apps and I assume they utilize a similar process. But you'll obviously have to check with each institution for confirmation.

Oct 25, 06 3:43 pm

i have a BS arch that i finished in 04 - did some work for a non-profit initially out of school, now i'm working for a firm that primarilly does residential work. i'm applying to u. washington, u. michigan, u. virginia, u. maryland, clemson, u. colorado @ den. and yale. i'm finishing up my portfolio now and was wondering how others were having theirs printed and bound? i was going to do it all at home, but i found a place that will do all the pagination, print job and bind it as a perfect bound book (typical soft cover glue binding) for less than $300 (10 books). the printer they use is a xerox Docutech 6060 - it's laser which initially turned me off, but i had them run a test print and it looked great (sample printed on 80# sheet) - quality comparable to most professionally published books. what is everyone else doing?

Oct 25, 06 3:48 pm

^save money

Oct 25, 06 4:29 pm

Half my schools want slides, half my schools want digital. The ones that want digital are going to be getting one hell of a packaging job for that cd, though. I'll have to find the note, but my typography teacher told me about a place that will print & cut all of your cd packaging for you, and even burn the files. I don't think I'll trust them with that last bit, but the packaging sounds like a great deal that I'll probably use.

Oct 25, 06 4:31 pm

Wow, rationalist, I have an Excel file too. I think I have to add more cells.....

geimanj, I should have known that UC did things so logically! Ah my alma mater. I will check with my app schools ASAP....

tinydancer, what prompted the move to Texas?

Oct 25, 06 4:47 pm

yeah, I don't think I've closed that excel file for at least a month! It's always hovering in the background somewhere... I'm beginning to realize that I'll have to stagger my application dates so that I can afford all the fees.

Does anyone know of a printer who does short-runs (like 10) of digipak or similar cd packaging? I can find people who do jewel cases, but those are so butt-ugly that I'd rather make a sleeve than send a jewel case even if it is professionally printed.

Oct 25, 06 5:53 pm

okay.. I’m sure I’m going to read this entire thread, but with the overwhelming feeling I have about all the crap I have to get done for these applications, just scrolling through this and seeing the volume of information i should probably read, almost caused me to hyperventilate.

I just had to get that out there.. since this is group therapy and all. Maybe this is my step 1 of 12.

deep breath

Oct 27, 06 12:04 am

don't worry, most of it's just... well, commiseration, not always advice.

OK, well short-run digipak printers just don't exist, so I either have to produce them myself like comps, or find another packaging. There a nice thick felt I've found that I quite like, so graphic packaging might not be the way I end up going.

Somehow focusing on things like the packaging take my mind away from the fact that I'm struggling with what to put IN the packaging. But talking with my crazy packaging design prof last night, he informed me that he thinks I'm really an industrial designer, not a graphic designer. *rolls eyes* C'mon, don't confuse me any more, man!

Oct 27, 06 10:47 am

I was up 'til pretty late last night - scratch that, early this morning - assembling my "little packets" for my recommenders. I learned a lot about the application process, so that's good.

Also what was funny was at about 2 am I started to write the "brief synopsis" of my personal statement that I included in the packets.....and, well, I think I wrote my whole personal statement. It's probably meandering and not very well structured but I was fairly impressed with how many big words I was able to use at 3 am.

Oct 27, 06 10:55 am

good work DubK...kinda cool how it flows once you just get going with it.

rationalist -- since you're in a packaging design class, i'm sure you get exposure to a ton of cool ideas, but in my musician life i've done a bunch of research on CD short runs. you're correct in that the duplication industry's idea of "short run" is 100. but if you're still considering a graphic packaging approach, one company had an interesting, simple, and inexpensive way of attaching the CD to the cardstock. to the center of one of the panels, they glued a soft, foam circle a little larger than the center-hole on the CD. press the CD onto the foam "nipple" and it holds it nicely, neatly, and securely. they key is finding foam flexible enough to take repeated duty-cycles, but stiff enough to keep the CD attached.

although it's not a design revalation, it's unobtrusive and simple. plus you've at least got the complications of securing the CD to the graphic element out of the way and can pay more attention to flaunting your design prowess on the package itself. just a thought...

Oct 27, 06 11:30 am

hey. so I've read the entire thread here and i'm feeling the pain. after having gotten the GRE out of the way last week I felt a little better but all the requirements are daunting.

By far, my primary concern for months has been on how I am approaching the portfolio from a purely pragmatic sense. I am currently using Photoshop after watching my peers who went sraight through from u.grad to masters and swearing that I would never use photoshop for a portfolio b/c it seems like a bad program for layouts. After a disasterous attempt using in-design and a somewhat better but still clumsy shot with Illustrator I am back on the photoshop bandwagon. I have found myself making one file for each project that contains all the pages for that section in a round about way by stacking layers. Others have told me they are making individual files for each page (or spread) in the folio.

I would really appreciate some weighing in on this.

And special thanks to AP for bringing me to this thread in a round-about way.

Oct 27, 06 11:49 am

always appreciated brocolli. = ) This could actually work with the felt, too, as long as it isn't too scratchy.

YAY DubK! You've pulled ahead of me for sure. I've got two projects to finish this weekend, two websites to work on, and concepts for another project, all this weekend, so the personal statement is definitely not happening yet.

Oct 27, 06 11:56 am

The thing that's great about InDesign is that it reduces file if you got the majority of your page laid out in Photoshop but wanted to add some graphic details or titling that is difficult to work with in Pshop, you could easily place the file in InDesign and then add the finishing touches. It might seem daunting at first but just mess around with it a little and see what you can do, you might find it really useful.

Oct 27, 06 11:58 am

And dudes, don't congratulate me is a work in PROGRESS. I'm interested to reread to see if I made any sense at all, actually.

Oct 27, 06 11:59 am

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