MArch I woes


I'm troubled by my low GPA (2.5, BS Biochemistry, Dec. 2012). I've tried really hard to get my bipolar disorder/depression under control during college, but I can't, and thus my low GPA. I have documentation proving this. I took the GRE (2 days prep) and got 161V, 164Q (idk my writing score, just took it Nov. 27th.) I have a portfolio that was reviewed by GSD alum. Career discovery. I have recommendations from GSD alum, and two professors (not in design, in science: my old research advisor and a polymer chemistry professor) and my current architecture employer. My personal statement talks about my interest in building technology and design, and for each school mentions whom I want to work with, some classes, and why I switched from science to arch. I applied to Cornell, UMich, UWash, UC-Berkeley, GSD, MIT, University of Houston, UCLA and SCI-Arc.

Do I stand a chance? Everyone I see on the MArch I list had a much, much higher GPA than mine. Is it really so down to the portfolio?

Also, should I be mentioning faculty whom I find interesting in the personal statement? I'm interested in research.

Dec 4, 12 7:37 pm

GPA means nothing if you don't have a good portfolio to show.  Let us see your portfolio so we can give sincere comments.

Dec 4, 12 7:51 pm

mention the faculty if their research or classes directly pertain to whatever it is your interests are.

it is not uncommon to include an addendum to your personal statement (a separate page), matter-of-factly explaining the reasons for your low GPA (without pleading or whining). I suggest this.

Dec 4, 12 7:54 pm

From what I've heard, GPA is the last thing they look at. Also, you can't do anything about your GPA now so stop tripping and just overcompensate with your portfolio and essays lol.

Talk about how you have overcome being bipolar and depression in your personal statement. You may not have a high GPA but you still graduated and found employment. Put the faculty preference in your Statement of Intent.

Dec 4, 12 9:31 pm

Agreed with the above. Do mention your disorder in the PS. Do your best on the portfolio, but don't stress it too much because they know you are a science major and probably did not have any design background. Show us portfolio for critique. 

Dec 4, 12 11:20 pm

Wait - are you saying you have a 2.5 and expect to get into all of these top schools?

Dec 5, 12 1:07 pm

those schools require a minimum 3.0 gpa to get into, unless you personally talk to an advisor and see what you can do.

Dec 5, 12 11:09 pm

Here is my portfolio.

Dec 15, 12 9:41 pm

And I found out the writing score: I got a 5.0 (92%).

Dec 15, 12 9:42 pm

I like the clean look. However here are some thoughts. 1. You borders are too wide. 2. Pages 2-9 look very good. Everything else looks incomplete. 3. Work on that cover! Make it colorful (think page 4).  

Dec 16, 12 12:02 am

I like everything after page 10, actually. Pages 2-10 look like every other portfolio in existence.  From 10 on, it's like a recipe book for architecture - I really like it!

I hope that things work out for you.

Best wishes!

Dec 16, 12 2:22 am

Thank you for the constructive criticism.

Dec 16, 12 3:17 am

I like your hand drawings.. its refreshing to see a portfolio that isn't plastered with computer renderings.  I suggest opening up some nice design books or magazines and see how they layout their pages/text/images etc.  The way you design your portfolio can speak about your skills etc.  Right now, the portfolio just seems like you just dropped in your drawings and added text.  Like I said, look at examples of good design books and maybe try the layout of one you like.  It doesn't necessarily have to be very colorful etc.  Your portfolio also seems to have lots of parti diagrams, basic concept work etc.  If you could, I highly suggest perhaps including some technical work for one or two of the projects.  You could try drawing up some construction details, including exploded axonometric model or 3D model showing how it could actually be constructed.  It really goes to show that you are able to take your ideas a step further and develop it.

Dec 17, 12 9:41 pm

Again, thank you for the constructive feedback.

Dec 17, 12 11:17 pm

Hi Jesusmaldonado,

I am in a similar situation. I would love to hear the results of where you applied and whether or not you got in!

Best of luck,


Jan 11, 13 6:39 am

Applying for a M.Arch. is an interesting process, that's for sure.  I graduated with a BS with honors.  I then took drawing classes, architectural graphics classes, and drafting classes at night while working, in addition to the more generic requirements like calculus.  Simply stated, I had wanted to study for a B.Arch., but then chose to do a bachelor's degree in something else at the last minute which involves more explaining than is appropriate here, so I knew I always had the aptitude.  I took my portfolio pieces to the office of my drafting teacher I had befriended who, together with his colleagues, said "If you can draw like this now, you will have no trouble getting through architecture school."  The pieces were a mix of freehand drawings, design items, architectural graphics such as measured perspectives, and some samples of construction documents. My GRE scores were also very high.

It all has to do with the culture of the school and how they perceive you will mesh with it, as well as the applicant load.  I was denied admission to several of the schools because, truthfully, I don't think they liked my undergraduate course of study and that I had been in that other line of work about a handful of years.  I selected the most reputed and established of the schools that admitted me, and had no problems getting through and finished with the highest tier of honors, receiving favorable comments about the quality and completeness of the graphics for design presentations, and then taking and passing the licensing exam as soon as I was able to take it.

I think the process is extremely subjective, and grades and GRE scores help a strong candidate, but won't push a candidate into the "sure admit" pile if, for some reason, they don't like the overall "read" they get from you.  I think the portfolio, the statement, the recommendations, their perception of the previous course of study, and any hands-on experience, particularly in an architectural office, carry the weight. 

Jan 11, 13 6:44 pm

I can attest that GPA is not terribly important.  My overall undergraduate GPA ended up at 3.16.  After finishing my B.S., I took a few community college arch. design course, and put together a portfolio over the course of 16 months.  I was absolutely astonished when I was notified of my acceptance to GSD's M.Arch I program this week. 

I have been an undisciplined, remarkably lazy student my entire life.  My grades aren't terrible, but far from exemplary.  It seems apparent that my portfolio is what got me in.  I gave each project in my portfolio absolutely everything I had.  It is now possible that I will be attending the world's most renowned university.  Your portfolio can most certainly get you in.

Mar 10, 13 6:23 am

Nicholas.  Congrats.  Big congrats.

I, too, went the community college to put together a portfolio for an M.Arch. 1.  With you being in the Southern Calif., where did you go - Mt. SAC, PCC, SMC, another?  I took care of this preparation endeavor through SMC, and also CSUN (for freehand drawing).

Nicholas, what was the distribution of items in your portfolio?  What kind of stuff?

Mar 10, 13 11:42 am

Nicholas a 3.16 GPA is pretty good compared to a 2.5 ... Congrat btw!  I keep hearing from classmates who've been accepted to GSD that your portfolio is what matters :))  A classmate whose english is terrible as a new immigrant got accepted to GSD because her portfolio is kickass. :)

Could you share your portfolio for us future applicants to see and get an idea of what is required to get into GSD?

Mar 10, 13 2:24 pm

I honestly believe that portfolio is the most important thing and can be rather polemic. I got rejected to Rice, Cornell, Yale and accepted at GSAPP w/ scholarship. >____>

Mar 10, 13 3:12 pm

Men and women of M.Arch 1:

Sheez, is interesting, to say the least.  Thanks for the link. The only thing is that the program type (2 or 3 year) is sometimes hard to identify on each line. Some identifiable patterns (greens and reds are kind of loud):

Few get in:

- the Ivy Leagues and Rice, as can be expected

- Berkeley

- Virginia (very small class, so they CALL you via phone)

Pretty selective:

- Texas (not impossible)

- Washington (a lot of disappointment seen on that page)

- Oregon (selectivity appears to have increased)

Somewhat selective:

- Michigan (their yield is probably low)

- Minnesota (more turn-downs than I expected)

- Georgia Tech (thought it was selective, back in the day)

- Syracuse

Not selective:

- all the schools in the Southwest:  ASU, UNM, Utah, Colorado-Denver

- some schools in the Midwest: UIUC, Kansas

Mar 10, 13 5:44 pm

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