Chances at RISD MArch?


Hello! I just finished sending off my final documents to RISD for the MArch program. I just wanted to get some clarity regarding my chances of acceptance. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated. 

My stats are as follows:

I graduated in May of 2012 from Manhattanville College with a double major in History and African Studies and a 3.7 GPA. I included what I feel like is an okay personal statement and I included a link to my portfolio below. I have a strong resume with a multitude of internships and volunteer experience and I currently work full-time in finance. I suppose that about covers it.

Now before you jump on my portfolio, remember I did not major in anything art related, so my understanding is rather slim when it comes to graphic design, etc. I built the portfolio with PowerPoint and included a number of different mediums.  Hopefully it's not that bad.

Thanks in advance!

Jan 14, 13 9:02 pm

Your layout isn't bad, but you need to learn real graphics software. Imitative classical plans shouldn't go anywhere in your portfolio, but it's even worse as an opener, and your first few pages of description show a very amateur level of conceptual understanding. In a situation like yours where you don't have enough of a background to make informed statements or design decisions, it would be better to stick to art and drawing from life. It's too bad because some of your photography is nice and you obviously have some drawing ability and graphic design skill, but your attempts at trying to do architecture would be anathema to anyone at an architecture school - the whole goal of introductory design studios is to unlearn everything that you think you know about architecture in order to approach it from more basic concepts. Honestly, they'll probably look at your first 1-2 pages of projects and then immediately  throw your portfolio in the trash - I'm not saying that to be mean, but rather based upon my own experiences of how architecture professors operate. Your attempts to paint buildings also look too much like a cutesy amateur attempt at a Hallmark card, but the other more abstract paintings are okay. If you had left anything having to do with buildings out of your portfolio and just stuck to graphic design and photography and abstract painting, and maybe done a few 20 minute life drawings of fruit, you would have had an exponentially greater chance of being admitted. I think that you have the potential to be admitted to a decent school in a future application cycle if you make major changes, but this time around you took the worst possible approach in terms of tactics. If you don't get in then you should look into taking more art classes (even if it's 1-2 week non-credit) and/or a summer program in architecture, and then try again next year.

Jan 14, 13 11:07 pm

Oh, and I would also get rid of any photographs of obvious landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge etc. - when I said that some of them were okay I was thinking more along the lines of the leaves, but now that I look at them again they seem kind of cliche - they could probably stay in a quality portfolio as filler. Try more photography where you focus on light and composition and avoid generic landscape shots.

Jan 14, 13 11:20 pm
Jan 15, 13 3:46 am

Firstly, thank you for the critisism. The guidelines for the portfolio state:

Applicants are required to submit a portfolio that includes reproductions of art and/or design work, free-hand drawings, two- and three-dimensional work in any media, or written material. We look for signs of potential for architectural studies over prior experience or knowledge. Architectural potential can be defined through faculties of spatial cognition, material reasoning, imagination, sensibility, critical thinking, analytical thinking and abstraction. These can be made evident through any combination of the following: freehand drawing from life, prior design work, fabrication, photography, other studio artwork and even creative writing.

I feel like I duly fullfiled these requirements. Since I don't have a history in art, everything included is only meant to display raw talent, which I believe I did as well. I don't think they expect a person with no history in the subject to do all that well in comparison to those with a BFA. Furthermore, I understand that some students were accepted into the MArch program without portfolios at all and instead had very high GRE scores, which I can offer. That said, I know I have plenty of room for improvement, nonetheless, I've been drawing houses since I can remeber, thus, I think it was important to include some drawings in my portfolio. /:

Jan 15, 13 10:46 am

Snail is 100% right.

I dont come from an architecture background either so I empathize with your lack of design knowledge / experience.

However, while I studied something totally unrelated to design, I busted my but during my free time to learn programs and software and enroll in studio classes  through continuing ed programs. 

Not everyone has to go that route but consider this, RISD is a top design school. You will be competing against amazing candidates from all backgrounds and disciplines. Without work experience, your portfolio is only that much more important.

Jan 15, 13 11:16 am

Are you looking for "clarity" or "affirmation"?


In any case, it's now up to RISD to make the decision of acceptance. Anything you or anyone else have to say about your portfolio, grades, GRE, is slightly redundant, don't you think?

Good luck.

Jan 15, 13 11:32 am
Jono Lee
That was awesome snail
Jan 15, 13 11:54 am

Thanks everyone. Does anyone have a link to a non-architecture applicant's portfolio? So I can get an idea of what they are expecting for future reference?


Jan 15, 13 1:31 pm

did you apply to any other schools

Jan 15, 13 1:40 pm

Yea, to the BAC, to UV Charlottesville, CUNY and SCAD...

Jan 15, 13 2:17 pm


this is mine that I used to apply to RISD too

Jan 15, 13 3:04 pm

AC23: Thanks for posting! Your portfolio is beautiful and in my humble opinion, you're a shoe in. (: What did ya major in for undergrad?


Jan 15, 13 3:35 pm

Thank you! I really hope I get in this time around. Last year, I rushed applications as I was doing thesis and work at the same time. I was wait listed and eventually rejected at pratt and parsons. I majored in Interior Design. Oh, and this time I applied to more schools haha

Jan 15, 13 3:49 pm

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