Virginia Tech or Iowa State with scholarship for 5 year B arch degree


Hi there

Need some really good honest advice from all of you.

My daughter has been offered admission by both Virginia Tech and Iowa State for the undergraduate B Arch program. The difference is in Iowa State she has been awarded a good scholarship. However she is very keen to go to Virginia Tech. I would like advice on how you see both schools. Is it really worth paying an extra $ 10,000 per year to go to Virginia Tech when Iowa is also in the top 10. I just need to have as much information and knowledge so we can make the right choice for her.

Thanks in advance

Apr 1, 13 9:41 am


I am an ISU alum, graduated with a B.Arch in 2010. I would say ISU's architecture program was really fun.  One year of pre-architecture, then you submit a portfolio, transcript (you need 3.5 GPA or above), and an essay to get into the program. They usually admit around 70 students. Once you get in, you take lots of great classes like studio, building materials and assembly, structures, and environmental psychology. I would also advise getting a minor in digital media or even engineering related because architecture is not the most secure profession right  now.

Also architecture schools are different: technical vs. conceptual. Iowa State is more conceptual in that you work on bigger ideas rather than learning how things are put together. They care about innovative and creative ideas, hand rendering and the ability to learn the language. You do learn the technical side but it isn't as important.

Where does your daughter want to work? Usually you are more likely to get a job around the state you go to school because you will develop a strong relationship with the architecture faculty and they usually know connections.

Apr 1, 13 2:44 pm

Thank you so much Leslie.  She would like to work in the US for some years. She is an international student and so has not got much of an insight into life in different parts of the US. But she would prefer the Virginia area - DC. New York to cold and wintry Chicago. 

Did you find it difficult to get a job after passing out of ISU. She's also managed to get herself a $ 7,000 scholarship for 3 years at ISU. Which is why we are in such a conundrum between VT and ISU. She has not got a scholarship at VT and the fees are pretty steep.

In this years design intelligence ratings VT is ranked 7 and ISU ranked 9. So both are in the top 10.

The information you provided is really great Leslie. She's  got into University of Cincinnati as well with a scholarship. 

Where are you working now? Would greatly appreciate your advise since you've gone through the ISU experience

Thanks so much once again

Apr 2, 13 12:40 am

Both Virginia Tech and ISU have all the essential qualities to be present in the top 10 list of a new aspiring architecture student. Since both universities are almost the same from the reputation, and quality of education point of view (from what I have heard, I haven't studied in any of them), it makes more sense to choose one which offers good scholarship, and use the extra money to do any advanced courses in architecture. 

Apr 2, 13 1:19 am

Thanks Bindu. They say one must be near cities to get jobs as you network with the architect fraternity there. Does anyone know about internship and job opportunities present in both ISU and VT?

Apr 2, 13 5:46 am

You don't indicate what your family financial situation is.  If the extra $50k is not a burden, then I personally would opt for VT since DC/NYC area is going to be a lot more stimulating place to live than Iowa, particularly as a foreign student.

Presumably, you and your daughter are well aware of the dismal state of architecture as a profession.  This forum is full of posts related to that subject, and she should go into it with her eyes very wide open.  I would definitely NOT borrow the $50k since you don't know if it will translate into any kind of a decent job when the time comes.

Apr 2, 13 11:00 am

Thanks for the reality check!! Yeah we are aware of the current situation.  Hopefully in 5 years time the situation will change . If not in the US then in the middle east or Asia where development is still needed. She is determined to study architecture inspite of me repeatedly telling her of the situation. So as a parent, I can only support her and hope for the best:)

Apr 2, 13 11:15 am

Hi again. My daughter is concerned that if she graduates from ISU she will be restricted in terms of jobs to the mid west. She feels tat VT would give her access to jobs in better areas. Is this true? Is it worth the extra $50,000 which will be very tough to stretch?

Apr 2, 13 12:44 pm

I don't know what others may think but I doubt that it will be a major deterent.  In the end, her ability to get a job is going to depend more on her portfolio, how she presents herself, market conditions for architects, networking, and sheer dumb luck.

Apr 2, 13 1:14 pm

Yes I agree. Thank you so much. Am having a hard time convincing her! ISU is also a top 10 school.

Apr 2, 13 1:26 pm

I don't think ratings really matter. The reason why ISU is 9 (it wasn't even on the list for a couple years in 2009/2010) is because they were doing experiments in trying to improve their curriculum and the need to find a new Dean of Architecture. When I was accepted it was #6. But I didn't go there for the ranking. I went there because I wanted to study architecture in solitude and heard the faculty was really diverse. I came from the big city, distracted by culture/events and needed to go somewhere to find myself again. Otherwise I would probably have gone to MIT or Rhode Island School of Design.

I have not found a full time position yet. I am very limited to just Kansas City because I live here with my husband who has been able to keep a steady job where as I have been taking contracts. But a lot of my colleagues have gotten jobs in Des Moines, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Iowa City, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Chicago or even internationally in China.

I would do some research on the schools, see which one would accent your daughter's talents. If she does really well in hand drawing and experimental design, then go to ISU. 

Apr 2, 13 5:56 pm

Thanks so much Leslie, That was so helpful.

Apr 3, 13 8:14 am

Hi there

After much thinking and introspecting, we are leaning towards Iowa State as VT does not award scholarships to international students. And she has secured a significant scholarship for 3 years at ISU.  From all your posts and much research we are concluding that the quality of education seems to be the same. Any idea why VT has fallen on the design intelligence rankings from 3 to 7?

Our concern is that she should not be restricted to jobs in the midwest. Also , my daughter feels the overall student experience in VT may be more stimulating. Very tough call and any more information, advice would be very welcome.


Apr 6, 13 1:41 am

Iowa is a farm area with a few small cities. While she is at school there will few distractions which there might as well be because her time will be spent constantly working in studio. The midwest does offer opportunities in Chicago, Ohio, Kansas City, Minneapolis but of course she would have to find a place to live in those areas to work there for say, the summer.

I don't know about VT but the same considerations would apply to work in the North Eastern metro areas. You have to be in contact with employers and find places to work. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself in school is to work part time either remotely or in a city firm. After several years of work experience she will have good opportunities when graduated. Rankings can only tell you so much. With architecture programs you are embedded in the studios to the point where the rest of the school is almost irrelevant.

Apr 6, 13 3:17 am

I went to ISU. The culture of the school is great and it has a top study abroad program in Rome - a good reason to go! There are lots of international students and many students from around the country esp. Chicago and Minneapolis. I graduated over 10 years ago, but I am in contact with many from my class and most are doing extremely well as not only architects but community leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners. The campus is one of the most beautiful in the country (although the design building where the architecture students work leaves something to be desired.)

Apr 6, 13 8:56 am

Thanks very much both of you. This forum really helps and all of you have been so helpful

Apr 6, 13 10:11 am

I am an international student currently in my fifth year at Virginia Tech, and since majority of the input on this forum is on ISU, I would like to offer a little bit of my insight on the program at VT. In general VT is a very conceptual and theory based school, it is  very proud of its Bauhaus influence, where school encourages hands on experience and definitely allows students to explore their own interests towards architecture. There are amazing courses on different design media, which students definitely take advantage of, and a lot of the works are actually reflected in what students choose to do in their thesis. 

There are also a variety study abroad programs available at tech, where the school encourages every student to participate during their fourth year of study. I personally have participated in study abroad program to Egypt, Berlin, Germany, and a year long exchange program in Switzerland. We also have our own residency program at Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, and the Alexandria center near Washington DC. Some of my friends also did programs in London, Stuttgart, Denmark, Shanghai, Tokyo, New York, Chicago....The wide range of study abroad programs available through the school is definitely an advantage.  

The only problem I'd say I have about the school is that it is removed from a city, and few of the teachers are actually practicing, or having much experience. So sometimes it can definitely get a little too conceptual and less urban focused. But it is still not difficult to seek technical reviews and follow teachers who has a greater interests on urbanism. You can definitely work your ways around what you are interested in and on what you want to do.

In terms of connections and locating a job after graduation, unfortunately the market is not great right now. The school still tries to make connections for us, but I don't know under current job market, how effective it really is. Graduating students definitely need to search aggressively to locate job related information. However, I did hear that things are getting better. I know that within three months of graduation last year, majority of the graduates were able to locate a job somewhere. And a few of my classmates also have job offers now while more and more of them are getting interview opportunities and stuff. ( I have decided to go to graduate school next year so I am currently not looking for a job)

On another note, if you are an international student, it would actually be more difficult sometimes to locate a job, since your OPT after graduation only allows you to work for one year, and afterwards the company need to sponsor you a work visa. Sometimes this limit your choices in terms of job searching. 

Apr 7, 13 5:44 pm

Thank you so much. That was so insightful. Tough choice ahead of us!

Apr 8, 13 12:51 am

Something I saw today...a little article on one of my favorite professors from ISU:

Apr 11, 13 5:55 pm


glad I can help out a bit. No matter which school you end up going, architecture school is still up to how much effort you are willing to put into it, and you can always work your way around and found the best fit for yourself.

All the best wishes. Good luck :)

Apr 11, 13 10:00 pm

Thanks so very much.  You have aided us so much in making this decision. We are deciding in favor of ISU and my daughter too seems to be ok with it. Just very cold in Iowa, which she will have to get used to.

Apr 12, 13 2:19 am

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