Newbie M.Arch I application prep/choosing grad schools help!


After browsing through thread after thread on this site, I decided to create an account so I could ask for advice myself. I would really appreciate any help with figuring out which schools I'd want to apply to, how I can boost my application, and how strong of an M.Arch I applicant I could be.

My background:

BA in biology, concentration in environmental studies. GPA of 3.85. I studied abroad in Copenhagen and took courses on sustainable development and urban design. I've also taken a 2D media course and did really well in the class; my pieces were among the strongest of the group.

GRE Scores: Verbal reasoning- 168; Quantitative reasoning- 161; Analytical writing- 4.5. I'm a much better writer than my score suggests haha.

I know I want to go into architecture. I know that employment isn't that great right now and that most people don't get to do all of the cool designing. But I love buildings and the built environment and the opportunity to combine my creative strengths with my analytical, quantitative skills.

I want to apply to schools with solid programs. Not necessarily big names, but ones that will provide me with a practical education. Of course I'd like a strong design program, but I want to gain the skills that I'll be able to use in the workforce. Right now I'm thinking about UMN, ASU, CCUNY, University of Cincinnati, Cal Poly Pomona, University of Washington, University of Oregon, KU, and Virginia Tech.

Thoughts? Advice? School suggestions? I'd prefer not to be in the south, and being in a more urban area would be great.

Oct 10, 13 12:12 pm

University of Michigan is doing pretty well right now, consistently rated among the best and my good friends who started his MArch there this year says the program is well balanced. Its in Ann Harbor, so its more of an urban area.

Cincinnati is a good choice as well, when I visited there I was very impressed with the campus and their CO-OP program. So you'll get internship/work experience through the school during your program.

IIT in Chicago is a safe, cheaper choice too. A very Mies-based school, leaning well on the practicality, and its in as urban of an area as it gets.

You have a nice GPA and GRE scores but those pale in comparison to the importance of the portfolio! Make sure you put a lot of effort into making that, start by including your 2D media class pieces. That, and your essays/recommendations should be up there too. Make sure your essay hits on exactly -why- you want to go into architecture when your undergrad was so different, and what you plan on doing with your degree. Perhaps relate biology to architecture (organic forms?).

Good luck!

Oct 10, 13 5:16 pm


Aside from my 2D media pieces from my class, what other kinds of things would you recommend that I include in my portfolio? I really need to beef it up, but I have no idea where to start.

IIT sounds great, but I don't have the prerequisite courses, aside from math and 2D media. I'm taking an online physics course now, but I won't be able to get in the other prereqs before attending.

Do you/does anyone know anything about the other schools I mentioned?

Oct 11, 13 2:58 pm

Help please!

Oct 12, 13 1:21 pm

Aside from my 2D media pieces from my class, what other kinds of things would you recommend that I include in my portfolio? I really need to beef it up, but I have no idea where to start.

At this point, I don't know how much design experience you actually have. I think that any good drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture photos, etc should be sufficient. Remember that these people understand that you are coming into MArch without an architecture background, so they are not expecting crazy building drawings and renders. However, they do need proof that you have passion and creativity, and that is what you need to prove to them. I would go to and try to find good examples of MArch applicant portfolios who came from other backgrounds.

Unfortunately I don't know much about the other schools you mentioned. There isn't any school out there that is explicitly "bad," and they all have their strengths.

Oct 12, 13 2:27 pm

I'll take a look at those portfolios, thanks! Would you recommend any other schools?

Also, does anyone know anything about NJIT?

Oct 12, 13 4:17 pm

I'm a second year grad student at Cincinnati right now (also did my undergrad here) and I think it's a good program with a lot of practical advantages.  Co-op is definitely a selling point - for many of us in our studio, at least one or more of our former employers have expressed interest in hiring us post-graduation.  Grad students get 3 four-month co-op terms so that's a great foot in the door.

The faculty have wide-ranging interests, and it's a big university so you have the opportunity to take classes in other majors.  It's definitely an urban campus, too, only 5-10 minute drive or bus ride downtown.

Let me know if you have any other specific questions about UC - I'd be happy to help

Oct 13, 13 11:43 pm

More help, please!

Oct 15, 13 7:41 pm
Dr. Architecture

Contact each program to which you are interested and ask for connections for students or recent alums.  Contact some architecture firms in your area and see what programs they hire from ---

Use - - for a list of programs from which to search.

Oct 26, 13 4:22 pm

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