Advice needed for applying M.arch I

Hi, guys 

    I'm currently a civil engineering student in UIUC. I need some advice on applying for M.ARCH I programs. 

   Personal information:

  I have only 2.24 GPA(mainly because my poor grades on engineering course), which is not promising at all. However,I 'm working very hard to restore my gpa. I have been making gradual progresses on my academics, in addition to that, I am applying a minor in architecture. I have done a pretty god job in past architecture courses. If everything works out, I can raise my GPA to around 2.6-2.7 before I applied.
  I had 1 internship last summer in a A/E firm, I got another one from a small architecture studio this summer. I have also been volunteering for a non-profitable organization to help poor people building their houses from this semester. 
  I have some painting and sketching foundations from courses I took in my high school.

  Schools I plan to apply:

  Primary:  Harvard, Upenn, Columbia, Cornell
  Secondary: UCLA, Sci-arc, Pratt-Institute, U-Michigan
  Tertiary: UIC, SAIC, Parsons, U-Kansas

I will choose 2 among each class


1. I have being hesitating between applying to summer programs and going to intern. summer programs may help me build my portfolio and connections vs. intern can strengthen my resume (but I can also uses job cases in my portfolio) ? which one should I go for ?

2. I do have a very weak GPA. Although I have seen people leaving comments like "gpa really doesn't matter" However, they do matter according to my personal experience(advisers, example of my friends, ect) How can I compensate my weak point and maximize my chances?

3. What's my possibilities of getting into 1st class schools if I have a above-average portfolio and good GRE score?

4. Do the schools I plan to apply look plausible? If you have better recommendations or strategies for applying, please leave your comments(Coasts and Chicago area preferred)

Any general advice or your opinions are greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Mar 18, 14 8:41 pm

If you go back through the academia forum, you'll find countless others asking essentially the same question about whether a garbage GPA will stand in the way of their top-10 grad school dreams.

The answer is the same for you as it is for all of them. If you were making admissions decisions for Ivy League or top-10 or, for that matter, top-50 schools, would you accept someone with a 2.24 GPA?

Almost certainly not.

You either screwed around in college, didn't work hard enough, or didn't change majors when the ship was sinking, but regardless, 2.24 is inexcusably terrible. Why should any school think you'll do any better in graduate school? Generally 3.0 is the hard minimum for any architecture program. If you were applying to law school, medical school, or any other professional program, you'd be deservedly laughed out of the room.

Is it possible to make up for your grades with an AMAZING portfolio? Sure. But you need to know that admission is very, very competitive, and you're going up against applicants who have the amazing portfolio AND very strong GPAs. 

Simply put, it's unlikely you'll get into any M.Arch program at all, but I see zero chance of you getting into any of the schools on your list.

Mar 19, 14 12:07 am

Can you retake those failed courses? That could show determination to turn early adulthood mistakes around and might be enough of a boost to get past the 3.0 threshold. Might want to consider a second degree (not a minor but major with transferred courses) or switching out of something that in all honesty might not fit you. Takes more time but it's better to do things right now than half-ass it and try to make up quickly against the odds.

Your GPA is going to be a problem in whatever grad program you may want to apply to. "Low" is 3.0 by most standards and you won't even be there even at the end, which will affect your career aspects in civil engineering too (low grades usually indicated low mastery of core courses). 

You're not a top student and that's fine once you accept this reality. There are less selective schools that might allow you in given your final grades and portfolio potential. Look around; they won't be super prestigious but that's not necessary for future success. Don't delude yourself into thinking you can keep up with people at the top schools just by design alone. You might be gifted artistically, who knows, but architecture is not a pure art form.

Mar 19, 14 1:15 am

Thank you for your negative input, But I'm afraid that you didn't read my thread very carefully. I got 1 more year to fix my GPA. If I were admitted to any school on my list. I will gladly let you know. 

Mar 19, 14 1:15 am

Here is a couple things which i think might not be so bleak. my undergraduate degree is BFA in architecture from SAIC. My curriculum was graded on a pass fail basis. I Just got done with applying to four schools. 

OUT @ Princeton 

OUT @ Yale

OUT @ Cornell

IN @ Penn

My gre scores were quite poor as well. Here is the truth about what architecture schools are looking for. 

1. A really great Portfolio (Above all! Originality attention to detail intelligent design) 

2. LoR (Letters of recommendations) these are crucial the give validity to you as a scholar and a person 

3. Written Statement ( = to LoR in many cases sometimes more sometimes less) A school wants to hear your voice in a original, thoughtful, planned, piece of writing.

4. Grades its true schools will use grades as a deciding factor between students who's portfolio and written statements are equally on par... in this case it seems you will fail. Your grades are also an indication of irresponsibility, it may be wise to mention them in your written statement, why are they poor, why was engineering a bad fit, why will architecture be any different. 

5. GRE's... Just take them, try your best, and then let them go. obviously these to are like grades, they can be used to leverage between two equally good portfolios and LoR's 


In regards to school choices.

First you should take SAIC off of your "Tertiary" and move them to Secondary AT LEAST, I know the instructors there and just finished an undergraduate there. The Facilities are as good or better than most ivys and they only take 14 students. 

Even more than that you should find a place that fits you, I went and visited all the schools I applied to, penn happened to be my number one so I spent the most time on that application. Do not apply to a program just because its IVY, IVY is a sports league and in most cases especially in architecture school it is meaningless. I understand that sound hypocritical because I actually did apply to all ivy schools, but i did so for reasons that are unique, penn for its dual degree program with Wharton, prince because of its financial packages, yale because I idolize Eisenman, Cornell for Jenny Sabin and landscape. 


If you want it bad enough you'll get there. That being said, you better damn well be sure to put the hours in. Just get after it. I don't believe the person above me has any idea what he's talking about. your grades are important but not that important 

Best of luck 

Mar 19, 14 1:23 am

"Thank you for your negative input, But I'm afraid that you didn't read my thread very carefully. I got 1 more year to fix my GPA. If I were admitted to any school on my list. I will gladly let you know."

You ask for advice, it was given to you, now your angry? 

Mar 19, 14 1:39 am

splices latched onto the 2.24 value. Poster thinks he can get to the 2.6-2.7 mark. Don't understand the fuss myself but that's what the problem seems to be about.

Mar 19, 14 2:33 am

2.6-2.7 is still substantially below the 3.0 minimum that practically every graduate program requires.

The point was that to get to 2.24, where the OP is currently, he must have been a pretty abysmal student, made horrible choices, or both. How exactly is this miraculous turnaround going to work if it hasn't happened before now?

I find it insulting to the entire discipline that these horrendous students think architecture is the loophole through which they can sneak into a top-tier school.

I understand that undergraduates can underperform for all kinds of reasons, and I'm sure there are some who would have far greater success in architecture than whatever major they chose. But it takes an astounding level of entitlement to think you could conceivably get into graduate school at Harvard or Columbia after having completely bombed your way through college.

Mar 19, 14 3:08 am

Let's just let some simple math explain how implausible this is:

Say a typical college degree is 120 credits in 4 years. 15 credits/semester, 30 credits/year.

If the OP's GPA is 2.24, and he has one more year, that means he's accrued in the neighborhood of 200 grade points (3 years * 30 credits/yr * 2.24 = 201.6). Let's call it 202.

To get to a 2.6, he would need to end up with 312 credits (1 year * 30 credits * 2.6 = 312).

To get to a 2.7, he would need to end up with 324 credits (1 year * 30 credits * 2.7 = 324).

That means he needs 110 grade points to get to 2.6, or a final-year GPA of 3.67. For 2.7 to be possible, he needs 122 grade points, which requires him to perform the impressive feat of a final-year GPA higher than 4.0.

So the kid with a C- average is going to need to get As in at least two-thirds of his remaining coursework, and Bs in the rest. Definitely Harvard material.

Mar 19, 14 3:29 am

I'd love to hear where you went to school. 

Mar 19, 14 3:38 am

I understand your post. I should say I didn't see how you were being negative about the situation. It's a gamble for schools to take someone in his position which, depending on the last year and overall picture, may be worth the risk judging by how well the other components hold. Who knows, he could be a one-time social experiment.

Mar 19, 14 3:39 am

might be nice to turn this into an academic pissing contest 

Mar 19, 14 3:39 am


Sorry if I was unclear. I understood what you meant as well, I just wanted to clarify why the OP's list of schools is so preposterously out of reach.


Rejected from three out of four schools? Academic contests of any sort don't seem to be your strength.

Mar 19, 14 11:43 am

I don't put much weight into academic metrics, as much as most people do anyways, but it's a system to jump through like anything else in life. At the very least the GPA indicates sustained competence over time in one area of interest/study and constant awareness of one's flaws and foibles, which arguably cannot tell the whole story with three numbers but does fit the bill on a general scale. Can you work in an office and realize your project is a sinking ship? Or make the right decisions to remedy it before it crashes and burns?

Many students slack off maybe one semester or two, rebound, and waive it off. Fine, many people had that period and it's no big deal to let one's guard down in the almost two decades of expected education nowadays. But he must've been in a slump for some time and decidedly not taken action or worse, made decisions that only worsened his outcome. This raises more flags to me because there is a lack of awareness and competency exhibited. It's one thing to do poorly academically in perhaps a bad fit of a program or field but another to screw it up even more by intervention. That calls into question his rigor.

Mar 19, 14 12:06 pm

Agreed. An early semester or year of poor performance is understandable, but after three years, a GPA that low speaks to a much more chronic problem. 

Mar 19, 14 12:13 pm



lots of facts from you guys, I acknowledge my deficiency on academics. That's why I started this thread for help. If you guys don't believe I can get into any grad school on my list, that's perfectly fine. Just leave it alone and make some room for advice that really helps.  

Mar 20, 14 1:11 am

I told you to aim lower. If you think you're top tier material even when the academic profile says otherwise, then go apply and stop seeking opinions that have to suit your very narrow definition of generously overlooking your shortcomings and preaching the same delusional crap ad nauseum. You really hope someone takes pity and lets you waltz into a nice program, huh? Tell me, what do you offer over everyone else? What can you do that no one else can? What overcompensates for the poor marks in school--were you running a firm or business or what? 

Mar 20, 14 1:43 am

maybe you should take a year off and work with a good firm, that might help and also focus more on your statement of purpose, GREs and most importantly your portfolio, there's no harm in trying! apply to where you want to!

Mar 20, 14 6:15 am

3. What's my possibilities of getting into 1st class schools if I have a above-average portfolio and good GRE score

4. Do the schools I plan to apply look plausible?

Any general advice or your opinions are greatly appreciated!

I think we've been pretty directly answering these questions. Your likelihood of getting into "1st-class schools" is almost zero, and your list of schools isn't plausible at all. I can't stress this enough: most schools will not even consider you without a minimum GPA of 3.0. I'm not trying to insult you; I'm trying to get you to understand that those programs are not even an option.

Mar 22, 14 9:19 pm


so you are basically telling me to give up and stop day dreaming, you have made your point but at least suggesting me some alternatives or something that might be good for me, otherwise you are just not being very helpful.. I didn't start this looking for comforts but neither for judgements. so what is your advice? (if you have any)

Mar 24, 14 12:54 am

I guess you could try to find a school without a GPA minimum, if that exists. Or you could stay in college long enough to get your GPA up to something respectable (add a second major or something, maybe in some kind of design discipline if that's possible).

It's going to take some time if you want to dig yourself out of the mess you're in, and even if you get the GPA above 3.0 in the next 2-3 years and put together an impressive portfolio, those schools will mostly all still be out of reach for you.

If you insist on applying next year, with at most a 2.6-2.7 GPA, you're just wasting your time and application fees.

Mar 24, 14 4:09 pm

I just want you to know that most every arch grad school has no gpa cut off. as i noted earlier, my gpa was 0.0 on paper.



pardon me for only getting into one of the schools I applied to. I'm just curious at what authority you think you have to tell someone that they have no chance to enter programs to which he wants to apply? Really please enlighten all of us. 

Mar 24, 14 4:21 pm

I would like to add that you have a chance getting into the schools you mentioned above as long as your are keep trying. I would recommend taking summer classes at either GSD, GSAPP, or UCLA. Maybe you can raise your gpa and add interesting projects into your portfolio.  I would say  portfolio + cv + personal statement + recommendation letters triumph over gpa + gre. Good luck to your carreer and do not listen to the negative comments!

Mar 24, 14 4:41 pm

@ Han Yang 

I think you should review my earlier post on march 19th. 

Mar 24, 14 4:46 pm

A degree composed of courses taken pass-fail is not a 0.0 GPA. GPA just isn't applicable in your case, so it isn't relevant to the conversation.

The OP is going to do whatever he wants to do. I'm just trying to get him to set realistic expectations.

Mar 24, 14 5:38 pm

zkile, there's a gap in your logic even before the 0.0 GPA statement.

You cannot determine the significance of the GPA compared to say a less stellar or better portfolio or loftier letter of recommendation. Based on your own results, one can assume many implicit conclusions but that's conjecture and baseless, just as much as the claims of grade point averages being insignificant touted here. Academic rigor is important and you should be careful not to preach a message that anyone can coast by with the bare minimum in their studies and apply to graduate school with some ambiguous dream of saving the world and ego of an self-proclaimed artist and no solid foundations elsewhere. 

The GRE exams test for logic and the ability to decipher the weakest one-shot discrediting bullshit from intricately weaved correct-sounding bullshit. Whether or not one exhibits it during the test is debatable but it better show up somewhere. Which of your sentences would most weaken your own position? Crucial skill to master when it comes to a thesis one has to defend; crucial to a proposal when there will be people looking to poke at all the little holes that may or may not be a big deal; crucial to structures and design when having to figure out what point might be problematic and why. The predictive results of the GRE are highly dubious but it's not like the exam doesn't test for anything applicable in the working world.

A pass/fail system can be gauged by an overall look at the transcripts. Is proficiency exhibited in most courses? One can tell where the fails might have been from and determine if it matters to the curriculum. Now, a 2.4 GPA doesn't tell me much--it could be a few really bad classes or overall slump in the term. It doesn't inspire confidence in anyone (even to you I bet) despite the system trying to move beyond the superficiality of grades and scores as a simple metric for success and potential. Outliers that defy conventions aside, he better make up for it in other ways or else these are truly unrealistic daydreams. 

The "follow your dream" message is nice and all but it's also deluded many unqualified or borderline successful students who then have to quit with debt or take on additional years adding to that debt. When things unravel midway through a graduate program, do you trust the person to rebound or fall back on old habits? Can they do it themselves, realize trouble before it's headed over the cliff?

Anti-intellectualism is pretty strong and deeply rooted in the States so I'm not surprised at the backlash. Having to be a good student on top of artist or designer or whatever title designated is not what anyone who pursues the self-determined American dream of liberty and happiness wants to hear.

Mar 24, 14 6:17 pm


Mar 24, 14 6:39 pm



I do not base my previous statements on my future enrollment. I base them on interviews that I have had from members in 3 of the programs he is applying to. I have also had substantial communications with a family member who is on the admission committee at ucla. 


If you think i coasted by on the bare minimum because i came from a pass/fail institution you are dead wrong. As you will note yale school of art is pass fail, as well as upenn school of art is pass fail and a assure you that they also do not skate by. I only call attention to the mere fact that academic prowess is quite easy to attain, but originality in thought or technique are items which can only be developed through pain staking discipline and can only be proven in a portfolio or piece of writing. originality is far and beyond more important than calculus, and trigonometry, english lit,  anyone can can retrieve formulas and quotes from a book and regurgitate when called upon to do so, even say a computer can do that. But true talent especially in terms of architecture requires thought beyond numbers, and beyond the trivial. 

You are CORRECT  in saying that his gpa does not inspire confidence in me, but the question he was asking was would it be possible for him to get accepted to a top tier program with a far and above average portfolio. The answer is yes. I have a great many friends who took the traditional university route after high school who were without at doubt able to fuck off the majority of the time in these big ten schools and still achieve upper 3 gpa's which was staggering to me because I didn't have time to tie my shoes, in my undergraduate program, which makes me wonder how much credit any gpa actually holds. Those who want knowledge will seek knowledge out, not because they are told to but because they want to (i digress). 

As far as your last comment is concerned I strive to my highest potential in all endeavors, i graduated number 1 in my high school class in a west suburban neighborhood of chicago  so actually academics were important to me, and not because i wanted a strong gpa. gpa is leveraging chip, its nothing in architecture. 

apologies for brevity and grammar but, this conversation really gets under my skin. I'm not even sure why. I feel like im having to defend myself and I poster who quite honestly does not seem to care. maybe i am wrong (he is more than likely one of those kids who fucks off) but, its just a chip I've had on my shoulder about institutional education i guess. Good luck to you Han. And no offense to any poster thanks for the vent session i feel much better. 

one last thing to any future applicant, good gpa's will in fact make your life easier in all situations. 

Mar 24, 14 8:29 pm

You're taking this awfully personal. 

Mar 24, 14 10:53 pm

I know... :/ i have a problem...

Mar 24, 14 11:44 pm

To settle things, most of what I said wasn't directed at you. I tend to not refer to people unless you see a specific pronoun or explicit referencing.

Academic prowess isn't exactly a rote memorization process--sure, to some undergrad, they'll be reciting the word of their mentors for years until a breakthrough thesis but someone like Chomsky or Foucault are just as much thinkers and visionaries as architects. Mathematics at the highest level becomes theoretical and fun and closer to poetry or art form than anything; it is not the same stuff they teach kids and turns them off the field entirely. Chemistry, same process of discovery; biology, same. Creativity is applying knowledge to progress the field. Knowledge that was built upon and needs to be carried on for the next group.

Maybe I digressed too far and read your response in a different light but to say there's no originality in any other discipline is simply perpetuating my art school comment. If architecture were to exist in isolation, fine, let it be all about art and originality and form. But as it stands now, it is the intersection between the social and political, natural and artificial, biological and virtual, the sciences and humanities. You need high-level math to do what Greg Lynn does (well, probably not now since the system is developed to just require some mouse input) and the planning theories to pursue what someone like Gehl or some urbanist architect does. Many factors outside the field affect architecture, its employment numbers and client base. Originality as the sole goal is fine for those art-driven types that take everything out of context of reality but there also need to be thinkers who push the field into a direction that works out in the field and that requires a lot more than just drawing skills or knowing how to make even more abstract shapes. Math, science, english, history, sociology and its related fields, some rote memorization, foreign languages, cultural submersion--the basics of a liberal education.

This topic seems to trigger some sort of flashback for you, which judging by that last rant feels as if you still feel the need to prove something to people. The pissing contest reply, the critical stance on academia (which isn't your fault since the system does seem to breed incompetence and lifelong for dinosaurs long past their intellectual prime in addition to pumping out impractical people), the overall shift in trying to define yourself as more than a set of three numbers attached to a name. It comes off really hostile and condescending to other professions and what people work just as hard for (think climate change and its deniers). At this point in civilization, we take education and knowledge for granted and thus freely criticize it, ignoring the real challenges in favor of personal vendettas. This isn't all coherent but I hope you do reconsider your skewed perspective on academia and other fields. In few other fields does a pass/fail system even indicate proficiency but that's another issue entirely.

Mar 25, 14 12:44 am
Aniket Marathe

Hello everyone,

I need your help/guidance

I have completed my professional degree B.ARCH in architecture from Mumbai university. INDIA. Now I'm willing to do my masters in architecture from US. I had applied to few schools and received admits from SAIC (School of the Art Institute Chicago), Pratt Institute, SCAD (Savannah college of Art and Design), and State university of NY, at Buffalo.

All are masters of architecture programs - 2 year duration.

I'm quite confused between SAIC and PRATT.

Kindly help me with each school's advantages and disadvantages.

Thank you in advance.

Mar 25, 14 1:50 am

@ Han Yang,

I graduated from one of the school in your top choices.  I was actually admitted to every school I applied to MIT, GSAPP, UPENN, etc.  I, like you, had a similar GPA, but was able to improve my GPA to 2.9 by the time I graduated from university.  So, it is every do-able. Below are my recommendations:

1) Improve your GPA as much as you can.

2) Go to a summer program GSD & GSAPP are the most popular ones. 

3) While at the summer program, work super hard, impress your instructors, and get them to write you rec letters.

4) Learn. Read about contemporary theories and practices in architecture.  Attend lectures.  Most universities list their lectures from free on their websites.  YouTube search works well too.

5) Get your hands on as many architecture magazines as possible.  Check your library. le croquis is super good

6) When making your portfolio, get as many people to look at it. If you have a friend who is a graphic designer, it helps.  

Mar 25, 14 9:47 am


Thank you for your advice! are the summer programs really that helpful for application? I talked to my adviser he told me those programs are just primary for high school students and people who didn't know much about architecture. is it worth giving up the intern?

Mar 25, 14 12:39 pm

If time permits, do both.  If you already have an internship lined up, you can do the summer program next year.  The summer programs I am referring to are not for high school students. (  The instructors and resources are way too great to pass over.  It is a must since you do not have a major relating to architecture. (a minor does not work)  Also, the networking potential and the resources you get during that time is invaluable.  However, this only applies if you are interested in going to very competitive programs.  

Another thing you can do is get a M.Arch at a less competitive school (that is much cheaper) and get a post-professional degree at the ivys after you graduate.  The post-professional (M.Arch III) is much much less competitive, and still gives you the prestige and networking abilities as someone who started as M.Arch I.  If I were in your shoes, this is what I would do.  Most definitely. 

Mar 25, 14 2:20 pm


Did you do the Columbia's program or GSD's?  I obtained my BS Arch almost two years ago and wondering if Columbia's program would be a fun way to get back into the studio academia realm since I'm applying this next application season.  I'm thinking about asking my work for a 5 week break :P

Mar 25, 14 8:01 pm


For the Columbia's summer program, Have you applied before? Is there a selection process or anyone who applied with required materials can be enrolled ?

Thank you again for the information.

Mar 25, 14 10:59 pm

@zkile didn't expect to see you here :/

Apr 12, 14 10:53 pm

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