Architecture is a popular profession to pursue, but architecture school is a tough cut throat environment. It will quickly push out those that are incompetent and not passionate. Even the passionate dedicated students will struggle with the workload on a consistent basis. Here are some things to consider before you apply to architecture school:
Your Social Life Will Be Mostly in the Architecture Studio – The architecture studio is where you will spend the most time and therefore where you will make most of your friends.
Work Hard Play Hard – Although partying is doable, if you want to spend a night drinking, you will pay for it later with a late night in the architecture studio. A lot of architecture students choose to party and sacrifice sleep along with it. After a final presentation where students haven’t slept for over 36 hours, they will still go out and celebrate and continue to put off sleeping.
You Will Learn More About Presentation Drawings than Construction Documents – Architecture schools are generally geared towards conceptual design and not drafting. Unless you are going to a drafting school, you will not learn about construction documents until your junior or senior year. Your focus will be on renderings, section perspectives, conceptual plans, and diagrams that convey your concept. The reasoning behind all this is that your college wants you to be competent in the design phase before learning how to detail a wall section, for example.
Professors Will Change Your Design Every Time You Meet – That drawing you spent all night doing, you will have to do over again, because your professor thinks it would be better designed differently. Spend a night building a model? Well build another one as soon as your drawings change again. 2 Days before the final? Good, because your professor has some last minute design changes for you to make. You will master the iterative process, but it will be frustrating at times.
Architecture is All About Presentation – You may have known this already. But if you are shy at public speaking or not good at expressing yourself, this profession may not be for you. Even in the field, the architect has to explain the project to clients who may have only a vague understanding of architecture. But don’t worry, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice and refine your presentation skills.
You Will Have to Pull All Nighters – Even students who are great at managing their time find themselves pulling all nighters to get their project completed before the deadline. Most of the semester is spent changing your design over and over again rather than producing beautiful drawings. When you finally get the go ahead from your professor that your design is good, it may be only days before the final presentation. You will likely find yourself to be a caffeine addict by the end of your first semester.
Everything is Subjective – Sometimes professors will go against something they said earlier. And during presentations, the professors may argue with each other about your project. Someone with another professor who had a better project than you could get a lower grade than you. Despite efforts to have a fair and systematic grading system, your grade is mostly up to the personal opinion of your professor.
Professors Can Degrade You During Presentations – I have seen students tear up during presentations after a professor completely shuts down their project. Professors will catch students off guard with questions that they had not considered. Sometimes you will have good critiques. Sometimes you will have bad ones. You will learn to not take the criticism personally.
Professors Will Hyper-focus on One Part of Your Presentation – Sometimes professors will get into a 10 minute discussion on a drawing you did in 20 minutes and completely ignore a drawing you spent hours on. Be very careful when building models, because the professors will spend the most time looking at the models rather than the drawings.
Architecture Teaches You to Consider Everything – Architects have their own way of thinking. They will tackle a problem from multiple angles and consider all the possibilities. Just like there are infinite ways to lay out rooms in a building, there are infinite ways to tackle a problem in real life. Architects are not okay with a solution that works. They want a solution that is better than all the other solutions. It’s this kind of thinking that allow architects to be successful in alternate fields as well.
You Are Never Done – Even if you think you are done with a project, there is always something you can improve on. You will get plenty of feedback during your presentation on how to improve your project, even if it is the final presentation. When it comes time to make your portfolio, you will find yourself improving old projects to show employers.
You Will Be Amazed at What You Can Do – In just 2 years, you will be amazed at what you learned, and the quality of work you can produce. Not to mention what you will be capable of in 4 years. The learning curve is very fast paced and you will learn something new everyday that will change how you design future projects.
Many students will drop out of architecture school, because they realize it’s not for them. And that’s perfectly okay. Make sure you are really passionate about architecture before deciding to major in the field. Otherwise you won’t have a strong motivation to create strong, successful projects.