Researching a Graduate Program
Below is a brief synopsis from a colleague on researching a graduate program in architecture. Note that many graduate programs are hosting Graduate Open Houses during late October / early November providing you an opportunity to visit programs.
Michelle A. Rinehart, Ed.D., Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Outreach
Georgia Institute of Technology
One of the most helpful tools is to write your own statement about architecture. Initially, it will be an important way for you to hone your list of schools; in the longer term, it can be the “bones” for your personal statement. Consider the following: 1) why are you studying architecture, 2) what kind of architect / designer do you aspire to be, 3) what architectural (and related) skills have you already gained, 4) what additional skillsets do you still need / desire, and 5) what environment do you want to be in as you study architecture (e.g., geographic region, city size, available facilities/amenities, social community, etc.).
When narrowing your choices, you should use the web to see student work and learn more about the faculty, but you should also visit the campus. You should ask your own professors and members of your local design community for recommendations. If you are considering graduate school at your own institution, be sure to ask yourself whether you have learned all that you can or whether there is still knowledge to be gained.
The majority of students will narrow their list without even contacting the schools, only reaching out once they have been accepted. One of the best ways of narrowing your list is by using the schools as resources, delving deeper than the information available on the web.
Key questions you should ask include: 1) given my educational experiences, where and how will I be placed in your program? 2) will I need to provide syllabi for my previous coursework? 3) are there required courses that I need before attending? 4) what financial aid and assistantship opportunities available? and 5) when was your last NAAB accreditation visit and is it possible to obtain a copy of the visiting team report (VTR). Also, ask for the contact information for a few graduate students who are able to answer questions about the program from a student perspective. Asking questions early helps you to narrow your list, but also lets the schools know that you are interested in their program and are thoughtful about your graduate education.
While the amount of research may seem heavy, it will make the rest of the application process go much more smoothly. You will have a draft of your personal statement that you can begin to tailor to each of your schools, and you will have a lot of your questions already answered by the time you are admitted (when you will likely be bogged down with end-of-the-semester deadlines). More information means a more informed decision in the end.