Amazingly, May 1 better known as decision day is fast approaching. You may think a little more than two months is a long time but trust us – it is NOT. The next two months will fly by quickly.
As May 1 approaches, what resources will you access to assist in your decision. Remember, the decision of where to attend college is a major life one and does impact the rest of your career. Thus, how you make you decision is important. Having worked with many architecture students over the years, I can share that many students do fully avail themselves of the following resources or others.
The following are resources to assist you in your decision-making process.
PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS AND WEBSITES
At some time, you probably received promotional materials from universities. Although you may have reviewed them initially, review them again. As you do, review the university against the criteria you are using to make the decision. One important resource is the architecture program website – view student work, the faculty, the course and course descriptions and other resources of the institution.
Maintained by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), StudyArchitecture.com is a valuable resource for researching programs. Its primary content is a compilation of descriptions of the over 125 institutions offering professional degree programs in architecture. By reviewing these descriptions, you can begin to compare each institution you are considering against your criteria; the descriptions also provide important information including links to social media and their website. We suggest you follow their social media to learn more about the program
CAMPUS VISITS/OPEN HOUSES
Perhaps, the most helpful resource before the pandemic is the campus visit. Campus visits are an absolute must, especially for your top choices. But institutions are providing you to “visit” the institution in another manner. Even if you cannot actually visit the campus because of COVID-19, you should fully take advantage of these connection opportunities. If possible, be sure to connect both the overall institution and the architecture program.
ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR / ADMINISTRATOR
As you narrow your choices, one of the best resources is an admissions counselor or an administrator (director, advisor, or faculty member) from the architecture program. Remember, the task of these individuals is to assist you in learning more about their university and the architecture program. Develop a personal relationship with them to obtain the information you need to make an informed decision. Do not hesitate to keep in touch with them throughout the admissions process.
STUDENTS, FACULTY, ALUMNI, AND ARCHITECTS
An often neglected but important resource is conversations with individuals associated with the architecture program—students, faculty, and alumni. Contact the architecture program to ask for an opportunity to speak with students and faculty. Request the names of a few alumni in your area, both recent and older graduates, to ask their impressions. Finally, seek out architects in your area and ask them their opinions about the schools you are considering for admission. If you are unable to visit a program, request the email addresses of students or recent alumni to ask questions.
ARCHITECTURE PROGRAM REPORT (APR) / VISITING TEAM REPORT (VTR)
As part of the accreditation process administered by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), a team representing the profession, educators, regulators, and architecture students visits each program in architecture every eight years, assuming that it has received a full term of accreditation.
As part of the accreditation process, each institution prepares a related document called the Architecture Program Report (APR). The APR can be an excellent resource as you make your decision. It provides details of the program and describes the institutional context and resources; the document is public information and available from the academic unit on request. It may be too long for the institution to send to you, but it should be available in the library of the program or may be listed on their website.
Another useful document, the Visiting Team Report (VTR), also should be available to you upon request. The VTR conveys the visiting team’s assessment of the program’s educational quality as measured by the students’ performance and the overall learning environment. It includes documentation of the program’s noteworthy qualities, its deficiencies, and concerns about the program’s future performance.
While all this information may be overwhelming, these documents may be helpful to consider because they provide both an overview of the program from the academic unit itself and a review of the program by an outside group.
RANKING OF ARCHITECTURE PROGRAMS
While rankings may be a popular method of assistance in making your decision, be cautious. Do you know what criteria the book or magazine article uses when ranking programs? Are the criteria used important to you? You should use your own set of highly subjective criteria when determining which program is best for you. Consider that none of the associations involved with architectural education attempt or advocate the rating of architecture programs, beyond their term of accreditation. Qualities that make a school good for one student may not work that way for another. You should consider a variety of factors in making your choice among schools.
Although few would argue that certain programs, particularly those at the Ivy League schools, are excellent, the fact is that if a degree program is accredited by the NAAB it is valid for you to consider.
One resource, DesignIntelligence (di.net), attempts to assess the best architecture schools each year by asking practitioners to comment on how recent graduates from different schools fare in the marketplace. This report provides valuable information but also urges critical evaluation of the research results.
Over the next two months, we will share additional information on your decision-making process. In addition, we suggest you take notes on your interaction with each program / institution you are considering.
Keep us in touch as you make your decision. What questions do you have?