Unlike most majors, undergraduate architecture programs may require a portfolio; this is especially true for Bachelor of Architecture programs. All graduate architecture programs will require a portfolio. Requiring a portfolio does not mean you have to be a talented architect prior to admission. Rather, the portfolio demonstrates your level of creativity and commitment to architecture.

Portfolios take an unexpectedly large amount of time. Universities expect high quality portfolios made with high quality software programs–and no two set of requirements were the same.

Also, do not seek a “correct” way to put together your portfolio… because there is not one. Include a cover page and captions, and then the rest is up to you. One school might want your portfolio to tell a story and include lots of white space, while another asks for one piece per page with no unused space. — Robyn Payne, University of Kansas

What is a portfolio? For admission purposes, it is a compilation of creative work you have done on your own or as part of a class. It may include freehand drawings, poetry, photographs, or photographs of three-dimensional models or work. A portfolio is a means used by the program to determine technical skills, creative ability, motivation, and originality.

The portfolio is a creative act, showing your skills and imagination, but it is also an act of communication and a tool for self-promotion. — Harold Linton, Portfolio Design – portfoliodesign.com

If you are applying as an undergraduate, gain a better understanding of what to include by contacting the program. As a few programs have very specific requirements on the portfolio, be sure to follow directions; Cooper Union does not require a portfolio but asks candidates to complete a home test that includes drawing requirements. Despite the temptation, it is typically recommended not to include any drafting or computer-assisted design (CAD) work; again, check with the individual school for exact requirements.

Below is actual text on Portfolio Requirements from a handful of architecture programs.

Portfolio Requirements (Cornell University)


A portfolio is a required and critically important component of the application. All B.Arch. applicants must submit their portfolio online via Cornell AAP SlideRoom. The portfolio should contain several examples of freehand drawings including sketches as well as fully developed work. In addition to drawing, a range of artistic media needs to be demonstrated, but each applicant should emphasize the work where their skills and passion are expressed most strongly. Painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, video, woodworking, and other crafts can convey artistic experience and aptitude.

Please submit 15-20 slides with no more than two dedicated to the same project. Images must be clear with no text on the page unless it is integral to the artwork. A carefully crafted caption for each slide should state the intent, elaborate on the process and method, and reflect on the outcome. Include a note that lists the size and medium of each piece, as well as whether the work was completed in class or independently. Any group projects should be credited accordingly, and the task performed by the applicant noted specifically.


How to Curate a Strong Portfolio is a Freshman Candidate (Southern California, University of)


    1. It’s all about the content.
    2. Express your creativity and curiosity.
    3. Present your strongest work.


Portfolio Requirements (Syracuse University)


A portfolio of creative work is required for admission to the School of Architecture. This is a personal statement about you, your visual training, interest, and aspirations. Each portfolio is reviewed by an architecture admissions representative and is an important part of the way the school can learn more about you and your talents. It is critical that you adhere to all details regarding contents and presentation of your portfolio and meet submission deadlines.

Curious how to compile a portfolio for admission to the Syracuse University B.Arch. program? Join us for a portfolio development workshop where we will provide insight on developing your portfolio in a manner that best showcases your creativity, curiosity, and spatial ability.


Probably more so than when applying from high school, the portfolio is an important criterion when applying to a graduate program.  If you background is NOT in architecture, do not worry about including architectural work, but rather include creative works – painting, studio art, photography, drawing furniture design, etc.  Completing a portfolio is a good reason to take an art or drawing course prior to applying.

When applying to a graduate program with an undergraduate degree in architecture, you must be your own critic to determine what work to include.  Again, follow the requirements of the institution to which you are applying.


Portfolio Content Guidelines (Michigan, University of)


Master of Architecture applicants are required to submit examples of their academic work and, if possible, their professional work.

  • The first page of the portfolio (cover page-required) must include the following information: Your last name, first name, and email address
  • The portfolio must be formatted together in one Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)
  • There are no specified page dimensions or formats, but please note that portfolios will be reviewed electronically on a variety of screens and devices. Please ensure that all text and images will be legible in a variety of contexts. Portfolios may be no longer than 30 pages total and no larger than 20 MB. Portfolios that exceed these sizes may not be reviewed. Your portfolio will not be reviewed if you upload individual pages. Application processing time may increase if your file is incorrectly titled or if a cover page is not included.


Portfolio of Work (Notre Dame, University of)


All applicants are required to submit a portfolio of their work from academic experience, professional experience, independent projects, etc.  3-year professional degree (M.Arch/Path C) applicants without an extensive body of work or experience in the discipline should submit materials that offer a sense of the student’s logic/clarity of thought in terms of submission layout/organization and their ability to draw—or an ability to learn to drawn.  Projects in a variety of media may be submitted, but at least some hand-drawn/painted work should be included.


Submit Your Portfolio (Miami University)


Applicants to the M. Arch. II program, the portfolio should include examples of undergraduate and/or professional architectural design projects.

All M. Arch applicants are encouraged to include non-architectural work within their portfolio.

For applicants to the M. Arch. III program, the portfolio can include examples from architectural projects, if applicable. The portfolio should include work that demonstrates creative accomplishments.

Portfolio contents can be from any creative field, including design, photography, studio arts, film, writing, music, and performance. Candidates from technical disciplines, such as science or engineering, should contact the program to determine suitable application materials.

If your portfolio contains group work, you must note this and describe your role in the project.


Your portfolio is more than just a collection of your creative work; it is an opportunity to show your design skills through its layout, organization and format.  How the portfolio is done says much about you as a future architect.  Bottom line solicit feedback on your portfolio from classmates, faculty and the institution to which you are applying

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.