Evaluating Different Schools for Architecture Programs
The wealth of architecture programs available to prospective students can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to evaluating the differences between them. Whether you’re focusing on the digital landscape or wanting to pursue a more traditional education, knowing which school has the best architecture program comes down to a few key considerations.
Research and Rankings
The best way to begin your search is by researching the different schools that offer architecture programs and checking the related rankings. According to US News & World Report, the top-rated programs in this field have been historically directed at MIT, Harvard, and Cornell. This information should be taken as a starting point, however, as every student has slightly different goals and objectives.
Criterion for Selecting the Right Program
When making a decision about a college or university to attend for an architecture program, there are many criteria to consider. Realistically, any ranking of quality should be focused on the quality of faculty, the reputation of the school, the resources offered to the students, the quality of internships, the distance from major industry hubs, and the cost of living.
It’s also important to look at other areas such as the campus culture, the alumni network, and the surrounding city or town. The University of Southern California, for example, offers top quality architecture programs but is located in an expensive city and may not be suitable for someone who is looking to save money while they study.
When selecting an architecture program, it’s essential to find a school with strong connections to the professional industry. Universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, and University of California-Berkeley have world-renowned architecture and design departments with notable connections to the respective architecture industries.
Most of these programs offer great access to internships, industry mentorship opportunities, and portfolio showcases, which provide students the opportunity to make connections within the industry. It’s also important to ensure that the school offers a broad range of technical, design, and historical studies to round out the program.
International students seeking to study architecture in the United States may prefer to attend programs that offer global opportunities. Many universities offer international architecture and design programs that focus on contemporary and historical designs from around the world.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, offers students a study abroad term in London to explore iconic architecture and design. International study takes place seminar-style and is entirely elective. Furthermore, being able to see the great architecture in various cities also provides a valuable learning experience.
Cost is another critical factor in selecting the right architecture program. Most colleges and universities have competitive tuition rates and scholarship opportunities, while some offer comprehensive financial aid packages. Some universities also offer specialized research grants and stipends, which can make attending a top school within reach.
It’s important to remember, however, that cost shouldn’t be the only factor when making a decision. The cost of tuition doesn’t always equate to the quality of education, as many universities with lower tuition are equally as competitive as top schools in terms of curriculum and resources.
Architecture students need access to materials, industry-standard equipment, and specialized software. It’s important to consider the quality of the facilities at each school and how the architecture program is supported. Schools such as Cornell and UCLA offer exceptional facilities and resources, including graduate studios, computer labs, and supplies
Finally, when evaluating different architecture school it’s important to seek out programs that offer career support. The best architecture programs strengthen the job skills of their students through unique support resources, such as career counseling and internships.
For instance, the Harvard Graduate School of Design offers many resources to support its students, including career development workshops and job search counseling. These tools provide students with the skills, resources, and connections they will need to be successful after graduation.
Networking and Mentorship
Mentorship and support from established industry professionals is also essential for architecture students. Networking opportunities such as alumni organisations and design conferences provide invaluable connection and assist students to get a foothold in the industry.
Having access to industry professionals for further advice, guidance and insight is invaluable for budding architects. Many universities provide students with opportunities to learn from the best, including talks, seminars, and keynote sessions.
Creativity thrives when we are inspired by the world around us, so a vital part of any architecture program involves field trips to explore rural and urban environments. Schools that provide regular field trips provide an opportunity for students to observe and learn from great architecture while gaining hands-on design and presentation skills.
Trips to cities such as Barcelona and Rome also provide students with an appreciation of historical and contemporary design philosophies, as well as giving them an invaluable cultural experience.
Student projects remain one of the best measures of a school’s architecture program. Many schools require students to develop and submit projects that are innovative, meaningful and in line with the particular school’s philosophical approach to architecture.
This gives students an opportunity to develop their own ideas and explore their unique vision. Furthermore, successful projects give students a platform to showcase their expertise, which can open doors in the architecture industry.
Interdisciplinary programs have become popular among architecture students, as this allows them to develop expertise across multiple industries. Schools such as The University of Pennsylvania and Rice University offer multiple concentrations within their architecture programs, allowing students to study architecture with other disciplines such as fine arts, engineering, and urban planning.
This opens up an array of new career possibilities and provides students with a unique advantage in the job market.
Finally, it’s important to consider the diversity of the school in deciding which architecture program is right for you. Schools such as the Art Institute of Chicago and Parsons the New School for Design are renowned for their diverse student bodies, which increases cultural awareness and further deepens the students learning.
A diverse student body also provides an opportunity to build relationships with peers from different backgrounds, learn about different cultures, and break down stereotypes. This is an invaluable experience for any aspiring architect.