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yung_minsky

M.Arch w/ non-traditional experience

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Hi everyone,

I'm planning on applying to some M.Arch 1 programs, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice or insight on my application considering it may not be the traditional applicant's background. I'm not coming from a design or architecture background and have only practiced and studied independently in the field. I know that most M.Arch programs are first professional degrees but I still worry that my lack of design experience will automatically disqualify me. I do think that there are some interesting aspects to my application though, I graduated magna cum laude in economics, I've been teaching math for the last two years with Teach For America in an inner-city school, and I have had fellowship positions working on policy with the department of education. I've also already taken the GRE and my scores seem to be on par with some of the ivies. I'm planning on leveraging the idea of design thinking in policy and also plan on catering my portfolio to design experiences around my teaching experience. I'm just wondering everyone's thoughts on my background and maybe a good way of leveraging my experience and catering it toward architecture. I've seen some programs like SCI-Arc seem to like non-traditional experience and a social studies background, I also really like the work that I've seen the students do there and I'm interested in the avant-garde approach they take, so I was thinking of trying to apply there even though I know it's a tough program to get into. Any experience or guidance would be helpful, thank you in advance for any help!

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Hello! Applying can be an intimidating process but it sounds like you're right on target (especially with the pesky GRE conquered).

Not having a background in design and/or architecture on paper is actually seen as a positive... every open house I attended specifically mentioned this. Not only is it very common but they WANT a diverse group on individuals that are tapping into unique backgrounds and experiences. Where the challenge lies for non-design students is the portfolio. They are at a disadvantage to those that have trained and practiced in making things visually and creatively compelling (what they're primarily looking for in a portfolio). With that said it's not very hard to catch up... most people that are interested in architecture usually have already taken design/art classes in the past and possess a natural aptitude to aesthetics in general.

It's too bad that summer is almost over because many US schools (Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, SCI-Arc, Berkeley, UCLA, etc.) offer a pre.M.Arch summer program that would have been perfect for you. With that said, I'd really suggest taking some design classes, workshops, and/or tutoring to specifically help you with your portfolio if you haven't done so already.

 

Good luck!

 

P.S. SCI-Arc is a fantastic school and they attract some of the most talented students I've ever seen.... BUT... it's not very hard to get in (for better or worse) so don't be afraid to apply there.

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@miesvanderrohe Thank you for replying and the information! It really eased some anxieties I have about the application process! I'm going to take a design class in the fall to help with portfolio preparation. Do you have any idea why SCI-Arc has such a high acceptance rate? I saw that the undergrad acceptance is around 80% so I imagine the graduate acceptance isn't all that much different. That's not a bad thing for me, but it does seem strange for a school with a great reputation to let a large percentage of applicants in. 

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Glad I was able to help ease some of your anxieties!

SCI-Arc has a high acceptance rate even compared to other independent art schools like RISD and Pratt largely due to the combination of:

1) Expensive tuition/relatively small scholarship opportunities

2) Polarizing pedagogy

3) Diminishing interest in an architecture degree

 

Hope that doesn't rekindle or create new anxieties for you ? Architecture is a very versatile degree and the core skills that are taught are very valuable across a wide spectrum of careers should you choose to not take the traditional architect career path.

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