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On 11:34 AM by Rachel Preston Prinz in

If there is one thing I get asked more than anything else, its "How do I find the right school?"

The questions I'm suggesting you answer will help you to know if a program is right for you.

First, think about where you want to be. Do you want a big name school? A school in a big city? Do you want theory? Do you want to be able to walk out of the school and be prepared to teach or go right into a firm and be ready to "architect"? Or is there a place you need to be, like an in-state school that is close to home and affordable? Answer these questions first. Then, set your priorities on visiting at least 3 schools. Make sure one of the school is outside of what you think you want, just for the sake of comparison. (I've found that lots of my friends have ended up loving a school that they originally thought was way too hard, esoteric, or in too big or small of places...)

Then, schedule a visit. During hell week - a week before the last week of the semester - and preferably on Wednesday or Thursday. Projects are usually reviewed on Thursday or Friday the week before finals, and you'll see what crunch time is like for that school and its students. You'll also get to see the results of their work.  Arrange to talk to at least a sophomore and a senior in the programs you might be interested in. And if you can, talk to a few. If you can, talk to the students considered the "best and brightest" by the staff, those most respected by their peers (find that out by asking around!), and then just normal students (who can guide you to both).  You'll get a real feel for what the program is like from every angle, and you might make some good allies for when you get there! Sit in on the project reviews. Are the projects artsy-fartsy? Clearly thought out? Unbuildable? (its easiest to know that if you work in a firm or at a construction company during the summer) Does the work appeal to you? Are you excited about the prospect of doing projects like that? Are the students bleary-eyed from working 24-7 for a week to get their projects done? Are they speaking in a language you understand?

When you get a chance to talk to people, ask about the school's culture. Do people enjoy the program? Are the projects exciting? Are there lots of late nights? Is all the time in class IN the class, or is there lots of opportunity to get out and learn onsite?

Be warned, there are jerkfaces everywhere and A-school is no exception. In fact, because most architects have something of a god complex, there are actually more jerkfaces in A-school than other places sometimes. But there are gems. Find the school that has the best balance for WHO you are and how you DREAM.

The last piece of advice I always give is.. go play. Find out about extra-curriculars, campus events, the community, and the campus culture. Get out and try some of that too. Do you love hiking? City culture? Going dancing? Spending time in the library? Will you have to work too? Is the school somewhere you can do lots of whatever it is you love? Because A-school is HARD! It's meant to be. We have many things we need to know how to do, and they try to prepare you for a career in design, which also can be hard at times. Your life outside, your social circles, your access to doing things that are not school-related but that feed your soul will pay off in your ability to stay clear and focused. Play is considered one of the most difficult aspects of balance to achieve in A-school. And its critical for keeping sane. So take it into consideration. (You'll really appreciate this later, I promise.)

That's the best advice I have for you... Good luck!

These organizations can help you find your way to the right programs and schools, internships and studies.

The American Institute of Architecture Students

The American Institute of Architects

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards