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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Things you should know about architecture school

Gained admission into that coveted architecture school? Can’t wait to get started? Or thinking about going into one? Read our guide here.

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It doesn’t matter what your reason for coming to architecture school is; your passion for the built environment, wanting to leave your mark in the world through an iconic building, or simply your love for drawing and coming up with creative spaces for the public, it’s important that you know these few vital facts.

Architecture school isn’t a walk in the park. You’ll be managing a few assignments and projects at any one time and sometimes the deadlines will conflict. Don’t despair. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.


The first plan will be rejected

That’s perfectly normal. No one ever gets their first project proposal approved. Even if it’s really good, tutors are expected to reject the initial plan so that you can fine tune your project and develop the skills needed. Don’t let the rejection get to you. This is a school, you’re meant to learn and continue developing your design senses and understanding of the requirements.


Read a lot

As a budding architect, it’s vital that you keep abreast of latest trends and changes in the built environment. Be sure to look beyond the building and understand the structural requirements and how the design accommodates that.



When you’re walking down the street, in a car waiting for the green light, take a look around. Architecture is a living and breathing thing. One of the best skills that you can have as an architect is the ability to look at your surroundings and learn from them- analyse the ideas, techniques and skills, and see if you can apply those to your own designs or modify them to make it your own.



Whenever inspiration strikes you or during class, sketch down your ideas, it helps you to better visualise them. Sketching ensures that your hand remains steady. It also aids you in understanding your form, lines, and spaces.


No expert drawing skills needed

Let’s make one thing clear. You don’t need to be an excellent artist to be an architect. As long as others can understand your drawing, it doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, quite a lot of architects today can’t draw very well, but are good at their jobs.



It’s not just drawing in front of the sketchpad or on the computer 24/7. You will need to write, if not a report, then to keep track of any inspiration that comes to you wherever and whenever you are. Even if it’s just a word, like “depth” or “concrete” or “linear”, these will help you when you go to class and get assigned a new project. Sometimes someone says something and you find it relevant or interesting, it’s good to write those down as well. Keep a small notebook on your person at all times. You wouldn’t want to be in situation where you can’t recall important information, you’d never know when a particular idea might result into a stellar project.


Design with people in mind

Architecture is appreciated by humans and used by humans, so it’s only natural that you should design your projects with people in mind. Take into consideration their level of comfort, their requirements; balance their needs with your aesthetics and the structural integrity of the building.


Ask, ask and ask some more

You’re already in school, now’s not the time to be gun-shy. Learn all you can from your professors. Be greedy about satiating your need for knowledge and information. Your professors want nothing but the best for you. If there’s something that you don’t understand, be sure to ask them. It’s also essential that you ask questions from different perspectives so that you can test your assumptions to improve your designs.


Take up public speaking

Invest in a class, or join a toastmasters club, or find ways to dust off those rusty public speaking skills. Speaking well in public will not only be useful throughout your time in architecture school, it will come in handy when you enter the workforce. You need to spend an equal amount of effort on your presentation (the actual powerpoint slides) and how you present it (what you’re going to say to the panel). Your project might be novel and really good, but if you can’t convey that well enough to the panel of judges, then you might not get approval, yours might be passed over for someone else’s. If you can’t find a class, prepare your speech/pointers and practice it with your friend.


Every design must have a ‘parti’

Good tutors enjoy challenging conventional wisdom and they’ll explain that it’s important to have an intellectual opinion or stance on design and it doesn’t have to be a popular one.


Use a sharp scalpel

When cutting out your models, use a sharp scalpel. Using blunt scalpel will only result in injury and you’ll just be wasting your time and valuable material.


Computers are not substitutes for thinking

Architects are hired to figure out real-world problems, so students should not just rely on technology to help them solve problems.


Create a visual feast

The keystone in architecture is to engage the user through their senses especially sight. This can be through scale, proportion, daylight and colour.


Select a hobby or two

Architecture school is a strange beast, it might not be as taxing as law school and as content-heavy as medical school, but it still is daunting. There will be tons of projects, tons of revisions and even more revisions. However, it is most definitely worth it. You will have time in between projects or during the weekends to relax. Having a hobby enables your mind to focus on something else and can nurture your creativity, especially if you’re stuck in a rut.



When you’re bogged down with conflicting deadlines, it’s hard to wrench yourself away from the desk to do anything but go to the loo or grab something light to stuff your face with. However, staying glued to your studio working on the project endlessly will only make you unhealthy. You need to get out and exercise. Getting vitamin D has been scientifically proven to improve your mood and mental clarity. Moving your body and sweating out all the toxins will keep your body healthy and results in a clearer mind. Who knows, inspiration might strike when you’re out running or swimming!

We hope this guide has helped you get a clearer picture of what architecture school will be like. All the best!


Thinking of studying abroad? Check the other courses available here!


Useful links

Awesome libraries to visit

7 ways to pay attention in class

4 ways to keep in touch with your loved ones when abroad

Top tips when applying for universities in the UK and US

Things to do before your study abroad trip

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