It's the end of summer and every college kid everywhere is preparing to return to classes and of course, the incoming freshmen couldn't be more excited to begin their new journey as college students. Returning students may not be completely clueless in what to expect with their upcoming classes seeing, but there are definitely some things they wish they knew before coming to college that could have made their transition a tad bit smoother.
Different majors certainly have their different lists, but here some things I wish someone told me about architecture school:
1. It Is Passion-Driven
I remember when I first said I wanted to study architecture and the most response I received was something along the lines of, "oh, I know this person who went to architecture school, but they ended up dropping out because it too tough," or, "um, do you think you'll be able to make a lot of money? You should try *mentions something with which I have zero interest* instead".
The thing is, if it's for you, it's for you, and it's definitely not for everybody. If you're willing to put up with the long hours, the energy draining (but totally rewarding) process, the sleepless nights and caffeinated mornings, if the passion for design is there, then you shouldn't let anybody's words stop you.
You will have your doubts and frustrations, but you will rise above them, because somebody's gotta finish that model!
2. Be Prepared To Work Hard
Obviously, with any college major, hard work is always key - you get what you give. The time, sweat, energy and utmost dedication you give to your work will ALWAYS show in your final work.
You might have to cancel plans or say no to some events with friends and sometimes (especially if they're in a different field), they might not fully understand why you are working on a project right now that will not be due until five weeks, but you know that five weeks might as well be five seconds because you haven't even established your design concept yet and the clock is ticking. But in the end, your hard work and dedication will always pay off and you will see that it was all worth it!
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3. There Will Be Public Speaking
Now, and for the rest of your architectural career... so be prepared!
Jurors are looking for a quick and straightforward understanding of your design, so no room for beating around the bush. My little trick for getting ready for presentation day was to understand my work in its entirety. First, I listened to the way my professor talked about my work during critiques, the terms they used and the ideas they provided, then I went to other professors and heard what they had to say also, then I heard from my colleagues also. Combining my knowledge and understanding of my work with the views of others, it was easy for me to know exactly what I was talking about and it is easier to speak more confidently when you have a point.
Now, you know what to say, you have to know HOW to say it. Here are really helpful tips on how to go about architecture presentations.
Practice, Practice, Practice, in front of a mirror, with your colleagues, and very importantly, in front of your non-architecture friends - no one better to call out your gibberish than them.
4. All-Nighters Are NO Competition!
Oh, did I tell you? There will most likely be all-nighters!
There will come a time in the semester when in order to keep up with your project timeline, you HAD to stay up all night working. As freshmen, you must have already heard a bunch of all-nighter tales from upperclassmen and you're secretly looking forward to the day when the workload gets super packed that staying the night in the studio is almost inevitable. And when the day finally comes, you can't wait to tell it to the world! You finally have completed your unofficial initiation into the world of architecture school and you've gained those bragging rights!
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It almost becomes an obsession, especially among freshmen to see who can pull the most consecutive all-nighters and a lot of students are losing sleep for the sole purpose of winning a meaningless competition. Working late does not attribute to working hard! If you are staying the night in the studio when you don't really have to, you'll end up regretting it it the end.
Sleep is sacred in this career and it is very important to savor as much sleep as you possibly can to keep you healthy, active and ready for a new day's work. If you do pull an all-nighter out of requirement, (first of all, cheers!) you should remember to take a power nap at least once during the night, and have a healthy snack to keep you productive while working.
5. Studio Culture Is Key To Success
"The friends you make in college are friends for life"
You've probably already heard that one before, but honestly, the friendships you make in architecture school last an eternity and it is important to build great ones!
Most of the faces you see on the first day of studio (keyword: "most", not "all") are the faces you'll learn to become familiar with throughout your entire course of study. You'll most likely see the faces of your studio family more than that of your biological family throughout the semester so it is important that you all work together. It is easier to bounce off ideas with each other and think more intensely when you have the support of people who are either going through the same struggles as you or have gone through those situations and can now share helpful tips with you.
Architecture school is not a one-man's-world, it requires team effort and it is easy to forget that not just you peers are on your team, so are your professors and studio instructors, so don't hesitate to ask questions!
6. Be Open To Criticism
From your peers, instructors, from everyone. The way you view your work is most likely not the exact same way others will perceive it, and you have to be okay with that.
There will be tears and headaches and heart breaks. You will come into class feeling the most confident because you just spent the last 48 hours of your life putting together this parti model and it couldn't be more perfect! Just to present it to your instructor and they shatter it in your face (sometimes literally) telling you how well it could have been if you just made this little adjustment (not always "little") and you get this feeling of absolute frustration and complete defeat because you know they're right. One part of you just wants to go ahead with your original idea because starting over will drain you, the other part of knows you better suck it up and start switching up your design quick before the next studio. Then there's the time when you're trying to brag about your perfect little design to your colleague and they have the guts to point out that "that cantilever won't go out that far," or "your line quality could be better". How dare they! But you know what you have to do.
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7. Get Out Of Studio!
Please, Please, Please, that project will be still there when you get back and you'll even be in a better mood to complete it.
Find some time to a break from the studio. Visit a museum, go to a concert, go to the gym, go outdoor sketching, just do something, anything that takes you away from your drafting board or your computer for a while. You will realize that you actually get more design inspiration from your outside surroundings than you do stuck in front of a keyboard. Think about the health benefits also!
Don't feel guilty for taking a break from your project for a day, or just a couple of hours if you can't afford to be away for an entire day. But let's face it, no matter where you go or what you're doing, you always have the studio on your mind so you might as well keep a mini sketchbook at hand for all of your sudden design epiphanies.
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This list is in no way designed to scare you, or make you reconsider your choice. It does get tough but, if architecture school is for you, then you're already tougher so go out there and shine in confidence and GOOD LUCK!
You'll need it.