Architecture is vocational, and this has made each of its schools vary in certain respects. Aside from geographical and financial differences, schools differ in course structure, course focus, collaboration vs non-collaboration, written heavy, design heavy…etc. Many applicants panic when choosing a school because they worry that traits from each school may force their own interests. Graduates get employed and become different sorts of architects, academics and practitioners than if they studied elsewhere, and this can be daunting. You may be asking yourself, ‘what if I pick the wrong school!?’
Fear not. While you will pick up some of the traits of certain schools, this is not a concern. This is natural. What could be a concern, however, is if you let the traits of your school distract you too much from your own interests in architecture. That’s an internal thing, and not a school thing. It’s important to learn from your school, but most importantly, not be brainwashed. You can be any architect you want to be, at any school, as long as you remain your own person with your own interests. There is no requirement set by any school which suggests you must do similar work to any of the other students there, and you will find that your own originality and personality will be an asset to your development.
What’s to look out for, when selecting a school?
I actually find issue with this in itself, because top schools are excellent at synchronizing design courses with theory courses. However, it is known that, for example, Cambridge is a little more theory focused than the Bartlett and this reflects in the students and what those students get up to. Hopefully, however, you’ll let the wonders of theory and design interweave as they self inherently do. That being said, at the end of the day, will you be designing something? Will you be designing for 50% of the year of 90%? Do you take issue with this? Would you rather 50%? Look up the course schedule on the school’s website.
Look up the schools, see who teaches there, and check if you find any or all of them interesting. There’s nothing worse than not being on the same page as your educators. Schools are made of people, and these people are the only thing that will educate you. You’ll see them 24/7. Make sure you like what they’re up to.
I can’t shed much light on this as this is up to you! Aside from tuition fees, costs per school are roughly the same. Materials and studio gear may set you back around $1500 per year. For the average undergrad or MArch, books won’t be a significant expenditure. More experienced master’s students tend to pay more for their materials and gear. The odd student may drop $3k on an SLS 3D print, but that’s entirely their decision, will not in any way lead to them getting a better grade (professors know how much things cost), and is absolutely not required of any student.
While there are these three factors, there are many other things that may be important to the individual student such as location, VISA issues, and just generally how you feel about a school. Sometimes you just know that you want to go to that one in particular.