Architecture Applicant?

What goes into an architecture school application?

Start on your materials early to avoid the panic.

architecture school portfolio
Drawings do go in your portfolio – but if you’re applying to undergraduate programs, leave the drawings of building designs out.

This post deals with the basic components of what goes into an architecture school application. Part 1: Ultimately, your application depends entirely on which school / application system you’re using. Part 2: However, each school follows a similar structure, wherever it may be in the world.

Part 1

There are two main application systems for major universities, and then lots of application systems for different independent schools. They are:

UCAS (UK system)

UK applicants will be familiar with this. This is the only system you will use to apply to architecture schools in the UK (except the AA…which I will deal with later). It’s an online system where you will choose up to five (maximum) universities to apply to in the UK. You submit only one application and each school views it. Each school cannot see the other schools you applied to. UCAS is far simpler than the US system. With UCAS you upload your grades, references, ECs (extra curricular) and one personal statement. This personal statement (aka application essay) is, like I said, seen by all five schools.

Common Application (US system)

This is basically the same as UCAS, but has a few extra features that take up a little more time. You can apply to up to 20 schools in the CA (though that is not advised). Each school sees the first half of your application, i.e. your grades, EC’s and main application essay. Beyond these requirements each school may require you to submit further application essays specific to the school. These are only seen by the individual school asking for this extra work. We personally believe in this system vs UCAS for this reason alone. You get a chance to make an impression with each individual school and write about why that particular school is of great interest to you.

Independent systems

Schools like the AA (the only private/independent architecture school in the UK) will have their own application system. SCI-Arc used to work this way before transferring to the CA. These applications are great as you can really elaborate on the parts of your application that are relevant only to that school. However, they are a little more time intensive.

Part 2

Regardless of Part 1, at the end of the day, each school is going to want to see similar things:


In the UK these are usually required to satisfy university requirements and not the requirements of the department itself. For example, UCL requires AAB at A-Level but the Bartlett is less concerned with these hard minimum standards. What matters to the Bartlett are your portfolio and interview. However, grades are still required to get you through that first hoop.

Personal statement / Application essay

Lots to say on this very important requirement.


The UK is not that interested in what your ECs are. In the UK you go to school to study a specialty, and whether or not you were the captain of B-team hockey makes no difference to an architecture school (though it is important to maintain interests at university outside of architecture, in order to strike a good work/life balance). In the US, however, they’re highly valued, especially at larger universities. For example, Cornell will look at your ECs (as you’ll be doing a few courses in freshman year aside from architecture), but SCI-Arc will not be so concerned.


Choose the teachers that like you! If you have that option. Art/design teachers are more valued.


It’s the most important aspect of the architecture school application

Special tasks

For example, Cooper Union will issue its famous Studio Test. Some schools require you to do these extra tasks.


UK architecture schools value interviews more than US schools. Most UK schools require you to show up for an interview with your physical portfolio (sometimes these are online). US universities don’t seem to do these often, and some (such as Harvard) list it as ‘optional’, i.e. ‘schedule your own if you want one’.

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