What goes into an architecture school application?



This post deals with the basic components. For the individual components to be explained in more detail, such as the portfolio, interview, or personal statement/essay keep an eye on application resources.

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 high schoolers 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 5 (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 5 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 on the CA (though that is not advised). Each school sees the first half of your application, i.e. your grades, EC’s and 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. I 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.

Cooper Union is on the CA, and they very clearly outline the general application process:


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. See what an independent architecture school application looks like:




Part 2:

Regardless of part 1, at the end of the day, each school is going to want to see similar things. They are, in a sort of chronology:


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

Personal statement / Application essay

There will be posts about this mystery requirement. Lots to say on it.


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 is important to maintain at university outside of architecture, in order to strike an efficient work/life balance, contributing to mental wellbeing). In the US, however, they’re valued, especially at larger universities with a subsidiary architecture school. 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.


See this post. This is the most important application material.

Special tasks

For example, the Bartlett will issue its famous drawing task. Some schools require you to do these extra tasks. Posts to come on this.


UK schools value these more than US schools. Most UK schools require you to show up for a chat with your physical portfolio. 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’.



Note: some schools choose not to ask for some of these items. For example, Cooper doesn’t ask for a portfolio, only a special task.



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