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Apples and oranges?

Britmom5Britmom5 395 replies6 threads Member
My son has been accepted to several architectural programs - and has narrowed it down to three favorites, but I’m struggling with how best to help him decide as the three are SO different. He likes Drexel (a 6yr 4+2 BArch with coop experience); Pratt (a five year intense BArch) or UMass Amherst CHC, which would be a 4-year BA and would require an MArch. Any one have any input or advice?
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Replies to: Apples and oranges?

  • momrathmomrath 6022 replies39 threads Senior Member
    @Britmom5, First let me say that I'm not an architect, but the parent of an architect. I've learned a lot as an observer of my son's journey to becoming a licensed architect and of the experiences of his colleagues and the parents and students on this discussion board. I don't have insider information on any of your son's choices, but I can give you my impression of the points of differentiation.

    You are correct that the programs offered by these three schools are quite different, but I'd say that the BArchs from Drexel and Pratt are more like different varieties of apples while UMass is the orange.

    The core BArch curriculum is standardized by NAAB and students can expect to learn a balance of design, construction and technology at any BArch program. The differences lie more in the culture, environment and overarching personality of each individual school.

    Pratt is an art school. In order to be accepted, your son's portfolio and background must have evidenced a high level of skill and creativity in visual arts. If your son attends Pratt he can expect not necessarily more overall intensity, but a more intense focus on the creative and design elements of architecture. All of his classmates will be dedicated to some aspect of visual or creative arts. Self-inflicted competitiveness in the design studio can be stressful for students not accustomed to undergoing critiques of their work.

    Pratt regularly places among Design Intelligence's top 10 BArch programs (this year #7) which tenders a high level of name recognition throughout the industry, not just in New York, but globally, especially at design focused firms.

    Drexel is the work horse of architecture education, not a design super-star, but a solid and accomplished program with emphasis on hands-on training and career placement. Their co-op program assures that students integrate into the real world of work, early and deeply, build their resumes and get a head start on the process of becoming licensed. The overall thrust of the university is no-nonsense, practical and career oriented. I'm greatly in favor of practical experience but I have two comments about Drexel's 4+2 BArch. From their website:
    After successfully completing the minimum requirements of the full-time phase, students find full-time employment in the building industry, including architecture firms, while continuing their academic program part-time in the evening for four additional years. By combining work and study, Drexel students may be able to simultaneously satisfy their required internship for licensure (IDP) while completing their professional degree, thus qualifying for the registration exam on graduation in most jurisdictions.

    First, I would find four years of work during the day and school at night to be difficult on both fronts, and that either work performance or studio performance is likely to suffer. Second, the licensing process involves six exams not just one. Drexel offers the Integrated Path Initiative program which allows students to get a headstart on taking the exams during their undergraduate years, not just prepare them to take them. The internship part of licensing (IDP) involves completing a specified number of work hours in different aspects of architecture while under the supervision of a sponsor firm. Architecture students that are not enrolled in co-op plans commonly accomplish this requirement through through any summer internships and entry level jobs.

    The BA/BS+MArch route is a different animal from the BArch. It's less intensely architecture focused and allows for more experimentation in other disciplines. It also takes longer and can, depending on the cost the schools involved in each stage, cost more, so the financial element is an important consideration.

    At the firm my son works for (which would be considered a design focused firm) I'd estimate that the education of 60 to 70% of the architects have a BA/BS+MArch. It is a very common approach, that I think, provides additional depth, breadth and maturity to the architect's knowledge base. (At prestigious firms, it's not uncommon for architects to get MArchs on top of BArchs.)

    Because UMass is what I would call a "full service" university, your son's classmates will be studying a wide range of academic disciplines and participating in the full spectrum of university life.

    Is your son pursuing UMass' BS in architecture or another BA major? The BS program appears to be a good foundation for any MArch program. He may wish to continue at UMass for his MArch or get his MArch at a different school of architecture, or maybe work for a few years in between. Again, these are all common approaches.

    I don't know much about UMass' school of architecture but I would guess that summer internships in New York and Boston would be facilitated.

    So the decision really depends on what your son is looking for in his education and how eager he is to get started working as an architect. These are all good choices. None is better than the others, just different in overarching cultures and day-to-day experiences. Good luck and let us know what he decides!
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  • Britmom5Britmom5 395 replies6 threads Member
    Thank you @momrath for taking the time to answer in such detail! That was wonderfully informative, and I’ve passed the info along to my son. Where did your son study architecture?
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  • momrathmomrath 6022 replies39 threads Senior Member
    @Britmom5, It's a complicated decision because there are so many options. One other point that I'd mention: The fallout rate at BArch programs is quite high, I think because it's hard for high school students to grasp what an architecture education is all about until they're actually doing it. So it's good to have a Plan B in case it turns out that architecture isn't for him.

    My son has a BA from Williams in visual art and art history and an MArch from Cornell.

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