Thursday, January 19, 2012

High School Preparation

I am a high school student in Romania. I have recently seen your blog and I did like it. I have also seen that you are available for questions so I wrote to you in order to ask for some advice and I hope you will give me some.

After finishing high school I would like to apply to an American college in order to study architecture there and I would have liked to know if you have any advice on what to study before college. I would
also like to ask you if I have any chance to find an architectural firm that offers internships for high school students in order to gain some relevant experience in the field.

The answer below comes from my book, Becoming an Architect, 2nd Ed. and is written for students in the U.S.  I will hope much of it can still apply to you as a student in Romania.

Because becoming an architect requires a college education (in most states), your high school academic curriculum should focus on college preparatory courses, including four years of English and mathematics.  Pursue as many honors and advanced placement (AP) courses as possible; by taking and passing advanced placement exams, you may receive college credit and bypass required entry-level courses.  (Note: The number of credit hours you can receive varies by college.)  As well, AP credit allows you to carry a lighter academic load or pursue additional coursework such as electives or minors.

While the mathematics requirement may vary among architecture programs, most either require or encourage you to take calculus.  You should pursue or take the highest-level math course your high school offers.   

Although some high schools do not require or offer physics, you should take an entire year of high school physics rather than biology or chemistry if possible.  A good year-long physics course is excellent preparation for college physics and structures courses.  If you have already completed college, note that many graduate programs require or strongly encourage your taking calculus and physics as prerequisite courses; these typically can be done at area community colleges but check the requirements of the graduate program.  A handful may also require completing a history of architecture course.  Again, check with each program as to their requirements.

In addition, take art, drawing, and design classes rather than architectural drafting or CAD.  Your interest in architecture may have surfaced from a drafting course, but art courses will be more helpful in your preparation to become an architect.  Art, drawing, and design courses develop visual aptitude and literacy while expanding your ability to communicate graphically.  Take a freehand drawing course or a three-dimensional course such as sculpture or woodworking.  In addition, art courses provide you with materials for your portfolio, a requirement for some architecture programs; this is especially true if you applying to graduate programs as all will require a portfolio for admission. 

Do your best with every academic course you take!  While grades are not the only criterion by which college admissions offices judge applications, it certainly is one of the more important ones.

Beside academics, what can you do to begin your preparation for a career in architecture? Consider the following: (a) exploration of the built environment; (b) visits to architecture firms and schools; (c) participating in a summer program sponsored by an architecture program; and (d) participating in an after-school program.  All these provide you a head start on the path to becoming an architect.

As for obtaining an internship in an architectural firm, it might be difficult because high school students have limited experience, but contacting a firm to possibly "shadow" could be helpful to better understand the profession.

Dr. Architecture

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