Mature Student Considering Architecture (Tap-click title)

I wrote the following to a mature student considering Architecture:

You have indicated that you see this as a career change. Try to re-frame it as a logical ‘next step’ that you have decided to take at the appropriate time.  So it should look like a logical development, not aimless experimentation.

Your age is not a problem,  I would say 30 is about average. Career Testing at UBC is an option if you can afford it. If you were 45 now it will be a problem in the job market after univ. , because you would then  be in your 50’s looking for a first job in an architecture office.  Do you have any relatives who were architects or builders?   I know it sounds strange, but I have been in conversations where ‘heredity’ was a factor…just sayin’… If you have it, don’t hide it. “My great grandfather was a mason who worked on cathedrals in Europe.” They wouldn’t ignore that.

Don’t be intimidated by the amount of things in the portfolio write-up (also in this blog). Do as much as you can and just APPLY. Think about how things you have already done can ‘creatively’ be restated to fulfill some of the elements in the portfolio pdf’.  Everything can relate to architecture. For example, try googling ‘mime and architecture’,’ music and architecture’, etc. Even office work and organizing classes are related as ‘group work skills’, lifeskills. If you play a musical instrument – ‘architecture is frozen music’. Very few people can cover it all. (but some can(;-)  The trick is to be strategic – do some 2D drawing, some 3D work, some measured drawing (drafting), some computer stuff, but don’t emphasize hardball CAD.  Find a retired Architect, who can $$$tutor you in CAD and drafting, enough to cover that without BCIT.  There are several weekend courses at ECUAD year-round in Continuing Studies. All of my own courses are aimed at producing portfolio stuff. Doing some architect interviews will show you are serious. Quote their names (important that you remember and are respectful), You can do it by email if nec. Also, you might find a mentor among them who can employ you, do reference letters, etc. The portfolio  grid pdf in this blog is not official. It is only a general guide to the thinking. Some schools are very formal, some a little less so.

There is also a thing called the ‘minimum syllabus’. Google  it in connection with the RAIC ( Royal Architecture Institute of Canada   ‘ It is a kind of apprentice system by which most people used to get into architecture before universities got into the business. Universities downplay it and it takes a very long time, but at least you are working. Even the university route takes a very long time.

The way I look at it, if you don’t have the bucks to go to univ straight through, doing it in chunks that give you a piece of paper and a marketable skill  at 1 -2 year part time intervals can be an option. : two years at BCIT (then you are a drafter), ECUAD cert Programs (develops your drawing skills), SFU urban studies (municipalities and planners will like you), each builds skills and has certificates at the end, plus serious portfolio pieces. That way, if you decide you’ve had enough or find an interesting alternative, at least you have some excellent resume building completions.  Whereas, half of an architecture degree is worse than useless, in my opinion.

Just get as ready as you can for next year and APPLY to about  five univs: U of T, UBC, U of Man,, Dalhousie, U of Wash, U of Calgary. plus any others you can think of, even if you don’t see yourself relocating – things might change by the time you have to accept. Be pushy about getting feedback if you are rejected, and apply again. Many are accepted on a second, more  fine-tuned attempt.  Also, ideally apply no later than November for the following year, because if there is a tie and all other things being equal, they can decide to take the earlier applicant. Also, do not wait until the last minute to ask for referral letters. These are now often done online and believe me refs hate to be doing it over Christmas holidays because students are slow or disorganized!!!  Aim to do the work at the univs by Nov…you don’t submit portfolio at that time. You also should have at least one ‘academic’ reference, if possible. Always follow up with a sincere thank you, including (my suggestion) a Starbucks gift card. You might need the goodwill of these people next year for re-applying or for scholarship applications. Tell them how you made out, accepted or not.

Final point – You are trying to market yourself to universities as a future professional. Later you are marketing yourself to an employer and to clients. Think about what you look like as a job applicant:  The university degree is GOOD, BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. What are you bringing to the party that will allow an employer to charge for your time? The pressure and competition never ends.

Again, Good luck!   Tony

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