April 17, 2013

Should I stay or should I go? - Part II


Last weekend I visited my friends who were presenting their studio projects at one of my prospective grad schools for M.Arch. I am  fortunate to have architecture school friends across Canada who are getting their M.Arch in besides my Alma Mater. It makes it easier background research for where I want to study and get a student perspective. Some of my classmates in undergrad have opted to study elsewhere for Masters. I have asked some of them, in the past few months, why they chose to shift gears for graduate school and I received a good response from a number of them. So In this entry, I will outline the pros and cons from my conversations with them.

PROS:
New Faculty 
Some schools save some of their best professors for last, and depending on the prestige and reputation of a school, some of the best are in the graduate programs. These faculty display a great degree of forward thinking, innovation that you will get a chance to learn from and research with.  
Challenging Environment 
If you want to stay challenged and work hard, shifting environments might be a good thing to spice things up and change the game and keep you on your toes. I am concerned when I heard from friends that continued on in the same school that mention "it's just the continuation of", and the "it's just like undergrad" point of view. No - this is an expensive investment you are putting in your career and you want to be challenged, refined, and educated. A good architecture school will hone the talent and capability of their students. Architecture is never easy and shouldn't be treated as cake - that's dangerous.
Clean Slate (and hopefully, redemption) 
This might be good for fellow underdog architecture students such as myself, where you did not do too well or dealt with a bad rapport with a few faculty in your program. It might be good to get a refresher and look back on things you might have not easily absorbed in college and reinforce your knowledge base. If you have matured, this might give you the opportunity to bite back and prove yourself in a new environment. We weren't the same individuals that walked into undergrad architecture. Sometimes, it's better to make your absence felt than your presence known.

CONS:
Adjustment 
There will be a lot of adjustment involved in changing schools. New friends, New professors, new philosophies, new learning environment. Some people will be anxious and not so comfortable to change.  
Difficult competition  
For some grad schools, admission will favour those who have studied in their undergrad architecture program. This might make it difficult to receive advanced standing – especially for those programs that have M.Arch programs structure for 3.5 years. Also some grad schools that are the best in the country will be really competitive to get in...since everyone wants to study there.  
Bias 
Depending on your current school's tradition and school of thought, you might be pigeonholed by your new school for lacking to think like them, or being too technical or theoretical and vice versa. I've talked to friends who studied in architecture schools and they've somehow mentioned that they'd expect my work to be too technical and not conceptual based on the views of their professors towards other schools. I have had some classmates that dealt with being associated with your school's tradition (heads up).
Overlapping 
There are greater chances of overlapping and repetition of the same topics that were discussed in undergrad. For instance, you might have to deal with taking Structures again, or doing a beginner’s design studio. This is also the same issue if you were to get advanced standing for a M.Arch program that is teaching architects only at the graduate level.  
Cost of Living 
Especially if you are planning to relocate cities – costs will be an issue (however some of my friends that have relocated actually relocated back to their home towns to subdue the cost of education and living expenses)
As the underdog architecture student, it is kinda blatant where I stand in terms of where I want to go for graduate school. I feel like if you are a student that didn't start strong or wasn't the best student in undergrad it might be good to start with a clean slate to clear any biases of your potential and abilities. That school I visited last week, showed a much more different culture. If you were not the student that got to do cool projects, installations, and e.t.c. you might be better off going to a school that will give you the chance and opportunity to hone your capabilities as a designer.

RELATED POSTS:
Should I stay or should I go: Getting your M.Arch in the same architecture school (PART I)
The Underdog Architecture Student`s Response: Save the Architecture Learning for Graduate School
Going for a M.Arch - Dive in or wait a little? (PART I)
Going for a M.Arch - Dive in or wait a little? (PART II)

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