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How to Survive Architecture School


Architecture school, as any architecture student will tell you, is on par with law school or medical school for intensity and difficulty. It’s a stressful, weird, amazing time that can either be the best thing that’s ever happened to you or the worst, depending on what you make of it. We’ve been there, and are ready to share our survival strategies on how to make it through architecture school with your sanity still (somewhat) intact.

Make Friends with Your Classmates

Studio mates are one of the best parts of architecture school. The long nights and commiserating over insane teachers will help to form a nice friendly bond. When you have someone you like in the fox hole with you, the whole experience becomes a hundred times more enjoyable. Not only is it nice to have friends around, they can also be incredibly useful for brainstorming ideas and helping stop panic attacks.

Keep Current on Design Trends

Surround yourself with as much contemporary architecture as you can! Read architecture books, blogs and magazines, find great designers you like, and expose yourself to as many ideas as possible. Knowing what’s going on in the industry will put you a step ahead of your peers when it comes time for job interviews. Additionally, soaking up a lot of different ideas will help you figure out and define your style as an architect.

Learn to Love Your Calendar

As soon as you receive notice of any deadline, due date, or field trip, make sure to note it down in your calendar of choice. A lot of students like the feel and weight of a paper calendar, but we’re partial to calendars that integrate with your phone and can interrupt you with important notifications when they need to. Be sure to put reminders of what’s coming a few days or weeks before the actual event too – writing down your deadlines does nothing if you don’t see them until they’re about to pass.

Take Time Off When You Can

There’s a saying about chopping wood – it’s better to spend an hour sharpening your axe than an extra four hours hacking away at a tree because you were too busy to sit and sharpen. You will not do your best work if you’re burned out from doing absolutely nothing but architecture 24 hours a day until your body gives in out of sheer exhaustion. Even if you do something as small as take a ten minute walk outside in the sunshine before school, your mental health and academic performance will increase dramatically. Find five to twenty minutes every day and do something completely unrelated to architecture that relaxes you – listen to music, sing, work out, anything that makes you feel good.

Buy Stock in Starbucks

As any architecture student or working architect can tell you, sleep is little more than a fond memory once architecture school starts. You are going to be running on little more than deadline-fueled adrenaline and caffeine, and it’s important to know your limits and what kind of caffeinated drink works best when you have a deadline you’ve forgotten about until the night before.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

No man or woman is an island, and no architect makes it through architecture school on their own. Sometimes you have a lot to give and can be there for your studio mates, and sometimes you’re the one who needs a helping hand to get a project done on time. It’s okay to admit that you don’t have the answer all the time, and you can usually rely on the people around you to know what it’s like and lend a hand when you need.

Remember the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Chances are that something is going to happen during architecture school that makes you feel overwhelmed and like you want to give up. A relationship might end, you might miss eating food that isn’t ramen noodles made in coffee, and you could forget why you’re putting yourself through this. Remember that what you’re experiencing is a rite of passage, and be proud that you’re working so hard to bring your passion to life. Anything short of having to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney, due to being completed exhausted and drained, should not be allowed to throw you off of your mission. The feeling that you’ll get when you can drive past a building you designed for the rest of your life, being able to point to something beautiful and say “I did that,” that feeling will make the long nights and crazy classmates seem like a fond and distant memory.