Succeeding in Architecture School

Succeeding in Architecture School, the KU Way

Undoubtedly the most common question that students and their parents ask is what they should study to be a successful candidate for an architecture program, and how to best prepare for the day they begin our program at KU. The straight answer is that applicants are evaluated on the basis of their academic records and their interests, talents and experiences. But the real answer is that there is no single answer. If you are well-rounded in your studies, curious and imaginative, a dedicated, self-starting, hard worker who also happens to love architecture chances are you can succeed! Here is some advice.


Architects draw on many sources for their creativity and inspiration. They’re part artist, and part engineer; part historian and part psychologist and more. So the more things you’re interested in, the more different subjects you study, the better off you’ll be. Ideally, the beginning architecture student will have taken high school physics and four years of math. But it’s not all about math and science. Communication classes are very useful, as architecture students often must explain or write out complex ideas when presenting their projects. Foreign languages are not required in our program, but they do help prepare students for study-abroad and, internships, some of which might take place overseas.


Perhaps the most important skill a student can bring to architecture school is an enjoyment of the act of drawing by hand and sketching. It is far more important than the mastery of computer-aided design and drawing programs, which will be introduced and thoroughly taught after a foundation of drawing by hand has been established. It is often thought that people are naturally endowed with the ability to draw but don’t be intimidated. It is our experience working with thousands of students over many years that one’s ability to draw is something that is learned and that it can be improved with practice. Everyone draws in studio here. But it can only help if you are already practiced and like to draw, before you arrive.


Taking sculpture, woodworking, even pottery classes will also come in very handy, because as an architecture student you’ll spend many hours building models and making things by hand. Summer jobs in building construction are also incredibly useful in learning the practical side of what it takes to build a building. Nearly every student who studies Architecture will spend some time in what we call a “design-build” studio. They learn how to build structures at large scale using power tools to cut and fasten. In their final year, students can elect to join our internationally known Studio 804 program. Students in Studio 804 design and construct an entire, technically sophisticated building every year.


Finally, pack your bags and travel. There is no substitute for discovering and experiencing the beauty of significant examples of architecture on your own, and exploring as many towns and cities as you can. In fact, some study abroad is required of every student who graduates from our program so they can see what it’s like not to be in Kansas anymore!