4 Best Colleges for Architecture Majors

The top schools for designing, drafting, and building.

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Earning an undergraduate degree in architecture can open up a variety of worlds, both for your career and for your creativity. Since MIT launched the country’s first program in 1865, thousands of architecture colleges have been developed. Today, students can study everything from art and technical orientation to sustainability or specific architectural approaches.

Whether you hope to manage construction sites or design sustainable urban buildings, there are many great architecture colleges to choose from. Here’s our list of the top four architecture schools.

4. Rhode Island School of Design: $41,332

RISD is known internationally for its fantastic art programs and history of producing artistic greats. The Division of Architecture and Design is no different. Because it’s part of such a creativity-based college, the division is focused on the creative side of architecture rather than technical aspects. Undergraduates are taught to think in terms of drawing and creating, not logistics and specs.

Students in RISD’s architecture program have the opportunity to design architecture from the ground up. Once sketches and plans are created, students literally get their hands dirty by taking part in the construction process. RISD also encourages students to get in the studio and design by making studio classes an integral part of all four years.

3. Syracuse University: $39,654

If you’re looking for the most distinguished undergraduate architecture program in the country, Syracuse University is the place. Not only is the department housed in a registered National Historic building, but it challenges students to think beyond design and construction. Syracuse’s architecture department emphasizes mixing art with technology, and how to make architecture a viable career no matter what a student’s strengths are.

When Syracuse students enter the architectural design studio, faculty members critique their worked both formally and informally – but that’s not the only input they receive. Visiting architects often stop by to share feedback on student work, providing an opportunity to get professional opinions.

2. Rice University: $37,292

When it comes to competition, Rice University tops the list. Simply gaining admission to the architecture program requires a competitive spirit – only 24 new freshmen are accepted each year. Rice has the smallest degree program in the country out of all the top research universities.

In the classroom, Rice students focus on how architecture is connected to technology and human communication. Before graduating, students are required to intern at an architecture office for a full year to ensure they gain “real world” experience. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Rice’s program is the guest speaker policy: students are expected to dine with visiting speakers and pick their brains.

1. Cornell University: $43,413

Cornell is home to one of the oldest architecture programs in the country. It’s also the most prestigious, having been ranked number one for undergraduate studies multiple times. With a faculty of 30 award-winning professors, students are ensured one-on-one time both in and out of the classroom.

Future architects should be aware that Cornell’s program doesn’t end after four years, though – every student must complete a full five years of study. Majors don’t just delve into the design aspects of architecture. Human behavior, legal and ethical issues, and client skills are all subsections of the program. Hands-on lessons are learned on-site, and students can spend a semester at the Cornell architecture programs in New York or Rome.

Quick Facts

  • Many architecture students interested in studying abroad choose to spend their semester in Rome. Some colleges, such as Cornell and Syracuse, even have entire architecture schools abroad.
  • It’s common for architecture students to spend more than four years in school. Year-long internships are often required, and it can take a little extra time to prepare for certification exams.
  • Be prepared to submit a portfolio along with your college application. Schools want to see what you’re capable of creating before you’ve been formally trained.

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