Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to Get Accepted to a Top Landscape Architecture Program

Are you interested in pursuing a career in landscape architecture but don't think you have what it takes to gain acceptance to a top-ranked Landscape Architecture program? Do you feel limited by your age, academic background, professional experience, or mastery of certain software or artistic skills? Are you unsure of how to go about creating that all-important application design portfolio or scoring well on the GRE?
If you have answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then you have come to the right place. In the following articles I will go into detail on how I gained acceptance to three top-ranked Master of Landscape Architecture programs despite an unimpressive academic background and virtually no experience in design. I will explain how, with hard work, patience, and dedication, you can overcome limiting beliefs and turn perceived weaknesses into strengths that application review boards will love. Bottom line – by applying the information provided in the following articles you can vastly improve your chances of gaining acceptance to a top-ranked Landscape Architecture program.
A Little About Me
I was raised in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, a place so overrun with concrete and asphalt that few residents even know what type of natural landscape their city was built upon. I did not fall in love with nature at an early age - as far as I could tell there was no nature to interact with. In high school I was a mediocre student, and though I was interested in architecture I did not believe that I had the grades necessary to gain acceptance to my choice school, the University of Texas (or any good school, for that matter.) Instead of settling with a subpar college, I decided that after high school graduation I would enlist in the U.S. Air Force and become a fighter pilot like my grandfather.
Long story short, I ended up becoming a Korean linguist in the Air Force instead of a fighter pilot. Within this role I was placed in a wide variety of challenging situations and given responsibilities that I had never anticipated. By the time my six-year enlistment drew to a close, I had gained a unique skillset and perspective on life, but I had also realized that I needed to pursue what I was truly passionate about – design. I applied to the University of Texas as a Liberal Arts student majoring in Asian Studies because it was in line with my experiences in Asia and military training. However, I had a plan to transfer into the architecture department as soon as possible.
I worked hard in my first few semesters at UT. I had a high GPA and things looked good to transfer into the architecture department. However, after consulting with Larry Speck, a respected faculty member and former dean of the architecture department, I decided that it was in my best interest to finish out the remainder of my undergraduate degree as an Asian Studies major and then apply to a Master of Architecture program after graduation. While completing my Liberal Arts degree I changed my minor from Physics to Architecture to get a solid foundation and to learn as much as I could, but in the end the most important thing I learned was that I was not destined to be an building architect – I was destined to be a landscape architect.
Unfortunately, I was still a bit uncertain of where to focus my energies at this point in my life, and I was not especially interested in my chosen major of Far East Asian Studies. This led to my GPA falling to only mediocre levels; by the time I graduated I had an overall GPA of 3.4 and an upper-division GPA of 3.0. Not bad, but certainly not competitive as compared to the 3.8+ averages of those applying to top-ranked Master of Landscape Architecture programs. When I took the GRE I scored in the 56 percentile in math and the 72 percentile in writing. I had also tried getting a job as an intern at two landscape architecture firms, but the principals of both firms said essentially the same thing: “We like you, but you just don’t have anything to prove you could be valuable to us.”
So in the year after graduating college I worked two customer service jobs for low pay and thought anxiously about how my life was not on the trajectory I wanted it to be. I knew that there was no other option but to take matters into my own hands and to do whatever was necessary to change my reality. I rented a small one-bedroom apartment to isolate myself from distractions, and each day I came home from my 9-5 to work relentlessly on my graduate school application. I ended up applying to three schools – the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and the University of Pennsylvania. I was accepted to all three schools.
Stay tuned for the follow up article – How to Focus Your Energy When Developing Your Application.

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