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Admission into Architecture at McGill

A photo of architengineer architengineer
Based on the following CRC scores, what are my prospects for getting into McGill University in Architecture? Though my true issue is the portfolio...I don't feel like I have anything truly substantial. Architecture is my passion, I am creative but haven't really had the opportunity to express myself artistically--though I do actively enjoy photography. Furthermore, the job prospects worry me! Help!

By the way, I am a cegep student in my last semester of the Pure & Applied program.

Gym: 34.425
Calculus I: 35.785
General Chemistry: 34.875
Mechanics: 33.820
Humanities: 33.635
English: 31.565
Complementary: 34.465
Gym: 33.390
Calculus II: 32.419
Chemistry of Solutions: 31.820
Waves, Optics & Modern Physics: 33.870
Humanities: 34.010
French: 32.035
English: 36.095
General Biology: 33.990
Gym: 31.355
Linear Algebra: 33.080
Electricity & Magnetism: 34.195
Humanities: 34.370
English: 34.985
English Exit Exam: Success

GLOBAL CRC: 33.755

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Students sometimes focus to much on grades. They are important, but not as important as you may think. For example, the admissions committee will not just look at the grades, but will read into them. So if you have a 95% in one of your courses in your last year of CEGEP, but it came in a really easy course, the committee will not look as favorably on that, but if you achieved an 82% in a tougher class, they will look favorably on that because it shows effort and that you weren't just padding your stats with less challenging courses.

For your portfolio, graphic design and craft are highly important. I would look at various current issues of architecture magazines or magazines in general and observe how they lay photographs and text on their pages. Take note of what you see and what you would like in your portfolio. There are no magic bullets for getting into schools of architecture - it's a lottery.

My advice comes from an architect I know who use to review grad school of architecture portfolios at a university in the U.S. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Just make a portfolio that is simple to open. Some students try to get too creative by making their cover out of wood, with nails, metal, etc...Just make it a book, booklet, magazine-like, and not a bank safe. The reviewer won't think it's creative, just annoying to open and a waste of their busy time.

2. Remember, your portfolio must stand out, in a positive way, amongst a field of hundreds of portfolios. Portfolios get reviewed in a few sessions, where a couple professors and a couple grad students sit down to review, with each reviewer looking at 30-40 portfolios a session. Because of the volume, they will not look at your potfolio for more than 10 minutes. Therefore the images on each page must be recognizable within 3 seconds. If it takes longer than 10 seconds for the reviewer to figure out what he/she is looking at they will flip to the next page. If they find your image really intriguing they may look at it for 45 to 60 seconds maximum before flipping to the next page. Your images have to be sophisticated enough to hold their interest for 30 to 60 seconds before they flip the page, but not too sophisticated that it takes them longer than 3 seconds to figure out what it is their looking at.

3. Avoid small text. Use no more than 2 or 3 font sizes. Remember, your reviewers will be busy with their own stuff (grading papers, teaching, research, etc...) so they don't have time and won't be reading 5 lines or more of point 12 size text.

4. Avoid Helvetica or Arial - too many people in architecture use them. Avoid Times New Roman or Book Antiqua - not creative enough. The key is to stand out. Download a font off the net. There are thousands of free fonts online that are unique and surely to have that "wow, never seen this before" factor. However, do make sure the font is not too flashy that it takes away from your work. For ideas of crisp fonts that look smart and creative, look at any Bank of Montreal ad or flyer. Notice their font.

5. The portfolio should be a representative of who you are as a person.

6. Each page of the portfolio should "speak" to each other. For example, if one of your works is about urban architecture, the next page (or next spread) could be about urban design - they speak to one another. The portfolio should flow, or have a theme if possible. Go to Chapters one day and just pick up magazines off the shelf that catch your attention and note WHY the cover caught your attention. This will give you insight for what your coverpage might look like. Then flip through the pages looking for what I mentioned above.

7. Make a draft copy of your portfolio and show it to various people for their opinion.

8. Not all your works have to be architecture related. It is preferable that they are not.

If you follow these tips, it won't guarantee you'll get in, but it will improve your chances because most of the competition don't know this, especially number 2, which makes sense from a human point of view. (busy grad students and profs don't have time to look at each portfolio for more than 10 minutes.)

For more tips, look at this book on portfolios:

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