BA Acceptance or Tips for Success as an Architecture Student  by Albert L.H. Lee

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About the Author:

Albert L.H. Lee is currently a Tyndale University College and Seminary Masters of Divinity student on leave from the program due to financial reasons.  He has a Bachelor’s of Technology, Architectural Science degree from Ryerson University and a Bachelor’s of Environmental Design Studies degree from Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Architecture. He has worked in the architecture-engineering-design field on and off for 17 years.


Stepping Out of High School

I remember nervously checking my report card from Brebeuf College High School. I was a mid-B student and I was afraid my marks were not high enough to get me into the programs of my choice. I had applied to University of Waterloo, Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now Ryerson University), Carleton University and University of Toronto.  I realized off the bat that Waterloo would probably be beyond my reach. They only accept A students with superlative portfolios.

My University of Waterloo Experience

I remember that while taking the coach bus to Waterloo for the admissions proceedings, I ran into some other students who were going for the same purpose. We started speculating on what sort of questions they would ask during the interview.  An older guy said that if he is asked why he wants to be accepted into the Bachelor of Architecture program, he would answer because “I am Frank Lloyd Wright incarnate.” Back then, I did not know who Wright was so I asked a Chinese girl who was with us, and she answered, Wright is an American architect. I would later visit some of Wright’s buildings (Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater and Martin House Complex) and develop a deep appreciation of the architect’s built works. I remember the precis that all the student applicants to Waterloo had to write. It was why “common sense” was not so common. The article was erudite and verbose. I was so confused that I am not sure what I wrote. I thought that the precis, if anything, would be where I would shine in the application process. This was because I was an avid reader. Little did I know how high-level the calibre of English would be used for the abstract we had to read. In any case, when it came time for the interview, I was already flustered. When the reviewer heard my music on my tape recorder (retro 90’s) and put his fingers to the bridge of his nose and said please turn it off, I knew I was done for. I can laugh about it now in retrospect but I was genuinely horrified at that moment. The other interviewers began to cross-examine me as to why I did not go into a music program rather than architecture. It was a royal pain. I tried to explain to them that I did not want to be satisfied with only mastering art and music; that I had aspirations of mastering architecture as well. They were not convinced. My rejection letter arrived in the mail a month later.

Other Schools of Architecture

With Carleton, I did not get accepted into either the Bachelor of Industrial Design program or Bachelor of Architecture programs but I did get accepted into a General Bachelor of Science program. With University of Toronto, I withdrew my application due to me listening to the rumours that the program would shortly close down due to financial problems.

Finally, a Home at Ryerson

With Ryerson, I found a conveniently located inner city downtown Toronto campus with the added benefit that my other classmate from high school would be attending. My portfolio was in the best shape for the application procedure to the school- I had a black 3-ring binder with my name and title of the book in white Helvetica stick on letters with black background paper inserts in plastic sheet protectors for my artwork. A former applicant who took pity on me suggested that I “get creative with a camera” and I shot some Toronto buildings with a new and creative angle and included them in the portfolio for Ryerson. I also had my tape recorder with a cassette of my music. The portfolio and cassette player were left on a table with other applicants’ materials. We were ushered into a classroom in the architectural science and landscape architecture building and told to write a summary of why we wanted to go to take architecture at Ryerson. The conditional acceptance letter arrived a month later. The condition was that I would take Calculus or Algebra (both courses which I had only gotten a D in during my initial attempt at the courses in Brebeuf.) I enrolled in summer school before the fall in which I was to conditionally start at Ryerson. I got an A- in Calculus the second time I took it. Ryerson was a gruelling program but I felt it taught me a lot. I am so elated that Ryerson has a Canadian Architectural Certification Board accredited masters of architecture program now which it did not before. I think I will apply. I pray for all potential applicants to put their best foot forward in their portfolios and admissions essays.

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