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Top 15 Best Undergraduate Architecture Colleges

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If you’re thinking of becoming an architect, you’ve found a rewarding career where artistry and technical knowledge go hand-in-hand. In this article, we explore which schools are best options for future architects, depending on their focus area. Keep reading to learn more about what to look for in undergraduate architecture programs.


This article’s focus is how to choose the right college, but if you want to learn how to become an architect, check out CollegeVine’s post How to Become an Architect: Steps to Take from High School.


Also see the complete list of best colleges for architecture.


What is Architecture School?


The goal of any architecture program is to give you the academic foundation needed to create an effective environment. Whether that’s building a skyscraper, designing a garden, or retrofitting a hospital, there are a few basics any architect needs to learn. 


You can think of everything you need to know as falling into three buckets: artistic, scientific, and administrative. The artistic skills are what many people associate with architecture: sketching blueprints, adding cornices, and incorporating picturesque windows.


While these talents are critical to making a beautiful environment, they have to be supported by a scientific understanding of the space. Are the materials strong enough to support multiple floors? Can two walls that come together at a certain angle remain free-standing? Is the land underneath the building dense enough, and will it remain stationary?


Finally, students must learn to evaluate the logistics of any project they undertake. Understanding building ordinances in your city, for example, could have a huge impact on when construction can begin.


Every architecture program will tackle these considerations. Choosing the right program for you depends on your academic profile, level of experience, and degree of certainty that architecture is the field for you. Here are all the academic pathways available to people who want to become architects.


Pursue a B.A. or B.S. in Architecture or a related field, followed by graduate school in an M.Arch. program. Earning a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Architecture is a great way to gain exposure to the field while still building a strong foundation in mathematics, science, and the humanities. Students who want a well-rounded education should consider applying to these programs, even if they do not want to make architecture their life’s work. If they are interested in pursuing a related career, such as becoming a historian, designer, or interior decorator, the B.A. or B.S. is a great way to learn the basics of Architecture without going down the path to become an architect.


Similarly, some students pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture (B.F.A. Arch.) or a Bachelor of Environmental Design (B.Envd. or B.E.D.). These programs allow students to focus on the artistic and ecological dimensions of architecture respectively.


Graduates with any of these degrees who ultimately decide they do wish to be architects must go on to obtain an M.Arch. later. This applies to students who majored in Architecture as well as to those who had a different major, but now wish to pursue Architecture full-time.


Pursue a 5-year B.Arch. degree and enter the field as a licensed architect upon graduation. This is the fastest way to become an architect for someone new to the field, and B.Arch. programs are generally considered to be quite prestigious. Unlike a B.S. or B.A., the B.Arch. contains coursework exclusively focused on preparing for a degree in architecture. These programs are quite rigorous and tend to require long hours of preparation for each class.


Attend a program for those with extensive in-field experience to prepare for licensing exams. There are a lot of pathways into Architecture, including landscaping, construction, and interior design. Many professionals work in the field of Architecture for years before deciding it’s time to earn a formal certification. Some schools offer certificates that open doors for working professionals without requiring that they go back to school for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. 


The rest of this article focuses on programs for degree-seeking undergraduates because that is the most common path for CollegeVine’s readers. However, these certificates represent a great, well-respected way to bring your career to the next level if you know that an undergraduate is not for you, but you still want to make an impact in the field of architecture.


Earn your doctorate, either a Ph.D. in Architecture or a D.Arch. Some architects go on to earn their doctorate. This is a good fit for those who want to join a niche subfield within architecture, such as building hospitals in the Asian Pacific. It is also a good fit for those who plan to have a career in academia.

Top 15 Best Colleges for Architecture


Click on the school to jump to a link where you can learn more about the college and what it takes to get in. Keep in mind that this admissions data is for the entire university, and that stats may be different for colleges within each university (if applicable).


School Name Location Acceptance Rate (2019) Middle 50% SAT Scores Middle 50% ACT Scores
1. Cornell University Ithaca, NY 10.6% 1400-1560 32-35
2. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo, CA 28.4% 1280-1470 26-32
3. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art New York, NY 15% 1283-1510 31-34
4. University of Texas – Austin Austin, TX 31.8% 1170-1400 27-33
5. Pratt Institute – Main Campus New York, NY 48.7% 1230-1370 25-30
6. Rice University Houston, TX 8.7% 1470-1560 33-35
7. Southern California Institute of Architecture Los Angeles, CA N/A N/A N/A
8. University of Southern California (USC) Los Angeles, CA 11.4% 1270-1490 28-34
9. Auburn University Auburn, AL 80.7% 1160-1300 25-31
10. Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 14% 1480-1550 33-35
11. Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 15.4% 1460-1560 33-35
12. University of California – Berkeley Berkeley, CA 16.8% 1350-1540 30-35
13. Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA 65% 1180-1390 25-31
14. Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA 73% 1050-1260 21-27
15. University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 7.7% 1460-1550 33-35


1. Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

Acceptance Rate: 10.6%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 15,182

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1400-1560 SAT, 32-35 ACT


Learn more about Cornell and what it takes to get accepted.


2. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo

Location: San Luis Obispo, CA

Acceptance Rate: 28.4%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 21,037

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1280-1470 SAT, 26-32 ACT


Learn more about Cal Poly and what it takes to get accepted.


3. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Location: New York, NY

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 858

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1283-1510 SAT, 31-34 ACT


Learn more about Cooper Union and what it takes to get accepted.


4. The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin)

Location: Austin, TX

Acceptance Rate: 31.8%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 40,804

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1170-1400 SAT, 27-33 ACT

*UT Austin admissions data varies a lot by in-state/out-of-state applicants, and whether applicants are guaranteed admits.*


Learn more about UT Austin and what it takes to get accepted.


5. Pratt Institute – Main Campus

Location: New York, NY

Acceptance Rate: 48.7% 

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 3,435

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1230-1370 SAT, 25-30 ACT


Learn more about Pratt and what it takes to get accepted.


6. Rice University

Location: Houston, TX

Acceptance Rate: 8.7% 

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 3,992

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1560 SAT, 33-35 ACT


Learn more about Rice and what it takes to get accepted.


7. Southern California Institute of Architecture

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 249

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A 


8. University of Southern California (USC)

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance Rate: 11.4%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 19,907

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1490 SAT, 28-34 ACT


Learn more about USC and what it takes to get accepted.


9. Auburn University

Location: Auburn, AL

Acceptance Rate: 80.7%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 24,628

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1160-1300 SAT, 25-31 ACT


Learn more about Auburn and what it takes to get accepted.


10. Washington University in St. Louis (WashU)

Location: St. Louis, MO

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 7,751

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1480-1550 SAT, 33-35 ACT


Learn more about WashU and what it takes to get accepted.


11. Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Acceptance Rate: 15.4%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 6,947

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1560 SAT, 33-35 ACT


Learn more about Carnegie Mellon and what it takes to get accepted.


12. UC Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Acceptance Rate: 16.8%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 30,853

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1540 SAT, 30-35 ACT


Learn more about UC Berkeley and what it takes to get accepted.


13. Virginia Tech

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 27,811

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1180-1390 SAT, 25-31 ACT 


Learn more about Virginia Tech and what it takes to get accepted.


14. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

Location: Savannah, GA

Acceptance Rate: 73%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 12,217

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1050-1260 SAT, 21-27 ACT


Learn more about SCAD and what it takes to get accepted.


15. University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Acceptance Rate: 7.7%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 10,183

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1550 SAT, 33-35 ACT


Learn more about UPenn and what it takes to get accepted.


What to Look for in an Architecture School


For students of architecture, we recommend finding a program with great academics, exposure to contemporary issues, and access to hands-on experience. 


A theoretical and technical framework of the industry. Most of what you will do in a great Architecture program is hone the skills you will need in the field. This includes learning the basics of design, building materials, systems integration, and environmental technologies. It also means gaining an understanding of the history of architecture for lessons learned and a source of inspiration. To build a successful structure, you have to integrate art, physics, and logistics, so look for a well-rounded program that strengthens your artistic, scientific, and administrative capacities. Your course work matters, so be sure to pick a program that challenges you.


Exposure to the issues at play in your interest area. Every geographic region and specialization within architecture poses unique challenges. In some sectors, creating sustainable structures are difficult based on the available resources. In certain places, qualities of the landscape make it difficult to build. Urban development comes with a host of zoning restrictions that savvy architects must navigate. Regardless of your area of interest within architecture, it is important to choose a program with many professors who have worked in that area previously. In a great program, you will learn to problem-solve with scenarios specific to your interest area.


Access to hands-on professional opportunities. Only a small fraction of Architecture can be learned in the classroom. It takes being on hundreds of construction sites before you know exactly how a blueprint will come to life. Look for programs that value hands-on experience. Many firms hire interns for the summer. More specialized fields such as historic preservation and sustainable development will offer on-the-job training to round out your formal education. Since architecture is a fairly small field, finding employment can be challenging even if you have strong credentials. Whether your program’s prestige attracts employers or your career services department is well-stocked with connections, look for a program that will give you the hands-on experience you need to secure a full-time position upon graduation. 


There are many other colleges that are great for architecture. See our complete list of top schools for architecture.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
Veronica is an alumna of Harvard College, where she earned her A.B. in History and Classics. After graduating, she joined CollegeVine serving as the Curriculum Development Manager. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA and is writing her debut novel.