5 Tips for Freshmen in Architecture School

5 Tips for Freshmen in Architecture School

If you’re a freshman architecture student who’s attending college this year, then you’ll want to know these tips! These have helped me throughout my stay in architecture school big time. I had no idea about the different materials to use, how to approach professors, and when to join organizations until I met my upper peers who helped me with these college tips!

As a freshman architecture student, you’ll wanna know your materials. (Don’t go overboard in buying them!)

It can get really exciting as everything seems new. If you’re someone like me, you like everything new. Although, that comes with the danger of going overboard with shopping. You won’t really need a bunch of stuff you’d think you need.

Before buying drawing, rendering, and any other tools, I think it matters to know first what medium are you good at, what medium is a requirement, and what tools can be used in the long run. Professors, sometimes, give freedom on what medium to use whilst other courses have their requirements. Some tools are used throughout such as your scale, your T-square (for maybe two years or so), and your pencils, among others. I’ve bought a whole bunch of other things including french curves which I almost never used. That’s a freshman architecture student tip no one told me about.

Related: What Architecture Tools are Used by Architecture Students?

What medium are you really good at?

Before you get that architecture degree, first you’re gonna learn different mediums to use. There’s a lot to choose from the different architecture tools, from pencils, pens, papers, boards, and paints. If you’re talented with sketching then you’ll probably use a whole bunch of grades from F to 8B. I’m not that talented with it and so despite buying all of the grades, I typically used 3-4 of them on my plates.

Beginner tip: Pencil grades include 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, and 8B for Staedtler.

With watercolor, different brands and types of brushes can make a huge difference. I personally liked Sakura and Berkely brushes. I also used watercolor brushes where you can just squeeze them and then they’ll release water – I really don’t know what you call them. For colored pencils, I’m a sucker for Prisma colors.

These brands came from different college tips I got from my upperclassmen when I was in my first year, and they weren’t wrong to give it! When it comes to digital tools, I don’t think you’ll be needing them yet but if you’re already interested, you can check out this blog where I discussed different architecture software that I used for my thesis. You can never be too early to know! I started learning SketchUp and AutoCAD in my first year.

What medium do the courses/subjects actually require?

I don’t know about the other architecture students but I was quite nervous in the beginning since I didn’t know what tools I should bring in the first sessions. This was how I felt every first day of class! You shouldn’t though since the professors will actually orient you on what materials/tools to bring for your courses, assuming they don’t email you instructions.

As a freshman architecture student who knew almost nothing with architecture tools, I liked asking freshman college tips from my upperclassmen. Since each college is different, this will only serve as a guide: drafting tools may be used in most architecture courses except for visual tech courses, as in our visual tech, we were required to sketch manually with no guides whatsoever. 

The building technology classes will focus on drafting and specifications whilst visual tech focuses on your sketching and rendering skills. Courses such as History of Architecture and Theory of Architecture will focus more on concepts (literature) but plates may come here and there. These concepts can be a lot to take in and so I recommend studying with flashcards! Check out how I use Anki for Architecture School as it has made massive improvements in my efficiency.

The most major of all subjects will be your design class, where you’ll have both drafting, modeling, and all the things you learned in your architecture minors combined.

Architecture can be really – scratch that – WILL be really stressful! If you want to get insights on what it will be like, you can check out this blog where I discuss what lifestyle to expect in architecture school!

What are the tools that can be used in the long run?

It won’t be surprising if every year, more of your materials are left unused. This is what happened to most of the people I knew, including myself. This is because you’ll be moving from manual to digital drawings. As architecture students, we can never let go of manual sketching, so your tools, such as your scale and pens, will always be useful.

Basically, the sketching tools. You’ll be using them even after graduation. Getting ahead in your digital tools won’t hurt as well, since the more you use them, the better you become with them. Architecture softwares out there are becoming more and more intuitive so don’t be afraid of learning them!

Related: What Architecture Tools are Used by Architecture Students?

As a freshman architecture student, you need to master your schedule.

This freshman college tip can be useful for anyone and if you’re a freshman architecture student, you’re no exception to this! Although I still haven’t mastered my own schedule, I’ve come pretty far from where I was way back.

The first thing you should do, as an incoming freshman in college, is to check your given schedule, or the schedule you applied for. Put them in a digital calendar where you can look at it any time with any device. 

Next, list your activities other than your classes. These may be university celebrations, holidays, special occasions, etc. Your rest should also be a priority. Color-code them so you can visualize how your days and your week will look instantly. If you’re new to time-blocking, here’s a blog on how I did it.

Scheduling your leisure and other activities can help drive you in finishing your school tasks as soon as you can! So don’t skip it.

With that in mind, make sure to only do things that work for you. Our scheduling can be dependent on our personalities, believe it or not! So experiment with it and find out how you work best!

As a freshman architecture student, you’ll want to know your professors.

Each professor is different and each one has their own preferences in terms of design, etc. As an architecture student, your professors are also your clients – so it makes sense that they have their own preferences. 

Knowing what they want can help bump up your grades but more than that, it can help you gain the skill of interpreting into design whatever your client wants.

You’ll want to know your upperclassmen.

Saying that my friends from the upper class have helped me a lot is a major understatement. I would not have achieved what I achieved throughout without them! I really thank God for them! Knowing your upperclassmen can help you too! 

As a freshman college student, I was majorly naive but I also wanted to learn as much as I can. So don’t be afraid to ask, ask, ask! The mistakes and lessons learned and shared by them can help you avoid making the same mistakes and be better. Feel free to ask me anything as well down in the comments below!

These architecture students have helped me get a background of my professors, as well. They taught me do’s and don’ts you wouldn’t get in any college blog tips out there. They can help you criticize your work to know where you can improve. Up to this day, I’m still in contact with some of them and they can serve as your connections with your career!

You can get to know upper years through your facilitators (if you have any) and through joining organizations.

You’ll want to join organizations.

Joining organizations has helped me grow in different ways. It has helped me business-wise when it comes to handling different people, it has helped my resilience when it comes to handling stress, it has helped with my connections since I got to know more and more people, and it has helped me serve people. I think it’ll be way harder to do these things if you choose not to join any.

There are local, national, and international organizations inside the university you can choose from as a freshman architecture student. I’ve joined organizations belonging in all three types and I’ve learned that joining local organizations can help you within your field; national organizations can help you get to know different people, expand your connections, and immerse in different helpful experiences; and international organizations offer you opportunities to go abroad. 

If you want to become a member, you can choose to be an active member or a student-leader. Members get to attend events offered by the organizations whilst student leaders help make them happen.

Be careful in committing though, the responsibilities are real but they are worth it. Go back to your schedule first to see when is the right time to join or to commit. Joining organizations can be stress relievers but if managed wrongly, they might become stressors. On the bright side, if you get to join and participate, you’ll be opened to opportunities you wouldn’t normally get as an average college student.


Tip #1 Know your materials

Tip #2 Master your schedule

Tip #3 Know your professors

Tip #4 Know your upper years

Tip #5 Join organizations

Any of these tips helpful? Feel free to share more down in the comments! Feel free to share it with your fellow freshmen architecture students. You can sign up for our newsletter for more exclusives on How to Succeed in Architecture School!

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