Last night I couldn't fall asleep. You know when you get those illuminating moments which finally make you realize the seriousness of a situation? Well I got one of those at 1.30pm. It finally occurred to me that I'm about to make a radical change in my life and I started really panicking. But they say "sleep on it!" and fortunately morning brought some lightness to the situation. Here I am all excited again about this new chapter of my life.
I haven't written much about my application process as I wasn't sure I could really make it. London wasn't my first choice. I was convinced for long that I'd apply to Politecnico, a very good university for architecture and design in Milan. The very famous architects like Gae Aulenti and Renzo Piano are some of the ex-students of POLIMI. But unfortunately the career options in Italy are not that promising for a young architect, especially if without any connections. And even if you do find a job the odds are small that you're actually going to practice your architectural skills... unless your name is Fuksas (check out his website to understand what I mean). For an instance, for some period actually, Berlin and Barcelona ran through my mind. Even Helsinki sounded sweet as it's so near to Tallinn and it would have been as if I had moved back home. But there was one problem: the language. And this is how London came into the scene.
I started doing some serious research about two years before the application deadline. There were million things I needed to sort out. First of all it was clear I needed to take IELTS test (International English Language Testing System). I didn't attend the preparation courses but I bought the IELTS test book, I warmly suggest it! It was very helpful, without it I would have found myself totally unprepared. It went well and I got 7.5 out of 10. After this serious questions were to be resolved:
1. What unis?
There are many very good universities all over UK for studying architecture like Bath, Sheffield, Cardiff and Nottingham, for example. But I was interested in London and so I continued digging the ranking lists. The Sunday Times has some pretty good university overviews and rankings.
You can also try http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/
There was another thing to keep in mind: every university has its own teaching philosophy. Some schools give importance to the engineerical and technical side, others concentrate more on design, others again teach architecture as the highest form of intelligent art (The Bartlett!). For this you can find some help from the forum called The Student Room. Otherwise you can get a picture by simply reading the university prospectus. I personally was looking for universities which point on creativity. Here is my top 4:
-University College of London (the Bartlett).
-London Metropolitan University aka MET.
2. The next step is to understand how does the application process look like.
If you're about to take an undergraduate course than UCAS resolves all your problems. You just have to register, pay a small amount for the service, fill your CV, write a personal statement, get a reference letter from a teacher (or any other person who knows you well but isn't your family is good enough too) and finally choose the universities where you want to apply. You can choose up to 5.
Keep in mind that personal statement is the crucial element of the whole process. It's about selling yourself as well as you can. Without esagerating, of course.. Once finished let different people read it and give you back some honest critique. You need some time to perfection the letter. If I'd have sent the first letter I wrote I wouldn't probably get in.
3. What are the entry requirements?
This was simple. Usually all the unis have information about entry requirements on their website. After you applied the universities, if interested in you, contact you directly by email and give you the instructions. The ones I chose wanted to see a portfolio with my works.
4. What's next?
This time the decision is communicated to you through the UCAS Tracking system. If you're not refused you can get two type of offers: the unconditional and the conditional. I got two conditional offers: by MET and Westminster. I had to obtain 70/100 on my State exams and have minimum 6.0 as the IELTS test result.
I chose Westminster as it was my second choice after UCL. It is much more difficult to enter in UCL as, before seeing your portfolio, they send you a task. The task consists in five works/sketches that you must do in 20 days. The competition is really high so you must be really good to get in!
Hope you appreciated my post about the application process. When I first started my research I was really confused and it took me a lot of time to sort out the things because I was also undecided whether I'd need to do a foundation course or if I should choose interior design instead. But in the end thanks to the help of few of my friends who have all been through it I managed to clear my mind and here I am.. going to London!
For any questions feel free to contact me on: email@example.com
Sometimes a big doubt turns out to be just a small stupid question mark! ;)
With this post I want to thank especially my dear friend Maris who gave me all the moral support (and not only) that I needed!