How to get a 1st in Architecture

The past year has been hard… even ignoring the global pandemic, it hasn’t been easy to get a 1st in architecture but hopefully these tips will help you.

Let me first caveat this post by saying that achieving a 1st in your degree isn’t the most important thing, the most important thing is that you’re happy and healthy both physically and mentally. If your degree is affecting either of these aspects then go and speak to a doctor, a therapist or a friend – don’t put off getting help because you’re worried it will somehow impact your studies. It won’t. It will put you in a better space to get the results you’re after.

Considering myself and my friends who have achieved a 1st class degree classification there are definitely some common characteristics/ actions which if adopted by you, should make it easier to do well in your course.

  1. The amount of effort you invest = your grade

Over the 3 year course the amount of hours/ effort you spend on your work, speeding up your software skills and reading surrounding literature will have the greatest impact on your grade. Rather than spend minimal hours throughout a week and doing a couple of all nighters at the weekend to catch up, spread your time out consistently. An hour after you get back from uni, an hour before you go and see family, half an hour before your food has finished cooking. It all adds up. Plus, if you’re like me and even the idea of an all-nighter makes you grumpy and irritable you might be able to avoid them.

2. Be proactive

Absolutely start that assignment the day you are given it. Ask for your friends and lecturers advice on your design proposals… if you have made a potentially controversial decision then justify it. Its not enough to get through the course passively you have to seek out opportunities, learn some new software etc… For example if you have never used InDesign to create your portfolio and prefer using powerpoint because you know it, then through yourself into the deep end and ditch powerpoint, you’ll soon learn how to use InDesign through necessity.

3. Understand your assignment requirements

Read your assignment brief over and over. Get your highlighter, highlight anything and everything. Do some extra reading around the topic. Throughout your assignment consistently refer back to your brief and try and stay relevant rather than waffling. If you have questions, don’t be shy, ask your lecturer. I’ve personally started a few assignments over the years and started answering what I thought it was asking only to have to spend more time later readjusting it because I had misunderstood the question. Doing this will save you a lot of time.

4. Look for opportunities to grow

Looking for opportunities to grow doesn’t necessarily mean academic opportunities. If your university has an architecture trip, then go on it. It’s basically an educational holiday where you don’t have to plan anything and can spend time with your friends outside of university. It could be taking on the leader role in a group task or engaging with the local community. It could be setting up a LinkedIn account or even simply reading an article on Dezeen. Seize every opportunity that comes your way and it won’t just be your grades that develop.

5. Set up an organised file system

The amount of times you will need to find a document is insane. Now imagine you had to find a document, you couldn’t remember exactly what you called it and you had one folder for all of your design work. It would take forever, especially if you had to look for multiple files. Having an organised file system is often overlooked but it will save you a significant amount of time over the period of your course. I would recommend the following setup:

Year of Study > Module > Type of File (i.e. PNG) > Superseded (for old files)

Make sure you keep all of your files. Put old ones into superseded so you still have access to them if you change your mind but they won’t clutter your folders. Now this next point sounds logical but always name your files logically such as “1-100 site plan”, “1-200 elevation a” so you can find them easily. Architecture is a particularly file heavy course for instance, in my third year of study my year 3 folder consisted of 2554 items and the size was 44GB.

6. Celebrate your accomplishments

It doesn’t matter how small your accomplishments are you should most definitely celebrate them. Hit a deadline? Treat yourself to the evening off. Really happy with a drawing you’ve produced? Splurge on a takeout. Focusing on positives and rewarding yourself is a form of positive reinforcement. Basically put you’re more likely to repeatedly hit your deadlines and produce good drawings if you know there will be some type of reward.

I hope all of these tips help you. If you have any suggestions for others then please leave a comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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