Before You Apply
Q: I won't graduate from my undergraduate college until May 2017. Can I still apply for Fall 2017?
A: Yes, as long as you will graduate before courses start, you can apply before graduation. If you are admitted, you will need to send us a final transcript from your undergraduate school (or WES evaluation) showing your undergraduate degree received before matriculating in the fall.
Q: Are your programs considered STEM fields of study?
A: “STEM” refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, an acronym popularized by the National Science Foundation. Several of our programs are STEM designated. They include the Master of Architecture, Master of Science in Design (both the Advanced Architectural Design and the Environmental Building Design), Master of City Planning, Master of Science in Historic Preservation, and Master of Urban Spatial Analytics programs.
Q: Do I need a background in Architecture to apply to the Master of Architecture program or Landscape Architecture to apply to the Master of Landscape Architecture program?
A: No. Our three-year Master of Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture first professional degree programs do not require a previous background in those fields although you must hold a four-year bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree before entering the program. It is a good idea to take some drawing and/or design studios prior to applying in order to put together a portfolio, which is an important part of your application. (see Portfolio Requirements)
Q: Do I need to take specific undergraduate courses before entering my degree program? Can I apply for admission if I haven't yet taken these courses?
A: The Master of Architecture professional degree does require that you take specific courses before entering the program. If you haven't taken the prerequisites during your undergraduate program, you can take them at any accredited college or university or online. If you have not taken the required courses at the time you are admitted into the Master of Architecture program, you would be admitted on the condition that you successfully complete the prerequisite(s) before entering the program in the fall. For a list of the prerequisites, go here. We strongly recommend that you fulfill as many of these prerequisites as possible before you are admitted. It is difficult to take multiple courses during the summer, especially Physics and History of Architecture. Generally, two Physics courses are required in order to cover all of our required topics: mechanics, heat transfer, light, sound, and electricity. Same with History of Architecture; in order to cover ancient Egypt through modern, usually two or three courses are necessary. History of Art Survey courses are acceptable as long as they include architecture.
A: Before entering the Master of Science in Historic Preservation, students must have taken a course in computer-aided drafting (preferably AutoCAD). Those electing the concentration in building and material conservation should have at least one college-level course in chemistry before beginning the curriculum. Please contact the chair with any questions.
Q: Will the AP classes I took in high school fulfill these prerequisites?
A: If you have received college credit for these courses (scored a 4 or 5 on the AP exam) and the credits appear on your undergraduate transcript, we will allow these classes to fulfill the prerequisites.
Q: What are the application deadlines and fees?
A: The deadline for application to be submitted and supporting materials to be received for the M.S. in Architecture and the Ph.D. programs is December 15. The deadline for application and supporting materials for the Master of Architecture and Master of Science in Design is January 5. The deadline for all other programs is January 12. The fee for applications is $80.
Q: Is there a different application for international students?
A: There is only one application which can be used by U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international applicants.
Q: When should I take the GRE?
A: GRE scores must be received by the Office of Admissions on or before the deadline for the program to which you are applying. Please allow sufficient time for scores to reach us.
Q: Where should my test scores be sent?
A: Your test scores must be sent directly to the School of Design Office of Admissions. The institution code for both the GRE and the TOEFL is 2926. Be sure to select GRADUATE school!
Q: Is there a cut-off score for the GPA, GRE, IELTS, PTE Academic, or TOEFL exams?
A: We do not have a cut-off for the GPA or GRE scores although we prefer to see at least a 3.3 or above for the GPA, 160 or above for the verbal GRE, 148 or above for the quantitative section, and 4.5 or above for the analytical writing section. Most departments require a TOEFL score of 100 or higher (internet-based) or 600 or higher (paper-based) in order for candidates to be admitted unconditionally, a PTE Academic score of at least 68, or a band score of 7.0 for the IELTS Academic. You should note that many other factors are taken into consideration during the admissions process, not just test scores or grades.
Q: I don’t have a GPA from my undergraduate school OR my school doesn’t calculate GPAs. What should I put as my GPA?
A: We will look at your transcripts and/or WES course-by-course evaluations individually to assess your performance. You don’t need to fill in the GPA if you attended a school that doesn’t put your GPA on the transcript. And, if you are submitting a course-by-course evaluation from WES, they will provide us with a GPA. If you'd like, you may try using the tools in these sites to help you calculate your GPA:
http://www.wes.org/students/igpacalc.asp (requires payment)
Q: I can’t upload my transcripts/resume/personal statement/writing samples! All I get are error messages.
A: It is possible your Upload File is larger than the specified size. If your file is either too large or has the wrong extension, please downsize the file or change the file extension. 2500 KB is the upload limit for transcripts/resume/personal statement/writing samples. Acceptable extensions are .doc, .docx, .gif, .jpg, .pdf, .png, or .tif format.
Q: When I preview my portfolio, the pages are not in the correct format. Should I worry?
A: We are unable to view applications that have not yet been submitted. We recommend submitting your application even though your portfolio looks a little skewed. It's likely that it will look correct on our end. After you submit your application, let us know, and we will double check the appearance of your portfolio.
Q: Do official transcripts need to arrive at the School of Design or be postmarked by the deadline?
A: All application materials must be submitted and official transcripts be received by the Office of Admissions on or before the appropriate application deadline. This is NOT a postmark deadline!
Q: My recommender wants to send the letter of recommendation through regular mail. Is this ok?
A: No, all letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically through the CollegeNET system. If your recommender refuses to use the online system, you might consider looking for an alternate recommender.
Q: Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation?
A: If you'd like, you can submit an additional letter of recommendation for a total of four.
Q: I know I submitted my GRE/TOEFL, but it is not showing up on my application status.
A: Our system matches up test scores sent electronically through ETS by your application name, birthdate, and gender 24 hours AFTER you submit your application. If there are any discrepancies in this information between your application and your test form, it may result in delays in matching as we will have to manually look up your scores. If you already know there will be a discrepancy, please let us know by email.
Q: I’m reapplying to the School of Design. Do I need to resubmit all my application material?
A: If you are applying within two years of your original application, you must submit a new application form, application fee, portfolio (if applicable), letters of recommendation, and transcripts of any additional academic work completed since the last application was filed. We should be able to use the test scores you originally submitted. If it has been more than two years since you applied, you will need to submit all new forms and supporting material.
Q: What can I do if my WES evaluations will be late?
A: If you believe your WES evaluations will be late, please be sure to upload scanned copies of your transcripts into your online application. That way, we can reference the scanned copies of your transcripts until your WES evaluations arrive. Please keep in mind, your application will remain incomplete until we receive your WES evaluations.
Q: I'm currently enrolled in another graduate school. Can I transfer credits?
A: We do not allow degree credits to be counted for work completed at another institution; however, you may be considered for advanced standing into the Master of Architecture professional degree program if you have completed the equivalent of our first year of the M.Arch. program in another graduate architecture school. The amount of advanced standing, if any, would be determined by the Admissions Committee during the admissions process.
Q: Does the School of Design have any sample portfolios?
A: No, we do not have any sample portfolios. A wide variety of design work and portfolio styles are submitted; there is no one type of correct or successful portfolio. In the case of Architecture and Landscape Architecture applicants, the portfolio is considered a design project in and of itself.
Q: Are interviews required?
A: Interviews are not required, although you are welcome and encouraged to visit the school. You should contact the office of the program or department to which you are applying to set up an appointment to meet with faculty and/or students.
Q: Can I apply for more than one program in the School of Design at the same time?
A: Yes. With our on-line application, you can apply to a dual degree program. To do this, you must apply to the first degree program (preferably the one with the earliest deadline) and submit that application. Once this application is submitted, you can fill out and submit the second application. The application fee for the second program will be waived.
Q: How about a degree plus certificate?
A: Once you are admitted to, and matriculate in, a degree program, you can apply for a certificate program after you arrive in the fall.
Q: May I have my application materials returned to me?
A: The application and supporting material submitted to the School of Design become our property and will not be returned to the applicant under any circumstances.
Q: When will I receive my notification?
A: Admissions decisions will be available on line on March 14 at 12 noon EDT. If you are receiving financial aid, you can view and/or download your financial aid letter by clicking on "View Checklist" after admissions decisions are available and downloading the Decision Addendum. Candidates must let us know if they accept our offer of admission by April 15.
Q: Is it possible to defer?
A: Some departments will permit you to defer under certain circumstances; however, you should check with the individual department to determine its policy.
Q: When would I hear about financial aid?
A: If you submit all the appropriate financial aid materials, your financial aid letter will be posted in the Checklist and available on March 14 along with your admission letter.
Q: I've been put on the Wait List; what does this mean?
A: We are often not able to admit all of our qualified applicants into each degree program. We admit a certain number of applicants straight into the degree program, then put some on a wait list. After April 15, when we have heard from the first group, we will start to admit people from the wait list if necessary to attain full enrollment.
Q: Where do most students live? Are there dorms?
A: Most students live off-campus, either in West Philadelphia (University City) or in downtown Philadelphia (Center City). The University of Pennsylvania Office of Residential Living has dormitories available to graduate students. For more information, go to http://cms.business-services.upenn.edu/residential-services.
Q: How do I apply for financial aid?
A: Instructions for applying are found here. U.S. citizens and permanent residents should file the FAFSA form. Foreign nationals should submit the PennDesign International Financial Aid Application along with supporting documentation (bank statement, tax forms, etc.)
Q: I would like to apply for a Diversity Scholarship but the box doesn’t allow me to input my whole statement.
A: You will need to keep your statement as brief as possible. Please pay attention to the character counter and limit yourself to a short paragraph. No exceptions!
Q: Do you offer financial aid to international students?
A: Yes, international students are eligible for PennDesign scholarships.
Q: What types of aid do you offer?
A: We offer scholarships to our students based on need and merit. During the admissions review process, the faculty will select the top candidates in the application pool and offer them merit scholarships. Finally, we offer special Dean's Diversity Scholarships to students whose backgrounds and experiences demonstrate the ability to contribute to increasing socioeconomic and multicultural diversity awareness at the School of Design. PennDesign’s scholarships are renewable for a student's entire PennDesign career, provided full-time status and good academic standing are maintained.
Q: Will my loans cover living expenses as well as tuition?
A: If you are eligible for Federal loans and you show sufficient need, you can apply for loans to cover your tuition, health insurance, and living expenses including room and board.
Q: I missed the February 15 application deadline. Am I now disqualified from being considered for aid?
A: This is a “soft” or recommended deadline. If you’d like to find out what aid you are receiving at the time that you receive your admission offer, you should aim for this deadline. You will still be considered for aid if you submit your financial aid application after the deadline.
Q: Where is my financial aid letter?
A: Your financial aid letter is SEPARATE from your admissions notification letter. It can be found in your checklist. Next to or under the “View Notification Letter” button is a “View Checklist” button. Click on that, go to the bottom of the page, and you can open or download your financial aid letter.
Q: How can I get a Teaching Assistantship?
A: After you are admitted, you should contact the Chair of your department to request consideration for a teaching assistantship. Some departments offer TAships to entering students, others do not.