Q: Dear Tim, I’m Furan from China. You may be surprised to receive a letter from a stranger. haha. These days, I’ve been reading your blog. It now seems like I’m hearing from an old friend when reading your articles. I don’t know why, just feel i should write to you. I’m a architecture major in my 2nd year, and i’m seriously considering transferring to Cornell. I love architecture. When i found the architects i like, I.M.PEI Richard Meier Rem Koolhaas all have connections with Cornell. I really think that’s the very place i wanna go. I talked with professor Michael Tomlan from RCP who once visited my school about this, he says i should grow a thick skin because the application process is blind to the merits of only the best kind of students. And the reviewers have in mind a student that you may not be. But, i think it worth a try. As you said, If you really want to go to Cornell, make it happen. Do you have any suggestion for me on the portfolio (i don’t have much about architecture design) and the essay (to take place of the interview and mainly about my view on architecture). Thank you in advance :) Best Wishes, Furan
A: Thanks for your note. It is great to hear that you are interested in coming to Cornell. We have a number of transfer students here from various parts of the world (in the undergraduate school) and there is also a Masters of Architecture program that you can apply to after having finished a 4 or 5 year undergraduate program elsewhere. Despite what some may say, our school accepts a lot of different people with different skills and backgrounds. You shouldn’t be discouraged by the application process — I suspect you are in as good a situation as anyone to apply to our school.
Anyway, you were asking specifically about the portfolio. This is, as you probably know, a very important part of the application. It is the main gauge of your creativity, artistic achievements, and design “potential”. I use the word “potential” because it is generally understood that the portfolios from high school students (or second-year architecture students) are less than perfect. The professors who look at the portfolios are looking for people who they think would be good students, and ultimately good architects. You can try to convey this (your potential) in a number of ways. I made a portfolio in high school that was extremely eclectic – essentially proving to them that I could do a lot of different things pretty well. On the other hand, I have friends whose portfolios were more about “depth” than “breadth”. One kid hadn’t ever done any artwork so to speak, but he built his own kayak from scratch. His portfolio was essentially a collection of sketches, working drawings, and photographs of this design and construction process. Think about what you do well, and try to share that visually in your portfolio.
In your case, since you already have experience with architecture, something more focused might be desired. You should include work that is “architectural” — but recognize that that term does not limit you solely to architecture projects. You should include any work you have done (sketches, drawings, models, whatever) that convey your ability to design. Consider that the professors look at a LOT of portfolios every year, so you should try to make it interesting, unique, fun.
I hope this information helps you and I hope you do decide to apply to Cornell. It is certainly a good spot to study architecture. Let me know if you have any more specific questions about the portfolio or applications process. Cheers, T
Q: “I am an American who wants to visit the Villa in May !! ….. what are the exact directions to the Villa as I leave the train station. I think it’s close? Where is a good authentic place to eat close to the villa? thanks, Buzz”
A: If you are coming from Naples (Piazza Garibaldi Station), take the Circumvesuviana train “diretto” toward Sorrento (do NOT take the ”accelerato”). This train will take you to the Torre Annunziata Oplonti stop which is only about 100 meters from the archaeological site. For your convenience and/or safety, you ought take the train during the day (perhaps around 10.00), but not when it is too crowded (12.30 to 14.30 and 16.30 to 18.00). When you arrive at the station, there should be a series of brown signs indicating where to go, but it is quite simple: As you walk out of the station on the south side of the tracks, turn left along Via Paolo Boselli. This T’s onto Via Sepolcri where you should turn right. Walk downhill, past Via Vittorio Veneto, until you see the gate to the Villa Oplontis on your left. You will find the ticket office, maps, and information immediately inside (also, here’s a Google map of the area for your reference). If you are looking for a good meal nearby, I recommend walking back uphill along Via Sepolcri until you reach Via Vittorio Veneto. There is a great place on the corner that usually has a couple of tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. They have several pre-made panini on a stand, but you ought to go inside and ask the Signora for one of her specials. They are all very good. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your visit! -Tim
Q: “Hi Tim. I have been reading your blog for quite some time now. I just want to thank you for being such an informative guide to Cornell’s architecture program and college life. I am a current a junior in high school and Cornell is my top choice. Through reading your blog entries, I have become more determined in going to CU for architecture than ever before. I just have some questions concerning SAT’s and I hope you will be able to answer. Well, I took my first SAT in this past Jan. and I found out that my critical reading score is almost 200 points lower than my math’s. Plus, my total score is only in the upper one thousand range. I’ll definitely study extra hard and take it again later this year. But do you have any idea on how much SAT weights in the admission to Cornell? Now, I’m most worried about SAT’s, especially because I haven’t taken the subject tests for math and science yet. Also, I am applying to the summer arch program and I must send in my most recent score. Please let me know your opinion on this. Thank you very much in advance!”
A: Hi there, thanks for your question. Standardized test scores are a common concern among prospective students and I think others might benefit from this information. Cornell does not have any SAT/ACT cutoff for admissions. Test scores are only one variable in a complex (and subjective) process that takes into account your academic record, letters of recommendation, essays, extracurricular activities, etc. In architecture, there are two other important variables: the portfolio and the interview. Judging from my own experience, these two aspects of the admissions process will be the most important for prospective architecture students. Highschool seniors with remarkable test scores are regularly turned away from our department because they lack the skills/creativity associated with a design profession. On the other side of that equation, the architecture school will sometimes accept promising students with relatively low test scores. As a result, I believe test scores in the College of AAP are slightly lower than Cornell’s average. I don’t want to make test scores sound unimportant, because they will certainly be considered along with the rest of your application material. But there is no reason to get bent out of shape because of them. Work on your portfolio and your essays and I think you will be in great shape for the five-year program and/or the summer school. Best of luck! -Tim
Q: “hey there, i am thinking about wwoofing in october in italy and i was wondering if i could ask you a couple questions about your farm? if so, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. thanks!”
A: I am not exactly a WWOOFing expert, but I had a great experience at the farm in Pontassieve. My friend spent time at several other farms throughout Italy and the work ranged from near slavery to sailing and tending to pot plants. If you are looking into Italy, you need to join the Italian WWOOF organization. They maintain a list of registered farms that need help. Then you need to contact the farms directly and see if/when you can work with them. Once you join WWOOF Italia, you get “SOS” emails about farms that need help the most. For more detailed information, go to their website wwoof.it. Have fun!