Allocating time to build a portfolio is tricky to begin with, and much more so when you consider what else you have on your plate. An average architecture school applicant will need to build a competitive strategy, develop a charming profile, approach recommenders, write an essay of purpose and (the big one) build a portfolio, while also studying for the GRE, studying for a full course-load (in most cases), doing an internship, getting involved in extracurricular activities, and building relationships with various people at various schools of his or her interest. All this, has to happen while this person lives a full life, spends time sleeping, eating and using the WC, as well as having some kind of family or social life occasionally. So, the question that usually comes up early on is “where do I begin” and “how do I get everything done”.


The answer is simple: the way you approach your application differs from person to person based on that person’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as on what has the potential of bringing more value to the application than anything else. Therefore, the applicant needs a serious, objective, intelligent and well informed evaluation at the beginning of the process in order to grasp three things:

  1. Which are the least and which the most competitive aspects of her application compared to the competition.
  2. Which are the tasks that would bring the most value to the application and how much time do they require to complete.
  3. How much time does she have

The answers to the first question obviously differs from candidate to candidate and cannot possibly be discussed in detail here, other than by saying that the candidate has to use the fresh eyes of others, and especially of people who understand design.

The second question is a bit more specific. For example, during the evaluation process that we conduct at the beginning of our work with any of our students, the student’s work and profile are  analyzed using over 30 different criteria which affect the competitiveness level of the application. These criteria differ in terms of significance. For example, the development of a strong portfolio strategy is much more valuable than the development of an educational vision for the essay; The development of a strong concept for a project is much more valuable than the building of a refined model or rendering detailing the final condition of the project, and so on.

The third answer is easy to answer: First of all, you have to understand how much time you has available. To do this, you have to add up all the hours between that moment and the moment of submission, and subtract hours for tasks that do NOT include architecture school portfolio and application work. Here is an example:

Louis has 8 weeks to build an entire portfolio. Louis’s week consists of 168 hours, out of which he sleeps for a total of 56 hours. He spends about 2 hours per day eating, 2 hours per day relaxing, using the bathroom, etc. That’s a total of 28 hours. He works full time, which (including door-to-door commute) takes him about 50 hrs per week. In total, he has 168 – 56 – 28 – 50 = 34 hours per week available to allocate between leisure and working on a portfolio. He has a total of 272 hrs. Calculating that 10% of this will be wasted, he has about 245 hrs.

What remains is for Louis to decide how to allocate this time, starting from using it to work on tasks that can bring the most value to his application.