Hard and Harder


One of North Dakota State’s most grueling programs is architecture. Students are put through a rigorous first year to see if they have what it takes. Five students who recently entered the program answered questions, hoping to give prospective architecture students a glimpse at what is to come.

Taylor Ford – 2nd year, Fargo, ND

What was your freshman year like while trying to get into the architecture program?

  • Honestly, it was pretty fun because, for me, it was the first time being put into those types of classes; my high school didn’t have any architecture classes. It’s a super good opportunity because it is just an intro year, so then if you decide it’s not for me then you can switch over to your own thing. It was pretty stressful. A few of the projects get long, but it’s definitely worth it to see the end product.

What was the hardest part your freshman year?

  • Time management because you have a few different classes that each have sketches or project and then trying to be involved on campus as well.

What did waiting to get in feel like?

  • I had a 4.0 so I wasn’t too worried. We got to keep all our projects, and, looking back, I felt really proud of myself, all the work I put in. It’s up to the student, really, whether or not they get in. Just because if you’re not going to put in the effort they’re going to see that.

What did getting in feel like?

  • I was super excited. I took myself to Starbucks. I texted my parents and all my friends.

What’s your advice?

  • Make sure you go to class. I know teachers stress that, and I missed a few, but you’ll know when you need to be there. Make sure you put in the effort and, even if it’s close to the deadline and you hate your project, start over. They’ll know if you’re not trying or if your heart isn’t in it.


Heather Boerger – 2nd year, Horace, ND

  • I basically just did the assignments that the professors told us to do. You want to make sure you’re doing everything right and you have every detail and understand what I’m supposed to do. And it’s completely different than high school. It’s like an assignment in itself to understand what the professors are asking of you, and then it’s a completely different assignment to actually do that. It’s a lot of brainwork and a lot of thinking about your options and meaning of what they’re trying to say. So, it’s hard to understand exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And then once you understand what they’re saying, then you can start.
  • You knew it was so competitive and that it was a harder year because of the double applicant, but you couldn’t really rely on other students to help you because it’s kind of iffy. Like the devil in the back of your head, you want to keep it to yourself. And it’s hard in that aspect because you want to get feedback from other people, but for first year you couldn’t do that. You can’t rely on other people to throwback ideas for you. And you were too scared to ask because it’s so competitive. And getting into the swing of what the professors ask here.
  • Scary and exciting at the same time, thinking about how awesome it would be to get in, but also not wanting to think about what else you’re going to do if you don’t get in. They all recommended we have a plan B, just in case, so we had to keep the future in mind if we didn’t get in, but that month that I didn’t know it was more excitement to find out. A lot of hesitation to look at the email after I got it.
  • I texted my mom, and I told her and then me and my friends all told each other about our emails. After that you can actually start planning what you’ll be doing for the rest of your college career.
  • If you get so stressed out about it, it’s not fun anymore. You just have to take it as it is, and you’ll have a project that’s really hard and you won’t grasp how to do it.

Valentina Contreras – 2nd year, Victoria, MN

  • Well, basically just the classes cause its based on your GPA to get in, so I was just really focusing on getting good grades in the class and talking to the teacher and making sure I was meeting all the requirements of the projects that we were doing. That was really important to me.
  • I think second semester; a class that we took was abstract, kind of. Thinking outside the box with projects. Some of them. First semester we had all the same projects, basically, so we could compare and see where we were going right and wrong, versus second semester there wasn’t really a right answer. So it was just kind of pushing myself to come up with new ideas. The projects had certain parameters, but it didn’t say what we exactly had to do.
  • We found out at the end of May. I was just hoping I was going to get in because if I don’t you kinda have to have a back up plan. I mean, I was confident that I would get accepted, but you never know. I was just nervous. I was checking my email and waiting to see if I got accepted.
  • I was really happy. I think I was loading my email, checking it and I popped up and I was like, yeah. I called my mom afterwards.
  • Have fun and make sure it’s what you want to do, too. And to work hard on all your projects. Talk to your teachers and make sure you’re getting all the right requirements. Don’t procrastinate, that’s very hard, but make sure you get to all your assignments.

Matt Leaks – 2nd year, Grand Forks, ND

  • Staying committed to all the criteria we have to do for the architecture. Just the classes are so much different from my first year at UND. Last year was my first year at NDSU. Kind of just lectures and doing homework online. But going to the Architecture program, it’s a lot of drawing and hands on stuff that really take a lot of time and commitment to get finished. Doing all that and knowing there was a small chance of me getting into the architecture program. It was kind of nerve-wracking, but I put all my effort into it, and this is the reward to all that effort.
  • Staying on task, definitely. A lot of it was sketching. A lot of it was planning out stuff. Staying on task was definitely the biggest trouble. I tried to stay focus and took a break sometimes. If you stay on task and hammer through it, it helps alot.
  • I tried not thinking about it, pretty much. I felt like I had a good chance of making it in. I just kind of focused on what I was doing that summer, which was working. I finally got the news and it was a relief.
  • Really good. I was very relieved. When I scheduled my classes this semester, I only had architecture classes in mind. It was relieving not having back up classes I had to rely on.
  • Stay committed and put all your effort into your work. Professors are there to guide you through it, so listen to them. Don’t be afraid to email them or go into their office and talk about whatever problem you’re having. They’ve been through it. They know all about this program. They’ve probably ran into similar problems and know how to handle stuff. I went and talked to my counselor a lot. She helped me through a lot, too. Universities are set up to support students. And sometimes students don’t realize that.

Musab Ataelmanan – 2nd year, Saudi Arabia

  • I think the first semester was quite difficult because it mainly focused on drawing and really improving your drawing skills. Drawing wasn’t the best thing I could do. That’s why my grades were super low. By the second semester we got into more technical stuff, like model making, and that’s what I like to do. Given that I already worked on drawing, it was easier to make models.
  • People are ruthless here. They might not show it, but we really want to get in. My friend in the first semester, he was pretty good. He used to get higher grades than me, but by the second semester we weren’t close anymore. I thought he made it into the program. And about a week ago another friend told me that he didn’t make it and that he’s really jealous that you made it. He thought I cheated from other people or that I asked for help with my projects. That’s an example of how people try to bash you down because they’re not going to make it.
  • It was really tense. Especially because I’m an international student and my parents have to pay for everything themselves, and if I didn’t make it, it would’ve be a waste of a year outside my country. It took a lot of praying, but I eventually made it.
  • Honestly, it didn’t feel that good because my best friend didn’t make it. I wanted to be happy for him, too. But a few months later they accepted two more people and my friend was one of them. That was better.
  • I think competition and trying to be better. I wasn’t the best in my class, and I, honestly, barely made it. Trying to keep up constantly is really hard. I might think I’m not the best, that I’m not really good , but everyone else is 100 percent really good.
  • I’d say start early. Don’t leave it until the last second. I started actually working the second semester, and I barely made it. That’s how much my GPA fluctuated. Start from the first semester. You don’t really have to put too much effort in, but put enough effort in where you are happy with your work.

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