Outstanding Pre-College Architecture Programs for High School Students

January 4, 2024

Pre-college architecture programs offer dynamic platforms where creativity meets the principles of architectural design, providing students with a taste of the challenges and possibilities within this fascinating field. In this blog post, we delve into a curated selection of outstanding pre-college architecture programs, each carefully designed to nurture the talents and ambitions of high school students. From immersive experiences on renowned campuses to hands-on projects guided by industry experts, these programs not only lay the foundation for a potential career in architecture but also instill a profound appreciation for the art and science of building.

AtomicMind‘s free online catalog of extracurricular opportunities, Discover+, was developed based on our many years of experience helping students discover and participate in a wide range of enriching activities, including outstanding architecture programs. Contact us today for guidance in selecting and engaging in a pre-college architecture program that aligns with your goals and passions.

Boston Architectural College Summer Academy

For nearly fifty years, BAC's Summer Academy has offered hands-on design and material exercises to high school students. The academy is offered in two formats: on-site and virtual. On-campus students engage in live lectures, site visits, and hands-on design, while virtual students explore case-study buildings through video streaming, receive material kits, and have access to design software. All students, regardless of format, receive a sketchbook and develop a digital and physical portfolio for design school applications. In addition, they receive a 3D printing pen for use in design explorations during and after the academy.

Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture: Intro to Architecture (Online)

In this virtual program, students engage in architectural innovation, developing projects in the form of models and drawings. The design faculty provide individual and group feedback, helping students create a portfolio for college applications. The program aims to enhance skills in descriptive geometry, digital tools, design software, and articulating contextual, formal, and conceptual aspects of architectural projects. Students have access to college-level coursework, faculty mentorship, and international connections, earning a Certificate of Completion and a chance to participate in a virtual group exhibition of student work.

Cornell Architecture Art Planning Introduction to Architecture Program

This six-week intensive course, designed for high school students, provides an in-depth exploration of architectural concepts, including space, form, function, environment, and technology. Students engage in lectures, workshops, and studio sessions at the Rem Koolhaas–designed Milstein Hall. Field trips to Upstate New York sites focus on contemporary architecture and its connection to production, fabrication, and resources. The program covers various architectural principles, such as composition, history, preservation, landscape architecture, planning, and urban design. Students learn through hands-on experiences in drawing, model-making, and both analog and digital representation. Individual instruction, studio reviews, and a final project enhance participants’ understanding of architectural fundamentals.

embARC Summer Design Academy at Berkeley College of Environmental Design

The embARC program at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design offers high school students a comprehensive exploration of architecture, urban design, and sustainable city planning. The program includes an architecture and urban design studio, a sustainable city planning workshop, a digital design workshop, an environmental design conversation series, and a materials exploration workshop. Open to students with no prior experience, the program focuses on developing portfolios for college applications in environmental design fields. Classes provide studio time, one-on-one critiques, gallery showcases, field trips, and hands-on projects for local nonprofit organizations. Successful completion of the course earns students credit on an official UC Berkeley transcript.

Georgia Tech: Pre-College Architecture Program

Participants in Georgia Tech’s Pre-College Architecture Program gain insights into the architectural career path by completing a design project for their portfolio. The program includes a design studio project using cutting-edge technology, on-campus living with assistance from current architecture students, interactions with School of Architecture professors, visits to architecture firms, and meetings with Georgia Tech graduates, as well as recreational activities like movie nights, bowling, and swimming. The goal is to inspire the next generation of designers and provide a glimpse into life as an architecture student at Georgia Tech.

National Organization of Minority Architects Architecture Summer Camp

This summer camp aims to expose young individuals from minority backgrounds to the built environment and the architectural profession. This unique initiative connects youth with architecture, introducing them to numerous people, professions, and ideas within the field. The camp focuses on practical elements of architecture to inspire potential careers, encouraging participants of varying skill levels to work individually and collaboratively on community-focused issues through creativity and design innovation. The camp, which aims to equip, empower, and educate youth through architectural design and engineering techniques, involves activities such as sketching, drawing, model-making, and walking tours. It is run by the National Organization of Minority Architects - Southern California Chapter (NOMA SoCal), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting diversity and equity in the architecture profession by providing support, mentorship, and networking opportunities for both aspiring and practicing architects from minority backgrounds.

UMass Amherst Department of Architecture: Summer Design Academy

UMass Amherst's pre-college programs offer high school students an opportunity to preview the college experience and campus life while exploring their interests. In the three-week foundational studio course at the university’s Department of Architecture, students engage in two- and three-dimensional projects to develop a conceptual approach to architecture, incorporating graphic storytelling, mapping, and translation across various media and scales. The course develops skills in drawing, drafting, digital and physical model making, and graphic design. Anchored in design curricula used in top architecture schools, the Summer Design Academy provides an opportunity for students interested in design-related fields to explore university-level design activities. The program concludes with the design of a habitable space.

University of Miami School of Architecture Summer High School Program

This program is a pre-college course designed for students interested in architecture and design. Participants can earn six college credits while gaining familiarity with design processes and with the influential role of architects and designers in society. The curriculum covers various aspects of architecture, including design, theory, landscape architecture, historic preservation, and urban planning, offering hands-on experiences coupled with lectures by distinguished faculty and guest professionals. Students receive individual feedback throughout the intensive three-week course, with local excursions to significant architectural landmarks. The program concludes with a final review and exhibition of students' works.