Architecture School and Student Loans

Sara Mandeed
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Situation 1: You are attending architecture school in the near future

And budget is definitely a concern.

Getting an education in architecture isn’t cheap. Paying for school can be a stressful prospect if money is tight. Fortunately, there are a lot of options available to help you pay for school and complete your degree. These include grants, scholarships, student loans, and research money.

Look into the library and/or school website for information on architectural scholarships. If you look hard enough it’s easy to find some free money for school. This article is an excellent resource.

Also, look into school and local foundations listed on the college’s financial aid page. They may offer money for scholarships and school.

You can get a small amount of funding by participating in research at a local architecture firm. Check with your school to see if any architecture research projects are available. They could offer you a stipend to help with school.

If you have a job, look into the possibility of taking out a job-related loan.

The sooner you start looking for money, the better. The interest rate for government loans is much better than student loan interest rates, and if your parents are willing to help, they can help with the loan payment, but not your monthly payment. Many schools offer a low interest rate on student loans, so start the process early.


For Architecture School? For All Students, Right?

When you decide to enroll in an undergraduate course whether it is for an Architectural Foundation year, an Architecture degree or any other academic needs, you want to focus your search towards financial aid.

College is expensive, and it is only natural to believe that it should come with enough financial aid to afford it.

There are a variety of forms of aid but; what you want to focus on is known as a scholarship.

What is architecture student financial aid?

A scholarship is a form of funding for students who are seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree in a field related to architecture or the study of the design and creation of buildings. This financial aid is determined on either a merit or a need basis.

How are architecture student financial aid awards determined?

There are several categories under which the financial aid can be categorized.

The financial aid can be awarded for attendance, satisfactory completion of the courses/programs, or academic achievement. There are others as well.

So yes, it is true that the aid is available even in the field of architecture.

Who are the recipients of architecture student financial aid awards?

These types of scholarships are available to students of architecture who have completed or are currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at a higher education institution.

What type of assistance is available?

Work during school?

Being a student of any kind, is a great time to create some serious additional income.

Whether it is while the student is in school in order to help pay tuition or after the student graduates and has started working full time, the money made during these years could pay for a dream home or provide for your family for years to come. If you are considering going to architecture school, the prospect of a lucrative career can be even more enticing.

Other than the basic necessities, college students can use extra pocket money for just about anything….new outfits, concert tickets, exotic vacations, computers, and most especially, the next keg party.

In many cases, it’s the student’s parents – advisors or financial aid people – that encourage students to work through school. To make the transition from high school into college slightly easier, some parents will pay tuition – in full – along with room and board over a student’s four or six years of education. Who has more real spending money? The student that works while in school or the student who’s parents pay all or most of the costs?

Family contributions?

This is a tricky one since it varies greatly based on family structure. This is one of the biggest hassles and reasons why so many people drop out of architecture school.

If you are the only child, you may not be that worried about family contributions to your schooling because you probably got everything you needed from your parents while growing up and you'll continue to get it.

However, if you are one of many children, you need to look at this as the huge expense that it is. If your parents can't afford to pay the full freight for your architecture education, you need to start looking at loans. It may require some maneuvering and nitty gritty to pay for it, but it's possible.

What are the considerations?

It may be possible to compress the time to completion by temping, working abroad, part-time work, and so on. This is a very expensive college, and the truth of the matter is that building design skills takes a lot of time, so it will take a while to get through it.

You will get through it and it will pay off in the long run. So, if you have to go slow, do it right and maintain a good GPA is the best way to keep your options open.

Many architecture schools now have a summer session that allows you to finish a semester early. This helps parents and makes it easier on the architectural student.


Whether or not to get student loans is a hard question. It is hard to regret any investment into education, but the price tag of college loans can cause you to really think it through.

But don’t be too hasty. You do NEED to go to school in order to play the architecture game. And although you CAN go to a great school without taking on a lot of debt … that comes with its own set of trade-offs.

Is it worth it to go to a cheap school and take on more debt? In the end, the responsibility is entirely up to you. You don’t want to let your debt get the best of you, but you also want to consider location, the people you’ll meet, and the opportunity to study that is offered to you.

The great debate: In State vs. Out of State

Situation 2: You are currently in architecture school

Or you have recently graduated, and you are considering a career lined up with your interests. In other words, you have reached a new stage for a shift in your life, a stage that requires a lot of planning.

Situation 3: You have already graduated architecture school with student loans

To pay off.

If you’re in this situation, we should discuss a few things.

Although you’ll have to pay off any debt that’s in your name, you should expect that you’ll be asked to contribute to these loans.

Paying back loans should be a priority. But don’t neglect your other financial commitments, like your retirement accounts.

The amount and type of loans you have may dictate the types of jobs you go after. For example, if you have a lot of loans, you may need to find a position with a company that offers a 401K type plan to reduce your tax liability.

Once you’ve found a location that you like, it’s time to look at the job descriptions.

When you try to get a job, whether you’ve graduated or not, you will probably need to talk a lot about your portfolio.

For this reason, consider keeping a portfolio that’s full of your best work, even if you need to create that work.

When you write about your experience faculty recommendations, your portfolio should definitely be mentioned.

Don’t pay your loans

Before you start making a salary.

While it is tempting to consider paying off your student loans early, it is best to wait until after you start earning a full-time salary.

This is because when you start out as a professional in the field, you may be working in an area that is completely unrelated to your education. This means you might not be earning enough to make an actual dent in your loans.

The best way to pay your loans early is to start investing. That money should be able to grow and increase in value as well as earning you a positive return.

And let us not forget the power of compound interest. If you invest your money wisely, you can earn interest on your principle and on the interest over time. When you pay back your loan, you are also paying off the interest AND the principle, resulting in saving thousands of dollars in the long run.

Deferment and Forbearance

Not many people are aware that you can delay making payments on your school loans until you have started repaying these loans.

The federal government offers programs where you don’t have to make payments while you are in school or during a period after graduation (called a grace period) when you are looking for employment.

These programs are available for all main federal student loan programs – Stafford, Grad PLUS, and Parent PLUS.

Typically, you can delay payments for up to three years while you are in school. The length of post-graduation deferral can be different based on the type of loan.

If you get a subsidized loan, you don’t have to pay any interest until after you graduate and enter repayment. In that case, the grace period ends after you leave school.

But for a unsubsidized loan, interest begins to accrue immediately when the student leaves school and continues to do so during the deferral period. You have to pay interest on the loan until you reach the grace period.

After your deferment period ends, you can either begin making payments or postpone the payments for up to three years (for subsidized loans). All federal student loans have three-year repayment plans.

During this time, interest accrues on your unsubsidized loan. After you enter repayment, you will have to pay not only the interest, but also the principal back.

Income Based Repayment (IBR)

One of the big selling points of doctorate programs is the idea that you'll make more money once you have this specific qualification on your resume. And that's true, but it doesn't mean you're going to pull down the big bucks right away. It's common to make far less than you would in your field of study for a number of years after you get your degree.

If you have reasonable federal student loan debt, you might be able to reduce your student loan payments or eliminate them completely.

This isn't a freebie, though; it comes with a tradeoff. The idea is that you can pay less each month in the short term, but you could be paying more over the long run.

Pay them off now

Or later?

The decision to live at home or go away to college really comes down to your personal preferences and temperament.

There are pros and cons to both, and the choice is yours.

But an additional decision that you’ll need to make is whether you need to take out loans to pay for school or not.

This is a question given that college tuition can be very expensive.

To really answer this question, you’ll need to do a fair amount of soul-searching. Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of taking out student loans and paying them off immediately versus later.

First, let’s examine the benefits of taking out loans:

Taking out loans will help you cover your college expenses and give you greater access to a broader range of schools, including private colleges.

A degree from a prestigious college can help you jump-start a successful career unfortunately, some people take out loans because they’re simply more comfortable going to a school that’s easier to get into or one that’s much closer to home. Students who are paying for college on their own may feel pressured to attend a college that has a lower cost of living simply to save money.