Yasamin Enshaeian

Yasamin Enshaeian, Berkeley Architecture MAAD Student

From B.Arch. at the University of Cincinnati, to MAAD Student at UC Berkeley School of Environmental Design

  • Arch. School Attended: UC Berkeley School of Environmental Design
  • Background: Bachelor of Architecture
  • Focus: Architecture, Real Estate Development and Social Urbanism

“I submitted my work to ASR and you looked over and evaluated it. It was interesting to ask a third person to evaluate you as a person. It was kind of hard to evaluate a full submission package when I am so close to it. You helped me build a great strategy, which really helped me. At some point I had decided to interrupt my application process, but when I came back to it a year later it was still relevant.” 

FULL INTERVIEW W/ YASAMIN ENSHAEIAN (BASED ON UNEDITED RECORDING)

Yasamin: [00:00] We spoke a little bit over 2 years ago I believe. I’d just graduated from the University of Cincinnati and then I was in the process of applying for jobs and was considering going back to graduate school, but the timing didn’t work out really well. We had a couple of sessions, which were helpful in a sense. You opened up my eyes about putting a portfolio together as one big element, not disjointed projects. Which is where I was lacking in my overall portfolio. To put the best part of myself as one package, and continuing that into the personal statement and wrapping it all together in a cohesive bundle. 

Evangelos: [01:18] You went through the evaluations, phase one process. Then you moved on to phase two, which is 3 sessions where we work out the strategies and things like that.

Yasamin: [01:35] From the 3 sessions, I actually had 2 sessions with you. You went over my portfolio and we were talking about how to best think about the projects or redraw the projects to show who I am as a designer, as a wannabe architect, as someone who would be doing good in graduate school for architecture. 

Evangelos: [02:11] Tell me a little bit about you. Remind us about you. What’s your background and how did you decide to become an architect?

Yasamin: [02:23] I don’t know where it came from, but I just decided that I was going to pursue architecture since I was little basically. My mom studied sociology, and my dad is an engineer, so I kind of meshed the two in architecture. 

Evangelos: [02:46] You are from New York?

Yasamin: [02:49] No I’m from Iran, I was born and raised in Tehran for 18 years. I went to community college in Orange County, California, then I decided to go to Ohio for my undergrad and did my Bachelor of Science. I took a couple of years off, and here we are right now. I have been all over the US. I have lived in Seattle, DC, right now I’m in North Carolina [chuckles], which is completely different.

Evangelos: [03:26] What did you study for your undergrad?

Yasamin: [03:28] Architecture. Actuarial Science in Architecture. 

Evangelos: [03:32] Actuarial Science in Architecture? So it wasn’t WAB accredited?

Yasamin: [03:36] Yeah, and that’s where the problem is starting. I wanted to do graduate school just to make myself a better designer, but at the same time, there is a licenser issue in some states that you need to have a professional degree to become a licensed architect.

Evangelos: [04:00] Which is what led you to decide to so the M. Arch program?

Yasamin: [04:05] Yes.

Evangelos: [04:06] Did you choose to apply for advanced standing? [Crosstalk] well I know all these answers but for the podcast, lets’ talk about it.

Yasamin: [04:19] It’s true, some schools automatically put you in advanced standing. Some of them have in their curriculum that, if you have a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, you automatically go into their 2-year program, but some don’t. Some require you to do 3 years because you have a Bachelor of Science. So it really depended on what school I applied too. I had different categories of schools that I wanted to apply and I applied to a lot of them, just because I was like, “Well, I’m doing it, might as just apply for one more or two more.”

Evangelos: [05:11] Might as well. How many did you end up applying too?

Yasamin: [05:14] 11.

Evangelos: [05:15] 11, that’s great. That’s not the most I’ve ever heard.

Yasamin: [05:20] Really? [Chuckles].

Evangelos: [05:22] 15 is the most, and she got into most of them. I have no idea why so many, but I’ve heard 15. Which ones did you get into?

Yasamin: [05:38] I got into Columbia. I got into UPenn. I applied to the University of Michigan, which I got into. The University of Cincinnati. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. IIT, and Berkeley. Berkeley was an MRED program.

Evangelos: [06:02] That’s a Masters in Real Estate Development?

Yasamin: [06:05] Yes, Masters of Real Estate, Development and Design. 

Evangelos: [06:10] As far as Columbia, you applied for the regular M. Arch?

Yasamin: [06:13] All of the other ones were regular M. Arch.

Evangelos: [06:18] Did you receive any fellowships? Any financial aid from any of the universities?

Yasamin: [06:20] I did. In a manner of how big they were; Michigan, USD$50,000 for scholarships. Berkeley was USD$25,000.

Evangelos: [06:34] USD$50,000 per year or?

Yasamin: [06:38] For 2 years.

Evangelos: [06:41] so out of the total tuition for 2 years, they would give you USD$50K

Yasamin: [06:44] Yes, USD$50K. For Berkeley, it was USD$25,000 then they added USD$5,000 more, 20% more, and that’s an 11-month program. That’s not a 2-year program. That’s a really fast-paced, 3 semesters worth of studying at Berkeley, with USD$30K. Columbia with USD$20K, and UPenn with USD$30K as well. I think UPenn was USD$30,000 per year.

Evangelos: [07:20] Ok, so USD$30,000 per year for 2 years because you were in advanced standing?

Yasamin: [07:25] No, for 3 years.

Evangelos: [07:28] 3 years, right. You decided to choose which one?

Yasamin: [07:32] I really wanted to do Columbia, but the amount of loans that I had to take, I don’t think that it was justified in architecture. As you may know, when you get out of school, there’s almost no difference between M. Arch and a bachelor’s. You just have to start from the bottom. 

Evangelos: [08:00] Right, the only difference is that you made a choice to be an architect earlier with a B. Arch. That’s it. 

Yasamin: [08:07] That’s it.

Evangelos: [08:08] It does add a feather on your cap when you have the masters. They kind of expect you to do that now, and they also respect you more I think because you’re older. Most people go into M. Arch, I believe the average age is 25 or 27, something like that. So you understand when you come out at that age, you are a much more mature individual, and you probably have worked for a couple of years, before graduate school. They do expect that more, and they tend to give you more money, but you are right. You do start from scratch.

Yasamin: [08:49] Yeah, but how much more money, to justify taking a USD$200,000 loan?

Evangelos: [08:55] Absolutely, that’s crazy. We probably talked about that, that it almost doesn’t make sense to me that a person would… we have to interrupt it, one second.

[Long pause]

Evangelos: [10:29] Sorry about that, my wife took our daughter the state park and she just found out that they are closing down all state parks too. Now we can’t go anywhere [chuckles].

Yasamin: [10:44] [Chuckles] We’ve been walking a little bit, but at the same time they say just completely shut it down.

Evangelos: [10:54] You are living in North Carolina now you say?

Yasamin: [10:56] At Durham, which is close to Duke University. [Crosstalk].

Evangelos: [11:02] How come there? Are you working there?

Yasamin: [11:05] I am working. I am working at Perkins and Will in North Carolina.

Evangelos: [11:08] Oh cool, so you are doing real estate?

Yasamin: [11:12] No, it’s just architecture right now.

Evangelos: [11:15] Perkins and William? What am I thinking of… Killer William, yeah [chuckles] [crosstalk]. Let’s go back to what we were saying. I totally forgot where we were. I was saying that it really makes no sense to me that someone would choose to go to architecture school and pay full tuition because it’s just so hard. Especially when they cannot afford to pay back the loan based on their salary. We are talking about a 12-year ordeal probably, mathematically speaking, if you calculate it. As far as paying it off comfortably. That’s only if you get top salaries, which is if you work in an urban centre like New York or Chicago or something like that. And the cost of living there is crazy.

Yasamin: [12:13] Yes, I didn’t see myself getting out of it. I spoke to a principle of mine that went to Harvard, and he graduated 15 years ago or 20 years ago. He came out with a USD$60,000 loan, which is not bad really, and he paid it off in 10 years or 8 years. When you think about USD$200,000, that’s more than… [crosstalk].

Evangelos: [12:52] More than you would want.

Yasamin: [12:53] Yes.

Evangelos: [12:54] I just wanted to talk a little bit more about our process, and just hear from your point of view one of the things that really stood out for you, and you felt that helped you the most. Including strategic tools, as well as other design-related stuff. Then we can talk more about your selections and anything else. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Yasamin: [13:19] What I remember was that I submitted my portfolio and drawings and everything to you. You looked over it and critiqued it and wrote that it’s self-evaluation that we spoke about in the next session after we touched base again. It was interesting in a way, to ask a third person to evaluate you as a person. It’s hard for me to evaluate my whole submission package when I’m so close to it, but as a third person, you get that bird’s eye view and zoom back a little bit and see it from a higher view. That really helped me. One thing that was interesting to me is that, when we spoke on our second session after that self-evaluation, I had some complications that I couldn’t continue to do what we were doing any more and I had to take some time off and postpone graduate school. When I came back to it this October, a year and a half almost after we talked, it was still relevant. It was interesting in the fact that I blitzed off where we left it. I continued on that.

Evangelos: [15:14] As far as the other couple of sessions that we had, did we go over your strategy? [Crosstalk]

Yasamin: [15:22] We did, and what helped me the most was that when we were going through those couple of sessions, we weaved the story of how the portfolio would come together. It would be unique so that they would see who I was as a person, and as a designer. That was very helpful, to go through the whole story, from beginning to end.

Evangelos: [15:50] Great. How did you take that work that we did and apply it to your portfolio? How did you change your portfolio after the strategic development that we did?

Yasamin: [16:09] What I had been lacking in school was that the classes and the studios were so tightly scheduled that you were just getting stuff done. You weren’t really looking into having a stronger story. It took me, I can easily say, between October ’til December that I redid some of my projects, to ground them better and have that foundation look to them. Instead of just a design. It was more like a storyline that I weaved it through. One more thing that I did was that I even designed a couple of new projects for myself.

Evangelos: [17:11] Really?

Yasamin: [17:12] Yeah, I did, because what I’m interested in architecture is to explore the social entrepreneurship part of it. How does architecture relate to race, and diversity, and inclusion? These kinds of topics. Living in North Carolina, that helped me as well, because it’s very obvious, the racial divide of some of the urban settings; that I even live in. I used that to my advantage, to define a new project, and showcase myself through what I thought would be beneficial to have.

Evangelos: [17:59] How many projects did your portfolio consist of in the end?

Yasamin: [18:03] I had 2 main big projects, which were part of my school work. For UPenn only, I included a work project, but for the rest of them, it was all me. [Crosstalk]

Evangelos: [18:26] So 2 big ones, then you added a couple more you said?

Yasamin: [18:33] Yes, I did. I added a couple more that where smaller projects, more like installation type work to put it.

Evangelos: [18:40] Your installation type, did you build them or did you..?

Yasamin: [18:44] No.

Evangelos: [18:44] you just designed them. Great.

Yasamin: [18:46] I just designed it and put it together.

Evangelos: [18:50] As far as connecting it to the strategy, what was the way in which you managed to connect these to the strategy? Meaning, what was the story that you told? What was the theme that you developed?

Yasamin: [19:04] The theme was the social aspect of architecture. I grounded my 2 works of school into a more social setting. For instance, we had a project that we developed in Chitia, and it was a morphing structural element. I just put it in my home town and designed it in another way. That’s how I went about it.

Evangelos: [19:37] That was an existing project which you ‘post-actualized’ quote-unquote and what did the project then do in the new setting that you located it?

Yasamin: [19:51] It was kind of a hidden structure. As an Iranian, you always politicize everything, in my opinion, so that’s what I did too [chuckles]. I made it more political than anything else. It was a hidden place that artists would go to get out of the art censorship that is in Iran usually. To just showcase their work without any censorship, as the theme of my job.

Evangelos: [20:38] I see. Now, this process of applying to architecture school is pretty strenuous and painful for many people. Can you tell me a bit about how you dealt with stress and the pressure also? In many cases, people feel the pressure, “Oh my God, this is the rest of my life.” How did you deal with it?

Yasamin: [21:02] I did it in a way that I took it day-by-day, and I tried not to focus on the end result. Everyone quote-unquote, ‘fails at some point’ but I tried to not think about rejected or getting accepted. I just focused on the fact that I owe it to myself to produce a portfolio that is a full display of me, and I had fun with it. I had fun doing it. I’m not saying that the whole process was so much fun. It wasn’t, because I was working full time and I was taking the GRE, and I was writing my personal statements. It was tough, but I’m glad that I did it, so I have something to show at the end.

Evangelos: [22:06] When you came back and we were working on strategy. Do you feel that the approach that we took is first developing the statement of purpose and answering these questions? Do you feel like that was important in the process? That it helped you develop not only the strategy but a better statement of purpose later?

Yasamin: [22:34] I would say that I didn’t know what to focus on until I came to North Carolina and saw what I wanted to work on. In the beginning, it really didn’t align me to what I wanted to get aligned too. I realized that afterwards. The answer was hidden inside the questions, I just was looking at them differently, in a different angle. Now that I look back at it, yes, I think the answer was there. I was just not seeing it, but at the moment, it was still disjointed to me.

Evangelos: [23:22] Excellent. Now you got into all these great schools, so it’s a matter of choice now. You’ve got the best dilemma of all, right?

Yasamin: [23:34] Right, it’s a good problem.

Evangelos: [23:37] You have too many choices, but you’ve already paid your money and reserved a spot for Berkeley, right?

Yasamin: [23:49] I’ve clicked on the ‘Yes’ button. I haven’t paid [chuckles] [crosstalk].

Evangelos: [23:57] Everything is still open? Everything is still up in the air?

Yasamin: [24:01] In a way, yes.

Evangelos: [24:04] What does your heart tell you? If money was not an issue, what would be the ideal program for you right now? Based on what you know? Based on what you know about yourself in the future, and what you know about each school individually?

Yasamin: [24:21] My heart tells me I should take the Berkeley offer and go with it, even though it’s not an M. Arch, it’s an MRED. I think the reason why I want to go to maybe the Columbia and the UPenn, is because of first of all its name. It is prestigious, and also I miss that kind of a studio environment of thinking about design, thinking about architecture, and being in that atmosphere. Something tells me that the MRED program is not something that I should miss.

Evangelos: [25:10] I was thinking about this dilemma from a different point of view. The MRED program as you said, is a year-long, right? All other programs are 2 to 3 years. Let’s talk about the best choices that you have according to you. I would beg to differ. I have great respect for Michigan, for example, but Columbia and Penn are very highly ranked schools. Of course, you can’t underestimate that, and the value of a Columbia degree in your resume. Columbia consistently being top-5, sometimes top-2. Penn being top-7. Let’s think of it a little differently, so let’s start by talking a little bit about the money for Berkeley. They are giving you USD$30,000 for the whole year or per semester?

Yasamin: [26:24] No, for the whole year.

Evangelos: [26:26] The whole year. You are not qualified as a resident yet because you don’t live there. You need 6 months to do that. Is there any way you could establish residency? Actually, right now because of Covid-19, it’s probably very hard to do.

Yasamin: [26:42] That’s right.

Evangelos: [26:43] As an out of state student, how much would you have to pay for that year of education at MRED?

Yasamin: [26:50] I would have to pay maybe USD$40K because I have qualified for some work-study.

Evangelos: [27:06] The total for that 1 year is USD$70,000. Wow, that’s huge. That’s the Berkeley MRED program?

Yasamin: [27:16] That’s the tuition. The tuition is USD$70,000.

Evangelos: [27:20] That’s the tuition, that’s on top of everything else.

Yasamin: [27:22] That’s not even including working, but I talked to the Director, Greg Morrow, and we were discussing the fact that it is an MRED program, not an M. Arch program. He is a licensed architect himself, and he was telling me personal thinking about the aspect of MRED versus M. Arch. He was telling me that, there is a reason why Berkeley has an MRED, +D next to it. It’s triggered more towards design and it’s very flexible, you can take any elective basically, that you want. It’s not all finance orientated and one financial aspect he was talking about, was that all of the students who came out of the MRED program, their salaries almost doubled.

Evangelos: [28:27] They doubled in what discipline? Not architecture?

Yasamin: [28:32] Not in architecture, no. they are in development.

Evangelos: [28:38] Right.

Yasamin: [28:41] They are in development, but some of them who have architecture backgrounds, have ended up landing jobs that are a crossroads between architecture and development.

Evangelos: [28:58] Ok, so the first thing you have to ask yourself, is what is your aspiration for your future? The decision you are making is not a soft decision. Meaning, “Oh well, I can do the MRED program and just continue practising architecture because I have my Bachelors of Architecture and therefore it’s not going to affect me, I can still become licensed.” No, you cannot become licensed. You are making a career decision.

Alright, so I’m looking at the state of New York. ‘The eligibility for licensure is based on a combination of education, for which units of credit are awarded. Credits awarded for education determines the required number of units. Yes, your combination of education and experience must total at least 12 units.’ Alright, so we have here several categories, let’s see, ‘First, a professional degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.’ That is category-A, that’s a B. Arch or an M. Arch. ‘First professional degree from a program that is not NAAB accredited, maximum credit granted is 8 units’. ‘Partial completion of a NAWB accredited program, 2 units of credit for each completed year. A 4-year pre-professional degree in architecture, maximum credits granted, 7 units.’ Ok, wow. Ok, I guess it does allow that.

Yasamin: [33:17] In some states it does. In California it does, and as you just said, New York, and I think Wisconsin too [chuckles]. 

Evangelos: [33:27] Wisconsin, wow.

Yasamin: [33:29] [Laughter]

Evangelos: [33:30] Why are you laughing about Wisconsin?

Yasamin: [33:33] Well the reason is because I’m taking my ARE exams, and I’m registering in Wisconsin because I just want to get my license.

Evangelos: [33:44] Yeah, as soon as possible. Well, now we know that you can apply for your licensure, then you can be a developer. You can be in the developer world. So let’s talk about that. I guess the issue that you are having is, “Do I want to spend 2 to 3 years, enhancing my architectural background and prestige, as well as my design ability in a unique environment?” Versus, “Do I want to differentiate myself from the rest of the people who are applying for architectural positions by getting a Masters in Real Estate Development?”

Yasamin: [34:43] My hope as the end of it is to have my own design-build firm. That’s the reason why I think it’s crucial for me to understand the finances of it. Not necessarily doing residential for clients, but if I want to do more democratic architecture or more civic stuff. How am I able to actually finance the work? How am I able to get the work done and everything [inaudible]? That’s the reason why I want to do the MRED, to learn that part of it.

Evangelos: [35:37] Well it sounds like, as far as a career move, the MRED is obviously a good decision for you because of what you are trying to accomplish. Which is to have a career as a design-builder. The question that you have to ask yourself is, “What would the architectural degree give you that you don’t have now?” Compare that to what the real-estate degree would give you that you do not have now? Compare them in light of what you are trying to achieve, For example, if someone wants to have a career in architecture and they don’t have a degree in architecture, it’s going to be slightly harder to become successful as architects. Even though they may be able to get an architectural license, it’s a matter of prestige. It’s a matter of ability to think as a designer. It’s a matter of processing pressing ideas. That’s the big dilemma right there. Is that something that you even value in a concrete manner? The exposure the designer has to the academic side of architecture, or is it something you see as a secondary skill?

Yasamin: [37:08] No, I think it’s crucial. I think it’s very important to have, and that’s the reason why I have applied for M. Arch to get that point across for myself. One thing is that, if I do the MRED program or the M. Arch program, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do the other one. I can do the M.RED program this year, and then next year I can reapply for architecture school.

Evangelos: [37:41] You can defer, and sometimes they’ll keep your spot, even your financial aid, in many cases.

Yasamin: [37:49] Oh really [crosstalk].

Evangelos: [37:51] You have to let them know that you have personal reasons or something like that, you have to come up with a good excuse, but in most cases, they will allow you to do. In many cases, they won’t, but in some cases, they will, especially if they really want you. I think that’s the best way for you, but it’s going to add an extra cost to the pile of debt that you have now. Is that something that you are going to pay out of pocket, or you going to get a loan, which is still out of pocket but deferred.

Yasamin: [38:23] In the long term. Yes [chuckles].

Evangelos: [38:25] Is that a loan? Are you going to take a loan?

Yasamin: [38:27] It would be a loan, but when thinking that if I do the MRED program, the USD$30,000, when you think about what would be your expected salary, to come out of school. It’s almost a no brainer.

Evangelos: [38:47] I have another idea. What if you spoke with someone at Berkeley and explain your situation. State that, “I am interested in doing the M. Arch here as well as the MRED here concurrently. Is there any way that credits that I get from the MRED program, as well as the tuition that I pay from that, could be deducted from the tuition that I pay for the M. Arch program?” Somehow get a deal that would allow you to finance your education, and not wait an extra year or whatever but start immediately, starting both. I’ve seen this happen. When I was at MIT, there were a couple of people who were in the M. Arch program. One of them was doing a degree in engineering, a Master’s of Science in Civil Engineering I think, at the same time. She actually had to stay an extra year or something after she was done with the M. Arch to complete it, but that was different. She did it concurrently, but it took a little longer because you only take so many courses. That’s understandable, but there is a difference between spending your whole year, then also having to reapply, versus spending an extra 6 months there, or maybe even in many cases, managing to finish it all at once. You have to talk to them about that. 

There was another person who was an MCP candidate, Masters of City Planning Development. He applied for the M. Arch and he got in, in the second year, so he managed to finish by the time he was done with MCP. Which is a different department, but under the school of architecture. Within an extra year, he managed to finish the M. Arch program too. So that happens, also UPenn offers dual degrees in architecture. Dual degrees as in Masters of Architecture, M. Arch, and M.L.Arch, Masters of Landscape Architecture. Many schools do that, and they do tell you, “Ok, finish your M. Arch first, then you’ll do the landscape architecture because you are going to have to stay like 10 years, they do it concurrently. That’s an idea for you. I’m not saying that it will happen, but if it does happen, it will be much cheaper. You don’t have to then go to Columbia. After 6 months, you’ll qualify as a resident, and that will reduce the amount of cash that you have to pay for your tuition as an M. Arch student if you stay there. As a matter of fact, I want to ask you, after staying there for 6 months, doesn’t the tuition drop a little bit for you as an in-state resident at Berkeley?

Yasamin: [42:15] Well, in-state residences get lower tuition, and I have looked into the finances of it, but apparently the tuition of the program is that much. It’s like getting an MBA, the tuition of the MBA is that much.

Evangelos: [42:33] It’s an executive program. I get it. Right.

Yasamin: [42:36] It’s not like a sociology major for 4 years, that you qualify to get a lower tuition because of California residency. It’s that program, that costs this much.

Evangelos: [42:49] Right. It doesn’t hurt to ask them, but the question still remains. Essentially, the question comes down to do you want both degrees or do you want one of them [chuckles]?

Yasamin: [43:02] I’m a sucker for education basically, so I would like to be in that world [laughter].

Evangelos: [43:13] A little dangerous, but let me see where you are coming from. Let’s try to see the different options that you have here. What are the options? The first option is, you forget about the MRED and you do your M. Arch. The second option is you just do the MRED, and you forget the M. Arch. The third option is you do both, one after the other. Starting with perhaps MRED then moving on to M. Arch. At first glance, what’s the option that makes more sense to you?

Yasamin: [43:56] The last option makes more sense.

Evangelos: [43:59] How much more is it going to cost you, overall? Aside from that, which of the 3 options are you right of the bat, excluding?

Yasamin: [44:13] I think it doesn’t make sense at this point to just get the M. Arch.

Evangelos: [44:17] Ok, so you are already leaning more towards the MRED. You consider that to be more important to your career?

Yasamin: [44:27] Yes, because it will open the doors that I would otherwise have to really work my way to get. It would be harder for me to get into those types of jobs without it.

Evangelos: [44:46] So the way that you think of it is that with an MRES, you could still get a job; because the job thing is very important to you. “I could still get a job, in the field of architecture, in an architecture firm, with my background.” Perhaps, even if you get your license, it will be much easier. But with the M. Arch, “I will only be able to get jobs there, whereas, with the MRED, I will open a whole other field.”

Yasamin: [45:14] Exactly, I open up a lot more doors to myself.

Evangelos: [45:17] Therefore, you are much more leaning towards the MRED, as opposed to the M. Arch. So essentially, the 2 options that you have, is MRED plus M. Arch next year or concurrently. Or MRED alone. The question that you need to ask, is how much is it going to cost at the moment? In the best-case scenario, to do an M. Arch? At the school that gives you the most amount of money.

Yasamin: [45:47] UDS$50K, it’s Michigan. The thing is that, for Michigan, I qualify for the second year of an in-state student as well, so that just dropped the whole thing. I can get my M. Arch with maybe USD$40K, coming out of 2 years. The first year is going to cost USD$50,000. The tuition is USD$50,000 and living in Ann Arbor, I doubt it will be so much expensive.

Evangelos: [46:20] Well, whether you live in Ann Arbor or you live wherever, you still have to pay rent. [Crosstalk] You are still going to have to spend money to live, so forget that, tuition is really what we looking at. And you have decided already to go to school, so it’s not a matter of work versus school, so we don’t calculate the damage of not working. You understand what I’m saying? You’ve already made that decision. So it’s a USD$50,000 overall investment that you’ll make you said or USD$40,000 for Michigan?

Yasamin: [46:52] US$40,000 for Michigan. 

Evangelos: [46:54] For the 2 years right? That will get you a Masters of Architecture program, right? As far as the MRED program, it’s another USD$60,000. Sorry, remind me how much?

Yasamin: [47:16] USD$30,000, it will be. Well USD$40,000.

Evangelos: [47:20] No, out of pocket. How much will you be paying out of pocket?

Yasamin: [47:25] Well, USD$40,000, yes.

Evangelos: [47:28] USD$40,000. So the total that you will pay to get everything is USD$80,000. One option is USD$80,000 for everything. The second option is USD$40,000 for the MRED. These are your 2 options. Are you ready based on these 2 options? Based on cost and based on prospects for a degree and whatnot. Are you already eliminating any of these options or not?

Yasamin: [48:01] What do you mean?

Evangelos: [48:03] Between the 2, MRED and M. Arch for USD$80,000 and MRED for USD$40,000, right off the bat, do you say right now USD$80,000 doesn’t sound so good.

Yasamin: [48:19] No, it does sound good to me.

Evangelos: [48:23] You still have the dilemma, right?

Yasamin: [48:25] Yes, I do. I contacted the University of Michigan, to get see if I would get a different road from them.

Evangelos: [48:34] And?

Yasamin: [48:01] I haven’t heard back yet, I sent that email yesterday. 

Evangelos: [48:41] That’s also very theoretical. Let’s figure out what decision makes sense first. In both cases, MRED is the only constant right? They both have it. The only difference is that in the second case, there’s the M. Arch for USD$40,000. The only question you have to ask yourself is, does M. Arch for USD$40,000 make sense to you?

Yasamin: [49:05] Yeah it does, because at the same time that I would want to build my career in design-build, I also would like to stay in the academic world. If I want to stay in the academic world, and possibly teach somewhere, a studio or something, I would need my Masters of Architecture degree.

Evangelos: [49:33] In your heart right now, and in your pocket, the difference of $40,000 per Master’s degree in Architecture is something that you can swallow?

Yasamin: [49:44] Yeah, totally I can.

Evangelos: [49:46] And live with it? You are ok with it? 

Yasamin: [49:47] Yes, I can.

Evangelos: [49:48] And the fact that you are going to spend a little extra time, two extra years, is not something that you are worried about?

Yasamin: [49:55] I’m not. No.

Evangelos: [49:59] It sounds like based on what your aspirations are. That the only way to avoid regrets in the future, and to make sure that you maximize your potential, is to choose the M. Arch and RED option. It’s not really that the M. Arch option is an extra USD$200,000 that you have to spend, which is a possibility too. It’s only USD$40,000, so I think it’s something that you can pay back in a very short amount of time. And with the increased salary that you will get based on the fact that you will be much more competitive, you will probably be able to afford paying off that extra loan. You will not regret it later on, plus it will open up the horizon for an academic career, which will improve your position in the field, because of the extra prestige of having an academic career. Plus you are going to have the option, to just focus on that if you choose too. More options. More money. Not that much sacrifice. MRED/M. Arch is in my view the best option that you can have.

I would recommend you do your best to see if you can somehow, work something out with Berkeley. In the past, a lot of students of mine have had personal conversations with people. Cornell, some of them at Berkeley. At Yale, Harvard, Syracuse. These schools want the best students for themselves, and they compete against each other, just like you compete against your peers for a position there. Once you are done competing, they start competing for you. You got as you said, acceptance letters from some really good schools. Why did Michigan give you all this money? Because they don’t want you to go to Columbia, they don’t want you to go to Berkeley, they don’t want you to go to Penn. At this point, I think you have leverage and you can try to use it because you have nothing to lose at the moment. All you have to do is ask, and see whether they would be interested in accommodating you. Just like you spoke with me, go to the head of the M. Arch program, as well as perhaps the head of the MRED program and discuss with them. Say, “Here is my issue Mr Berkeley, Head of the M. Arch program. I did not apply to the Berkeley M. Arch program, because I thought I could only apply to the MRED option.” Which I think you could have applied to both.

Yasamin: [52:55] I could have. Sadly, I just missed my deadline. That was wrong on my part.

Evangelos: [53:02] So, “I missed my deadline, but I got into Columbia, I got into all these schools. I really want to study architecture here, and I really want to do my MRED program here. Is there any way that I could do a dual degree in architecture, and my application could be considered now. If yes, what is the deal that you will give me?” Maybe they can accommodate you, and then the fact that after 6 months you stay there, the tuition drops quite a bit. It may be more competitive as far as low tuition than Michigan because Berkeley M. Arch is cheap, to begin with, but for in-state residence, it’s USD$20,000 a year or something like that. It’s dirt cheap compared to other programs [laughter]. So, that’s my recommendation. 

If that doesn’t happen. Your second-best option is to pressure Michigan and all the other schools, in my opinion, for 2 things. Number 1, ask them for more money. Number 2, ask them for a deferral. As I said to you, it’s worth it. Asking for more money doesn’t always work, but sometimes it works, especially when they really want you. To do that, you have to explain to them what you bring to the table. The reason why you need the deferral, and the reason in your case is that you want to get a degree in real-estate development. Now, that will differentiate you dramatically from everyone else in your class, because others will not have it. You will bring much more to the table, and you will be a much more sort after student later on, in my opinion. If you do that, then you say, “Look, I decided to do this because I feel that it will add to my background as an architect, make me more competitive and I’ll be able to contribute much more to the architecture community.” Then you will be able to hopefully persuade them, number 1 to give you some extra cash, and once they do that, then you can prioritize, what’s my best option as far as money versus reputation for the options that are not Berkeley. Then you can say, “Maybe I can finish the MRED program now, then go ahead and finish the M. Arch a year later if they give me a deferral with some extra cash.” That will add a little extra time, but if you decide to go to a school like Michigan, it will just give you that extra time, then within 3 years you will have these 2 amazing degrees, and only USD$80,000 in expenses. 

The worst-case scenario here is a very good case scenario, but I think you can improve your scenario by asking Berkeley to give you the option of a dual degree and perhaps increase the money. Then number 2, if that doesn’t work, go to the other schools, and ask them for more money if possible, and a deferral. As far as my opinion, that’s the most I think I can do right now.

Yasamin: [56:50] It was a very good suggestion to email Berkeley for that. I didn’t think about that one, that I could weasel my way through getting an M. Arch there. Thank you, it has helped a lot. One thing I’m afraid of is to lose an opportunity that I might not regain. I’ve thought about, “Ok, Yasamin you can get your MRED, then you can reapply for M. Arch.” But then, I have to go through all this again to do that. Which is fine, but if I have a good option, why waste it?

Evangelos: [57:40] Well your GREs are available for 5 years. Your portfolio is not less weak because you waited a year, you can submit the same portfolio, so worst comes to worst, you can reapply and I’m sure you may even get more money. As a matter of fact, if you push yourself to improve your projects, and you include the fact that you have the MRED.

Yasamin: [58:15] You think it will make me a more competitive applicant for the M. Arch?

Evangelos: [58:22] Having an extra degree under your belt, absolutely would do that, and it’s not just a random degree. It’s a degree in the building industry basically. It will allow you to have a better view of the built environment and what to do with it and how. I think definitely, you will be much more competitive. Having said that, that’s a completely different category of thinking than what do we do now? In my opinion, you still have to negotiate. If you decide to reapply, you decide to reapply, that’s something you can do with any time. I really feel that now that the iron is hot, we need to negotiate for more money, and for deferrals, and see your options based on that. I think they would be very lucky to have you in these schools, and it would be kind of silly of them to not try and accommodate you. In my experience, they are pretty accommodating for students that they have high esteem for. If they want you, they will try to accommodate you. If you were the last on their list…

Yasamin: [59:52] They might not be.

Evangelos: [59:54] Well I don’t know, but they gave you money. Which means that they want you, trust me, not everybody gets cash. I’m very happy that you applied to these schools and got in, I’m very happy that you felt that we did our best to help you.

Yasamin: [01:00:13] You did.

Evangelos: [01:00:15] Hopefully, it made a difference. Thank you so much.

Yasamin: [01:00:21] Thank you for all the time that we’ve talked. It’s helped me so much and you helped me right now as well [chuckles], to comb through the ideas and get it out. Thank you, I do really appreciate it.

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