BLA Grads: What Would You Have Done Differently?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION BLA Grads: What Would You Have Done Differently?

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    April Prey


    I will be starting the BLA program at the University of Washington (Seattle) this fall.  I am returning to school as an old fart of 49 for a second career (or third, or fourth, depending on how you define “career”).  My 25 years of working includes administration in non-profits (current degree in Social Work), environmental engineering, and the legal industry.

    I would love to have the benefit of your 20/20 hindsight – now that you are out of school (or have graduated in the last couple of years).  If you could do your three years over again – what would you do differently, if anything?

    “If I knew then what I know now I’d….(fill in blank)”


    not get the degree, I am thinking about Masters in Environmental Engineering. But I have no idea, if I can get in yet.

    April Prey

    Trust me, that option was considered – I almost did not take the spot. I won’t bore you with the details. My entire household of 2 was a victim of the economy – my partner just went back to work after a year of unemployment. But the “pros” outweighed the “cons” by a nose (or a hair).

    Anyone willing offer constructive advice focused on the schooling itself, rather than the current economic climate? I have already read each and every post on the “Are You Working Or Not” thread, so I don’t think that issue needs to be rehashed here.

    Jay Smith

    I would say try to learn as much as you can about the things they won’t be teaching you. I don’t know what the program is like at Washington, but many (or most) of the BLA programs out there focus mainly on design theory, and not enough of the nuts and bolts of Landscape Architecture, like construction detailing, grading, plant I.D., software, etc. My program had courses in all these areas, but it was not enough, and did not prepare me for the reality of a Landscape Architecture position. College is a dream world, focusing on big glamorous projects. But in my experience, it just isn’t reality.

    If I could do it over again, I’d do everything I could to find PT work and summer internships at a variety of L.A. firms while in school. (I only did one summer L.A. internship while in school). Get all the real world experience you can get as soon as possible. And I think working for a Landscape Contractor at that stage in your career would probably also be very beneficial, as you would get exposed to all the issues involved at the construction end of the design process.

    Good luck to you, you are brave to enter the field in these times.


    Did not mean to rant. I would ensure you pick up the fundamentals of 3D modeling programs like 3D Max, Rhino, or other rendering program. Be very beneficial if you want to work for landscape architecture firms, but if you want to do high-res boutique style places than concentrate on plant materials.

    April Prey

    “College is a dream world, focusing on big glamorous projects. But in my experience, it just isn’t reality.”

    That is SO true! One of the benefits of doing this a second time around is that I’ve already gone through the realization that the “real world” is vastly different from the “artificial” world of academia.

    The BLA program at UW has three quarters of landscape construction classes. This appears to be fairly recent – I have been eyeballing the program for a few years, and there was only one construction class when I began looking at it. I have long had a fascination with construction – I could have gone into construction management and would do a minor in CM if I was allowed as a post-baccalaureate – but I can’t. I am going into this with the intention of focusing on the “nuts and bolts” .

    April Prey

    No worries – I know from personal experience how tough times are. It’s hard not to rant. Thanks for your helpful suggestions!

    Betsy Bermingham

    It is great you have a diverse background prior to starting your BLA! While you are in school store your previous experience in the back of your head and think about how it could be applied to different firms as you become more familiar with them through studios, lectures, critiques, etc. All the experience you have in addition to the stuff you’ll learn through the BLA is an asset to a multidisciplinary firm; it can put you ahead of the competition when you are looking for a job or an internship.

    Be prepared for a design you develop during studio to get ripped apart by a professional during a critique. Try not to take it personally, you can defend your design during the crit. but realize that all of this is about learning something new and not about winning a debate. Remember potential employers may think if you can’t be receptive and learn something from a critique in school you also won’t be receptive to input from co-workers and clients when you start a job.

    For internships and jobs don’t just call up the most prominent Architecture/LA firms in Seattle; while these are great firms, there are a ton of less visible firms that do excellent work and will probably have a smaller pile of resumes to sift through. Good luck!

    Blake Guidry

    I got my BLA in 08′ from LSU. If you want to travel, get your degree from LSU.
    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who actually still has a job in the field. It required me to move 1500 miles but that’s what I wanted to do anyways.
    Now to your question, nothing. I loved school and I love my job.
    My degree was 5 years.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I did a lot with GIS (ArcInfo) when I was in school as something that I picked up unexpectedly and enjoyed. If I had to do it over again, I would focus a lot on GIS because it crosses over into many fields and there does not seem to be a lot of people trained in doing in depth analysis with it (more data collecting and display rather than analysis). … so many directions that can take you and you could easily switch gears into different fields with a deep knowledge of analysis.

    Jason T. Radice

    would have went to architecture school, then get the MLA.


    Since you have taken the plunge and decided to pursue a BLA, I would recommend that you intern at a variety of firms both large and small. While in school, network…network…network!!! Be nice to your professors as well as the architects.

    David Farber

    Hey Blake I graduated this past May from LSU!

    April, go to LSU, it changed me alot. You are going to have a different experience than most because of the age and maturity difference. I loved LSU, lead me straight to a great job. The program is ranked so high, the best teachers, everything really. (besides the occasional hurricane, or oil ball)

    David Farber

    Oh, as for what I would have done differently. Most likely have paid more attention to school my frist and second year. But in reality, I wouldnt have changed a thing.

    email me if you have questions about LSU

    Thomas J. Johnson

    I would have spent less time in the studio. Worked full time and taken on less / no student loans.

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