Carnegie Mellon University

Due to the ongoing considerations related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pre-College program will be offered only through remote instruction in the summer of 2021. Please view the Online Academic Information section below to review the updated program overview, curriculum, and requirements for our online Pre-College Architecture program.

Online Academic Information:

The Mission:

Pre-College Architecture is an intensive program that engages inquisitive high school students in the creative energy and speculative culture of the study of architecture. In these changing times, the program responds to challenges regarding practice, communication, and our relationship with the built environment by utilizing a diverse set of tools and techniques, guided by the leadership of the School of Architecture Faculty.  

Pre-College Architecture introduces design practice, creative problem solving, and critical thinking to young designers through a matrix of programming, celebrating curiosity and providing a strong foundation for architectural education. Students will navigate complex design problems, encouraging growth through the development of skills, which will prepare them for future undergraduate studies.  

The Experience:

Students experience learning through making in a remote studio setting, supported by structured integrated coursework in digital and analog media, seminars, and workshops expanding their exploration of the theory, process, and methodology of contemporary design practice.  The Pre-College Architecture program encourages students to explore, learn, and participate in critique as they develop their skills as designers over the course of either the three-week or six-week program.  Principles of architecture are introduced through class and studio time between the hours of 9am-4pm Monday-Thursday.  Outside of that time, students will have access to monitored open studio time and are strongly encouraged to work independently outside of classes and studio to iterate their ideas as part of the architectural design process.

Access to a computer with a keyboard, mouse, microphone, camera, and a reliable internet connection is essential.  The required software and materials listed below are also necessary for participation. We ask that students purchase the items listed below on their own before the program begins, and we are glad to answer any questions related to the technology or materials requirements.

The Requirements:

  • Required Equipment and Applications. [If anything other than home computer, Internet access and programs supplied by CMU]
  • Technology Requirements - Arch Pre-College Online Tech List TBD
  • Materials Requirements - Arch Pre-College Online Supply List TBD
  • U.S. Location. The Program is available only to individuals in the United States. Students are required to be physically located in the United States at all times when accessing Program courses and/or activities.
  • The expectation will be students are committed to the academic experience as indicated above.




The Pre-College Architecture Program is an intensive summer experience for students with a keen interest in architecture.

Over the course of six weeks, students will experience the interdisciplinary field of architecture through the lens of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture (SoA) as well as contemporary practices.

Students will experience the dynamic of architectural education within the studio, supported by integrated coursework in analog drawing, digital media, seminars and workshops. This approach will allow for broader exploration of design issues related to the environment, technology as well as the future of our cities. During the second half of the program, specialized workshops on design portfolio development will be conducted as an introduction to techniques for layout design and content composition. Portfolio reviews with faculty and members of the SoA admissions committee will give students an opportunity to curate their work for college submissions.


Pre-College Architecture is structured into two parts: Architecture Fundamentals and Design Application.

The projects and assignments issued within all courses will increase in complexity as students continue to build upon their technical skills and creative expressions. While the program allows for enrollment in either a 3-week or 6-week option, it's encouraged that students attend the full 6-week program to foster a comprehensive learning experience and greater development.

Architecture Fundamentals
Weeks 1–3

During the first three weeks of the program, students will work through a series of projects to build a basic comprehension of the fundamental principles of architecture.

We will cover the following:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Conceptual development,
  • Techniques in representation and spatial articulation.

Students will be expected to both collaborate with their classmates as well as work individually.



Design Application
Weeks 4–6

The final three weeks of the program will shift focus to explorations in scale to encompass issues of site, context and human experience. Students will work individually with the studio faculty to elaborate their design work, as well as integrate the skills and techniques through:

  • Advanced digital media and digital fabrication workshops
  • Seminars, special lectures and field trips which relate to issues of contemporary practice
  • Workshops for portfolio design and photography to teach students how to package design work graphically


Typical Schedule
Weeks 1–3

Monday - Thursday
9:00 am - 12:30 pm: Drawing/Digital Media
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Design Studio
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm: Teaching Assistant help sessions and Open Studio

Field Trips

Open Studio

Typical Schedule
Weeks 4-6

Monday - Thursday
9:00 am - 12:30 pm:  Advanced Digital Media and Fabrication, Seminars and Special Lectures
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Design Studio 
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm: Teaching Assistant help sessions and Open Studio

Special Projects

Portfolio and Photography Workshops
Open Studio


To be eligible for the Pre-College Architecture program students must: 

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).
  • Be a current sophomore or junior in high school.

Application Requirements

The complete application for the Pre-College Architecture program consists of the following:

  • Completed Online Application
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Responses to the following essay prompts (300-500 words):
    • What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
    • Why are you interested in studying Architecture?
  • Samples of your artwork, submitted in one of the following formats (optional, but recommended):
    • A video submission, up to 3 minutes. Youtube or Vimeo links only.
    • 5 to 10 images of work in a single PDF file.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-College Architecture is an immersive program with the intensive energy and dynamic creative culture of a college-level experience. Design success is largely the result of focused effort and intensity of investigation; students should expect to invest significant time working in the studio with fellow students outside of class (evenings and weekends) to develop and complete project coursework. 
A progressive interdisciplinary course of study combining design creativity, historical perspective, technical knowledge and innovation, and social responsibility, architecture is a profession that occupies a unique role in the shaping of our built environment. Pre-College Architecture is structured to introduce the discipline of architecture and the study of architecture in a university setting.
Studio is the core of the architecture summer pre-college program and serves as an introduction to the spatial concepts of architecture. Projects will explore the design and experience of spatial environments through a series of creative investigations consisting of both independent and collaborative work. Studio work focuses on experience and human sensory engagement in physical space; project themes include context, scale, perception, light, materiality and component systems. Studio work will be supported by individual critique as well as group discussion based upon critical review of student work. The course is focused entirely on project design work, while integrating concepts and skills from Drawing and Digital Media as well as workshops and seminar courses.
Digital Media introduces students to the creative use of digital software and technology in architecture through in-class workshops and lectures. Students will learn the basic skills needed to create, explore and critique digital images, drawings and three-dimensional environments. As a complement to the design studio, assignments will encourage an active dialogue between design intentions and representational tools. With a focus on Photoshop and Rhinoceros, skills explored include image editing, color manipulation, line drawings, curves, surfaces and solids, 3D object manipulation and composite imagery. We provide an intensive introduction to creative software, however, no previous experience or specific computer skills are required to succeed.
On Fridays, field trips and special projects introduce students to dynamic learning opportunities out in the field. Trips and projects vary from year to year; past events have included visits to recently completed local architectural projects, building construction sites, museum exhibitions, and workshop experiments in conjunction with the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture Computational Design and Digital Fabrication Labs. Some evenings and weekends, our teaching assistants hold optional workshops to provide extra help and support for class work.
Work created in the summer Pre-College program may be excellent material to package for your portfolio. For students who continue in the full six-week program, we offer portfolio and photography workshops to introduce skills to package work graphically for college submission.
No, students do not need to bring their own computer. The software we use is proprietary and will not be available to load on personal laptops. There are computer labs loaded with our software throughout campus.

As part of the program costs, you will be provided materials required for drawing, digital media, and design studio. If you need additional supplies, feel free to purchase them from our Art Store once you arrive on campus.