The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
Whether you’re called an architectural intern, architect in training, designer, or just intern, tackling the ARE requires sacrifice. Even more so when you have a family. Here are a few tips to help you master the ARE while still maintaining your sanity—and allowing time to enjoy the nuances of marriage and parenthood.
Make It Count
NCARB's five-year Rolling Clock can approach very quickly. When you have a family, it may not be feasible to test every month or even two months. So make your study time count. Only schedule and attempt exams when you feel fully prepared. The new 60-day retake policy is far better than the previous six-month rule, but can still be detrimental to your plan if procrastination sets in. Set a schedule and try to stick to it. But don't kill yourself if you have to reschedule an exam.
Don't Let Work Get You Down
Generally speaking, architectural staff members work long hours, leaving little time for family before the nightly bedtime routines commence. Sometimes reviewing enough material to keep the topics and concepts fresh in your mind will suffice. Going long periods of time without studying can sometimes mean starting over. Remember, a little at a time can add up.
Be a Weekend Warrior
Weekends are usually spent out as a family, and you probably won’t get to sleep in. This means the weekends can end up being just as busy as the work week. Setting aside large blocks of time to study can be difficult. Similar to weekdays, dedicate an evening or morning to studying. A quiet hour or two can make a difference.
Embrace “Free Time”
Free time and children, young children especially, seem to be an oxymoron. When that precious time does pop up, use it wisely. Though you'd rather catch up on sleep, watch television, or take on a hobby, you’re better off reviewing study materials. Don't procrastinate or you will never get done! Remember, these scarifies won’t last forever—the length of time it takes you to complete the exams is ultimately up to you.
Discover Your Study Style
Generally, each person has a study style that works best for him or her. Think back to how you completed assignments and aced exams in college. Audiobooks are great for multitasking; listen to a few chapters while you drive to work. Flash cards are another great tool for parents on-the-go, especially if you take public transportation.
Attend Life Events
Everyone has important family events like birthdays, weddings, or graduations. Take the time to go, be present, and enjoy these events. Life's irreplaceable events cannot be relived. After the confetti has settled, the cake has been cut, and the last congratulation has been given, make sure to get back on your study schedule. Just don't let these celebrations turn into procrastination.
It may sound obvious, but this needs to be repeated often. Thinking negatively can impact everything from study habits to your performance on test day. Prepare accordingly and stay optimistic.
In the end, family is irreplaceable. The moments shared among those close to you are indescribable. Navigating the path to licensure requires sacrifice. Perseverance, persistence, and patience are just some of the qualities you’ll need to embrace. Nothing is impossible as long as you try.
Originally from the Bronx, Jared W. Smith, AIA, LEED AP, is a licensed architect in New York. He currently works as a Project Architect at Stantec Architecture in Manhattan, NY. He lives with his wife Yahaira and two children, Noah (2) and Penelope (10 months). His blog, Registered Architect, chronicles his life as an architect, plus tips from current interns tackling the ARE. You can also find Registered Architect on Facebook.