If you have an interest in design, but are not sure if it is right for you, consider doing a summer or after school program. These are meant to introduce you to the industry, and give you a chance to see if it is something that truly interests you. A few that are offered include:
The following programs are specifically for POC students:
The program "invites students from historically underrepresented backgrounds who may be interested in pursuing a degree or career in architecture to apply for the Cornell Future Architect Award (CFAA). Recipients can attend the Introduction to Architecture Summer Program on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York, at no cost."
Offered in cities across North America, "The Hip Hop Architecture Camp® is a one week intensive experience, designed to introduce under represented youth to architecture, urban planning, creative place making and economic development through the lens of hip hop culture."
As explained on their website, "BAM is a not-for-profit program focused primarily towards educating middle and high school students about architecture. BAM workshops are led primarily by black professionals who volunteer their time to immerse themselves in underserved communities where children live, learn and play, to awaken their interest in architecture and the construction industry."
The following are affordable options that are open to all:
Based in Ottawa, Canada, this "is a career exploratory studio for high school students interested in architecture. This program offers workshops that will introduce students to the creative culture of design studio, which is at the core of the Architectural Studies curriculum."
MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES (MOOCs)
Websites such as edx.org offer free courses in design, which are run by top universities around the world. You can choose to learn coding skills, history, design principles, 3D modelling and more from schools such as NYU, Harvard, and Delft. These are free courses, and many can be taken at your own pace. They look excellent on an application, or resume, and give you a chance to explore the world of design from home, for free.
Many community colleges offer courses that can be applied towards a professional degree in design, at a reduced cost. Especially if you have graduated high school and remain unsure, this can be a great way to find out if they learning environment is to your liking. If you are looking into a regulated profession such as architecture, be sure to look at the local requirements for becoming a registered architect before you consider this option.
TAKING A GAP YEAR
A gap year can offer you the chance to increase your opportunities in the world of design. By working on your portfolio, and saving money during this time, you can better your chances of attending your dream school. You can also begin as a freelancer, and showcase your work on social media. In my mind, the chance to save money for the often very costly design programs is invaluable, and will save you financial stress once you are in school.
LEARN DESIGN SOFTWARE
Many design softwares such as Adobe Creative Suite, Rhino, AutoCad, and more are available for a free trial, or are free altogether for students. Using online tutorials, whether that be on Youtube, Lynda, edx, or elsewhere, you can teach yourself the basics before you begin post-secondary education.
CONSIDER STUDYING ABROAD (EVEN IF YOU'RE POOR)
This option is mostly directed at American students, since the cost of college in the US is prohibitive to many young POC. Studying in Europe, or in Canada can be more affordable, even with the foreign-student tuition and cost of living. Keep in mind that the costs vary widely across different universities and programs, and that not all programs will offer English courses. Also consider the country in which you would eventually like to live and work, and ensure that your program is recognized in that location.