What you should know when studying for the ARE

December 3, 2019

You graduate from college with an architecture degree, secure a job (hopefully), and then the real work starts to become a Licensed Architect. Internship hours and the dreaded Architecture License Exam (ARE) still loom over recent grads before they can add the elusive AIA after their name. Recent ARE test-takers, Samantha King and Ethan Warren, reflect on their experience studying for the ARE and what you can expect.

When Ethan and I decided it was time to start taking the ARE, we thought it would be easier, and slightly more fun, to do it together. We found that having the extra accountability was really helpful and encouraging to know someone was studying too while also working, raising a family, and having a life. It really kept us motivated over the many many months of studying and test-taking. 

Samantha’s right; it was better knowing we were working on this together. If you can find a study partner or group to join, we’d definitely recommend it. We know everyone is different and has different studying preferences but we wanted to pass along some ARE tips and takeaways that Samantha and I discovered while preparing for the ARE.

Things to know when studying for the ARE:

  • These tests are not like the tests you take in college. Meaning you can’t cram in a bunch of information the night before or memorize the material and expect to pass. These exams test you on how to apply certain principles within our everyday work.
  • A LOT of hours are needed for studying. I think we average around 80-120 hours per test depending on which test we were taking. Some weeks we would spend upwards of 30 hours studying, when some weeks it may have only been 10 hours.
  • If you are not good at taking standardized tests, then you may fail a time or two just getting used to the format – Practice tests are a very useful tool (We like Designer Hacks, Black Spectacles, and Ballast.)
  • Understand your most effective method of studying.
  • Make a consistent study schedule–and stick to it!
  • The sooner you begin the process after graduation, the better. It’s only going to be fresh on your mind for so long.
  • Schedule the exam; don’t just study–give yourself a deadline.
  • Assume things will come up that interfere with studying–plan to miss scheduled times every now and then for more important things in life.
  • Cut out extra activities you enjoy doing outside of work. Focus on studying so you can be done with the tests sooner rather than later.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you know and understand. Don’t waste time convincing yourself you understand something, or you will be swiftly humbled by the exam.

Takeaways from taking the ARE:

  • Seek out help from colleagues, former classmates or an online community. There are a lot of resources available for study schedules and recommended reading material. 
  • Don’t wait until you have kids to start testing. It’s not a good idea. BUT if you do have kids along the way, it can be done! 
  • We started by taking the two largest/hardest exams first. At first, it seemed like a great idea to get those out of the way early. It was a little discouraging after the first few failed attempts. But looking back, it still seems like the best order to take the tests.
  • Be sure to give yourself a couple of days or a weekend to relax after taking an exam. (We suggest margaritas.)
  • It’s very easy to get burned out taking these exams. Try to keep the end goal in sight and keep pushing on.
  • You can pass these exams without knowing all there is–don’t turn down an opportunity/experience just because you are done with that portion of the ARE
  • It took a few weeks to get back to normal life after the tests were finished. It was such a huge weight lifted after finishing, and such a relief to not have to study anymore.

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving from the CDFL family! Today, and every day, we are thankful for our
clients, both old and new, and our amazing team of architects, engineers, designers, and administrative staff members. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What We’re Doing

November 18, 2019

In this new What We’re Doing series, we’ll check in with our team since we last met them in the Meet the Team series and take a look at what they are working on, eating, reading, watching, listening, and even thinking about.  We hope you enjoy a little look into our CDFL world! This week we are checking in with architect Chris Myers.

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Project Updates

November 13, 2019

We are well into construction on several projects and wanted to check-in with our project managers to see what’s happening on-site and what we can expect to see next.

Children’s of Mississippi Expansion and Renovation
The expansion to the UMMC Children’s Hospital is now 57% complete. The structure has been topped out, and the roof is on. The windows and exterior materials (brick and metal panels) are currently being installed. The interiors are being constructed from the bottom up, with work currently in progress on all floors. Renovations inside the existing Batson tower began last week to make the connection to the new building. Four floors of the new parking garage structure are complete, and the contractor will start the construction of the final ramp to Level 5 next week.

Vicksburg YMCA
Construction is on schedule and the majority of the exterior CMU block has been laid, with brick to follow in the coming weeks. Structural steel framing has been erected and some interior CMU walls have been laid. We have electrical and plumbing rough-ins on the south addition (new fitness area), as well as ductwork installed.

University of South Alabama Hancock Whitney Stadium
Installation of elevated seating is taking place along the East Seating Bowl and will commence along the West this week. Progress is being made on the Press Tower and Operations Building. The Operations Building is now ‘dried in’. Steel is being erected in the North Endzone for the elevated concourse. Aluminum decking will begin in the next week along the East Concourse elevated seating. The Michelob Ultra Terrace will soon be complete which will round out all of the on-grade concrete seating bowl.

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Meet the Team: Kelli Weiland

July 29, 2019

It’s time again to introduce a new CDFL employee, or as we like to think of ourselves, the “us” in the Power of Plus. This week we are proud to introduce the newest member of our architectural team Kelli Weiland.  

What do you do a CDFL?
I am an Intern Architect, actively working towards achieving my license. I graduated from Mississippi State University’s Architecture program on May 3rd. That’s the day after my birthday, so I got my degree as my present this year!

What exciting thing are you working on right now?
I’m working on the Forest Hill High School and Coliseum renovation project. This is a really fun first project because it’s introducing me to the way CDFL likes to present final work. I’m excited for the day I get assigned to a project from the beginning of the design process!

What have you learned so far working at CDFL?
Since the project I’m working on is entering into the bidding and construction phase, I have learned a lot about job coordination and time management, mostly. I’m proud of how quickly I have adapted to making efficient turn-arounds on project deadlines.

What’s your favorite TV show?
I pretty much keep my TV shows in a constant rotation of the same 5-6 shows. I like regularity, I guess. My current rotation includes Friends (always), Supernatural, Gilmore Girls, Elementary, and, my classic go-to, Boy Meets World reruns. I don’t have cable so I watch what I can find on Netflix and Hulu.

What do you spend the most time doing outside of work? 
These days, my time is spent mostly on planning my and my fiance’s wedding next year! Apart from wedding planning, I am very passionate about physical health and exercise, I practice watercolor calligraphy and painting, and I do my best to keep my garden and plants alive. I’m not quite a green thumb yet, but I like to think I’m improving!

What is the best thing about working at CDFL?
I am so proud to say I work at CDFL. This firm has given me more knowledge, experience, and opportunity than I could ever ask for. All of my superiors are very patient with me as I continue to learn the practice, and they’re equally eager to continue to teach me. I appreciate that the most. Secondly, CDFL has great flexibility in the work hours, giving us every other Friday off. This small switch in schedule allows my creativity to take a break, lessening the risk of burning out and keeps my passion for architecture and design on fire. Third, my colleagues are all friends with each other. I think we all blend well as a team.

What’s the last movie you saw? 
I’m honestly not much of a movie person. I think the last movie I saw in theaters was one of the Avenger movies? I don’t really follow superheroes so I couldn’t tell you what happened in that one. Oh well. The last movie I watched via streaming was Into The Blue on Netflix.

What’s your favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood?
I really love Green Ghost or Basil’s. I don’t think I could choose between the two! But sometimes the hot plate from McDade’s hits the spot.

If you hadn’t gone to architecture school, what would you have wanted to do?
The unknown of the ocean’s floor has always been fascinating to me. I think it would be really cool to be a Maritime Archaeologist. Living on a boat and diving into the ocean to search and explore sunken ships or crashed airplanes sounds like a dream come true to me, which is why I’ve watched Into The Blue so many times! I am a little frightened by sharks, though.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?
I am a beach girl, through and through. I love the heat, I love the sunshine, and I love the water. Vacations where I can just be still, warm, and outside are all I ask for. Also, you just can’t beat coastal seafood restaurants.

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Meet the Team: Intern Addition

July 22, 2019

We have another summer intern that we’d like to introduce! Shawn Hatcher is working with our Mechanical Engineering team this summer. This is actually his second internship with CDFL and we are excited to have him back for the summer. Shawn is from Olive Branch, Mississippi and attends Mississippi State University where he will be a senior this fall.

What are you doing at CDFL this summer?
I did a short three-week internship during my last Christmas break where I got my feet wet with Revit, calculations for A/C loads, and site visits for various projects during different stages of construction. Since this is my second internship with CDFL, and I’ve been here longer, I have been tasked with more of a workload. A bulk of my work this summer consists of designing ductwork and piping systems for projects through Revit. Also, I run preliminary calculations and help with the other engineers in any possible way.

Where are you going after you finish your internship?
After I finish up my time this summer, I will be going back to Mississippi State University where I will start my senior year studying Mechanical Engineering.

What do you spend the most time doing outside of work?
The majority of my time away from work is spent being outside, but more specifically, that time is devoted to my unhealthy fishing addiction.

What is the best thing about working at CDFL?
Because of having the internship status, I do not have the luxury of having every other Friday off, but if given the privilege I would choose it. Outside of having the intern status, I will use a quote to describe my favorite quality of CDFL “It’s the people that make the place.”

What was the last movie you saw?
The last movie I saw was Toy Story 4, and I was not impressed as I was hoping.

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Office Update

July 16, 2019

This summer has been a busy one for the CDFL team! We’ve celebrated new babies, weddings, professional accomplishments, and many project milestones. Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been up to the last few months.

  • As y’all know, we love to welcome new babies into the CDFL family and this summer we’ve welcomed four! Mechanical Engineer David Luter and wife Rivers welcomed their son Samuel. Our CFO Chuck Stinger welcomed two new grandbabies into his family and Principal Gene Crager also welcomed a new grandbaby to his family. Congrats to all families!
  • We also celebrated the wedding of Jackie Hardin. She and her husband Mike were married earlier this summer. Congratulations to the newlyweds!
  • We are proud to announce that Ethan Warren has earned his Mississippi architecture license! This is an important professional step and we are excited to watch Ethan grow in his career.
  • The St. Catherine’s Tuscany project has finished construction and residents will be moving in later this month!
  • The Children’s of Mississippi project celebrated a milestone in June with a Topping Out ceremony. This marks the halfway point in construction on the project. The new hospital is estimated to be completed in 2020.

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Meet the Team: Intern Addition

July 9, 2019

This summer we’re proud to have Shelby Soyars working with our Interior Design team! Shelby is from Yazoo City, MS and a recent graduate of Mississippi State University. Here’s a little bit more about Shelby and what she’s been up to at CDFL.

What are you doing at CDFL this summer? 
I am the Interior Design intern this summer, helping alongside Katie Jo and Hannah with all their projects!


Where are you going after you finish your internship? 
During my internship this summer, I want to showcase my immense passion and love for design and hopefully join the CDFL team! 


What, if anything, has surprised you about the interior design field?
That you truly do learn so much more with experience and being in the workplace!


What have you learned so far working at CDFL?
That teamwork, communication, and creativity are key. When collaborating with a team and supporting each other’s ideas can result in an even greater outcome for a project!


What’s your favorite TV show? 
Golden Girls, hands down. I love a show that can constantly keep me laughing, and how can you not love someone like Rose Nylund?!


What do you spend the most time doing outside of work?  Outside of being an intern at CDFL, I love going to flea markets, traveling, listening to music on records, and helping my fiance work cattle (yes, I am marrying into 40 head of cows- its so much fun & always interesting)


What is the best thing about working at CDFL? 
The best thing about working at CDFL is the atmosphere and people. Everyone is truly genuine and is always there for you when you have a question or need help with a project! 


What’s the last movie you saw? 
The last movie that I saw was POMS, it was about how two women in a retirement community started a cheerleading squad. It was HILARIOUS!

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Project Updates

May 13, 2019

There’s a lot going on in our office and on our project sites so we thought we’d do a quick project roundup and check out what’s been happening.

We are in month six of construction at The University of South Alabama’ s Hancock Whitney Stadium. The framing for the Operations/Administration building is being installed along with the cast-in-place seating, site utilities, concessions buildings, and press tower.

Our Raytheon Radar Production Facility reached a construction milestone last month and we were on hand for the topping out ceremony! 

We also celebrated the groundbreaking for our Vicksburg YMCA project. The renovations and expansion include a new gym, classroom spaces, wellness center, meeting spaces, and additional parking.

CDFL’s new office, along with Trustmark Woodlands Hills, is so close to being complete! We are moving in later this month and can’t wait to show you the finished project. Here are a few pictures from our last site visit.

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Project Update: Capitol Complex Improvement District

April 10, 2019

The Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) was created during the 2017 session of the Mississippi Legislature in order to establish regular funding and administration of infrastructure projects with a defined area of the capital city of Jackson. Starting in September of 2018 and throughout the CCID master plan process, CDFL acted as a consultant to the team of Waggoner Engineering and Andrew Jenkins Associates. Our role was to add our visual expertise in terms of design, security, and lighting. It was an honor to be a part of this planning process, and we look forward to the improvements to that will arise from it. 

Here’s a breakdown of what’s included in the CCID.

Click here to view all official CCID documents.

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Project Update: Skilled Nursing Facility

April 3, 2019

Work at St. Catherine’s Village Skilled Nursing Facility is rapidly progressing and it’s getting closer to completion. The stonework on the lobby’s grand fireplace is complete, rooms are taking on their final form with lighting cove and trim work installed, and exterior finishes are nearing completion. Over the next few months, we will see the flooring, furniture, and equipment installed. Below are pictures from our recent site visit.

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Office Update

March 26, 2019

We’ve had a lot to celebrate over the last few months and we wanted to take a minute and fill you in on all the office’s happenings.

-Babies! We’ve recently welcomed two new babies into the CDFL family. Mechanical Engineer Ben Fulton and wife Malory welcomed their daughter Amelia in February and Architect Chris Myers and wife Rachel welcomed their daughter Aviva in January. Congratulations to both families!

-Congratulations are also in order to Samantha King. She and her new husband were married earlier this month!

-We are proud to announce that Robert Farr III has earned his Mississippi and Georgia architecture licenses. This is a huge accomplishment and we are extremely proud of Robert’s hard work.

-We are pleased to announce that CDFL has been selected to provide architectural and engineering services to the Jackson Public School District and Mississippi College. We will be updating and renovating portions of Forest Hill High School and providing master planning services to Mississippi College. We are excited about working with both of these returning clients!

-New Office Update: Construction is in full swing on our new office and we are getting closer and closer to moving in. Here are a few pictures of what’s happening on site this week. Pavers are being installed along the exterior of the building and millwork has started on the interior.

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Project Update: Aviation Museum

March 13, 2019

In the northwest corner of the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum sit three crop duster airplanes and an exhibit that surrounds them. This area is officially the National Agriculture Aviation Museum, though previously, there was no designation to make visitors aware of the exhibit. CDFL developed a plan for the renovation of the space that would enhance the overall look of the museum and improve the visitor experience.

First, the space was updated to provide a fresher backdrop for the airplanes and to set the space apart from the rest of the museum. Second, create physical gateways and signage to signal to visitors that they are entering a new space. Lastly, create a platform to provide accessible viewing of the cockpits of the largest of the three planes.

Phase 1 (now complete) accomplished the first two objectives. The hand-painted field scene was replaced with angular photo murals – one of a cloudy blue sky and one an aerial of a cotton field. Gateways were constructed of corrugated metal to mimic the architecture of rural hangars and to provide a place for signage to be mounted. The existing carpet was replaced with a modular carpet that resembles the coloring of agricultural fields, fading from green to tan. 

The museum and foundation are currently working on funds for the accessible platform and the redesign of the exhibit.

Video courtesy of Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce

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Project Highlight: Oxford-University Stadium

February 13, 2019

As the 2019 baseball season nears, we thought it would be fun to look back at our work at Oxford-University Stadium. Our relationship with Ole Miss Baseball spans over 30 years and we are proud to have been a part of the changes and growth at Oxford-University Stadium. We were on hand in the ’80s when the field was moved from its original home, in the ’90s when the stadium received a much-needed capacity increase, and most recently we completed the new performance center. We will be cheering on the Rebels this season and looking forward to many more years of partnering together.

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Project Update: Entergy Echelon Renovation

January 29, 2019

We are in the middle of renovating Entergy’s Nuclear headquarters as they expand nuclear operations in Mississippi. This expansion will create more than 250 new jobs in Jackson and 70 at Grand Gulf. “As we build the utility of the future, we’re also building the workforce of the future,” said Haley Fisackerly, Entergy  Mississippi president and CEO. “We’re proud to be able to bring more jobs to the state. Entergy and Entergy Nuclear’s combined workforce in Mississippi will now be more than 2,000 employees.”

The renovation project will help accommodate the additional workforce and includes the complete renovation of five floors of a 6-story building including a partial renovation of the 1st floor. Each floor was redesigned to accommodate Entergy’s expanded organizational structure of the Nuclear Headquarters with new finishes, modular wall offices, workstations, expanded restrooms, and break room. In addition to two large video conference space on each floor, the design also includes various sizes of collaboration spaced furnished with monitors and AV connections.

“The expansion of the headquarters building at Echelon allows our growing nuclear team to work in a single location, fostering unity, collaboration, and team effectiveness,” said Chris Bakken, Entergy Nuclear executive vice president.

In addition to the interior renovations, exterior work included a new 300 car parking lot on the adjacent lot along with lighting, landscaping, and signage. For more on this project check out Entergy’s press release and WLBT’s coverage here.

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