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Woonsocketier

Best Urban Planning Master's Programs

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New 2009 Rankings from PLANETIZEN!

http://www.planetizen.com/education/planning

The top 10 graduate programs in planning (according to PLANETIZEN) are:

1. MIT

2. Cal-Berkeley

3. UNC-Chapel Hill

4. Rutgers-New Brunswick

5. Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

6. Cornell

7. Harvard

8. UCLA

9. SoCal

10. UPenn

The usual suspects are on the list, though I gotta point out my Rutgers has moved up from #8 to #4! :)

Four Ivy League schools are on the list. I wonder where Columbia ended up. It looks like it's in the top 25 somewhere.

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Hi all, just want some advice pertaining to this topic.

I'm considering studying urban planning but I've already graduated with a bachelor's degree in music (minors in physics and philosophy) and will be completing my masters in piano performance next year. I have no experience in anything relating to urban studies other than one social geography course in undergrad, but I've always had a strong interest in things like revitalization of urban cores and mass transit systems. Where can/should I start? Are there any masters programs I can look into that would accept someone without UP experience? I'm a very smart guy with a pretty good GRE score. Is this even feasible? Otherwise, maybe I should continue to pursue my musical aspirations.

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Hello,

My story is similar to ProjectMaximus's story. I'm going to be graduating from a small, more selective liberal arts school with my degree in chemistry in the spring of 2009. I've done well thus far (3.6 GPA, 2 summer research internships at Oak Ridge National Lab, independent research with faculty, organic chemistry workshop leader, multiple TA positions) but have recently decided to change tracks from environmental chemistry to sustainable urban/regional planning. I've been studying for the GRE and expect to get at least a 1250 on it. What are my chances of getting into decent programs? Any environmental/economics classes I should take in this next year? I'm looking to live in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest, so schools in those regions are preferable. Thanks for any help in advance.

Oh, and my interests are sustainable development, mass transit systems, and economics.

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In response to GreenJeans and ProjectMaximus:

I can't say for sure how one might go about getting into one of the more prestigious planning programs, as I was rejected by two of the schools in the above top ten list. I was offered admission (with a very attractive scholarship) into Tufts University's graduate planning program (they call it Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning). So that's where I enrolled.

A lot of folks in my program (myself included) come from undergraduate backgrounds that aren't planning related. I went to a state college in Massachusetts that you probably haven't heard of, majored in English, and my work experience was in marketing and publications. My GRE was about average and my undergraduate GPA was a 3.4. So I guess recommendation letters and personal statements must count for something. I think it helps if your statement can relate your research interests to the strengths of the particular programs to which you're applying and also explain why you're going into planning if that's not your academic/professional background.

I don't know what effect taking a class or two might do for your chances of gaining admission somewhere. A better route might be to take on some volunteer work or an internship in a planning field.

Cyburbia has a stockpile of info from other planning students/grads in their Student Lounge.

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Taking classes in undergrad won't help your admissions directly, but it will help you in giving your more knowledge about the field of study. I took a planning class in undergrad that did a fantastic job of summing up the practice of planning in 1 semester. But then I spent two years in grad school going in to a lot more detail about each issue.

The main things you should consider are:

  1. Whether or not the programs you are interested in are accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB).

  2. The region of the country you want to work in. Apply to smaller schools in the region of the country you want to work in. Its not required, but it sure helps since you will understand the practice in the context of that region (lots of local examples will be used).

  3. Is your interest in theory/academics or do you want to practice planning in local government or private sector? Certain schools have strengths in one or the other. Sometimes the top 10 schools are better for theory than practice.

  4. Do you have a specific area of interest within planning, and does the school offer it? (environment, transportation, housing, etc)

My other advise is to set up an informational interview with your local planning department. Talk to them about what they do and ask what their thoughts are about certain schools. The management team will usually have some experience in hiring people fresh from grad school, and they can offer insights into what types of students come out of certain programs.

If you can set up an internship with you local planning department that can help when getting recommendations for school or a job.

Links:

American Planning Association info on planning programs

Planning Accreditation Board

List of Planning Programs in the USA and Canada

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Thanks for your help, JDC and Spartan. I appreciate your thoughts and advice very much. Over the summer I decided it would be best if I didn't pursue formal study in urban planning, but I remain passionate about the field and will continue to read and learn as much as I can.

Thanks again, guys!

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Thanks for the info Spartan. Im working on my grad applications/portfolios now for planning. I think Ill get into my first choice school, mainly because its not one of the top 10, but top 25. One of my GRE scores was bad and one was great, lol. So its a toss up between that and if my undergraduate performance is going to sell me to the admissions people. Ill probably retake it so Ill have a better chance at getting scholarships. Its such a daunting task, especially in this economy, knowing that it really is the only option we have right now (to continue schooling til it gets better).

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Hi everyone, I am a 32 yr. old female who's been practicing interior design for the past 7 years. I hold a BFA degree in interior design. I have always thought of expanding my studies and practice in either architecture and/or urban planning/design down the road.....well, I have now approached this crossroad where I'm leaning towards urban planning. I have also entered an international seminar/competition in urban planning in Daegu, Korea during my college years and was very inspired by the "big picture" and the complexities that shapes places, etc. I was wondering if you know of anyone who has successfully transitioned from such a field? I know that being an interior designer would actually hurt my chances in getting into some of the architecture programs. Would this be true in getting into an urban planning master's program? Thanks for your time.

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I just graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from Fordham University. I really would like to get into urban planning, and I'm leaning towards community development/revitalization. I'm not quite sure what the next step is, whether or not I should go straight to grad school and get my masters, or should I first try to find an entry level job or an internship with a CDC or the City Planning Commission. I have tried the latter and have been largely unsuccessful, and it has become increasingly discouraging.

If I go on to grad school, then I will almost certainly have to take the GRE because of my very weak gpa and transcript, but I'm not a good test taker at all, and my experience has been that standardized tests do not accurately reflect one's aptitude in a subject. What should be my next course of action? Is there any way to enroll in an urban planning program without taking the GRE, despite having not so strong undergraduate credentials?

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I don't know the answers to all your questions, but some planning programs don't require you to take the GRE.

http://www.clas.wayne.edu/unit-inner.asp?U...amp;site=candle

I just graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from Fordham University. I really would like to get into urban planning, and I'm leaning towards community development/revitalization. I'm not quite sure what the next step is, whether or not I should go straight to grad school and get my masters, or should I first try to find an entry level job or an internship with a CDC or the City Planning Commission. I have tried the latter and have been largely unsuccessful, and it has become increasingly discouraging.

If I go on to grad school, then I will almost certainly have to take the GRE because of my very weak gpa and transcript, but I'm not a good test taker at all, and my experience has been that standardized tests do not accurately reflect one's aptitude in a subject. What should be my next course of action? Is there any way to enroll in an urban planning program without taking the GRE, despite having not so strong undergraduate credentials?

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Given your background, I would suggest going to a school that offers or requires summer internships or co-ops, because you're going to want to have a little experience going into the workforce after school. Its not necessary but it really does help. You'll find it very difficult to break into the city planning profession without a city planning masters degree (or urban, regional, etc). Thats the defacto industry standard even for small towns.

I highly recommend taking the GRE and going to a school that requires it. You'll get a much better job if you put a little extra effort into it because employers will take that into consideration. It may take a few tries on the GRE, but just hang in there.

There are schools that specialize in certain aspects of planning. I recommend checking out the APB accredited schools from the link that I posted earlier in this thread. Check them out and see which ones have a degree track that focuses on redevelopment and other subjects that interest you.

In the mean time, I suggest trying to get an internship at your local planning office. That will help you get a grasp of things and it will help your resume down the road. In this economy you might have to get an unpaid internship, but its worth the effort.

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Hi girls and guys,

I see that this thread has been going for a little while, and I am not sure if people have any interest in continuing it, but I thought I would give it a try.

I am a Canadian university student who is looking into urban planning schools in the United States, and our career services/further education department hasn't been too helpful thus far.

I am in third year doing a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Honours) with medials in Human Geography, and GIS. The "honours" simply means I will be doing a year long thesis next year. My cGPA won't be too impressive, if I am lucky, only a 3.2. I am going to continue working hard and hope to get a 3rd/4th year GPA of about 3.5.

I have looked at the Planetizen top ten, and also have a guide put out by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Plannning that gives some information on the cost per term, number of applications, admissions, etc.

I like the idea of getting into consulting, writing more business-y reports, and using GIS. Is there any information anyone could give me on schools that might focus or at least lean towards this? I am simply looking at program and reputation right now, not necessarily location/size/cost.

Thanks in advance,

Uschi

PS. When I was looking at statistics, many schools say the average age of its students (or applicants) is 25+... I will only be 21 when I graduate, will this hurt me in any way? I understand they look for work experience so should I hold off until I get that? This summer I have an NSERC research grant and will be using ground-based (terrestrial) LiDAR to model urban landscapes, but other than that I haven't had any job experience in planning.

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Hello,

I am a graduating senior, trying to get myself into some programs. I am in the process of applying to Vanderbilt's Economic Development Masters, but I am also interested in Urban Planning. I was thinking about applying to the NYU Masters of Urban Planning (which has a June 1 deadline). I just graduated with a 3.5 GPA from University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a dual major in Econ/International Business.

I'm wondering if anyone can point me in the direction of schools that they think I could get in to (as a fall back). I have set a date for May 23 to take the GRE and I plan to do reasonably well on it. I have a pretty good Resume with volunteer organizations (am a member of Big Brothers) and solid work experience (have held a job throughout my entire senior year), and I have solid recommendations coming from professors who know and like me. Can anyone tell me about some decent Urban Planning programs they think I could definitely get in?

Thanks

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It's not that easy to say which ones you can 'get in.' You have to apply to each one, and on any given day your chances might be different at any school. The other factor your going to want to consider is whether or not the school can give you an assistantship.

You have lofty goals, and I applaud you for that, but I wouldn't get caught up in going to a school for planning just because of the name. If your goal is to go be a planner somewhere, then I suggest applying to programs in the region you want to work. If you want to stay in the South, presumably in the Tennessee area, you might consider Georgia Tech, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, or Memphis. UT used to have one, but they lost their accreditation, so you might look to see if UT is going to re-establish that program.

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It's not that easy to say which ones you can 'get in.' You have to apply to each one, and on any given day your chances might be different at any school. The other factor your going to want to consider is whether or not the school can give you an assistantship.

You have lofty goals, and I applaud you for that, but I wouldn't get caught up in going to a school for planning just because of the name. If your goal is to go be a planner somewhere, then I suggest applying to programs in the region you want to work. If you want to stay in the South, presumably in the Tennessee area, you might consider Georgia Tech, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, or Memphis. UT used to have one, but they lost their accreditation, so you might look to see if UT is going to re-establish that program.

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Spartan-

You seem to provide great insight on people's questions. Obviously if anyone else would like to offer their perspective, that's more than welcome too.

I'm in a similar position to a few of the other people who have posted on here in that I've figured out that I'd like to go get my Master's in Urban Planning but I really have little experience directly related to it. I don't currently have a full-time job, and would like to begin attending school next fall. Given that, I have about 3 1/2 months before I need to get my apps in if I want to be eligible for assistantships. What is the best way to increase my chances of obtaining one? Volunteer and continue to work part-time? Find an unrelated full-time job to demonstrate more professional experience (I have about 3 years of it across various positions/internships)? Do I need to try to push really hard to forge a relationship with a professor at schools I'm interested in applying to as an "in"?

Also, when people mention the idea of finding an internship or even just getting an informational interview w/the local planning department, is that something that might prove fairly difficult in a big city like Chicago?

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good discussion.

I wonder is there anyone like me who's spent all years in architecture field and now wants to get into the business academic field? I wonder what's the chance getting a MS in urban planning and economics at the same time? I've 5yrs architecture work experience but NO previous planning experience. will that be a no go for my application?

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I'm about to graduate (BA) this May with a double major in Political Science and International Studies... 3.9 GPA. I took the GRE planning to go on to grad school right away, definitely not in Urban Planning. However, I'm reconsidering grad school for the moment, looking at my options. Planning has been a casual interest of mine for a while now, but I never thought about it as a career. But just now, seriously a few minutes ago, I had an epiphany. Well, maybe it wasn't that momentous, but I had the idea of going into urban planning. As an outsider looking at the field, I don't really know what planning is. So, now that I've admitted my naivete, could I get a rundown? I just have a general interest, I don't really know what the different aspects of a career in urban planning are...

I should probably get a book, right? :P Recommendations?

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