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Thread: Canadian Planning Schools Admissions

  1. #1
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    Canadian Planning Schools Admissions

    Hi guys, I'm a new member here. I'm a third year student at McGill in Montreal, doing a degree in political science, mainly Canadian and comparative. I'm in the middle of a course called comparative local government, and although it's not meant to teach all about what planners do, it has made me much more interested in the local level of government and now I'm thinking about applying to an urban planning degree (plus, I used to want to go to law school, but I realize now that I'm not REALLY interested in that, and I won't get started on how I am not fond of a lot of the people in that whole scene, both law students and lawyers).

    Anyway, I'm going to do some more research to see if I would be suited to urban planning. But in the meantime, I can't help but wonder how difficult it is to get into some of the Canadian planning schools. I've gone to websites for ones such as Manitoba, UBC, U of T, Dal, etc. Should I be scared of the fact that there's only 25 people in most incoming first year classes? Is the competition ridiculously high? I realize that marks are NOT everything, but for what it's worth, mine are good, not amazing, basically good enough to keep myself in the honours political science program. I graduate next school year (April 2006). I was even thinking about sticking around for another year to get a minor in urban geography, which I haven't done anything in, but perhaps that's not necessary. Thanks in advance for any advice I could get on this

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The small number of students in planning programs, both in the US and in Canuckistan, only reflects that most people are smart enough to avoid planning as a career choice. Either that or they have never heard of it.Probably the latter. Planning is a relatively small field, as opposed to, say, accounting or lawyering.

    I don't think planning schools are overly restricutive in admissions. Especially coming from a good school like McGill, it should not be too difficult for you to get into a good program.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Demilich,

    I completed a BA from McGill then enrolled in the MUP program. I graduated with an undegraduate GPA of 3.7 and had no problem getting admitted. Planning program admissions is not very competitive relative to other degree programs so I don't think you'll have a problem getting in.

    Make sure you do some research before enrolling in a planning program. There is very limited demand for urban planners in Canada, and unless you have connections, very difficult to find a job, especially in Montreal. You'll most likely end up looking for work in the U.S. so if your intent is to remain in Canada, ask the admissions people where their grads work.

    W.L.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the help guys (and to anyone else who can help with Canadian school info......

    Cardinal: glad you're honest! Perhaps this seems like young, naive thinking, but after doing more research in this forum and a book or 2 about planning, if I maintain the same interest I have now that's been sparked by reading de Tocqueville's stuff about local government (not really urban planning, but whatever), then I'm going to go for it. I figure that even if there's not much money in it, I'm not planning on having a family, so I don't need the kind of financial stability that most people do (that's the part that some may find young and naive, I dunno).

    william390: I definitely won't have a mark as high as 3.7 by the time I graduate. My mark in first year was slightly under 3 actually due to some bad electives, which I'm aware is not of a high enough calibre for graduate work of any type. What matters now is that my political science mark is good enough for honours, I think it's around 3.4, and will probably improve more in the next year or so, but not to 3.7. So, do you know if many of your friends in planning had marks less than your's or was 3.7 a pretty standard mark for most people to have?

    By the way, I'm from Toronto originally and I don't think I want to stay in Montreal after my B.A. although I certainly like it for the time being. I have a feeling that I might want to go out West, not sure if the schools out there are more/less difficult to get into than McGill. By the way, what did you take in your B.A. at McGill?

    And my intent is to remain in Canada, unless I can improve my Japanese to a good level in the next 5 years--but perhaps working in Japan is just a pipe dream, for now I'll worry about making sure I'm fit for planning and doing what it takes to get into a good Canadian planning program...

    Yikes, sorry I'm long-winded












    Quote Originally posted by william390
    Demilich,

    I completed a BA from McGill then enrolled in the MUP program. I graduated with an undegraduate GPA of 3.7 and had no problem getting admitted. Planning program admissions is not very competitive relative to other degree programs so I don't think you'll have a problem getting in.

    Make sure you do some research before enrolling in a planning program. There is very limited demand for urban planners in Canada, and unless you have connections, very difficult to find a job, especially in Montreal. You'll most likely end up looking for work in the U.S. so if your intent is to remain in Canada, ask the admissions people where their grads work.

    W.L.

  5. #5

    planning thoughts

    Hey:

    Here are my thoughts on your inquiry:

    A planning degree is a professional degree. This may be a small point, but when you think about it, having a professional degree will give you leg up on other people competing for the same position in local government planning. Some may argue that a planning degree is unnecessary for the roles and responsibilities of a typical planner -- and, I would agree to a large extent -- however, a professional degree gives you professional backing (e.g., Canadian Institute of Planners, American Planning Association) and you are expected to uphold a set of professional ethics.

    Now, in my opinion, anybody can be a planner. Planners do not per se possess any expertise -- planners are generalists through and through (disregard what others may say), and that is the beauty of planning. Having said that, planning can be loosely considered as "applied social science". The equivalent relation can be applied to engineering, which is "applied science". If your bent is to apply analytical and design methods for the collective betterment of human settlements, then planning is the profession for you. It is an applied profession; the emphasis is on linking knowledge to action.

    A little about me (to add context): I obtained a BASc in civil engineering from UBC. Civil engineering was a great education, no doubt about it. But, I knew it wasn't a professional "vocation". I wanted to engage in the policy and big picture aspects of human settlements and environmental systems. The only profession that fulfilled these criteria was planning. So, a couple years at the University of Illinois and many books later, I am energized about the possibilities that exist for planners to engage with their constituencies in radically transformative ways. I am not an engineer. I am a generalist planner. I have defined an identity for myself. And it is called planning.

    Pertaining to your question about the choice of schools: try to pick a school that has a good mix of domestic and international students. My time at U of I was very memorable due in no small part to the delightful discussions and debates we had which were flavoured by different perspectives from different cultures and customs. And, consider a planning school that does not promulgate a single, dominant perspective or catch slogan. The biggest hypocrisy is to create a hegemonic curriculum for planning, which is inherently multi/interdisciplinary.

    Best of luck.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    As the resident "expert" in job hunting for Canada and especially Southern Ontario, I'd have to say the job market is not that tight right now, but very competitive to get into the "nicer" bigger places. Looking at the OPPI website there are 9 job listing up right now, with some for multiple positons. This seems about average for any given month, plus there are a few municiapalities that don't use OPPI. In Ontario I think there will continue to be a growing need for Planners, especialy when Bill 26 comes into effect and the GreenBelt legislation is completed.

    Just don't expect to get rich if you work in teh public sector.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Demilich, I just wanted to raise your attention that some Urban Planning schools prefer you to do a GMAT. I know that UBC did, when I was checking out its program 1 or 2 years ago. I'm not sure about the other universities in Canada.

    Also, check out what is the primary focus of each of the urban planning school. Some are architecture-driven, others are livable community-driven, others are design-driven, and some are socially-driven. Choose what suits you.

    Some Urban Planning schools are tightly involved with the Masters of Geography program at that same university. For example, I believe U of T permit you to change from Masters of Geography to Urban Planning or vice versa. Better check that out because I can't remember the correct details.

    Also, check out some of the Urban Planning programs offered by some universities in the UK. Some are quite nifty. However, I don't know how applicable they are or how recognizable they are in North America, should you want to return here for employment.

    Those are some suggestions that I can share from my debacle of whether I'd go into urban planning or education after I finish my undergraduate studies. FYI, I've decided to go into education. (P.S. Education is way more competitive than any other post-undergraduate university programs in Ontario!)

    And about your thinking of taking some geography courses. Only do them if you're interested in taking them. I don't know what McGill's geography/urban studies dept is like, but see if there is any courses that discuss about interactions between different bodies of interests because it may provide you with a better insight.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian pandersen's avatar
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    D.

    If your interested in working in planning, get a degree recognized by CIP. Most places use membership as a screening tool. Don't rule out some of the smaller schools either. Do however make sure you pick a program theat refle ts your interest(s).

    About me - Honours B.A in Geography with a Minor in Settlement Studies (U of Guelph)

    Later, went back and bot a Master of Science in rural Planning & Development (also from U of Guelph).

    got lots of experience in private/public sector during and between degrees.

    Ist real job out of grad school - City Planner in a large U.S. City.
    2nd job out of grad school - senior community planner (provincial government) out west on the prairies (Canada).

    Where to next - not quite sure right now but likely to stay put for at least a couple of more years (been here 5 years already).

  9. #9
    Cyburbian pandersen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by donk
    As the resident "expert" in job hunting for Canada and especially Southern Ontario, I'd have to say the job market is not that tight right now, but very competitive to get into the "nicer" bigger places. Looking at the OPPI website there are 9 job listing up right now, with some for multiple positons. This seems about average for any given month, plus there are a few municiapalities that don't use OPPI. In Ontario I think there will continue to be a growing need for Planners, especialy when Bill 26 comes into effect and the GreenBelt legislation is completed.

    Just don't expect to get rich if you work in teh public sector.

    Donk:
    how about PMing me with a listing/summary of the jobs you mentioned were posted on OPPI's website. Pisses me off - I'm a full member of CIP and belong to the Manitoba Chapter, but that isn't good enough to see the available jobs on OPPI's website (I started out with OPPI, but transfered to MPPI when I moved west).

    NOTE:
    I wrote CIP and complained about this situation and got a form letter response telling me to take out an OPPI membership. I think NOT!!!!!!!!!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I would say that you should look for a program that is specific to your interests first, then worry about CIP accreditation later. As mentioned earlier, some schools are more geared toward architecture and design, while others are more policy related. There are also some excellent programs that are coming into their own now that are geared more towards environment, urban design and sustainability. Do some research, visit some schools and see which one works best with what you want to do in the long run. I think that in Canada, more so than the States, it really makes a difference where you get your Masters (or undergrad for that matter). As an example, if you want to work for a 'big city', you may not want to go to a University that specializes in natural resources and rural planning.

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