Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 27

Thread: Visiting grad school, need advice

  1. #1
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449

    Visiting grad school, need advice

    I am going up to Portland next week to check out Portland State. So far I have scheduled to sit in on two classes, go to a seminar, and meet with three professors (one of which is the head of the admissions committee). Ive also been talking with one student through email and we are going to try to meet up.

    Im just wondering what is expected of me in these meetings with faculty. Should I dress up (slacks, black shoes, starched shirt) or would a Polo and Khakis be fine? (Id really rather wear jeans and a polo). What types of questions should I ask, and what should I be prepared for? What would be the best thing for me to do to impress them? Be very professional, or be myself (friendly, humorous, casual and easy-going).

    Im getting really nervous and actually pretty discourage about whether I will get into PSU. My grades are not great....in fact, Im going to have to get them to bend the rules with my GPA. Right now it is a 2.9578 (their minimum is 3.0) but will be about a 3.1 when I graduate. My Major GPA, however is above a 3.5 and I will be graduating with departmental honors. My combined GRE (which is not required) was 1270, but I havent gotten the grades for the essays yet. I have done an internship with the city working alot with GIS and Bike/Ped. stuff, and have taken urban geography courses, spatial analysis, architecture courses (my minor) and one planning class during my undergrad career.............but I still feel like I dont know anything. Im afraid I'll go up there and make a fool of myself.

    Im already pushing it because one of my professors that wrote a letter of recommendation didnt use the specified form that they sent me. I'm also struggling with my statement of purpose...

    On top of all that, I can't afford this school, so I have to get one of the THREE Transportation Fellowships that they are offering for this fall. 150 people apply to the MURP program, and about 35-45 get in. of those, about 8-12 are usually transportation students...so Im battling against at least 8 people, maybe up to 15 or so, for these fellowships, not to mention probably 100 other people just to get into the program

    Jeez...somebody encourage me before I have a nervous breakdown!!!!!!!!1

  2. #2
    I would start by talking to the student about what to wear and the general "mood" of the place. Some places are very laid back and casual and others are not. If you can't get any advice from that person, it doesn't hurt to be cautious and wear a jacket and tie. You can always take them off later.

    If discussion turns to your GPA focus on how you did in the relevant class work. Also if your GPA is the result of a really bad freshman year kind of issue, focus on saying "look what happened after I settled down and got to work". Talk about your experience in your internship and other classes that you have used to prepare yourself and introduce yourself to planning but don't overhype.

    If you cannot get a fellowship, maybe you can assist a professor with research or something along those lines. Doing that paid for 3/4 of my grad school as well as putting $ in my pocket every month. You might pay a visit to the financial aid office while you are up there to see what options you have in that regard.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    18

    well

    Portland State isn't Harvard, so desite your gpa, you have good experience and gre scores. Dress nicely (dress casual attrie at the least) and just relax.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    739
    Quote Originally posted by Captain Willard
    Portland State isn't Harvard, so desite your gpa, you have good experience and gre scores. Dress nicely (dress casual attrie at the least) and just relax.
    This is what I'm thinking as well. We are talking about a public, state university... not the Ivy League. Just chill out and enjoy your trip. Tell me all about Portland when you get back

  5. #5
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    Well, I dont have a jacket. I had a pretty nice suit in high school but then I grew a few more inches (in both height and girth). In college I never had much of a need for one. Im going to watch the weather forcast, hopefully it will be cold....I have a pretty nice sweater and some slacks.

    I know it is a state school, but why is it so expensive for out-of-staters? Its more than UT's out of state tuition.

    About assisting a professor...do most professors need someone to work for them? Is it a flat rate that they pay you or do they pay a percentage of tuition? The reason I ask is because out of state at PSU is about 3 times as expensive as in state.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Land of the Midnight Sun
    Posts
    128
    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    About assisting a professor...do most professors need someone to work for them? Is it a flat rate that they pay you or do they pay a percentage of tuition? The reason I ask is because out of state at PSU is about 3 times as expensive as in state.
    Professors are often looking for teaching assistants or research assistants. The number of TA hired tends to vary with the undergraduate programs being offered. RA positions are a fairly common. Find out which professors have gotten grant money. You can then contact them about being an their RA.

    At most schools, if you are working for the university (including TA and RA positions), you qualify for in-state tuition.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    Don't get nervous! Dress casually. Tan khakis with a blue shirt would be just fine. Most campuses are pretty casual. They want to get to know more about you, particulalry the experiences you have had and what your interests may be. You don't need to convince them that you are some sort of genius. Just be yourself.

    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Don't get nervous! Dress casually. Tan khakis with a blue shirt would be just fine. Most campuses are pretty casual. They want to get to know more about you, particulalry the experiences you have had and what your interests may be. You don't need to convince them that you are some sort of genius. Just be yourself.

    What a proficient use of Smilies!

    Here is what the student said in his email, Margin Walker...

    "Pretty casual. I wore a dress shirt and tie to orientation and felt
    like a moron. It is west coast, laid back style here man! However, first
    impressions are always important!"

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    739
    Yeah, now that I think about it, Portland has an atmosphere similar to Austin's... where flip flops and torn blue jeans are professional attire

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    18

    dress

    yes, a nice oxford and khakis will be fine. However, you might want to head to Marshall's and buy a nice blue blazer and a tie, since when you do go on interviews for interships you'll need to complete your education. It's a good investment of $100 or so.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    What a proficient use of Smilies!

    Here is what the student said in his email, Margin Walker...

    "Pretty casual. I wore a dress shirt and tie to orientation and felt
    like a moron. It is west coast, laid back style here man! However, first
    impressions are always important!"

    lol! I did something very similar wearing a shirt and tie to an interview at the University of Hawaii. All the profs were in shorts and Aloha shirts. Still don't think it is a bad idea to go with the shirt and tie though. That first impression is important.

    You might also find out what the residency requirements are and if you really want to go to school there move and just work in Portland until you can get in-state tuition. I held off on grad school an extra semester to do that and it made a huge difference for my finances.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    Quote Originally posted by Margin Walker
    lol! I did something very similar wearing a shirt and tie to an interview at the University of Hawaii. All the profs were in shorts and Aloha shirts. Still don't think it is a bad idea to go with the shirt and tie though. That first impression is important.

    You might also find out what the residency requirements are and if you really want to go to school there move and just work in Portland until you can get in-state tuition. I held off on grad school an extra semester to do that and it made a huge difference for my finances.
    Well, I looked into that. Washington and Oregon partner and consider people from either state as residents for either states' schools.

    However, from what I understand...you have to live in one of those states for 2 years to get instate tuition.

  13. #13
    2 years is a long time.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    What a proficient use of Smilies!

    Here is what the student said in his email, Margin Walker...

    "Pretty casual. I wore a dress shirt and tie to orientation and felt
    like a moron. It is west coast, laid back style here man! However, first
    impressions are always important!"
    Hey, when I showed up for an interview for a senior management position here, I wore a suit. I was the only one wearing a suit. There are only three people working in a city with over 1000 employees who regularly wear ties.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    On top of all that, I can't afford this school, so I have to get one of the THREE Transportation Fellowships that they are offering for this fall. 150 people apply to the MURP program, and about 35-45 get in. of those, about 8-12 are usually transportation students...so Im battling against at least 8 people, maybe up to 15 or so, for these fellowships, not to mention probably 100 other people just to get into the program

    Jeez...somebody encourage me before I have a nervous breakdown!!!!!!!!1
    Three fellowships out of 12 people is 25% of the students. If it is 9 people, 1/3 get fellowships. And close to one third can make it into the program. These are not astronomical odds. It is not like the only fellowship out of a thousand students or something. If you had a one in three chance of winning the lottery, you would buy a new ticket every day.

    I have had professors tell me that I seem so calm but I actually get nervous taking tests. And I had academic awards heaped upon me and my GPA was, um, 3.97?? before I concluded that sick people should make more B's if they actually want to finish a degree. Everyone gets nervous. Just don't make yourself sick over it.

    I recommend you rent "Risky Business" and work on an attitude adjustment about the whole thing. (JUST an attitude adjustment -- I am suggesting you be "laid back" not "get your professors laid by all your hooker friends so they will think that PSU "Could use a man like FueledByRamen!" " )

  16. #16
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    OK, here is my Statement.....could someone read it and comment? Im wrapping it up, but it feels like its missing something.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Like many incoming freshmen, I had a pretty rough time my first year of college. Due to my interest in aircraft, my capable performance in math classes, and my strong mechanical skills, I decided to enter college as an aerospace engineering student. After my first year of taking required classes like chemistry and C++ and practically nothing specific to my interests, I was not only unhappy, but my grades were quite unpleasant as well. I started the search for a new major, exploring possibilities like architecture, psychology, sociology, and geography, which is what I eventually settled on. During this search, I realized that the fields that I was interested in were either design related or dealt with sociological issues. Of all of the majors I was considering, geography, with its offered focus on urban and regional analysis, seemed to offer the best combination of these two characteristics and allowed me to explore my love of the city and the environment. Once I began studying in my appropriate field, my grades steadily improved from a C average to the extent that I will graduate with honors from the Department of Geography this May. Through my studies in geography, I have realized that the sociological and design interests that I hold are closely related to the work done in urban and regional planning, and through research and papers that I have prepared, I have gained a deep-seated interest in transportation.

    One of the greatest advantages that I see for myself in pursuing a graduate-level degree in urban and regional planning is the ability to actively participate in a forum of peers in which I could formulate and expand my own philosophies on planning and the built environment while discussing those of my cohorts. I strongly believe not only in learning from professors and individual study, but in the value of peer interaction and the lessons which such discourse provides. I am greatly excited to work and perform research with individuals from backgrounds different than mine and hope to be able to learn from the work of others. In addition to this, I feel that Portland State University provides a unique opportunity for me based on where the school is located. I view the Portland area as being very progressive in its planning methods, employing modern technologies and forward-thinking policies in its planning processes, and the State of Oregon as being wholly environmentally friendly, both as a governmental entity and as a collection of citizens and not-for-profit groups. Coming from a geography background and being a lover of the outdoors, the environmental impacts of transportation systems are of great interest to me and I feel that the Portland area is an excellent place to explore such effects.

    My basis of interest in specializing in transportation stems from a combination of interests in the environment, social equity, problem solving, and technological advancement. Myriad transportation modes are now present in the modern world, ranging from the Segway Human Transporter to the Maglev high speed train, and each has the potential to play a role in our intermodal transportation networks. My interest in such intermodal networks is based on the potential ability of such systems to be environmentally sound and provide sustainable transportation for members of all social groups. I hunger to piece together such modal types into practicable systems of movement using the methods and problem solving techniques that I have learned, and will continue to learn, throughout my education and work experience.

    Some of the experience in planning and transportation that I already have includes, but is not limited to, an internship and a thesis. In the summer of 2004, I worked as the Bicycle and Pedestrian intern for the City of Austin, an unpaid position. I spent some time working with GIS, quality checking a new sidewalk centerline layer against aerial photography and producing maps, and some time performing field checks for bicycle lanes and updating a database of these lanes. During this position, I learned a good deal about the policies of the city and about the bureaucratic process, plus gained a greater awareness of different areas of the city by physically being there and examining the sites.

    The thesis which I prepared examined the potential for a High Speed Rail system in Texas, focusing on a triangle-shaped area between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. During this process of independent research and writing, I sought out information from many sources, including TxDOT and several public interest groups, and met with industry professionals from both the private and public sectors. I have also prepared several papers pertaining to the field of planning, including one written on the recently approved commuter rail program for Austin which I critiqued and made recommendations for improvement on.

    I eagerly look forward to continuing my education and gaining knowledge for my future career. I see the possibilities after graduate school as being abundant; I have many interests, not only in several aspects of transportation, but also in both public and private sector work. I see a worthy cause in working with the environmental aspect of transportation, but I am also greatly interested in the interaction of transportation and land use. I believe, however, that through studying further, I will be able to narrow down my interests and when the right career opportunity presents itself, I will perceive it and relentlessly pursue the position.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    895 words...so its pretty lengthy, but it fits on two pages...single spaced...its a hair over two on 1.5 spacing.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Land of the Midnight Sun
    Posts
    128
    My comment would be to lead off differently. By starting off mentioning a rough time in college and bad grades, I feel you are starting things off on the wrong note. People may not continue to read further or have already developed an incorrect impression that you aren't a good student.

    Start off with your strongest stuff like what you are interested in now and how you would be a benefit to the program. Then you could mention how you developed this interest and why your overall GPA isn't the best reflection but your major GPA is. Then your school work and closing sections.

    Good luck!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jan 2004
    Location
    montana
    Posts
    336
    I would agree with the first comment... your opening statements seemed to be defensive. I like the rest of it, though...

    To add to what other people said on your first question- one thing that i did to help myself calm down when i was looking hard at schools was to remember that not only were the professors in the department interviewing me to see if they would admit me or not, but that I was also interviewing THEM to see if I wanted to go to that school. If there's one thing that I learned over the course of three years of graduate school (and two different departments/programs) was that you are graded just as much on who you are as a student and a person as you are on your grades.

    The main piece of advice i can give you is: throughout the entire application process, try and make a connection with people in the department, as much as you try to make an impression. That attitude will take you a long way. Have a couple of great conversations with a professor or two and show them that you would be fun to work with for a couple of years.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    I would keep it simple and write more directly:
    1. Why are you interested in planning?
    2. What are your particular interests?
    3. What education and experience do you have?
    4. What do you think you can contribute to the program to which you are applying?

    Downplay (leave out?) the comments on your grades. With a good GRE, good interview, and good letter, they will most likely overlook this. When you meet with the graduate advisor you can explain it in person.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  20. #20
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,736
    I think you should really try to improve your concluding paragraph. I'm not really sure what you're trying to say when you write "I see a worthy cause in working with the environmental aspect of transportation, but I am also greatly interested in the interaction of transportation and land use." Your last sentence is similarly awkward with too many commas. Good luck.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I would keep it simple and write more directly:
    1. Why are you interested in planning?
    2. What are your particular interests?
    3. What education and experience do you have?
    4. What do you think you can contribute to the program to which you are applying?

    Downplay (leave out?) the comments on your grades. With a good GRE, good interview, and good letter, they will most likely overlook this. When you meet with the graduate advisor you can explain it in person.
    Cardinal, do you think that I did not display my particular interests in that? Its hard for me to say "I want to focus on toll roads as forms of traffic control" or "I am especially interested in transit oriented development" because Im interested in all of that, and I dont want to limit myself. I know I will eventually need to be more focused, but Im hoping grad school will help me with that.

    Also, about what I "can contribute to the program"...well, theres not a whole lot that I can say, since I dont have a whole lot of experience, and deffinately not more than any of the current students there...should I put things like: an outgoing personality, enthusiasm, strong GIS skills, handsome, funny, trained cage fighter?

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    Cardinal, do you think that I did not display my particular interests in that? Its hard for me to say "I want to focus on toll roads as forms of traffic control" or "I am especially interested in transit oriented development" because Im interested in all of that, and I dont want to limit myself. I know I will eventually need to be more focused, but Im hoping grad school will help me with that.

    Also, about what I "can contribute to the program"...well, theres not a whole lot that I can say, since I dont have a whole lot of experience, and deffinately not more than any of the current students there...should I put things like: an outgoing personality, enthusiasm, strong GIS skills, handsome, funny, trained cage fighter?
    I only bulleted those four things as the ones I thought would be most important. You covered these, but you could have done som more directly. Write it in a more active tense and get directly to the key things you want to say. For example,

    "One of the greatest advantages that I see for myself in pursuing a graduate-level degree in urban and regional planning is the ability to actively participate in a forum of peers in which I could formulate and expand my own philosophies on planning and the built environment while discussing those of my cohorts."

    might be changed to

    "I hope to participate with other students and faculty in an active exchange of views on planning and the built environment."

    This reads more clearly, and is an illustration of what I mean by your contribution to the department.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I only bulleted those four things as the ones I thought would be most important. You covered these, but you could have done som more directly. Write it in a more active tense and get directly to the key things you want to say. For example,

    "One of the greatest advantages that I see for myself in pursuing a graduate-level degree in urban and regional planning is the ability to actively participate in a forum of peers in which I could formulate and expand my own philosophies on planning and the built environment while discussing those of my cohorts."

    might be changed to

    "I hope to participate with other students and faculty in an active exchange of views on planning and the built environment."

    This reads more clearly, and is an illustration of what I mean by your contribution to the department.
    Roger. I'll work on that sentance tommorow and post my new draft where I did away with mentioning my GPA.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    A Dog in a Hat
    Posts
    449
    Hows this?

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Statement of Intent

    One of the greatest advantages that I see for myself in pursuing a graduate-level degree in urban and regional planning is the ability to participate in an active exchange of views on planning and the built environment with other students. I strongly believe not only in learning from professors and individual study, but also in the value of peer interaction and the lessons which such discourse provides. I am greatly excited to work and perform research with individuals from backgrounds different than mine and hope to be able to learn from the work of others while contributing and relating my own knowledge and experiences. In addition to this, I feel that Portland State University provides a unique opportunity for me based on the geographical location of the school. I view the Portland area as being very progressive in its planning methods, employing modern technologies and forward-thinking policies in its planning processes, and the State of Oregon as being wholly environmentally responsive, both as a governmental entity and as a collection of citizens and not-for-profit groups. Coming from a geography background and being a lover of the outdoors, the environmental impacts of planning decisions are of great interest to me and I feel that the Portland area is an excellent place to explore such effects.

    My basis of interest in specializing in transportation stems from a combination of interests in the environment, social equity, problem solving, and technological advancement. Myriad transportation modes are now present in the modern world, ranging from the Segway Human Transporter to the Maglev high speed train, and each has the potential to play a role in our intermodal transportation networks. My interest in such multimodal networks is based on the potential ability of such systems to be environmentally sound and provide sustainable transportation for members of all social groups. I hunger to piece together such modal types into practicable systems of movement using the methods and problem solving techniques that I have learned, and will continue to learn, throughout my education and work experience.

    One specific event that has heavily influenced my decision to enter the urban planning field has been, as an adult, moving back to a neighborhood in which I grew up and taking account of the changes and growth that have occurred. The neighborhood is a fairly dense and walk-able area of partly single-family and partly multi-family housing where many of the residents use bicycles and their own feet as modes of transportation—something very uncommon for most areas of Texas. Returning to the area has encouraged me to primarily travel by bicycle and rarely by car, and to take into greater account the transportation mode choices made by myself and by my neighbors. Not only have I been privileged enough to witness the neighborhood and its changes after seventeen years of living elsewhere, but I was also able, during an internship, to assist in the Pedestrian Master Plan that Austin is producing.

    In the summer of 2004, I worked as the Bicycle and Pedestrian intern for the City of Austin—an unpaid position. I spent some time working with GIS, quality checking a new sidewalk centerline layer against aerial photography and producing maps, and some time performing field checks for bicycle lanes and updating a database of these lanes. During this position, I learned a great deal about the policies of the city and about the bureaucratic process, plus gained a greater awareness of different areas of the city by physically being there and examining the sites.
    As an honors student, I prepared a thesis which examines the potential for a high speed rail system in Texas, focusing on the triangle-shaped area between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. During this process of independent research and writing, I sought out information from many sources, including TxDOT and several public interest groups, and met with industry professionals from both the private and public sectors. I have also prepared several papers pertaining to the field of planning, including one written on the recently approved commuter rail program for Austin, in which I critiqued the proposal and made recommendations for its improvement.

    In addition to my research and work experience, I bring with me a strong knowledge of GIS applications, a deep interest in social interaction, and an extroverted personality. I am an outgoing and friendly individual who excels in communication skills and quickly builds interpersonal relationships. In addition, I excel at setting goals for myself and unremittingly work towards them until I am satisfied.

    I eagerly look forward to continuing my education and gaining knowledge for my future career in planning. I see the possibilities after graduate school as being abundant; I have many interests, not only in several aspects of transportation, but also in both public and private sector work. As an example, I see a worthy cause in working with the environmental aspect of transportation, but I am also greatly interested in the interaction of transportation with land use and community development. While my interests are broad, I believe that through studying further I will be able to narrow down my interests and when the right career opportunity presents itself, I will perceive it and relentlessly pursue the position.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    I like it!
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 10
    Last post: 30 Aug 2010, 9:00 PM
  2. Replies: 4
    Last post: 29 Mar 2010, 11:16 AM
  3. One year before grad school - advice please!
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 20 Apr 2007, 5:31 PM
  4. Grad School advice
    Student Commons
    Replies: 1
    Last post: 07 Jul 2006, 9:19 AM
  5. Grad School Advice
    Student Commons
    Replies: 21
    Last post: 21 Oct 2005, 1:30 AM