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Thread: Harvard MUP vs Univ of Pennsylvania MCP

  1. #1
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    Harvard MUP vs Univ of Pennsylvania MCP

    I have been accepted to both Planning programs and am trying to weigh the pros and cons of each school. If anyone has any insight as to what they feel to be the strengths/weaknesses of these programs, please let me know.

    I am told that Penn is a better program than the GSD but is anyone familiar with the GSD program that can provide some insight? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I am a Penn planner, but I have little experience with the GSD.

    It is news to me that someone described Penn as better than the GSD, but it may be that the GSD has a stronger theoretical approach whereas Penn is decidedly a policy/practice school.

    The Harvard name goes a long way and opens *many* doors and while Penn is excellent it doesn't have the same reach that Harvard does. Another aspect to consider is financing, it is best to graduate with as little debt as possible, within reason (a school's name can and does help in certain fields).

    After spending nearly two years at Penn, my one suggestion is to carefully consider what kind of planning you want to do and find the school that most closely matches that kind of planning you are looking for. Urban design? Community? Policy/Practice? A common complaint is that Penn gives you a well-rounded grounding in planning but doesn't allow you to fully develop your interest in one direction or another. But this may be more because of the two year length of the standard planning program rather than the school itself.

    If you have specific questions about Penn and the program I am more than happy to answer them.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner
    I am a Penn planner, but I have little experience with the GSD.

    It is news to me that someone described Penn as better than the GSD, but it may be that the GSD has a stronger theoretical approach whereas Penn is decidedly a policy/practice school.

    The Harvard name goes a long way and opens *many* doors and while Penn is excellent it doesn't have the same reach that Harvard does. Another aspect to consider is financing, it is best to graduate with as little debt as possible, within reason (a school's name can and does help in certain fields).

    After spending nearly two years at Penn, my one suggestion is to carefully consider what kind of planning you want to do and find the school that most closely matches that kind of planning you are looking for. Urban design? Community? Policy/Practice? A common complaint is that Penn gives you a well-rounded grounding in planning but doesn't allow you to fully develop your interest in one direction or another. But this may be more because of the two year length of the standard planning program rather than the school itself.

    If you have specific questions about Penn and the program I am more than happy to answer them.
    Hello Penn Planner,

    I was hoping to apply to Penn next year. I have no experience in planning and hold a Bachelor's in Political Science and History. I am most interested in pursuing a concentration in Urban Design. Having no experience in planning, do you think Penn's focus on providing a well-rounded planning education would be beneficial? Penn looks like it has a great program in Urban Design and its definitely my top choice, I'm just worried that not having any experience in planning will not bode well for my chances for acceptance.

  4. #4
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    Hi Penn Planner,

    I was recently accepted at Penn and am interested in economic development as a concentration. Can students at Penn pursue courses in other departments (i.e. the Economics Department) to fulfill their concentration? Any insight would be appreciated...

  5. #5

    upenn - MIT

    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner
    I am a Penn planner, but I have little experience with the GSD.

    If you have specific questions about Penn and the program I am more than happy to answer them.

    Hey Penn planner,

    how would you compare the city planning programs at Upenn with that at MIT in the urban design concentration . I have a bachelor's degree in architecture and am trying to decide between the two. also i have 1/4th the aid at Penn as compared to what i've been offered at MIT, but if assistantships are not too hard to come by at Penn - that would be a lesser issue.

    Also how would you compare the planning with UD programs at GSD with that at MIT and at Penn.

    i'd greatly appreciate any insight.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Maryt44
    Hello Penn Planner,

    I was hoping to apply to Penn next year. I have no experience in planning and hold a Bachelor's in Political Science and History. I am most interested in pursuing a concentration in Urban Design. Having no experience in planning, do you think Penn's focus on providing a well-rounded planning education would be beneficial? Penn looks like it has a great program in Urban Design and its definitely my top choice, I'm just worried that not having any experience in planning will not bode well for my chances for acceptance.
    In a frank discussion with one of the hotshot professors, he said that the department had decided to concentrate its efforts in recruiting for professors and marketing in what they considered the school's key strengths: environmental planning, transportation planning, and urban design.

    There are plenty students who come to Penn with no background experience in design (or planning) and who lack even basic design skills. Penn offers a certificate of urban design (check it out, it is somewhere on the website), and between you and me, while it is required to formally apply for the certificate it doesn't take much to gain acceptance (a nicely written essay describing your passion). The certificate classes offer you the opportunity to take extra design classes and it is doable within the two year degree. The general degree requires you to take at least 19 classes, of which 4 may be taken outside the department, so those four can be design classes.Disclaimer: if you come to Penn, be aware that you are allowed to take a number of classes in architecture and landscape architecture and even in other departments (engineering, for example, offers several planning/design relevant classes). Most people, including me, weren't fully aware of the potential classes outside the department.

    I came pretty much straight out of college as did a whopping number of my classmates in my year, so it doesn't hurt you as long as your record is good enough to past muster. But, looking back it seems that it would have been more valuable to have had two or so years of work experience, of any type. It helps when looking for post-graduation jobs, and it would have been useful for me to have explored the field more closely before pursuing a master's of city planning. If I could turn the clock back I would have applied to landscape architecture programs, not city planning. A lot of what planners used to do, such as site planning, are now being done by landscape architects. But I made the choice and must live with the consequences.

    If you wish to do urban design, look closely at the course offerings and email as many professors as you can for their views on the subject. You may find that you would be better off pursuing an architecture degree with an urban design focus rather than planning/urban design, depending on your personal interests.



    I

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by wilderness
    Hey Penn planner,

    how would you compare the city planning programs at Upenn with that at MIT in the urban design concentration . I have a bachelor's degree in architecture and am trying to decide between the two. also i have 1/4th the aid at Penn as compared to what i've been offered at MIT, but if assistantships are not too hard to come by at Penn - that would be a lesser issue.

    Also how would you compare the planning with UD programs at GSD with that at MIT and at Penn.

    i'd greatly appreciate any insight.
    I do not know much about the GSD (other than it is heavy in theory and my experiences with theory at Penn is allowed for me to form the opinion that theory is crap without any balancing practice/policy approaches). As for MIT I have heard that it has an excellent design approach. MIT is probably the most famous planning program in the nation, bar maybe the GSD or Berkeley, and if you received noticeably more money at MIT, go for it. Assistantships at Penn aren't guaranteed and those who receive them are offered $2K a semester, but I haven't noticed people doing more than one or two assistantships. Another financial aspect to consider, however, is that Philadelphia is a considerably cheaper place to live than Boston, rent-wise. And I have come to love this city.

    It is best to email professors at these schools along with seeking advice on this board. The professors at MIT or Harvard will know a great deal more than I ever will about the design strengths of their respective schools.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by cyburbian
    Hi Penn Planner,

    I was recently accepted at Penn and am interested in economic development as a concentration. Can students at Penn pursue courses in other departments (i.e. the Economics Department) to fulfill their concentration? Any insight would be appreciated...

    You are allowed to take up to four courses outside the department, with a minimum of 15 inside the department. My year is the last year you could take five and I am not entirely sure why they reduced it by one class.

    Penn (the university) prides itself on multi-disciplinary approaches to education and one of the strategies of Amy Gutmann (the new president) is to facilitate closer interrelationships between the various schools.

    Yes, you can take economic classes in the School of Arts and Sciences. A number of people take policy classes at the Fels Institute and a number also take real estate/finance classes at Wharton.

    The university has quite a lot to offer, that is why only two years for the degree is frustrating. Three years would be much more ideal.

  9. #9
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    Penn Debt

    PennPlanner,

    I was recently accepted to Penn and am seriously considering them between USC and UCLA. Your description of the Penn program is definitely reassuring and enlightening. As someone more interested in the policy angle of planning and sustainable urban growth how well do you think the Penn program would match those interests since it is in the School of Design? (I would like to learn about design, but it is definitely not my strength.) Also, to be blunt, how much debt would you say your program is worth? The need-based grant I received was small enough that I will still have to go into significant debt compared to the other programs I was accepted to if I decide to go to Penn.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner
    In a frank discussion with one of the hotshot professors, he said that the department had decided to concentrate its efforts in recruiting for professors and marketing in what they considered the school's key strengths: environmental planning, transportation planning, and urban design.

    There are plenty students who come to Penn with no background experience in design (or planning) and who lack even basic design skills. Penn offers a certificate of urban design (check it out, it is somewhere on the website), and between you and me, while it is required to formally apply for the certificate it doesn't take much to gain acceptance (a nicely written essay describing your passion). The certificate classes offer you the opportunity to take extra design classes and it is doable within the two year degree. The general degree requires you to take at least 19 classes, of which 4 may be taken outside the department, so those four can be design classes.Disclaimer: if you come to Penn, be aware that you are allowed to take a number of classes in architecture and landscape architecture and even in other departments (engineering, for example, offers several planning/design relevant classes). Most people, including me, weren't fully aware of the potential classes outside the department.

    I came pretty much straight out of college as did a whopping number of my classmates in my year, so it doesn't hurt you as long as your record is good enough to past muster. But, looking back it seems that it would have been more valuable to have had two or so years of work experience, of any type. It helps when looking for post-graduation jobs, and it would have been useful for me to have explored the field more closely before pursuing a master's of city planning. If I could turn the clock back I would have applied to landscape architecture programs, not city planning. A lot of what planners used to do, such as site planning, are now being done by landscape architects. But I made the choice and must live with the consequences.

    If you wish to do urban design, look closely at the course offerings and email as many professors as you can for their views on the subject. You may find that you would be better off pursuing an architecture degree with an urban design focus rather than planning/urban design, depending on your personal interests.

    I
    Thank you. That was really helpful. I'll definitely email some professors to get their feed back. I think the planning/urban design route is probably the best option for me. I would love to go back to school for a degree in architecture but I just couldn't go back to school for that long. Also, I don't think I would be any good. I looked into landscape architecture at some schools, precisely because I heard that the planners who are doing the site planning are the landscape architects, and they require you to submit a portfolio when applying. Since I have no design experience I wouldn't even know where to begin with creating a porfolio. So I guess I'm a little too intimidated to apply for landscape architecture. By the way I'm glad to hear that a lot of your classmates had no urban planning experience. Thats been something I have been worried about.

    The Urban Design certficate looks like a good option and I am very happy to hear that I could take classes in other departments. After reading your email it made me want to go to Penn even more. After I graduated, I had decided that I was going to work for 2 years and really research Urban Planning as a career. I'm glad I did that because it gave me time to really think about it. Also, I know I will really appreciate being back in school. I'm taking a MicroEconomics class now and plan to take a Macro and Statistics class; for some schools those are prerequesites. I'm also studying very diligently for my GREs that I plan to take in June. Well thank you again for your help. Now all I have to do is actually get into Penn!

  11. #11
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    Capstone or Thesis?

    Thanks, PennPlanner.

    Also, is there a capstone or thesis requirement as part of the MCP program at Penn?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by adavids1
    PennPlanner,

    I was recently accepted to Penn and am seriously considering them between USC and UCLA. Your description of the Penn program is definitely reassuring and enlightening. As someone more interested in the policy angle of planning and sustainable urban growth how well do you think the Penn program would match those interests since it is in the School of Design? (I would like to learn about design, but it is definitely not my strength.) Also, to be blunt, how much debt would you say your program is worth? The need-based grant I received was small enough that I will still have to go into significant debt compared to the other programs I was accepted to if I decide to go to Penn.

    Sorry for not getting back earlier. It has been an hectic weekend.

    Although it is in the School of Design, it is the least "design" oriented of the departments. Many of your planning classes will have little or no design components and if you choose your concentration and courseload accordingly, you can get through the two years with miniminal exposure to design, if that is what you are looking for. There are three quantitative requirements, plus another regional economics analysis requirement, and if you do the community development concentration your classes will have a strong analysis component. In fact, a common complaint from the more design oriented students is that they are required to take too many policy/analysis classes.

    I am graduating with a debt load that is a little less that the full cost of one year's tuition, thanks to a combination of grants and my GAship (which has cut back my living expenses to no more than $2K a year). I would not have committed if I had to pay all expenses out of pocket but then again I was reasonably confident that the school would award me some grant money. Where the dividing line between too much debt and worthiness lies, it is up to the individual. If you are looking for a good policy oriented program, Penn is an excellent choice especially provided if you make the effort to take advantages of the school's resources. Penn has several institutes that focus on urban policies, so the debt may be worth it for you.

    Have you considered applying for a GA position? The college house system is still accepting applications for GAs in the dorm, and the position comes with free room plus a meal plan.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    No, there is no thesis graduation for the MCP program (thank God).

    We do, however, have the second year studio which, in theory, is a substitute for the thesis. Whether it truly is depends on what kind of studio it is. The second year studio is worth two credits (a normal class and the first year studio is worth one credit), but I can assure you that my particular studio is clearly not worth the two credits I am receiving for it partly because it is not a demanding studio. But the other studios for second years are labor intensive. I thank my lucky stars it turned out for me because my other classes are demanding enough as it is (I am in a somewhat unique position because I am one of a handful of students also taking classes at Wharton through the Real Estate design and development certificate).


    Quote Originally posted by cyburbian
    Thanks, PennPlanner.

    Also, is there a capstone or thesis requirement as part of the MCP program at Penn?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner
    No, there is no thesis graduation for the MCP program (thank God).

    We do, however, have the second year studio which, in theory, is a substitute for the thesis. Whether it truly is depends on what kind of studio it is. The second year studio is worth two credits (a normal class and the first year studio is worth one credit), but I can assure you that my particular studio is clearly not worth the two credits I am receiving for it partly because it is not a demanding studio. But the other studios for second years are labor intensive. I thank my lucky stars it turned out for me because my other classes are demanding enough as it is (I am in a somewhat unique position because I am one of a handful of students also taking classes at Wharton through the Real Estate design and development certificate).
    Penn Planner,

    In regards to the Real Estate Design and Development certificate, what are the requirements for admission? My background is in economics and finance, so I feel rather prepared for the program. Do you consider the certificate worth pursuing?

    Thanks again for all your feedback...I'm not sure if I can make it for the Open House next Monday so your responses have been greatly appreciated!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by cyburbian
    Penn Planner,

    In regards to the Real Estate Design and Development certificate, what are the requirements for admission? My background is in economics and finance, so I feel rather prepared for the program. Do you consider the certificate worth pursuing?

    Thanks again for all your feedback...I'm not sure if I can make it for the Open House next Monday so your responses have been greatly appreciated!
    The requirements for admissions is minimal. Once enrolled at Penn, you may apply for the program and the application process is simply notifying the registrar of your intent to apply, and the registrar turns over your original application to the planning program to the director of the CREDD, Witold Rybczynski, who then decides who is admitted and who is not. No extra essays. Judging from the people enrolled in the program, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be admitted, what he is looking for primarily are people who are capable of enduring the rigors of Wharton classes (and your financial/economics background seems sufficient enough).

    I have enjoyed taking the Wharton classes. They are rigorous and do challenge you in a way that most of the planning classes won't, and to be frank, the Wharton students are a cut above the planners (on average) and I have enjoyed being in that level. But the classes are difficult and require quite a lot of work.

    How valuable is the CREDD? Well, we'll see if I can find a job related to real estate. It is definitely valuable having knowledge of real estate development and finance if you are going to be a planner, and actually a common path for some planners is to work for real estate consulting firms. And the Wharton name on your resume can't hurt.

  16. #16

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    urban design at Penn

    Quote Originally posted by Maryt44
    Thank you. That was really helpful. I'll definitely email some professors to get their feed back. I think the planning/urban design route is probably the best option for me. I would love to go back to school for a degree in architecture but I just couldn't go back to school for that long. Also, I don't think I would be any good. I looked into landscape architecture at some schools, precisely because I heard that the planners who are doing the site planning are the landscape architects, and they require you to submit a portfolio when applying. Since I have no design experience I wouldn't even know where to begin with creating a porfolio. So I guess I'm a little too intimidated to apply for landscape architecture. By the way I'm glad to hear that a lot of your classmates had no urban planning experience. Thats been something I have been worried about.

    The Urban Design certficate looks like a good option and I am very happy to hear that I could take classes in other departments. After reading your email it made me want to go to Penn even more. After I graduated, I had decided that I was going to work for 2 years and really research Urban Planning as a career. I'm glad I did that because it gave me time to really think about it. Also, I know I will really appreciate being back in school. I'm taking a MicroEconomics class now and plan to take a Macro and Statistics class; for some schools those are prerequesites. I'm also studying very diligently for my GREs that I plan to take in June. Well thank you again for your help. Now all I have to do is actually get into Penn!
    Another good thing about Penn that they encourage students to pursue dual degrees. I was in the same boat as you when I came to Penn. I soon realized that even the Urban Design certificate was not enough design training for what I want to do, so I applied and was accepted to the Landscape Architecture program during my first year in the City Planning program. Yes, you will need to submit a portfolio. I have graphic and web design background, but I also audited a figure drawing class in the fine arts department during my first semester to build up more material for my portfolio. The landscape architecture program is very well respected and has a focus on urbanism. So, keep that in mind as an option. If you come to Penn, you can see how the urban design certificate meets your interests and if not, there is always the option to apply for a dual degree with lanscape architecture or architecture.

    P.S. I would not worry about the length of the program. An extra year or two is worth it if you end up with doing what you want to do. Remember that this is a profession you will be working in for the rest of your career.

  17. #17

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    CREDD may be a bit competitive

    Quote Originally posted by cyburbian
    Penn Planner,

    In regards to the Real Estate Design and Development certificate, what are the requirements for admission? My background is in economics and finance, so I feel rather prepared for the program. Do you consider the certificate worth pursuing?

    Thanks again for all your feedback...I'm not sure if I can make it for the Open House next Monday so your responses have been greatly appreciated!

    Cyburbian, just to note, after contacting Rybczynski about admission to CREDD program, I foud that on the surface it seems quite competitive. There are apparently only 10 spots available for PennDesign students, and he mentioned that about twice as many usually apply. I imagine your background in economics and finance will be helpful. PennPlanner can probably speak more specifically to how competitive it may be in reality, but it appears all students will not be a shoe-in for the program.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally posted by Sherridan
    Cyburbian, just to note, after contacting Rybczynski about admission to CREDD program, I foud that on the surface it seems quite competitive. There are apparently only 10 spots available for PennDesign students, and he mentioned that about twice as many usually apply. I imagine your background in economics and finance will be helpful. PennPlanner can probably speak more specifically to how competitive it may be in reality, but it appears all students will not be a shoe-in for the program.
    Thanks for the feedback. I contacted admissions early last week regarding the CREDD program and my email was forwarded to Rybczynski, though he never responded to my inquiry. Nevertheless, I made the difficult decision to attend grad school elsewhere...

  19. #19
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    I thinks.....

    HARVARD....I mean, if your going to spend all that CASH.....get the bigger name.....

    Alternative: Go to school in Colorado, ski all weekend....and buy a $100,000 yacht when you graduate or ski condo?
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner
    I do not know much about the GSD (other than it is heavy in theory and my experiences with theory at Penn is allowed for me to form the opinion that theory is crap without any balancing practice/policy approaches).
    Hallelujah. 80 years of theory haven't made things any better. I believe we met all too briefly at the Sunday night get together the eve before the Open House. Did M. Smart introduce us?

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    When I went to visit Columbia there was a recent Harvard transfer who said he hated it there. He said it was too much architecture/drawing, and there were showers in the studios because students slaved away there so much.
    I'm not sure if he was stretching the truth.
    Just sharing what I heard.
    I had a very interesting exp at Upenn when I visited, see the thread at the top, "which school did you pick" I wrote about all my impressions of programs/schools.

    Either way i think it's a win/win both great schools.
    Did you decide yet?

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    Quote Originally posted by urbanologist
    When I went to visit Columbia there was a recent Harvard transfer who said he hated it there. He said it was too much architecture/drawing, and there were showers in the studios because students slaved away there so much.
    I'm not sure if he was stretching the truth.
    Just sharing what I heard.
    I had a very interesting exp at Upenn when I visited, see the thread at the top, "which school did you pick" I wrote about all my impressions of programs/schools.

    Either way i think it's a win/win both great schools.
    Did you decide yet?

    I have actually decided to attend Penn!

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