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Thread: Application blues?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    Application blues?

    Anyone else absurdly worried about their applications?

    I'm 27, been out of school for 5.5 years, got the grades & test scores, and (I think) good letters of recommendation -- but no planning experience whatsoever. Trying to parlay 5 years scenic design & tech theater experience into a relevant background via personal statement... and going nuts. I'm afraid I'm going to come across as a complete flake b/c of the abrupt and radical career change, and that the scores, etc. aren't going to make the difference.

    Also, what on EARTH is Berkeley thinking, having the due date December 15? I'm hustling rec. paperwork out the door to benevolent ex-professors and professional contacts, but there's only a month before the deadline! Considering dropping them from my app list just so I won't piss off my recommenders...

    Who else is going through this?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    i'm going to be having my own personal freakout party each and every day from now until new year's or so. i think my strengths are my letters of recommendation, my personal statement, and my resume, but my grades and GRE are very average. i'm probably going to get an ulcer. although i can't say i'm in the same shape as fructa, since i have a planning undergrad and a current job in the field. good luck!!! ugh....sweaty palms. where else is fructa applying?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    Hooray freakout party!

    So far I'm applying, er, everywhere... Michigan, Minnesota, Berkeley, MIT, Portland State, Amherst (maybe), and Illinois Urbana-Champaign (in hopes of getting that sweet performing arts fellowship. hah!)

    I don't know how much to worry about the lack of experience... I was a lot more worried before GRE scores came back (780V, 730Q, 6.0W) -- but the personal statement is still killing me. Trying to work the story of how I got to planning (via a theater company I founded & ran in rural NH for 2 yrs, which coincided with the founding of the town's first civic action group, watching people hit the wall trying to draw businesses back to their town, make it a livable environment again -- it was truly inspirational, and frustrating knowing I was on the wrong side of the relationship, throwing time & effort into putting on plays rather than actively helping people change the quality of their lives...) into a 500 word statement that also includes academic/professional goals is -- um, hard...

    What about you, where are you applying? How on earth did you know you wanted to do this in undergrad? I didn't really have a clear idea that planning existed until last year...

    & good luck right back at you!!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian inzane's avatar
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    flood the market

    The approach that I took was to flood the market. I mad it a goal 6 months before graduation to send out 3 resumes a week. I started with places that were actively looking. Then places I thought would be a cool to live. I just got a map and an on-line phone book of every city I would like to live in and applied with anyone that had anything to do with planning. When that didnít work I tried the suburbs and the regional planning council.
    What that did was give me a TON of interview experience. With that experience my nerves about my average grades and lack of an internship went away because I learned to read people better and give good solid honest answers to those nerve racking questions. My best advice is to be confident and to be driven and to be passionate. A person with average grades and little experience can even the playing field in an interview by proving that they have the drive to succeed, confident that they can do anything and a true passion for planning. That is the only way I think that I got a job.

    Iíll get off my soap box now.
    Good luck to you both.
    ďI injured a rockÖ Hospitalized a brickÖ Iím so bad I make medicine Sick!!!!Ē
    Muhammad Ali

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Peter Bratt's avatar
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    The next two months

    I am in a bit of a similar situation. UNC deadline is December 1, and Berkeley is December 15. I am also applying to Wayne State by December 1, so that I can get an interview around Christmas (as it is the only time that I will be in the Michigan area before March). The rest of the schools I am applying for (Portland State, Michigan, Penn, Ohio State, University of Illinois-Chicago) are due at some point in January, so I'm going to try and finish these deadlines by Christmas.

    My way of looking at things is: to get finished with applications by Christmas will be another present. I am luck to have taken my GRE in the summer of 2004 (640Q, 640V, 5.5 Essay), and my grades are good (3.71 undergrad GPA; 4.0 GPA graduate MA), and my recommendations and work experience (2 years in planning and policy, 1 year at a law firm), so all I need to do is a personal statement and finish all those stinking forms. The sooner these applications get finished, the sooner I find out where I get to live for a couple of years.

    Good luck!

  6. #6

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    I'm definitely starting to feel the stress. I have no previous experience in planning as well, but from what I can tell that's not uncommon. My grades in undergraduate were good and I have experience writing a thesis, but I'm really worried my GRE is going to undue all of that. I'm getting even more worried when I see people on here who have, what I think, are great scores. I took it once already and did well (not great) on the verbal, but my quantitative was pretty pathetic. So knowing my luck when I retake it I'll do great on the quantitative and horrible on the verbal. Ugh, I really hate standardized tests. But the entire process IS really overwhelming. Good luck everyone.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    group therapy

    I thought about PMíing fructa, but I figure this might help others as well, so Iím posting it instead.

    Iím applying to mit, Harvard, and Georgia tech for planning and mit, Clemson, and Columbia for real estate development. i'm really sheepish about admitting that i'm applying to ivy league schools. don't know why. Iím taking the GRE the day before thanksgiving. If I break 700 for each section, Iíll be surprised. My overall GPA is floating just above 3.0, although the last 60 credits are substantially higher. To compensate, I have lots of planning internships and a current full time planning position, as well as some other planning-related extracurricular activities. i think my recommendations are pretty good, too. As far as the letter of intent goes, I find inspiration in reading things that get me excited about planning, after which I feel compelled to connect these issues to my own experiences; work school, or otherwise. Not that this becomes a book report or memoir or anything, but it acts as a reminder as to why I got into planning in the first place. Sometimes I need that reminder. This might work for you, since you obviously had some experience that made you interested, even though it may not be formal ďexperienceĒ. I got into planning after reading the book ďnatural capitalismĒ, and switched from an environmental policy degree to urban planning. I believe it was a great decision. Iím going to the mit open house, and visiting Harvard that day, then going down to see Georgia tech and Clemson during the two days following. Anybody else going to the mit open house? Hopefully this thread will serve as a group therapy session for all applicants until april or so.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    When's the open house?

    I know what you mean about feeling sheepish re: applying to ivy league schools. I feel the same about applying to MIT. It seems so brazen. I feel like I'm setting myself up for a karmic smackdown...

  9. #9
    BANNED
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    Quote Originally posted by inzane
    The approach that I took was to flood the market. I mad it a goal 6 months before graduation to send out 3 resumes a week. I started with places that were actively looking. Then places I thought would be a cool to live. I just got a map and an on-line phone book of every city I would like to live in and applied with anyone that had anything to do with planning. When that didnít work I tried the suburbs and the regional planning council.
    What that did was give me a TON of interview experience. With that experience my nerves about my average grades and lack of an internship went away because I learned to read people better and give good solid honest answers to those nerve racking questions. My best advice is to be confident and to be driven and to be passionate. A person with average grades and little experience can even the playing field in an interview by proving that they have the drive to succeed, confident that they can do anything and a true passion for planning. That is the only way I think that I got a job.

    Iíll get off my soap box now.
    Good luck to you both.
    HAHA, you sat your soap box down in the wrong spot, they are talking about admissions into universities, did you even read their comments?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    since i still can't post a link, the open house is 11/14/05. more info on MIT DUSP website. RSVP has passed, but i wouldn't worry.

  11. #11
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    Reading this thread has made me feel a lot better knowing that I'm not the only one going through this process.
    The District: you and I are in the exact same situation; 3.0 overall gpa, a lot higher in final 2 years, taking gre in 2 weeks (though i highly doubt i'll crack 700 on the verbal). i, too, feel audacious for even applying to the ivy league. i was actually embarrassed to give their standardized forms to my recommenders. i kept thinking they were laughing hysterically when i left their office.
    just the idea of sitting down and writing the personal statement also makes me incredibly nervous. on the one hand, it has the potential to be my saving grace and compensate for my average grades; but on the other hand, you only have 500-1000 words to convince the admissions committee. actually, i spoke to someone at admissions at nyu and they told me that the statement is the most important aspect of the application. she said last year, they rejected people with a 3.7 because of their statement, but they also accepted quite a few who had 2.8-3.0 because their statement was so strong. let's all hope we fall into the latter category.
    and i really wonder how important they consider work experience. i have a job right now at an urban planning office that i hate (basically an assistant), but i know it would look good to have it on the application. i think i might wait until i send off my applications and quit the next day.
    this process would have probably given me an ulcer by now, but, fortunately, i already have one.
    Last edited by alan_tall; 05 Nov 2005 at 4:50 PM.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    re: personal statements -- I just finished mine on Friday; it feels SO GOOD to be done. I highly recommend sending drafts to friends of yours who are good writers; one of mine gave me incredibly valuable edits that helped so much. Also writing a draft, sticking it in a drawer for a week and coming back to fix it up and finish it seems to make it easier than doing it all in one go... good luck, Alan!

    (the verbal GRE is all about vocab. learn the words and you'll do fine.)

  13. #13
         
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    To all of those who are "freaking out" over their apps, you might want to brush up on the organization, multi-tasking, and time management skills prior to entering grad school.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    sheesh

    Take the condescension elsewhere, eh? It's nice to have people to commiserate with. Applications are stressful regardless of organizational & time-management skills. Has anyone complained of being unable to get their apps done on time? No. So go away and be smug somewhere else.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian jbr's avatar
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    nerves

    I'm also pretty nervous. I just took the GRE but didn't do as brilliantly as I would have liked... I'll be applying to take it again soon. Not worried at all about the personal statement because I come from a writing/journo background and I'm good at making persuasive arguments.

    I'm nervous about where I'm applying as well... I'm looking to do an MUP with a land-use track, but a lot of the schools I've researched are very policy-oriented (like NYU and Rutgers, where I'm applying anyway because they're both nearby). Others I'm strongly considering are Cal Poly SLO, UCLA, U Michigan, and U Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

    I'd love some advice if you've got any.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally posted by jbr
    I'm also pretty nervous. I just took the GRE but didn't do as brilliantly as I would have liked... I'll be applying to take it again soon. Not worried at all about the personal statement because I come from a writing/journo background and I'm good at making persuasive arguments.

    I'm nervous about where I'm applying as well... I'm looking to do an MUP with a land-use track, but a lot of the schools I've researched are very policy-oriented (like NYU and Rutgers, where I'm applying anyway because they're both nearby). Others I'm strongly considering are Cal Poly SLO, UCLA, U Michigan, and U Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

    I'd love some advice if you've got any.

    I'm kind of glad I took the GRE once. Now I know what to expect and I won't be as nervous. I think I was really just getting myself too worked up about it. Now I know exactly what I need to work on and I won't have as many nerves. I'm working on the personal statement now which has been going fairly well. It's the ending that I know I'm going to struggle with. Mainly because I'm not really sure what it is I want to do. I know I don't have to stick to what I say I'm going to do, but it's still hard to come up with an answer. I guess I'm not sure how specific I should be getting.

    The only school I know a little about from your list is U Michigan. I'm interested in that school because it is design oriented, which is what I would like to focus on. There aren't that many design oriented schools in the northeast/mid atlantic, where I would like to stay, with the exception of the ivy league schools.

  17. #17
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    Well, at least you're all doing better than me! I decided I wanted to take this masters in planning thing seriously about a week ago. But now I absolutely can't shake it and I really want to meet this year's application deadlines. But I've done nothing. No GRE scores, no references, no letter of intent... Am I nuts?

    Also, did any of you have problems approaching your current employer to ask for a reference? I have a great boss who I think would write me a good letter but I'm afraid to break it to him that I'm thinking of leaving (especially if it doesn't work out!).

    Any advice, thoughts?

    Wishing you all good luck on your applications!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    it really depends on where you are applying and what their deadlines are. as mentioned already, berkeleys deadline is in about 4 weeks, while other schools are quite late (march 15th or so). i would say that if you can meet the deadlines of the schools you want to attend, go for it!

    also, i also have a planning job, but did NOT get a letter of recommendation from my boss, nor does he or anyone else at the office know that i am applying. it is strictly on the DL. instead, i would go for academic letters of recommendation. my recommendation (since you asked) is to contact your potential references before the thanksgiving break, and have the necessary information or forms waiting for them in their inbox/mailbox/desk when they return from thanksgiving break.

    sign up for the gre NOW. go to their website and do it. NOW. spots are filling up, or are already filled.

    this is totally possible, but will require your full attention.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    Ditto what the District said.. also remember that if you're applying for financial aid, a lot of schools have two sets of deadlines -- official "regular" apps are due in Feb or even March / April (Ball State is due "4 weeks before the start of the term for which you are applying"), but financial aid deadlines (for many places) are as early as January 1. Get cracking!

  20. #20
    Cyburbian shishi's avatar
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    Do your best

    I am applying as well, first time for MURP programs. The GRE sucks, just take it and do the best you can. I got it outta the way a few years ago and my scores suck. But I have managed to still get into PhD programs.

    I am applying to Upenn, PSU, Unv. of Minnesota, and Hunter College (back up).
    My undergrad grades are fine, letters are good, GRE scores are ok, and P-statement just states what I have been doing for the past five years.

    All you Berkeley apps, they always have early admission deadlines. As an undergrad it was something crazy like Nov. 15.

    Good luck all.

    Matt

    Fructa, where are you at in Brooklyn?
    Last edited by shishi; 14 Nov 2005 at 4:42 PM. Reason: spelling

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    holy crapcakes, thank goodness for this thread; I am not the only one going crazy with applications!

  22. #22
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    whooo! I finished two apps! (Not Berkeley, of course -- why is their essay 3x as long as anyone else's? sheesh! -- but 2 are done.) Two down, five to go...

    Matt-- I'm in park slope. Where are you?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian shishi's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fructa
    whooo! I finished two apps! (Not Berkeley, of course -- why is their essay 3x as long as anyone else's? sheesh! -- but 2 are done.) Two down, five to go...

    Matt-- I'm in park slope. Where are you?
    I'm on the other side of the park, in Ditmas Park. Congrats on getting your 2 apps done. I just got all mine out over the holiday.

    Matt

  24. #24
    Cyburbian fructa's avatar
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    all of them? whoo!

    you got all of yours in? Way to go! Congrats!

  25. #25
    Cyburbian shishi's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fructa
    you got all of yours in? Way to go! Congrats!
    Well not Hunter yet, but I think I am going to pass on them. $125 application fee and not so great program, only good thing would be cheap CUNY tuition.

    Matt

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