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Thread: Choice for a school with a good urban design focus

  1. #1
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    Choice for a school with a good urban design focus

    Presently I've been accepted to Michigan- Ann Arbor, UPenn, UCLA and UT-Austin.
    I am looking for a course with a good urban design focus and lots of travel!! My choices have narrowed to UCLA and UPenn.
    Can anyone help me with selecting between these?

  2. #2
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    I just spoke to a professor of Urban Planning at the University of Oklahoma. He gave me advice as I am looking to choose between MIT, Penn, and Berkeley. He said of the three that Penn was the strongest in Urban Design and had the most studio intensive curriculum. I beleive the Planetizen rankings for the Urban Design focus are:
    1. Harvard
    2. Penn
    3. MIT
    4. Berkeley

    Not sure at the moment where UCLA fell on this list. Both Penn and MIT offer an Urban Design Certificate that may have some value for someone pursuing a career in urban design. Best of luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Zohra View post
    Presently I've been accepted to Michigan- Ann Arbor, UPenn, UCLA and UT-Austin.
    I am looking for a course with a good urban design focus and lots of travel!! My choices have narrowed to UCLA and UPenn.
    Can anyone help me with selecting between these?
    First, one course is not going to prepare you for urban design. Most planning programs offer a course or two in urban design. IMO that is to give you an introduction into urban design, but can be much more theoretically and less applies.

    Second, grad schools that have an urban design specialization are better than those that don''t have that specialization. Grad programs that offer a certificate in urban design are probably more specialized than just a masters specialization. Finally, I think the best urban design programs are those that have a Masters in Urban Design (which is separate from a Masters in Planning). UofMich, Colorado, and a few others have this. Finally, you might want to consider an MLA if you want to get into the nuts and bolts of urban design (see earlier posts that I have written).

    Several people have ranked UofMich's Urban Design Degree as the best (it's also pricey both for in-state and out-of-state). For Urban Design, I would recommend the Ohio State, University of Colorado at Denver, Cal Poly at San Lois Obispo. For LA, I would recommend Kansas State, University of Georgia, Ball State, Iowa State, and the Ohio State, for starters.

    Personally, skip the Ivy Leagues and other private institutions. I know plenty of urban designers and landscape architects who are now heavily in debt because they took that route. Why spend 20 to 40k a year on a masters education when you will be making only 40,000-55,000 starting as an urban designer. Unless you are a really stellar student, have the right connections, and land a job in a firm that pays you above the industry average for entry level designers, you probably won't make enough to pay off the cost of a huge tuition without some assistance.

    Finally, avoid taking out loans at all costs, and do not cut into your 401k and Roth IRA's when going back to school. If you need assistance, look for grants, scholarships, assistantships, etc. Private schools often do not differentiate between in-state and out of state students, as a quality public university would.

    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
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    In general, if you get decent aid, your student loans will be the some of the lowest interest loans you can get. Factor in all of your debt that you may have, your personal situation, your goals, etc. before running away from grad school debt.

    If you base your decision on starting salary vs. your debt payment, you are selling yourself short. Make your decision based on what you want to learn, and what program will give you the most opportunities to do what you want to do. There are many ways to make money in this world beyond your starting salary. The important part of your decision comes down to which school gives you the best opportunity to pursue your dreams. If you visit a school and fall in love with it, go for it, be it public or private. Don't worry about the money - if you need more you will find a way to make more. You got into some great schools, and you have some great options.

    Good luck and have fun making your decision!

  5. #5
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    Urban Design School and Travel

    I attend Washington University in St. Louis...I specifically chose this school over Michigan and the Ivy's because of the travel programs, but also because the Urban Design program has recently developed a lot of momentum. One of the faculty members is currently redeveloping the 9th ward in New Orleans. I am studying in Helsinki, Finland currently, but they also have programs in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and Toyko. Design Intelligence recently ranked the Sam Fox School of Design the 6th best Architecture school in the Nation. They also are very generous when it comes to scholarships.

  6. #6
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    Thanks Leezy. nrschmid, the thing is that I will be coming all the way from India to study planning and any money for me is gonna be big money. So i dont want to compromise on the program i chose... And being far away, making a choice is all the more difficult...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian drjb's avatar
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    Zohra, I currently attend UCLA and am in the urban design concentration. In all honesty, I am presently surprised at how advanced the concentration is. I think UCLA is more well known for its policy, theory and social justice aspects of planning, but I must say its design focus is pretty extensive. I have taken many classes thus far and have been thoroughly impressed with the caliber of teaching going on. I have learned a tremendous amount. Good luck

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