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Thread: Queens, U of T, McGill: pros and cons?

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    Queens, U of T, McGill: pros and cons?

    Hi everyone,
    I'm new to this forum and to planning in general. I'm looking for some advice/help as to my next step for school. I've applied to Queen's, McGill, and U of T for the master program in planning, and was wondering what are/were your opinions/experiences of them? I've been told (and have subsequently found out on the forums here) that Queen's is a good policy school, and McGill is good for design, so what is U of T good at/known for?

    I definitely have reasons to go to all three schools (and reasons not to go), but I was hoping from some insight from current and former students (I've done a search of the forum - I'm digging for more, hehehe )...

    So my interests are in community planning and the environment. As much as I like the idea of being a 'policy person', I'm really into aethetics and design as well (although I have no formal design background). Toronto and Montreal would be great places to study in since they're urban centres, but I've heard the Queen's program is a very close-knit crowd and maybe it's better to be between the two urban centres... I dunno.

    Anyway, I've been accepted to Queen's so far, but I don't know whether their program would be the most suitable for me.

    Any feedback regarding the programs and experiences would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    Hey Myko -

    I'm at UofT right now... I applied also to Queen's & Buffalo and got into those but ultimately picked UofT.

    I have written some about my experience on another Canadian planning schools thread in this forum & would be happy to talk with you in detail about my thoughts/other students in the program's thoughts.

    I don't know what exactly the program is "for" - as in policy/design... the profs all have different backgrounds and there doesn't seem to be a specific focus. With that said, it's definitely not a design/technical program as - while they offer 2 studios and several courses on theory/research methods - the computer lab is not outfitted with the design technology necessary for a program offered through Arch/Planning like at other schools.

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    Hi, I've also applied to those three schools and would love to chat with either of you about the programs. I'm currently living in Toronto, and haven't yet heard back from anywhere. If you don't mind me asking myko, what was your GPA?

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    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    I don't think that UofT gives any decisions until early/mid March at the earliest. I was in the first batch of admits and hearing from others in my class too... none of us heard prior to March (I think March 8 was when they sent out the first round).

  5. #5
    I found out last week I have also been accepted to Queen's. I'm waiting for York to reply, but I think I will go with Queen's because they've included a pretty good funding package. I know that we have to let them know asap if we are going to accept. Feel free to msg me or what not if you have any questions... I'm kind of wondering if most Queens students get internships at the end of year 1...

    -Amanda

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    hi supergeek,
    thanks for responding. i've come across a number of your posts from the searches i've done on the forum and appreciate the input you've given (you seem to be one of the more active u of t students posting).

    looking through the handbook from u of t, it seemed as though there are a lot more facilities and resources available compared to queen's... i just can't decide which program would be better for me...

    so how big is the u of t class? it seems like there's a lot of faculty available, and a number of different specializations... both the urban planning and development stream and the environmental planning streams sound interesting, and the collaborative programs of environmental studies and community development really sound interesting... what specialization are you in, if you don't mind me asking? and is there a thesis? is that the current issues paper?? my bachelors honors thesis was almost the death of me a few years ago, ha ha ha...

    i made a decision matrix (i might be the supergeek here - it was one of the only things i learned from that undergrad course on thinking ) and u of t's coming out on top compared to the other schools when i take into account some other aspects (costs, friends and family, the city, etc.)...

    i guess i'm just looking for some first-hand experiences from the students, and where each school's strengths lie... trying to weigh the intangibles and the actual program...

    boopty, i'm not sure what my GPA is, actually... cuz i think each school calculates it differently... i think my final two years was somewhere around 3.2 or 3.3... i'm just squeaking by the cut-offs. did you check your online apps' status?? i got email confirmations from queen's, and i got notice a few days ago that my u of t app is finally completed (it took long enough!), and the site's up-to-date... mcgill on the other hand, is still showing that i'm missing documentation, but i got an email saying that my app is complete, so who knows... like the other posts here, i think it's kind of disorganized in the main office...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    The class size for my class is 26, but one person is a part-timer so only 25 of us will graduate in 2008. I think the class of 2007 is around the same size.

    The professors have a wide range of specializations. I'm very interested in Housing and the only housing prof around this year was Bourne... his class was great but I'm hoping that the other few return from their various leaves. I'm in the Urban stream and technically in the Comm Dev program, although I wound up not taking the gateway course for that and so I may drop that program. It seems pretty cool and the guy running it (Prof. Schugurensky, who also works at CUCS) has a lot of knowledge, but I was the only planner in a class full of OISE students and it met on a Friday night so I opted not to take it. There's a student in the 2007 cohort that is in the Community Development program and she seems to have very high thoughts about it. I don't know anyone in the joint MScPl/MES program.

    The Urban stream is good if you want more of a general planning education. Basically every course counts. I took an Urban Design studio and that counts for both... I'm hoping to take more design courses but don't want to do that specialization because of the theory course that's mandatory. The Urban stream has no mandatory classes other than the core. I think that if you want to focus in Design UofT may not be the best choice. While there are a number of profs who teach on design, you're better off doing a MUD degree from the UofT architecture landscape design school or going elsewhere since the planning facilities are lacking.

    The Environmental Planning stream seems good from my peers in it. There are only 3 in my year doing Environmental so they get pretty small class sizes as a result. My largest class, though, had the 26 first years in it... most classes are smaller (my electives have been between 11-15 students).

    Social has a gateway led by the current planning director... I heard that course was tough. I'm not sure about the Social stream in general though.

    Economic planning stream I know absolutely nothing about... there are 2 or 3 economic planners in my class but I don't talk to them much.


    The CIP is the replacement for the Master's thesis. You write it over the course of second year, and it counts as one of your courses all year long, so it's not like you finish your coursework and then have a thesis to write. A lot of planning students base their CIP on their previous summer internship. The topics run the gamut from stuff on the Toronto Youth Cabinet to supportive housing to transportation funding.

    The internship is a requirement but is really flexible as to how you go about it. With that said, the department doesn't seem to help in terms of getting you a summer job. In Ontario a lot of the paid positions are either announced really late (because of budgets) or are already contracted to Waterloo. If you're willing to go elsewhere to work though you have a better chance at securing a paid job. A lot of the second years also held research assistantships or TAships and then did a volunteer internship on the side.

    I have no idea as to how they select people. Two of my classmates said that their marks weren't great but they had relevant experience or a killer statement or something else and got in. I've also heard something about a "Queen's Curve" but I don't know how true that is.

    If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask. Good luck with your application process!

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    I have applied to Toronto, McGill and Dalhousie. I'm waiting to hear back from these schools before I decide to apply to Queen's -- If I get turned down by one of my top three, I'll send my application in to Kingston.

    From what I understand, Queens' programme is highly directed towards Ottawa-area policy and case examples. I'm not terribly fond of Kingston as a city in which to live, though, and especially in which to study urbanism (despite the city's good record of heritage/tourist planning).

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    Ken,

    What do you know about the Dalhousie program? I applied there, but only because I'm from Halifax. I don't really know anything about its strengths or weaknesses.

    thanks,

  10. #10
    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    Hey Myko -

    I asked one of my friends in the Environmental stream how he likes it and he has very positive feedback. Additionally, he mentioned that one of the profs who is on leave is coming back next year and is apparently a legend in the stream.

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    Quote Originally posted by Boopty View post
    Ken,

    What do you know about the Dalhousie program? I applied there, but only because I'm from Halifax. I don't really know anything about its strengths or weaknesses.

    thanks,
    From what I understand, the programme has an excellent international aspect. I understand that the class travels overseas and to the U.S. to examine case studies in urbanism, and I believe the programme is also associated with an international centre for urban studies.

    I cannot speak for the programme's weaknesses, though.

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    hey supergeek, that's good to hear... yeah, the urban and environmental specializations sound the most interesting to me, as well as the development collaboration... or basically what you're doing, ha ha ha...

    from a student's standpoint, how much planning background do you think i'll need? i don't have much of a planning background (i have the research and other social sciences background). do you think i should be doing some summer reading to get myself caught up in general (whether i make it to UT or any other school)?

    sorry, i'm not familiar with the 'queen's curve'... what is it?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    most people (other than the waterloo kids) came in with no planning background. i did my undergrad in urban history with a bunch of urban studies courses. other people had an urban studies degree, or poli sci, sociology, geography, math, econ, and a bunch of others. its good to have a stats course under your belt by the time you start as we wind up doing a bit of that in first term - although there is a stats primer during the orientation week.

    i don't know if the "queens curve" is just BS or if there's any validity, but apparently it's really hard to get an A at queens so they may look at those marks more leniently. however, i have no idea if there's any truth to that. in my year, there's 5 from queens, 3 from york, 4 from u of t, 1 from western, 1 from mcmaster, 1 from concordia, 1 from mcgill, 3 from ubc, 1 from guelph, 3 from waterloo and 2 of us that went to school outside of canada.

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    thanks for the tip, supergeek. i'm really weak at stats, but i've had a lot of exposure to it during undergrad. having been away from it for about three years now, i think it's going to be a rough two years, ha ha ha...

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    Updates:

    -I was accepted at Queens, with a little bit of funding
    -I called U of T, and the lady said that my application was still under review, and that the comittee should be meeting by the end of this week.
    -I also called McGill, who said that they would need until the middle of April to make final decisions.

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    Quote Originally posted by Boopty View post
    Updates:

    -I was accepted at Queens, with a little bit of funding
    -I called U of T, and the lady said that my application was still under review, and that the comittee should be meeting by the end of this week.
    -I also called McGill, who said that they would need until the middle of April to make final decisions.
    Same status for me on the Queen's and UofT front. Did not apply to McGill.

    Queen's has been very receptive and responsive to any of my inquiries and I get a good vibe about the school and the environment. I have a pull to the policy side of things so this is my first choice.

    My UofT online application was stuck on "Documents Pending" for about a month and then recently switched to "Under Review" even though everything was submitted and acknowledged in February. I do not hold out much hope for a UofT admission since I come from an engineering background and the application website seemed somewhat biased to the social sciences. Any of the dealings, or attempted dealings, with UofT have left me feeling cold...that's just me though.

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    ian, boopty, same thing here. i called UT and they said it would probably be the second week into april before i hear from them... i've pretty much eliminated mcgill, but my app is still showing items outstanding even though the coordinator emailed me and said the app was complete. go figure.

    i'm leaning towards queens as well... my experience with queens admin so far has been great... the only thing that's keeping me from fully committing to queen's is the intangibles that i have to figure out (i.e. family, friends, the city to live in, etc.)...

    well okay, that, and the specializations and course descriptions for UT sound pretty interesting (it's too bad the queens website is so ghetto or i'm sure they'd have more descriptions about them as well, ha ha ha)... between queens and UT, i still don't know which program would be better...

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    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    i was in the same situation where i was deciding between u of t, queens & buffalo last yr... a bunch of people in my class @ u of t did their undergrad at queens. what they said was that there wasn't much selection at queens re: profs and that the facilities were lacking (i.e., no computer lab). however, our facilities aren't great ... we have autocad 2000 and no one to teach it to us, so i don't know how big the difference is.

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    Quote Originally posted by myko View post
    ian, boopty, same thing here. i called UT and they said it would probably be the second week into april before i hear from them... i've pretty much eliminated mcgill, but my app is still showing items outstanding even though the coordinator emailed me and said the app was complete. go figure.

    i'm leaning towards queens as well... my experience with queens admin so far has been great... the only thing that's keeping me from fully committing to queen's is the intangibles that i have to figure out (i.e. family, friends, the city to live in, etc.)...

    well okay, that, and the specializations and course descriptions for UT sound pretty interesting (it's too bad the queens website is so ghetto or i'm sure they'd have more descriptions about them as well, ha ha ha)... between queens and UT, i still don't know which program would be better...


    My McGill app still says outstanding items as well, even though they sent me a letter saying it was complete. Still waiting on UofT as well. Turned down Queens so far (don't want to live in Kingston) and accepted at York because of the full scholarship they offered me. Since York doesn't have a deposit I can always turn it down of I get accepted at UofT or McGill.

    York actually looks better than I thought upon initially applying. It's definetly not my first choice, but there program seems to have a lot of leeway in what you want to do. Still crossing my fingers on the other two though, and hopefully they offer some money as well!

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    Hi,

    So U of T's committee met today at 5:00 PM, so we should be hearing from them in the morning.

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    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    did they say anything about making calls? they hadn't done that last year... though i guess marianne might get bombarded by phone calls in the morning

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    Basically you'll get an email if you're in, otherwise you won't hear anything. Best not to bother her.

    g.

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    Cyburbian supergeek1313's avatar
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    well, good luck everyone! i hope some of you will be heading here next year

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    just thought i'd give a quick update:
    haven't heard back from mcgill but i ruled them out pretty early on... got rejected from UT last week, so it's off to queens i go! any queens people here? anything i need to prepare myself for the next year, i.e. selecting courses, etc.? any tips would be helpful! good luck to the rest of you!

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    Hey guys updates:

    I got into U of T and rejected the Queens offer. McGill says that they have 200 applicants for 20 spots, and are still deliberating. I have no idea if this is a particularly low admission percentage, regardless I hope they tell me soon.

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