As someone finishing up the first year of the MSUP at Columbia, I thought I would share some thoughts on the program that I haven't seen echoed on here, at least not recently. I know many of you have already made your final admission decisions but hopefully this will be helpful to someone.
First, the weaknesses: Columbia does not have very much to offer in terms of Land Use, Transportation, and Urban Design. In other words, if you are interested in the physical form of the built environment (what I naively thought planning was all about until I came here), go somewhere else.
There is only one adjunct professor with any expertise in Urban Design, Michael Fishman. He has a lot of private sector experience and can offer good insights into design, but unfortunately he is very unavailable. He does consulting work and tends to have to fly here and there for meetings, projects, and so on. In a class he co-taught this semester he only made it to about 2/3 of the classes.
As far as transportation goes, there are just two courses offered per year, taught by an adjunct who is dedicated and knowledgeable.
There is only one course in Land Use, taught irregularly, covered this year by a visiting professor.
Also, I have to say that the career guidance offered by the department is very weak. Other than occasional e-mails pointing out some internships, there is basically nothing. There are no alumni events, no career fairs, and no permanent source for internship or job information.
Now for strengths, Columbia is strong in two areas: international planning and social justice theory. This is where the interests of the full-time faculty lie. There are also several faculty who are highly knowledgeable about New York City (for obvious reasons). So if you know you want to plan in NYC, plan internationally, and/or think deeply about social justice, come to Columbia. If you want to learn the nuts and bolts of planning practice and/or focus on issues that are relevant in the U.S. outside NYC (such as curbing suburban sprawl, developing mass transit for low-density environments, new urbanism, etc), look elsewhere.