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Thread: Advice for those from non-planning-related majors

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Feb 2008
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    Berkeley, CA
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    Advice for those from non-planning-related majors

    Hi, I'm an English major at a pretty competitive school... I'm taking my first planning course now, during my 3rd year, as I've only recently realized that planning may be what I want to do for the rest of my life. Assuming I get a decent (3.6ish) gpa and GRE scores, what would you recommend I do to help my chances at landing a spot at good planning schools (I want to do international work, esp in Asia)? I feel a little cornered because I can't get any relevant internships without prior planning experience. I'm planning on attending the GSD career disco this summer, though, and I will have racked up 2 study abroad semesters in Asia. I'd ideally like to apply for these schools during my senior year and just head right into it.

    Anecdotes and/or advice appreciated.

  2. #2
    Member
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    Hi,

    It seems to me that most people in urban planning master's programs did not major in planning as an undergrad--there are relatively few schools that offer it, and it seems to be a field many "discover" sometime later in college or life. Unlike something like an economics or biology advanced degree, which usually would expect a very closely-related undergrad, planning seems more flexible and to embrace diverse backgrounds.

    Some ideas, apologies if they are obvious to you:

    In your remaining time at school, take as many planning courses as you can.

    Also take related courses that are valuable for planners, such as statistics, economics, geography/GIS, sociology.

    If getting a planning internship is difficult without the specific background, try to intern in something at least related, such as a community development corporation, environmental non-profit, or public policy organization.

    When applying to school, use your essay as a place to show your knowledge and excitement for planning.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    If you haven't already, definitely take intro courses in economics and statistics. Many (most?) grad programs in planning require them for admission. Some also require intro courses in things like sociology and political science as well.

    I'm planning (heh) on attending the GSD program this summer too. Maybe I'll see you there.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    teofilo, that's awesome! are you coming from a non-planning field also?

    DO most schools require those classes? i've checked out harvard, mit, cornell, ucla, and berkeley, and none had requirements, though berkeley recommended taking them.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    teofilo, that's awesome! are you coming from a non-planning field also?
    Yes, my undergraduate degree is in linguistics.

    DO most schools require those classes? i've checked out harvard, mit, cornell, ucla, and berkeley, and none had requirements, though berkeley recommended taking them.
    Most of the ones I've looked at do, but the schools I'm looking at have a bit of a different focus from the ones you mention. Less theoretical.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    As many have posted before, don't worry about not having planning experience academically or professionally if you want to goto planning grad school. You are what these schools are for - to learn planning. Don't confuse these programs with a grad research program, which of course would imply a prior education or experience in the field.

    Just keep your grades up and write a good cover letter - writing skills are so important, especially in a grad program, and this will show you can (or can't) write.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    sounds like you have an interest in international development. if true, then look for planning schools that have that as an emphasis, or professors who are involved in that type of planning, or a university that has planning and a strong program in international economic development or relations and take a few courses from them as well.

    Definitely know the program you are going to. I know its hard to know exactly what you want to do, but whatever you think it is, find a program that matches that purpose.

    And to restate again research the planning department, the university, and the faculty, also may want to see what their graduates have been doing lately.

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