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Thread: Harvard or MIT

  1. #1

    Harvard vs. MIT

    A bit of background. I got into IDG at MIT but may switch out to CDD if I go. I got into the MUP program at the GSD.

    I am nearly convinced I want to work in the private realm or a pseudo-private environment - architecture firms, design firms, think Calthorpe. I am just getting into design and like the urban design certification scheme at MIT, but know I'd get the representational aspect hammered into me at the GSD, too. You are free to choose other independent variables, they may apply to me or other readers.

    Also, I am really upset about no word on financial aid. From either school. And from absolutely none of the others I applied/was accepted to (Penn, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, USC, Berkeley). When do you think I'll hear back from MIT and Harvard, specifically?

    Apologies ahead of time for repetition/possible spam.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    My feeling on the two schools (and as a Boston native, I have had some time to feel this out) is that MIT is considerably better. First of all, if you are at all interested in international stuff, MIT is arguably the best place to go in the country. I believe you will be able to take design courses while there as well if you are in the IDG. Secondly, my understanding is that MIT has more dedicated professors than Harvard, while Harvard has more professionals.

    Finally, I feel that one of MIT's great strengths is the independence of the program, while Harvard's is the little brother of the architecture program. You will therefore get more of a theory -based program, think Koolhaas. MIT has a more human and pedestrian based program, think Lynch. I guess it depends on the design philosophy that interests you.

    But, if you decide to go to Harvard instead of MIT, that might open up a spot for me. So Harvard all the way! Just kidding.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian JDC's avatar
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    Either way, you can take classes at Harvard if you're a student at MIT and vice versa.

    Congrats on getting into both. If faced with the same decision I'd go with MIT, but my area of concentration would be CDD and transportation. I haven't heard from either so I'm thinking I didn't get in though...

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Hey TLU, I feel like I have to weigh in on this. I'm in exactly the same situation: accepted at the GSD and MIT/CDD, want to work in private design practice after grad school. Deciding between the two schools (throw in Penn and Cornell as well) has been a torture.

    It really depends on what you wanna do with the degree. GSD has a very explicit focus on design, and urban planning students closely collaborate with others in landscape architecture and architecture. This could be a great preparation if you want to work in private-sector design practice.

    There are other things enticing me at the GSD. One is its smaller size, and coming from a public Canadian university with ~60,000 enrollment I find that attractive. Other things are less tangible (and arguably silly): I like the neighbourhood around Harvard better than Kendall Square; I like the general intellectual atmosphere around Harvard.

    On the other hand, it seems like MIT has a lot more cutting-edge research, with very broad and synergistic program offerings. I'm also under the impression that MIT has more dedicated and engaged professors.

    The bottom line is I've received a meager grant from Harvard and no word yet from MIT on financial aid. Planetizen says MIT "offers generous financial aid", and I honestly hope that MIT's final offer will make the decision easier (either no aid or a lot of aid). It's interesting you didn't hear back from Harvard on that matter--did you submit your FAFSA on time?

    So I guess my rambling response went nowhere. But it's important to keep everything in perspective: you've been accepted into two of the world's top urban planning programs and you are not shortchanging yourself if you go to either.

    Fellow cyburbians, please comment, especially if you've been to either school. I'll just sit here brooding until I get a financial aid offer from MIT.

  5. #5
    These are fabulous replies, keep them coming, especially if you've attended these schools or know their alumni.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JDC View post
    Either way, you can take classes at Harvard if you're a student at MIT and vice versa.
    I think this is hugely important to take note off. That and you can live in the neighbourhood near Harvard and go to MIT, the public transit system is pretty good by American standards. No one is forced to live in/around the Kendall Square area.
    "Try to be in two incredibly successful bands. If not, that's okay." -- Words to live by, courtesy of Dave Grohl

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    TLU, are you planning on attending the open house? I unfortunately can't make it that weekend. Would you mind letting me know what each school is like? Thanks!

  8. #8
    Dear to: I doubt I will make the open house either, but here are a few things I'm doing from California to enrich my decision-making capabilities:

    1. Contacting the list of Harvard students listed in the acceptance packet.
    2. Reaching out to a few MIT DUSP alumni I made contact with in the application process.
    3. Speaking to Cal planning professors (my undergrad institution).
    4. Calling the Harvard and MIT go-to people non-stop with questions.
    5. Bothering them about financial aid.
    6. And this is the hardest, because I don't know where to begin: Trying to get in touch with Harvard GSD alums. Where the hell are they?!

    Keep in touch.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by thieves like us View post
    Dear to: I doubt I will make the open house either, but here are a few things I'm doing from California to enrich my decision-making capabilities:

    1. Contacting the list of Harvard students listed in the acceptance packet.
    2. Reaching out to a few MIT DUSP alumni I made contact with in the application process.
    3. Speaking to Cal planning professors (my undergrad institution).
    4. Calling the Harvard and MIT go-to people non-stop with questions.
    5. Bothering them about financial aid.
    6. And this is the hardest, because I don't know where to begin: Trying to get in touch with Harvard GSD alums. Where the hell are they?!

    Keep in touch.
    I sent you something from a prof at GSD. Check your mailbox

  10. #10
    Thanks so much for that. It'll be interesting to talk to the planning students in the GSD program and see how they personally feel about the physical planning focus, and what background they had coming in. I keep feeling that they are isolated and alone there, but of course none may admit it to me. I'm making some phone calls today and will post about what I learned.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Dont know if this matters to you but Alan Berger of "Drosscape" fame recently left the GSD's LA dept for MIT's planning dept. He does some interesting work on brownfields, post industrial economy, etc.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smapty View post
    Dont know if this matters to you but Alan Berger of "Drosscape" fame recently left the GSD's LA dept for MIT's planning dept. He does some interesting work on brownfields, post industrial economy, etc.
    That was a great book... I had no idea he "defected." Score one for MIT
    "Try to be in two incredibly successful bands. If not, that's okay." -- Words to live by, courtesy of Dave Grohl

  13. #13

    GSD

    thieves like us - is that a reference to the new order song?

    i haven't heard back from MIT yet (HCED specialization, i've only heard of one person hearing back on gradcafe), but i did get a good amount in grants from the GSD. as such, i've been researching them and talking to current students.

    here is a link to a document detailing what GSD alumni are doing now: http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/professio...reer_paths.pdf

    i, too, am interested in doing planning work for a architecture/design firm. looks like GSD alumni are doing pretty well in that respect. i'd imagine that they are stronger than MIT for the urban design aspects.

    let me know what you find from your own research. perhaps, i'll see you there in the fall. i'm not going to be able to make it to the open house.

  14. #14
    Dear ttlin1, how exactly did you hear about your grants from the GSD? And if it's apropos, how much design/visual background do you yourself have? That document is excellent, thanks so much. Thieves like us - definitely a New Order reference.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian JDC's avatar
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    One other thing that may or may not matter to you: MIT doesn't require a thesis. I believe Harvard's program does.

  16. #16
    thieves - new order kicks ass.

    i heard about my grants in the financial aid letter (included with the admission packet). if you didn't get yours yet, you may want to check with them. i submitted my FAFSA really early--asap after january 1.

    i've got no design/visual background other than working as a photographer for my college newspaper for one year. i applied to the GSD for a M.Arch/MUP dual-degree. didn't get in for architecture. i'm pretty happy with the urban planning program. i may be interested in real estate development and the GSD does pretty well there. i've been talking to a current student who will be working for an REIT after graduating.

  17. #17
    Just a heads up, MIT financial aid statements get mailed out April 1st. I figured out why Harvard didn't say a word - I entered the wrong school code on my FAFSA.

    Keep this post going with more ideas/links to alumni/advice!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by thieves like us View post
    Just a heads up, MIT financial aid statements get mailed out April 1st. I figured out why Harvard didn't say a word - I entered the wrong school code on my FAFSA.

    Keep this post going with more ideas/links to alumni/advice!
    From the man who was admitted into every top planning program, a chink in the armor. Salut!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by thieves like us View post
    Just a heads up, MIT financial aid statements get mailed out April 1st. I figured out why Harvard didn't say a word - I entered the wrong school code on my FAFSA.

    Keep this post going with more ideas/links to alumni/advice!
    April 1! I'm tempted to go for the big H. Based on all the financial aid offers I've received, I doubt they'll come up with an amount that will sway me. Hope you have better luck with financial aid from Harvard.

  20. #20
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    outside looking in, but having worked 16 years in the public and private sector in Boston, and I took some professional development classes with both schools as well as worked with grads and student interns, I would offer that

    if you want to work in the private sector consulting, then Harvard is the better way to go - you'll be more connected and the GSD ring on the resume will work to your advantage

    if you are thinking of working at the state or local level, I would not go to Harvard because it can work against you - as in HR rolling their eyes saying ,great, another know-it-all just what we need and your resume gets trashed - I have seen this happen to people, especially if you stay in New England - if you leave the area after you graduate, that might not be the case

    if you are thinking more political positions or federal level work in your future, think tank kind of thing, then Harvard will again work in your favor because of the connections you automatically create

    local level planning or research (also think-tank) or international work - definitely MIT

    also, if you are thinking more on the lines of environmental planning, Tufts is the better choice, or if you are thinking more urban economics, then BU is the better choice - if you are thinking you want to live in Boston, anyway...

    good luck and someday you will look back on this and say wow am I lucky that was my biggest issue to deal with, Harvard or MIT

  21. #21
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    Thanks everyone for your perspectives (and thanks TLU for starting this thread)!

    I'm choosing between GSD, MIT CDD, Berkeley and UCLA (for some reason UPenn has fallen off my decision making rador--perhaps because I have little faith that they'll give me a substantial aid package).

    I feel even more confused than when I started applying. I'm not quite sure how to make this decision, but I'm glad to have this community to help muddle through this process.

    And I hope you're wrong, TLU. Why must MIT make us wait that long for financial aid news!?!

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Just receive financial aid information from MIT via DHL. No aid. Nil. Zilch.

    So the decision made itself, and I'll be happily heading for the GSD in the fall.

    Quote Originally posted by torontopian View post
    I honestly hope that MIT's final offer will make the decision easier (either no aid or a lot of aid).
    Also, be careful what you wish for.

  23. #23
    NADA? Jeez. Let's keep in touch toronto, I will be at MIT a subway stop away.

  24. #24
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    Open Houses

    I wasn't able to make it to Harvard's Open House yesterday, nor will I be able to attend MIT's activities over this weekend.

    If people who went to Harvard's (or are going to MIT's) Open House could post their thoughts and impressions about the strengths and weaknesses of each school, I would greatly appreciate it!!! I'm sure we could all benefit from collective insights on both programs.

    Thanks.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    I attended Harvard's open house. Like most of the other prospective students I spoke with, I was impressed. The current students are working on some very interesting projects, and the professors were all very friendly.

    I didn't apply to MIT, so I'm not in a position to compare programs. With that said, however, I like the fact that Harvard places more emphasis on design. The studios - which aren't open to MIT students, from what I could tell - teach important design skills and allow planners to build a portfolio to show potential employers. I plan to focus more on real estate, but I still think that Harvard's emphasis on the built environment is invaluable.

    What way are you leaning?

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