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Thread: Advice please: UPenn versus Cornell

  1. #1

    Advice please: UPenn versus Cornell

    I am very depressed and......don't know what to do.....
    It now seems like I have to choose between UPenn and Cornell (both offering very low funding). Although the tution fees is much lower at Cornell, I am leaning towards UPenn. I would go study urban design and real estate development......
    But..I am very stressed out .....imaging to be in huge debt (about 80K) when I graduate.
    Do you think taking a huge loan is totally worth it?

    I understand that the name of the school doesn't make any difference if you want to be a practicing professional.
    My ultimate plan is to get a PhD and to become a prof at a school.
    Would getting my master's degree at a well-known school help me get into a good PhD program? or
    Should I just cancel this whole plan.......work for one year...and reapply to state universities where I can get good funding?

    I am graduating this May with a major in architecture. I have 3.7 gpa and....I have been pretty serious with my studies and school. It has been my dream to study at an ivy league.....but now...my concern about money & loan is forcing me to go to a state school.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
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    you're not alone

    Quote Originally posted by buzz2007 View post
    I am very depressed and......don't know what to do.....
    It now seems like I have to choose between UPenn and Cornell (both offering very low funding). Although the tution fees is much lower at Cornell, I am leaning towards UPenn. I would go study urban design and real estate development......
    But..I am very stressed out .....imaging to be in huge debt (about 80K) when I graduate.
    Do you think taking a huge loan is totally worth it?
    i just had the same sticker shock. my mom is blown by the amount of debt i'd take on, but my friends (all of whom are either in grad school or will enroll in the fall) don't see it as a big deal. i'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around that much debt compared to the average salary of a planner fresh out of school.

    i'm planning to attend upenn.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    You are very lucky if that's the hardest decision you have to make, so cheer up!

    If your heart is set on UPenn, then just go for it. Others might disagree, but I for one believe that getting the level of education you want (and deserve) is priceless. And honestly, the 20k or so difference between Penn and Cornell(I guess that's how much it is?) would hardly seem significant 10 years down the road.

    The loan is hefty, yes, but then we don't really do it for the money (or so I tell myself ). Also, if academia is what you are eventually heading into, the "name" might matter more than otherwise. Hardly fair, but that's how it is.

    Good luck with your decision. Penn is a great program and really impressed me when I visited. Even if you decide on Cornell, you are still by no means shortchanging yourself.

  4. #4
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    Nooooooooooooooo!!

    Please google student debt and read all the sob stories of people complaining about how the debt they chose to incur as students have negatively impacted their lives. Paying off $80K over 20 years requires a monthly payment of over $600. Please use this calculator (http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml) and soberly think about how much debt you would like to saddle yourself with for the next 20 years for 2 years of schooling. And since it’s a planning degree, I doubt you’ll be getting I-Banking level salaries when you graduate.

    If you do a personal cost-benefit analysis, and $600 a month for the next 20 years is personally palatable to you to obtain a degree from UPenn, then go for it. It’s your life and only you know what you really want. But education, like all things we want in life, has a cost (as well as benefits, of course) that might hamper other long run personal goals.

    In my humble opinion, if you genuinely want to get a PhD, work a bit, get better credentials and cast a wider net when applying to schools. Universities are more likely to fully fund you as a PhD student in contrast to just a professional student.

    Sorry for the rant. This is a very tough decision to make, but I know way too many people who’ve regretted taking on significant amount of student debt and now feel professionally and personally trapped by the burden of having tens of thousands of dollars hanging over their heads. Some people may consider education to be “good debt,” but it’s debt nonetheless and thus shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    As someone with 5 figures of student loan debt facing the very real prospect of adding a little bit more to that tally in the fall, one thing that you need to research before you make you decision is the availability of funds for year 2, or even semester 2. I know quite a few people who have networked well within departments (and entire schools) to procure substantial funding for the remainder of their education, once they got beyond their first semester(s). Don't give up hopes on applying for a lot of external funding as well.

    As NoCal said though... possessing large debt can be a scary scary place, and often a tight rope to walk.
    "Try to be in two incredibly successful bands. If not, that's okay." -- Words to live by, courtesy of Dave Grohl

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I'm having similar issues & the one piece of advice that I received that was the most helpful was to prioritize what you want. If an Ivy League is your dream and you'll regret or resent choosing another school, then go to Penn/Cornell.

    Educational debt is "good" debt - it's not a high interest credit card. As previous posters have said, there will probably be opportunity to find money once you're there (or so I have been led to believe as I am hoping for this as well.)

    To make myself feel better, I tell myself that ridiculously smart people who got tons of $$ from fabulous schools probably got money from more than one school & once they decline offers that money will free up for people like you & me. (I'm not saying you're not ridiculously smart - getting into BOTH Penn & Cornell is quite an accomplishment - but you know what I mean)

  7. #7
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    In the same boat

    I am in exactly the same boat. Going to UPenn, wanting to study real estate development and/or design, flipping out over sticker shock.

    Here is my rationalization:

    1) What else am I going to do? Study at the local university or community college and try to fight my way through the recession? Flounder around with internships? Become a neighborhood association manager? No. I am tired of waiting around. I my career needs to go to leap to the next level, not incrementally, but quantum-style.

    2) My friends are in Philadelphia and New York. It may sound childish, but if I had to work as a bureaucratic monkey, or even a barista, up to my ears in debt, as long as I can be with my friends, I would be happy happier than having a debt-free full-time planning job in Las Vegas. And it isn't just having drinking buddies. There is something to be said for throwing together a bunch of ambitious, bright people, thinking about new things that they could not do in isolation. I.e. a major school provides a network, one that will catalyze original ideas, and one that may find you a job later in life.

    3) Less-than-elite education would annoy me. I am accustomed to very rigorous, cutting-edge, theoretical thinking. If I went to UNLV or San Louis Obispo, I would get bored, tune out, and probably drop out, as I did the community college (what a joke that was).

    4) Prestige. I don't know what doors UPenn will open for me, but I do know that if I stay here, and go to a regional school, those doors will remain firmly shut, and people will perpetually ask, "you when to school WHERE?" UPenn, I hope, will be my ticket to the major leagues of design and real-estate.

    5) Pride. All my friends are moving on to grad school and doing amazing things with their lives. I can do great things too, but I can't do them here, with the background I have.

    So yes, UPenn is going to be an expensive choice. But for me, I see no alternative.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    break-down

    entry-level planning job: $40k (maybe less).

    monthly after-tax pay: $2500

    +$2500
    - $1000 rent/mortgage
    - $200 utility/phone bills
    - $250 retirement savings
    - $400 groceries
    - $ 60 auto insurance
    - $100 health insurance supplement (hsa, etc.)
    - $600 student loan payment on $70k in debt
    --------------------------------
    = -$110 *yes, that's $110 in the hole

    these student loan payments are no joke once you are in the 'real world.' my $275 monthly payment on $26k in debt (undergrad + grad, no support from family) drives me crazy. i couldn't even imagine a debt load three or four times that.

    if you vigorously pursue your studies including additional time with faculty and seminars, a quality state u will provide you as good if not better an education than upenn. i did my MCP at state u with mostly ivy-educated professors. the lectures were pretty much indistinguishable from what i've 'attended' via podcast from ivy leagues. a good grad program is a different world from slacker undergrad, no matter the school; just make sure you pick a school with an established, two year program with high-quality faculty.

    all that said, my primary reason for choosing a high quality state U program over an ivy league (both at undergrad and grad levels) was primarily cost. remember that it is a lot more about the student than the institution, provided the framework for success exists (as it does at most quality state universities).

    just my .02, ymmv

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Many of the best planning schools in the county are part of state university systems. When I was going through planning school back in the 90's the best planning schools (ranked by US News and World Report) were: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California Berkley, University of North Carolina, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, I am sure there were others, but I chose from that list. i am not aware of today's rankings, but I cannot image that they have shifted dramatically. You do not have to go Harvard and Yale and go into incredible debt to get a good quality Master's in Planning degree. The starting salary in the profession makes it prohibitive for that anyway.
    Satellite City Enabler

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Plan-it View post
    Many of the best planning schools in the county are part of state university systems. When I was going through planning school back in the 90's the best planning schools (ranked by US News and World Report) were: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California Berkley, University of North Carolina, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, I am sure there were others, but I chose from that list. i am not aware of today's rankings, but I cannot image that they have shifted dramatically. You do not have to go Harvard and Yale and go into incredible debt to get a good quality Master's in Planning degree. The starting salary in the profession makes it prohibitive for that anyway.
    While I agree with your overall point, I feel compelled to point out that MIT is not a state school, and while there are parts of Cornell that are state-funded, the planning department isn't one of them.

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