I am currently a first year MCP (masters) student at MIT. Victory recently sent me a laundry list of questions regarding the program. I thought I would share the answers with everyone and provide an open forum for further discussion since I know there are many of you looking to apply to MIT.
Victory's questions and my answers are below, feel free to add to the discussion!
In general do you think MIT's program is more quant focused than other programs?
I have no idea! The only other programs I applied to last fall were Berkeley and UCLA, both of which seemed to have reasonably similar bare minimums, probably due to PAB accreditation.
That said, the MCP program is not quant oriented unless you want it to be. The "core" currently requires taking a basic microeconomics class, a GIS workshop, and a quantitative reasoning course. I consider these all to be "quant," albeit at a low level. You can more or less test out of these subjects if you have a strong background in any (or all). That said, if you WANT a big quant background, you are basically free to take any classes offered at MIT (at the graduate level), regardless of department... so you can take a modeling class from Civil / Environmental Engineering, an Econometrics class from Economics and so forth.
On the flip side, if the thought of adding 2+2 and remembering what a z-score is terrify you, let me assure you that there is plenty of help available, both from professors, TAs and students in your class who are more comfortable with the material.
What kind of career goals do most of your classmates have? I've heard that an MIT planning education can help you get your foot in the door at World Bank, IMF, government agencies of developing countries etc., how true is this?
Our class has about 70 students, each with different backgrounds and different goals. In terms of employers prior to enrollment, some I remember include AmericaSpeaks, Teach for America, the Urban Institute, the Obama campaign, the Transportation and Land Use Committee (SF), and so on.
Some people want to use the degree to go back to similar careers, but with advanced opportunities that an MIT degree can open doors to. There are are one or two folks like me who see a PhD in our near future. Most people do not know specifically what they want to do yet, rather they have broad ideas like "affordable housing" or "transportation finance," and are trying to tailor their coursework and work (internships, RAs, etc) to obtain strong backgrounds in these areas.
With regards to the World Bank, its baby banks, and other large international agencies, if this is a career you seek, your best bet will be to apply to the International Development Group (IDG). I speak from experience in saying that a significant portion of World Bank employees both in DC and in the field have degrees from MIT. I could introduce you to a half dozen I know personally and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
You got into MIT, so I assume you also go into some other great schools (Harvard?), what specifically about MIT's program convinced you that it was the right one for you?
As mentioned above, I only applied to UCLA and Berkeley. I was accepted to UCLA (without funding) pretty early in March. I was accepted to MIT (without funding, initially) in mid March and was rejected by Berkeley AFTER their open house in April (which, coincidentally was on the same day as MIT's). Having had long discussions with one of UCLA's faculty members (an MIT alum!) with whom I wanted to work, MIT became the easy choice for three main reasons, both related to my intentions to be involved in international work.
1) The networks. Between alumni, faculty, and current students, the quality and variety of potential networking possibilities is astounding. I'm sure as pretty much anyone on Cyburbia (or anywhere else) can tell you, getting a job you want is almost always more about WHO you know than WHAT you know. I don't think there is another school on the planet that can compete in this regard, with the exception of maybe Berkeley.
2) The resources: From computing facilities to classrooms to free food to the fact that there are more special lectures and presentations by guest faculty and practitioners than you could possibly attend, even if you didn't go to class... it is a really great place to be.
3) International stuff: From the ongoing studios and workshops in other countries (see another post i made today) to faculty who are constantly engaged in work in developing countries, there are enormous opportunities to get involved, either in an area of your interest or expertise, or to seek out something new.
What are some of the more glaring cons about the program in your opinion?
I think the biggest con for a lot of people is the money issue. Not everyone gets the funding they want and this can put some people in a tight spot. However, as George Bluth Sr. once said, "there's always money in the banana stand." There are any number of internship opportunities where you can get $2000 a semester and finding a part time RA position that pays $20 an hour for 15 hours a week is pretty easy, but landing a full time RA position that covers tuition, health insurance, and gives you a stipend is very rare.
It is important to consider your future career path(s) before committing to a large debt load.
Not that everything else is peachy keen, but nothing else raises a red flag in the con department.
Does the MIT name open doors in the UK?
Probably. I know it opens doors in Thailand, so I would think people in the UK have heard of it too If you are interested in transportation, the department has a working relationship that sends students to work for Transport for London in the summer which would give you a great opportunity to learn the lay of the land and make contacts. I do not know of anyone personally working in the UK right now, but I have a friend who just graduated from the program who is a British citizen using his last year on his student visa to work for the RPA in NYC. I can forward his email if need be, he's a great guy and always willing to help
I don't quite know how to ask this without it sounding weird, but how fun is MIT? Do you enjoy the day to day life on campus? The night life? Socializing with your classmates etc?
Yes. It rocks... assuming you are a nerd and are madly in love with planning. If school isn't keeping you busy enough (hahahaha), Cambridge and Boston offer plenty of opportunities to get yourself in trouble, and many of your future classmates will gladly join you.