So I'm looking at different grad schools to apply to next fall (I graduate in December, but won't enroll in grad until fall 2010). And some of the programs that have interested me have been highly regarded, highly reputable programs that happen to be located in small cities and towns - for example, University of Iowa, University of Illinois, and University of Virginia. I can't help but wonder if being in a smaller city or town ultimately hurts these programs. After all, there's no substitute for hands-on experience is there?
That's part of the reason why I've shifted my focus away from schools like that towards schools that are located in mid-sized and major metropolitan areas - namely Rutgers, University of Maryland, and University of North Carolina. And even UNC bothers me because I know that the Raleigh-Durham area, though it's a decent-sized metro area, is one big sprawl-fest, as is the rest of North Carolina (and the rest of the South for that matter). UNC seems like a VERY attractive program, but the fact that it's located in such a poorly planned area really, really irks me.
On the flip side, Maryland seems like a decent program.......from what I can tell, not quite as highly regarded as Rutgers or UNC, but could you pick a better location to study in than Washington, D.C.? It's a major metro area with all sorts of planning issues to study (especially transportation issues, which is what I want to focus on); the state of Maryland itself is known nationwide for it's progressive, smart growth policies and initiatives, and being in the D.C. area means that when federal policies are put forth before Congress, I'd be right in the middle of the action.
And Rutgers has me really interested as of late because it seems to be a pretty reputable program located in a major metro area, one that's not perfect by any means, but still probably light-years ahead of the Ninth Circle of Sprawl Hell that is North Carolina. And its location in the middle of the nation's busiest transportation corridor, which really excites me as an aspiring transportation planner.
What do y'all think? It's easy for someone to say, "you're going for the SCHOOL, not the CITY", but come on. Nothing exists in a vaccum, and location and geography have got to play some role on the quality and the very fabric of a given planning program. Right?