Hey guys, I'll try to keep it short. I live in Florida and am looking to go into make a career change from finance/accounting to planning. I'm 24 and can't really see myself wanting to stay in finance, but I also don't want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on planning grad school.
I plan to have about 20k saved up by the time I apply and don't want to spend much more than that if I can avoid it. My undergrad is in economics with a 3.2 GPA, however my last 2 years were 3.4 overall and I got a 3.7 in my major. I have 0 planning experience, but I want to focus on geographic modeling/GIS applications. I wouldn't be completely opposed to a more policy-oriented program, but I enjoy technical work and I feel like a GIS focus would be advantageous in the urban planning job market. I'm probably going to apply to the University of Florida because of in-state tuition, but I want to know what other programs in the South or other warm-weather states have good urban planning programs and also offer good aid to out-of-staters. So far I've read that Clemson is pretty generous with their aid programs, other than that I'm really not sure since it seems difficult to find reliable statistics on graduate assistantships. I really want to go to a warm-weather area...it seems silly, but I despise cold weather and if there's not enough sunshine I get depressed.
These are some of the other schools besides Clemson/UF I'm considering where I would like to live and where I also feel I have a realistic shot of getting some sort of assistantship or aid:
-UNC Chapel Hill (however it seems very competitive and they only accepted ~22% of city planning applicants in 2010)
I'm interested in UCLA/USC/Berkeley also, but realistically I don't think I'd have a shot of getting in AND getting money. However, I have heard of USC giving out scholarships (anyone know anything about this?). My sister got a half-tuition scholarship there for undergrad but even that wouldn't be enough because it would still amount to >15k/yr to go there.
If anyone has any input on what to do to get aid at these schools, other schools I should be looking at, what the aid packages are like etc. I'd appreciate it! I'm also Hispanic if that helps at all (hey I'll milk that affirmative action for all it's worth).