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Thread: Schools with good assistantships?

  1. #1

    Schools with good assistantships?

    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:

    -Virginia Tech
    -UNC Chapel Hill (however it seems very competitive and they only accepted ~22% of city planning applicants in 2010)
    -UT Austin
    -Florida State

    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).
    Last edited by inolte; 03 Jan 2015 at 11:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    51
    Hello,

    I got a full scholarship to USC's planning program but they only give out a handful of them. I am Hispanic (and 24) too but I do not know how much that factored (At USC minorities make up more than 50% so its not special). However if you want a assistant-ship with a stipend when you get accepted then you may want to look elsewhere. I had to apply for a research position after I got here, they do not give them to new applicants. If you are looking for a warm weather school that gives out assistanships I recommend Arizona State University. I applied there and was offered a 50% scholarship and a stipend so it is a good option... And I suppose there is UCLA too. I did not apply but I hear they have good financial packages.

    I recommend applying to as many as you can afford to and see what offers you get back. I was pleasantly surprised and wish I had applied to more.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    Nov 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire Seacoast
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    check out Georgia Tech. the school is well-connected to a good supply of places that need interns. they'll give you both a tuition discount and a stipend. the school should be able to provide more detail.

  4. #4
    Thanks for the responses. I've done more research and I don't think the California schools are for me. I did get a scholarship to Arizona State for undergrad actually, so I'll keep that one in mind. I guess my preliminary list now is:

    -Florida
    -UNC Chapel Hill
    -Virginia Tech
    -Clemson
    -UT Austin
    -Georgia Tech
    -ASU

    Hopefully I can get funding somewhere! Though I still have almost a year to decide for real.

    Also @ The District: when you say "they'll give you both a tuition discount and a stipend", is that for a large portion of incoming grad students or just a few? I don't think my stats are bad but I'm not sure if they are competitive enough at a place like GTech.
    Last edited by inolte; 05 Jan 2015 at 7:16 PM.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Down South
    Posts
    32
    I'm a second year student at Florida State and during my first year I had an assistantship that included a tuition waiver and a stipend. My incoming class size was 38, I believe, and I'd say roughly 10-12 of us had assistantship/co-op positions. The co-ops have the same waiver and stipend, but the work you do is for agencies such as the regional planning council, Forest Service, local transit planning agency, etc.

    This year I don't have a tuition waiver but considering the fact that tuition is under $12k a year it isn't too bad. Since the end of my first year I've also had paid opportunities doing research for APA Florida (the office is in Tallahassee) and I now work at an engineering firm as a paid intern. Both of these positions were gained through the FSU network as the supervisors at each are Florida State Planning alums. There are a ton of opportunities for internships (both paid and unpaid) in Tallahassee given the State, County, and City governments, as well as the engineering/planning firms in town (Kilmey-Horn, Atkins, ARCADIS, etc).

    I see it wasn't on your second list you recently posted, but give FSU another look. I chose it over similar opportunities at some other schools you mention as favorites and haven't regretted it one bit. In the end do what is best for you, though.
    Last edited by Boot; 10 Jan 2015 at 11:16 AM.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian SoutheastMCRP's avatar
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    May 2015
    Location
    United States
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    33
    You're right about Clemson's aid program. They offer about 11 assistantships to incoming first-year students, and they're well worth applying for. Considering they take 20 max in a class, your chances of getting one are pretty good. They bring your tuition cost down to a little over 1K (in state OR out of state), and a semester stipend of around 4K. You only have class Tuesday through Thursday, so you're given Monday and Friday to work on your assistantship assignments an estimated 10 hours a week. However, if you get lucky in your assignment (all determined by the department chair), you may end up with a professor that assigns you X amount of research for the week that can be done remotely, and you can use your Mondays and Fridays to hunt down a part-time job or internship. They're all merit-based, so for first year students, that means your GRE and GPA. They're all reevaluated after the first year, so if you don't make the cut at first but kick ass at your first year of studies, you can always requalify your second year.

  7. #7
    I think U of Utah, UIUC, Iowa State, and U of Iowa have pretty good number of assistantships with a good stipend for a quarter time assistantship (10 hours/week).
    - Utah's stipend is around 6-7,000/year (I don't have it at the top of my head) and a very low tuition fee.
    - Iowa State is a pretty small program and your chance to get an assistantship will be high. It will be half tuition waiver + a humble monthly stipend.
    - UIUC and U of Iowa have lots of assistantships (about 75% of their students have assistantships). The great thing about these schools is that they waive full tuition and partial fee. Great stipend: a little more than $9,000/year (say $21-25/hour). I've never see any other schools with this high stipend for a quarter time assistantship.

    I got a TA/RA from Utah, U of Iowa, and Clemson, so I can make a clear comparison. Friends of mine got in Iowa State and UIUC, and I got some data from them.
    Last edited by GGT; 22 Jul 2015 at 9:31 AM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Central Virginia
    Posts
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    I went to Georgia Tech, but my MS is in Public Policy. First semester, I got a teaching assistantship that covered full tuition and also paid a small stipend based on 13 hours/week worked. The other three semesters, I was able to make some connections and got Research Assistantships in two of the engineering research centers that paid full tuition and also a stipend based on 20 hours/week worked. I had several friends that also were able to get positions working off-site research assistantships where the employers paid portions of their tuition in addition to hourly compensation.

    I can't speak specifically for the City Planning program when it comes to opportunities for incoming Master's students, but GT has a ton of grant funding, and they also have a lot of professors that are connected to the larger economic development projects in the community. There are a lot of opportunities, but you may need to go outside of your actual department (or even outside the school) to find them.

    I think when you submit your application, you'll be able to indicate if you're interested in the assistantships - you'd probably be looking at a teaching assistantship initially (for me it was leading a weekly discussion group for an ethics course), but with some networking, you should be able to get into some sort of research assistantship if you so wish.

    I would also just call the schools and see if they can give you some information about opportunities for new Master's students.

    Good luck!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Central Virginia
    Posts
    170
    I went to Georgia Tech, but my MS is in Public Policy. First semester, I got a teaching assistantship that covered full tuition and also paid a small stipend based on 13 hours/week worked. The other three semesters, I was able to make some connections and got Research Assistantships in two of the engineering research centers that paid full tuition and also a stipend based on 20 hours/week worked. I had several friends that also were able to get positions working off-site research assistantships where the employers paid portions of their tuition in addition to hourly compensation.

    I can't speak specifically for the City Planning program when it comes to opportunities for incoming Master's students, but GT has a ton of grant funding, and they also have a lot of professors that are connected to the larger economic development projects in the community. There are a lot of opportunities, but you may need to go outside of your actual department (or even outside the school) to find them.

    I think when you submit your application, you'll be able to indicate if you're interested in the assistantships - you'd probably be looking at a teaching assistantship initially (for me it was leading a weekly discussion group for an ethics course), but with some networking, you should be able to get into some sort of research assistantship if you so wish.

    I would also just call the schools and see if they can give you some information about opportunities for new Master's students.

    Good luck!

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