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Thread: Advice for a nontraditional potential MUP student?

  1. #1
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    Advice for a nontraditional potential MUP student?

    I've determined in the past few years that I'd really like a career change, and after doing a lot of research,I discovered urban planning. How I arrived at that decision is a long story in itself, but I'm happy to elaborate if anyone cares, or if it would help others help me. I've been looking at applying to grad school to study planning, which seems especially necessary because my academic and work experience are not related to planning at all. I've been out of school and working for 15 years. I have a master's degree in music and have been working as a professional musician (playing, teaching, arts administration and most recently as a musician in a military band). My undergraduate degree is in music business, not that that's any more useful or relevant to planning.

    While I have a lot of questions about the planning field, what I'm most concerned right now is getting into a planning program. Is it even possible to get planning schools to take a chance on me? I was a good student when I was one, but that was so long ago (3.75 GPA in undergrad and 4.0 in grad school)! I did about average on standardized tests when I was applying to college, but I'm not confident that I'd perform well on the GRE since it's been so long since I've done any sort of math. I've been led to believe that my military experience could be desirable, but I don't know if I believe that. Even though I've been playing in a military band, I've still had to do many things aside from playing. We all have collateral duties, things that would typically be handled by an administrative staff of traditional musical organizations, and since I'm in the military, I've also had to do plenty of leadership training and deal with all kinds of bureaucracy in getting the job accomplished.

    Can anyone give me advice on how to get into a planning program, given my unusual background?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    apply

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Your lack of experience won't hinder you too much. Maybe depending on the program you apply to, but even then it won't be a huge deal. Just have a strong statement of purpose and work on the GRE.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I think you'll be fine, most schools like to have a couple of nontraditional students. But contact the programs first and check in, that always seems to help.

  5. #5
    Apply! You've been out of school for awhile, but I will say that my program has students from a lot of diverse backgrounds (one of the more unique ones is mass communications).

    Did your military work take you overseas? Even if you weren't working in planning or development, having the experience of working and living outside of the United States may give you an interesting edge. You surely remember the differences between those places and the United States and can bring a unique perspective to the program in that sense.

    I've heard that medical schools look favorably on music students. They recognize them as hard, dedicated workers. I think that may well work to your advantage in standing out among a crowd.

    One thing you should investigate is whether the program expects you to have some professional planning experience before entering. Some programs are looking for people who have at least had a related internship under their belt, so those would probably be reaches for you. I believe University of North Carolina and University of Oregon are such programs.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    If I remember correctly, at Michigan's open house they said they had enrolled students from music majors before.

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    nackteziege - Yes, I did spend time overseas. I was stationed in Germany for two years, and my travels there brought me to many more places. I had hoped writing about these experiences would strengthen my application. And of course, musicians often make the argument that musicians are such dedicated workers because it does take so much time to learn an instrument, but it's nice to hear from someone who isn't a musician - thanks!

  8. #8
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    From a second career, non-traditional planner....APPLY.

    Graduate planning schools are more diverse than you think they might be. While the vast majority of my cohort were in there 20s, very few were coming straight out of undergrad and most had a couple of years of work experience in a variety of fields and undergraduate degrees including the arts and languages. I came out of a 15 year career in restaurant management and was a single mom of a teenager. I ended up averaging 3 classes per term and did a dual masters program so I was in school for 4 years. I didn't feel like I was at any disadvantage and they way most grad planning programs are designed, everyone does the same core so you end up on the same page before going on to do your specialization. I even did a semester abroad with the teenager (she was a h.s. freshman at the time)!
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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