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Thread: Usefulness of Planetizen 2009 guide?

  1. #1
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    Usefulness of Planetizen 2009 guide?

    Before going ahead and buying it, I was wondering if anyone could vouch for the overall utility of the Planetizen 2009 Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs? The two more specific things I am interested in knowing if it has are: Information about the financial aid different schools offer, and information about their areas of specialization (for instance, in land use planning or regional planning overall).

    I appreciate any light on this subject that anyone can provide!

  2. #2
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    For each school, the guide MAY list the total amount of financial aid awarded and the percentage of students receiving financial aid for the sample year. It may also list the total amount of merit based financial aid, the percentage of students receiving merit-based aid, and the average merit-based aid award. There may also be additional information on the number of graduate assistantships and the average amount of the assistantship stipend. This information is not noted for every school, but I think itís safe to say that itís listed for most of them.

    Areas of specialization are also listed for most (if not all) school profiles as well.

    All in all, itís a pretty comprehensive guide. I found it well worth the money. There is a ton of other information that I'm sure you'll find useful.

    Just note that not every school has a profile in the most recent edition. For example, University of Washington did not respond to Planetizen's most recent grad school poll. While they don't have a profile, the guide does note that in past years, that particular school was high within the rankings.

  3. #3
    I found the publication less than useful... for example, the ranking that Cal Poly SLO got as #1 in zoning administration or whatever is hilarious. Zoning administration?? What the hell is that supposed to mean? There are no classes that deal in "zoning administration," and the curriculum deals with much more important things than interpreting zoning codes. Now I have images of crusty men in white-shirts, black ties, black-rimmed eye-glasses, leaning over their 8-inch zoning code harrumphing and guffawing at the applicant's requests. Give me a break.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I never used it when I was applying to grad schools. I based my decision on geography, how the program was going to help me meet my personal career goals, the vibe I got from the faculty and current students when visiting, the alumni network and job opportunities, and to a lesser degree the financial aid offer. That said I am very happy where I ended up
    "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

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I found the guide very helpful, not so much for the actual rankings but for info related to things such as average GREs, GPA, etc., as well as Admissions statistics. For example, I know GRE is only one component to admissions, but it at least gave me a sense if I'd be in the ballpark for the schools I was applying to.

    I also knew I wanted to stay in Boston since that's where I live, but knowing the competitiveness of the 2 accredited Boston schools, Harvard + MIT, helped make my decision to cast my net a little wider.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by FuturePlanner View post
    I found the guide very helpful, not so much for the actual rankings but for info related to things such as average GREs, GPA, etc., as well as Admissions statistics. For example, I know GRE is only one component to admissions, but it at least gave me a sense if I'd be in the ballpark for the schools I was applying to.

    I also knew I wanted to stay in Boston since that's where I live, but knowing the competitiveness of the 2 accredited Boston schools, Harvard + MIT, helped make my decision to cast my net a little wider.
    Ditto. It was worth the $ to me at least.

    I started the process in Aug 2009, knowing NOTHING. Bought their guide, joined the forums, did my research and I'm feeling pretty good about enrolling in the school of my choice come fall.

  7. #7
    Overall I do think that the guide is useful, however I think it has had an effect in the recent times. For instance, just a few years ago UNC had admissions rates approaching 50%, then they get ranked third, happen to be far cheaper than the Ivies, and this past year they had such an increase in applicants that the acceptance rate was probably right around 20%. Perhaps this isn't speaking for everybody, but I know for me that I applied there specifically because it seemed like I had a reasonable shot of getting in, and it was affordable, so I applied which I wouldn't have otherwise. I suspect that these guides have a way of increasing the number of applicants to the highest ranked schools at the expense of perfectly good, but lower ranked schools according to Planetizen.

    Despite this, it was nice to see what specialties were offered where, to get a feel for how expensive a particular school would actually be without having to visit several dozen different websites. I think the guide was also good in terms of pointing out great programs that reside in the not so highly nationally ranked schools overall. Portland State stands out to me the most as an example of this, and without the guide (and not to mention these message boards) I would be skeptical of how good the program really is.

    Just my two cents, I am curious to hear what others think about all this.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) publishes a similar guide that doesn't go into quite the detail nor attempt to rank programs, but still has exhausting lists of faculty and specialties, financial aid, etc. It's available for free (PDF) on their website: http://www.acsp.org/sites/default/fi...ook%5B1%5D.pdf

  9. #9
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    Thank you for all your responses!

    I had tried to reply earlier, but now that I have come back to the forum it seems that my reply is not here. As I am a new member, I am not sure what happened. I am going to go ahead and buy the guide, I think. I suppose my main dilemma was that, because it would neither be possible nor desirable to use the guide by itself, I was unsure whether it might be better just to gather information on one's own. From what has been said addressing this concern I think the book would be a sound "investment."

    I also really appreciate the ACSP link, TexanOkie.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) publishes a similar guide that doesn't go into quite the detail nor attempt to rank programs, but still has exhausting lists of faculty and specialties, financial aid, etc. It's available for free (PDF) on their website: http://www.acsp.org/sites/default/fi...ook%5B1%5D.pdf
    I used this guide for a baseline of schools I'd be interested in. Since I'm still in school studying Urban Studies I consulted my professors about the potential schools I was interested in. I visited all the schools we narrowed down and applied to two. The Humphrey at UMN and the Evans at UW. Got into both. Now the question becomes which degree will serve me better over the long run, an MPA or a MURP.

    I couldn't tell you whose ranked where and why. I figured a good school is a good school. Besides, this planning and public affairs we're talking about, not law school. I remember my wife brooding over which law school to attend based on how they ranked.

    I believe it really comes down to the motivation and drive of the individual not the ranking of the school which determines the final outcome.

    After all, wasn't #1 Kansas knocked out of the tournament rather early

  11. #11
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    This guide is completely useless for students looking to go to (or stay in) Canada.

    None of the canadian universities participate in the survey......

    there goes $25....

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