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Thread: Any luck for an Ivy League?

  1. #1
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    Any luck for an Ivy League?

    Hello All,

    I've been following the forums for about a year now without registering myself and I came to the point that I had to prepare myself for my future plans of graduate study.

    I'm a senior year city & regional planning student who is currently enrolled at a very respective european university when it comes to planning education. My university has strong relations with many other european universities and some of the american universities including cornell & harvard.

    I just want to figure out if all the time & money that I'm going to spend on applications to the the american schools of planning will worth it.

    - I got a GPA of 3.0 and will probably have something around 3.1 when I graduated. (It would still put me in first 5% in my class)

    - I have 107 @ TOEFL IBT

    - GRE Math 790 - Verbal 450 =/ - AW 4.0

    - 1 year of exchange experience in Germany along with a 4 months planning internship

    - 3 months of planning internship in Turkey

    - 7 theoretical & practical urban planning & design studios with great grades. ( 2 more to come.

    - 1 mention award in an international urban design project competition.

    - 4 months of work experience in GIS technologies (still on-going)

    - Partial authoring in a field-related design book and 1 academic article to be published soon.

    I'm very well aware of my pros & cons, I just want to figure out If I have a good shot with Harvard, Cornell or UPenn with some nice scholarships cause neither my family nor I cannot afford any of the schools in the states.

    If you believe that I would have better chances elsewhere, which school(s) you would advise to me to apply?

    Thanks in advance.

    Anil.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    With your stats, only a poor statement of purpose letter would keep you out. So write a good one.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Anil,

    Something to keep in mind is that in the United States, many of the top planning programs are not in the Ivy League, so don't become too fixated on a school's general reputation. A much more important question is, what area of planning do you want to focus on? Land use, environment, urban design, transportation, international development planning, etc. etc. Once you have decided which area(s) you think you will pursue, it is much easier to give advice about specific schools. Some of the Ivy League schools are very good in certain areas. But so are many state schools that are generally more affordable, and often times, the strongest programs are in state universities.

    My two cents.

  4. #4
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    Here is what I am looking for. Most of my education has included comprehensive planning approach and I'm looking for more straight forward and design oriented. As a master degree I'm really interested in an education with a concentration area of urban design. (That's why I want Harvard, but willing to hear your 2 cents)

    Yet, after spending 4 months in my current job I started having fun with GIS and I'm thrilled by its potentials both as a stand-alone profession and a tool for my planning career. (That's why I started considering UPenn, cause it looks like they have a good joint degree of GIS / MUP)

    Then, most of my international projects and workshops included Urban Transformation and Preservation Areas both in the Ruhr Area, Barcelona and Istanbul and it made me feel great because most of the time I felt like an activist. Considering Turkey's position against history. (That's why I started considering Cornell, for the Preservation Planning)

    There is still a year to go before I apply for any of this schools and looks like I still have to make a clear decision regarding my options. As an out-sider, unfortunately I'm only aware of the schools in Ivy League or internationally recognized. I'm pretty sure there are some great schools out there, yet I'm just not familiar with them.

    Regarding my future plans, I would like to point out that I'm also willing to apply for a doctoral degree directly after my bachelor. I know the chances are very very very low but I want to give a shot for that, too. For my doctoral degree, I would like to include all three interests of mine into my study plan which are:

    - Making the best out of GIS technologies in decision making-process
    - Having a strong urban design capabilities to implement aesthetic interventions
    - Having respect to culture and history by having the knowledge to preserve it

    My potential working area and location would probably be Europe where density of historic areas are ultimately high.

    That's more I could say. Thanks for the answers!

    Anil.

  5. #5
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I will make the same argument that I make everytime someone asks this question... why do you want the Ivy degree? You will be paying 2x as much for a degree that really isn't going to get you much more than it would at any other grad school.

    Do you want to work with the professors? Do you want to possibly get a higher degree there and want to make inroads? Or do you just want the name Harvard? If that is your only motivation, and are willing to pay for it, that is fine as well.

    Personally, there are better Design based programs than Harvard, and as I have said before the Urban Design program and the University of Michigan is first class.

    Why are you looking to get your degree in the States when you want to work in Europe? Why not look at some schools in England?
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Welcome to Cyburbia, Anil!

    Tuition at universities in the United States can be quite expensive. Tuition at Ivy League universities is even pricier. The cost of attending Harvard for one year is US$59,680, or about five times the median annual household income of Turkey (US$12,000 in 2008). Even in the US, where incomes are high, people fret about the cost of higher education.

    As others have posted here before, an Ivy can be overkill for a typical planning job. The quality of education will be outstanding, and the experience transformative, but the advantages it will bring you in the workplace probably aren't worth it; diminishing returns and all. Maybe in Europe, the prestige and mystique of an Ivy might give you an advantage over a competitor from ... oh, LSE or TU Delft, but again, is it worth the tuition? LSE and Delft are also good schools.

    If you must have an Ivy League diploma, I'd go with Cornell. It has a great planning program, but at least here in the States, a Cornell degree doesn't seem to intimidate potential employers in the same way as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the like.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7
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    As I have explained before I have no valid reason to apply for only ivy league schools. It is just that I do not know much about the other schools. that is why i opened this thread in the first place. (gotta admit that i was more curious about my chances for an ivy league school) i would also like to apply to the schools that cyburbia community considers as `first-class` regarding planning/gis/urban design.

    i will try to point out some more things about my perspective. there might be better urban planning departments in other universities but i wonder if they have better connections, facility resources, good libraries and hundreds of events that would improve me as a whole. Although my university is known for its graduates in the country, it is also known with its limited resources since it is a state university. I just want more from a school.

    I studied in one of the biggest planning departments in Europe (TU-Dortmund) for a year and I was amazed by its library and facilities but then there was not the international project environment that i was looking for. i know that if i study in the states (more precisely in the ivy league), i will be one of the 1/3 of international students and i also know that I will get to know world-class professors and professionals and plus the incredible library and studio facilities.

    i am aware of the financial requirements of ivy league schools, there is no way that I can pay for the tuition myself. this is another side of the topic. under the circumstances i wonder, if i would get a full cover-up for my tuition, with this stats and if not, with which school i got better chances.

    About the question, why I do want to study in the states if I am going to work in Europe. I want it, because I believe that having an on-site experience in different cultures and even in continents is crucial for a planning professional. I have studied both in Europe and Middle-East (Wherever you see Turkey) and I feel like I need to go for the states.

    however, i will check u of michigan and put on my list if i like the faculty. thanks!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Welcome to Cyburbia, Anil!

    Tuition at universities in the United States can be quite expensive. Tuition at Ivy League universities is even pricier. The cost of attending Harvard for one year is US$59,680, or about five times the median annual household income of Turkey (US$12,000 in 2008). Even in the US, where incomes are high, people fret about the cost of higher education.

    As others have posted here before, an Ivy can be overkill for a typical planning job. The quality of education will be outstanding, and the experience transformative, but the advantages it will bring you in the workplace probably aren't worth it; diminishing returns and all. Maybe in Europe, the prestige and mystique of an Ivy might give you an advantage over a competitor from ... oh, LSE or TU Delft, but again, is it worth the tuition? LSE and Delft are also good schools.

    If you must have an Ivy League diploma, I'd go with Cornell. It has a great planning program, but at least here in the States, a Cornell degree doesn't seem to intimidate potential employers in the same way as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the like.
    Hey Dan,

    Thank you for the warm welcome and for showing me how poor we are again =) Just kidding. Here in Turkey, higher education is free (almost) and unfortunately Turkey is not in my list for my master or potential phd degree. I will also apply for the schools in Europe just to make sure that I do my master degree one way or another.

    I know Ivy league schools are very expensive even for Americans but then for international students these costs are maybe 10k $ more than regular universities in the states. Most of the universities that I've checked have 2 to 10 times more tuition for the int students.

    An Ivy league degree has unbelieavable effects on most of the European employers. I'm pretty sure I could get a job easily with the starting salary of 2-3k / month (if i didn't have any practical experience) if I had an ivy league diploma even in Turkey..or I would spend couple of years to get to that salary with other school's diploma. Not to mention, all the connections and opportunities that I will have just because of the name of "Harvard", "Cornell" etc..

    Most of the private colleges and firms are dying to get those names on their sides here. So I see it as a good investment. It's not like, I'm going to apply these schools and if I'm really lucky got admitted and will be ready for paying 60K / annually, I would still have to look for scholarships / financial aids / loans what so ever to pay it. Then again, we come to the point that do I have good stats for those merit or need-based scholarships to cover atleast my tuition?

    And I gotta admit that University of Michigan looks really promising. It actually looks very challenging and well prepared. It's on my list!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Anil,

    You are doing a good job asking questions early, and I am certainly not against an Ivy League education - I am currently at Cornell, and am very happy with my experiences here.

    A few random thoughts. For programs in the U.S. with strong geospatial and urban design programs, certainly look at Harvard, Penn, Cornell, but also Georgia Tech, University of Washington, MIT, Michigan, and Pratt (there are others, I am sure.)

    In general, I would also support Dan's point that if you want to work in Europe, a European degree might serve you best in the long run.

    You would have a very difficult time getting into a PhD program with just a bachelor's degree. Most people have a Master's degree and several years of work experience. Not sure about European planning PhD programs.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I attended Penn as an undergrad and grad student (but not in planning - that happened later). I was fortunate to have a mostly free ride, though. If I had to pay full price, I would definitely have pursued different opportunities. Well, really I just couldn't have gone. You can only take out so much in student loans and the cost would have broken the bank...

    What I will say about Ivy League education is this: yes, it is a great education and I did have some truly stellar professors whose impact I still feel many many years later. However, the price tag is very very hefty and if you are taking out loans to pay for it, you are faced with the challenge of pulling an income after graduation that can help you pay it off. In planning, the prospect of making a big bundle of money right out of school is not that realistic. Yes, one can work their way up and over time pull in a decent income, but you would certainly want to have paid off any loans by then.

    I think that, given decent performance in school, the difference in starting salaries from an Ivy League versus another decent, say, state school will not be very different if different at all. And there are many excellent non-Ivy League, affordable planning schools out there in the US, some of which your school may also have a relationship with(?).

    So, if you are planning to take out loans and are not pursuing an academic career (where you would need to enter a PhD program and in that case, I think an Ivy League education is probably more of an asset), I would consider a more affordable option.

    But, if you can get scholarships and keep your debt burden low, an Ivy League education can really be a very good one. I am certainly glad I went and also glad I did not have to pay!

    If I had no financial obstacles and assuming they would have had me, my top choice would have been MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) The people I know (professors and practicing professionals) are some truly impressive and innovative thinkers.

    And lastly, I would echo the concerns about how an American degree might translate if returning to Europe. Canada, however, is a different game. At least they are also using the metric system! Plus, they have some excellent schools. Very cold, excellent schools...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  11. #11
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    My $30K per year liberal arts private school education led to a low-paying school teacher job that I took because I couldn't find something directly applicable to my degree. My $12K per year state graduate city planning education led to a not-as-low-paying planning career I truly enjoy and love (most of the time), with room for further advancement.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Harvard sounds like a good choice if you're interested in planning from a physical / urban design perspective.

    Regarding costs, many students received grants that significantly reduced the amount they needed to pay. All grants are need-based as opposed to merit-based.

    For working abroad, Harvard (and probably any of the brand name schools) will serve you very well. Many students live/work abroad both after graduation and during summer internship.

    Regarding your chances of getting in, overall sounds pretty good. GPA would definitely be below average at Harvard. You're GRE verbal seems extremely low. There's a big emphasis on written communication, so you might want to bump that up. I think average combined score is between 1350-1400.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally posted by FuturePlanner View post
    Harvard sounds like a good choice if you're interested in planning from a physical / urban design perspective.

    Regarding costs, many students received grants that significantly reduced the amount they needed to pay. All grants are need-based as opposed to merit-based.

    For working abroad, Harvard (and probably any of the brand name schools) will serve you very well. Many students live/work abroad both after graduation and during summer internship.

    Regarding your chances of getting in, overall sounds pretty good. GPA would definitely be below average at Harvard. You're GRE verbal seems extremely low. There's a big emphasis on written communication, so you might want to bump that up. I think average combined score is between 1350-1400.
    Thank you for the reply. It's probably the most helpful reply regarding Harvard & my admission chances. I also believe that my GRE Verbal & AW are way below the average Harvard student that's why I'm planning to take it again during the next months.

    However, there is nothing I can do about my GPA. Our school is very challenging and project-studio oriented. There are often no time for even sleeping before the final exams which is resulted with low GPA through the whole class. GPA of my project studios is around 3.5-ish. GPA of my last 2 year is also around 3.2. Maybe I should point out this things in my statement.

    At this point I would like to ask a question regarding the letter of recommendations. What kind of recommendations are required or expected? I will have most of my recommendations from my professors and only one of them is internationally recognized. She has given recommendations to me many times and they all resulted very good. (One of the vice-presidents of ISOCARP) I'm planning to get another recommendation from my boss, but I have strong beliefs that he may refuse / write a weak one, because they ask me to apply Canada so that they can provide me job in one of their branches while I study, yet Canada is not in my list.

    So I'll probably have 1 very strong recommendation and another 2 which are not so good. (obviously they will write nice things but i don't know if it's going to help)

    Another question just popped into my mind is whether a portfolio makes a different in admission to Harvard MUP. As far as I know, they do not require portfolios for the MUP but they also do not say we may send one.

    Thank you everyone for replying my questions patiently.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    If you have a portfolio by all means send it. That could definitely help offset the GPA. In terms of recommendations not really sure what I could tell you. My impression is that they tend to look if there's anything glaring; if you have one very good one and 2 decent ones, that should be fine. Not sure if it's applicable but you could also look beyond faculty; e.g., if you did an internship your supervisor could write one.
    Good luck.

  15. #15
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    some thoughts

    Hi Anil,

    I was once were you were: a European planning undergrad student, looking to get a Master's in city planning in the U.S. I got my bachelor's degree in Human Geography and Planning from Utrecht University in The Netherlands, whilst I spent my entire senior year at the University of Florida as an exchange student (doing my thesis research on Florida's Growth Management Act of 1985 amongst other things). The academic experience in Florida was what sparked my interest in pursuing graduate studies in the U.S.

    I am currently a graduate student at the Pratt Institute. Like you, my main interests were urban design and historic preservation, which are both two of the strengths of the city and regional planning program at Pratt (the other signature specialization is community-based planning). I would say that, with your credentials, you have a very good chance of being admitted to Pratt. I would consider applying there, if urban design and historic preservation are amongst your core interests in planning.
    I have to say the urban design faculty is outstanding and my Historical Preservation courses have impressed me equally much (the coordinator of Pratt's Historic Preservation program is also the chair of the National Council for Preservation Education). The program's students are mostly American, though we have several international students (though not a full third of the student body!). Amongst others, students hail from countries such as China, Iran, Canada, and Mexico.

    I would suggest you apply to at least 6 to 8 schools-- but more would be better.
    I applied to 11 schools when I decided to get my Master's degree in the U.S. You should pick several "safety schools", which would be your backup-applications (schools you think you will get into for sure, in the event you aren't admitted to your other selected schools). Then, also pick several schools that you might get in, or schools that you might not get into. In case your applications are strong, but just not competitive enough with the top-tier universities, you have these schools to go to. Lastly, the schools you are thinking of applying to, schools like Harvard, are "reach schools": apply anyhow and see what happens, but be aware that these universities admit around 10% (sometimes even less) of all applicants that demonstrate an interest in going there.
    You have the benefit of being international, which is probably going to set you apart from the presumably large group of applicants.

    Definitely consider your financial situation before you apply. As an international student you won't have access to federal student loans, so you would need to take out more expensive private loans in the event you aren't getting a scholarship.
    You have to prove that you have the financial resources to pay for your studies before you can get your student visa, J-1 or F-1.
    Scholarships also won't cover the full "sticker price", for instance, when I was admitted to UPenn they gave me a $4,000 scholarship (the total cost of attendance was $60,000 per year). The same holds true for other students that were admitted to their program that I spoke to.

    Though I understand (like no other) the appeal of studying in the United States, I encourage you to consider British (and perhaps German, too, since you are probably already familiar with the German language) schools if working in the EU is your ultimate goal. Planning programs have a strong tie to their respective geographical locations: a school in New York City will relate the theories they teach to examples from that city, whilst planning studios also will take place in the city. A school in Philadelphia will focus their planning curriculum heavily around their location in Philadelphia. A European school will provide you with more planning experience in Europe, which could pay off later in your career. It's also a huge benefit that those schools generally tend to charge less tuition!

    Having said that, finding a job in Europe with an American degree should not be an extremely though challenge. I know an urban planner who graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology some 30 years ago and who has worked in Germany ever since. It's just that there's going to be a gap between what you learned in school and your work-context. Personally, I hope to be working in the Northeastern United states as a planner-preservationist after graduation (we can only hope...)

    My two cents. Hope this was helpful and the best of luck with your endeavors. Feel free to contact me via direct message if you want more info.

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