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Thread: Chances/suggestions for grad school?

  1. #1
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    Chances/suggestions for grad school?

    I'm a fresh Brown grad and I want to do urban planning. However, I have zero experience (but my undergrad was in art and architecture history) and a not too stellar GPA: 3.2 (3.5 for last two years). My GRE breakdown is 700 V and 770 Q. I was wondering, based on those stats, what schools do I have a chance at, if it's presumed that I have a decent personal statement and recs? Do I have a shot at the top tier, or is my GPA going to block me?

    I also want to focus on sustainable urban planning.

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    As you will notice, we argue all the time about "top tier". Do you mean Harvard, MIT, Penn? Or do you mean North Carolina, USC, Columbia?

    There is no top tier as far as I am concerned. You have a fit with a school. If that fit is correct, it should be top tier for you. If you are asking if you think you can get into Harvard, I would suggest checking their requirements and contacting professors.

    Masters should be about the student, not the school. If you find a professor you respect and want to learn from, that is a much better barometer than school "prestige". Good luck.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    I don't mean "top tier" for the name, per se, but in general the more competitive programs, especially the ones in the better locations.

    On the list so far is:
    University of Colorado (Denver)
    OSU
    University of Minnesota (Minneapolis)
    UF

    Maybe Columbia, Penn, and Harvard for kicks. I'm just wondering how much of a problem my low-ish GPA and total lack of experience is going to factor in at decent programs in general.

    I was also wondering which schools I should take off my list and which schools I should add; I'm more interested in design-based (but I also very much enjoy theory) programs, but my number one interest is on sustainability/environmental issues, which many programs seem to be gearing towards anyway.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Well, your GPA is from Brown so that helps. It's not like you got a 3.2 GPA at Multi-directional State (not that there's anything wrong with that). But yeah, I'd think that would weigh positively in your favor. Also, I believe they weight your last two years of undergrad heavier than your first two, so that should help, as well. Your GRE scores are pretty darn good, so that will help, too.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  5. #5
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by motioncall View post
    OSU
    If this is Ohio State, your GPA and stats are just fine. I can tell you all about the Master's program if you want. I can't speak to Okie State or Oregon State though, if you think OSU stands for anything other than for the Buckeyes... you are wrong and I can't help you.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    I should've added more pertinent info: I have zero classes in econ, the social sciences, science, math, geography, or urban planning. (My last math class was in HS, in Calc BC, where I got a 5, but that is meaningless now.) I do have other experience under my belt that I can somehow probably relate to urban planning, but for stats' purposes, I really mean I have ZERO experience, other than architecture history.

    But, I'm convinced I want to do urban planning. I do mean OSU, Ohio State. It's probably my top choice.

    I feel like the only thing I have going for me are my alma mater and decent GRE scores, which OSU doesn't need anyway. I'm not sure if my "minority" status even matters, but I'm also the first in my family to go to college.

    Do I still have a chance?

    Also, HinkPlanner, I would love to hear more about the program.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    But, I'm convinced I want to do urban planning.

    Tell us what you know about planning and why you want to do it.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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    My answer might be cheesy, but nevertheless they are my reasons to want to do urban planning.

    I started off wanting to study art history, not knowing too much about architecture. In my undergrad, I took more and more architecture classes and I became very intrigued with urban sprawl and land planning. I was a very unhappy teenager growing up in a suffocating, too-manicured neighborhood where everything was fake and artificial, always complaining about how much I hated where I lived, and then I learned about Leon Krier and Andres Duany, and although I understand their perspectives and goals in regards to urban planning, I had opinions of my own.

    This fascination lead to me to study experimental planners bigger planners, like Daniel Burnham. I also became obsessed with Karl Friedrich Schinkel and spent a semester in Berlin exploring his urban plans which resulted in a final paper discussing how his foundation for the city allowed contemporary Berlin to exist as it does today in its post-war, post-tragedy, post-reunification state.

    During my senior year, I started focusing my interests on sustainability, stemming from my admiration for the garden city movement. I know that this is the "hot topic" and everyone wants to do this, but it was small projects, like the Steel Yard in Providence--an area that was pretty much dead until it got revamped to be an artistic community--that allowed me to stop romanticizing the idea and convinced me that I wanted to take a more realistic active part than the role of the passive observer. In my fantasy world, I want to revive cities like Detroit and Cleveland, but I believe that it's possible for me to take part in urban revitalization at least a very small, local level.

    I have some historical knowledge of urban planning, but I want to go to grad school to to get the tech skills as well as hone my theoretical knowledge of the topic. It's something that I've always cared about, as early as when I was a 14 year old kid hating the fact that I couldn't get any of the neighborhoods near me straight because they all looked identical and were called similar things like "Woody Meadows" and "Garden Forest" (you get the idea).

    So basically, I'm all talk and ideas, and don't have experience. I can say I have a passion for it, and I want the experience.

    The job and internship market is pretty dire, and I can't afford to take an unpaid internship, so I figure I might as well apply to grad school and see what comes first--the paid internship/job or grad school.

    So... back to the questions, do I still have a chance?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    You sound like a very ambitious student and you want to get the most out of a planning degree. Plenty of professors also share your ideals (as well as several planners) Here are my thoughts:

    1. If you haven't already, I would explore many of the other threads and posts in other subforums on here. Cyburbia has a wealth of information/advice at your fingertips from seasoned planners. Some of your ideals are very hard to put into practice, no matter what the economic climate. What you consider a small project such as the Steel Yard is actually a pretty decent-size project. With the exception of maybe Canberra, we have yet to physically plan an entire city on the scale as the Burnham Plan.
    2. Planning has been very damaged by this recession.The profession will recover, although it will take time, probably longer than you would like, and there is no guarantee that it will rebound by the time you graduate. This is no time for fantasy world or goofing off. You have some idea of what planning is, now find out how planners do it, and how are they doing it in this recession.
    3. Regarding internships, you take what you can get in this economy and you make the most of it. Plenty of out-of-work planners and recent graduates have had to take unpaid internships to keep their experience fresh. It's a hard sell to earn an internship before grad school but it can be done, provided you demonstrate a thorough understand of planning and how it applies to the specific position, just like any job.

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  10. #10
    Many graduate schools have links with limited bios of admitted students. Perusing those, you can get a pretty good idea about who got in. Really, it comes down to "Have you done useful things?" If not, do you show the potential to do useful things? Your GRE is extremely strong, your GPA is pretty weak. Coming out of Brown may help you.

    If you apply for planning programs with a strong design element (landscape architecture, preservation, urban design), your background can be an asset. Regardless, I think it unlikely it will be held against you. First, planning is a professional degree, and draws practical competence from many fields.

    Second, any MUP will be complete in itself--even if you walk in knowing nothing, you'll know a vast amount 60 credit hours later. Two of the best students in my MUP had undergrad degrees in sociology and classical music.

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