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Thread: About to graduate and looking at urban/city planning master's programs. Advice?

  1. #1
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    About to graduate and looking at urban/city planning master's programs. Advice?

    Hello Everyone,
    Iím a political science major at the University of Minnesota and Iím scheduled to graduate at some point this summer. Iíve had law school in my sights since high school, but recently Iíve been considering alternative career options. Since I was about 5 years old and through my entire life, Iíve been building cities with blocks/Legoís, drawing literal and fictional maps, studying all kinds of maps, studying and discussing city issues online, playing Sim City, etcÖobviously this doesnít mean I should jump into this field, but I figure that itís worth considering since geography/city planning are probably my favorite hobbies. Anyway, Iíve been looking at Masterís programs in urban planning recently and it seems more and more enticing. However, Iím still relatively unfamiliar with the field and grad school in general, so Iíve turned here for help.
    My GPA should be about 3.8 by the time I graduate and I havenít taken the GRE. Right now my plan is to look for a job doing whatever I can find where my fiancť lives and attends college, get married once I have a job, and go to law/grad school when she finishes her B.A. in a couple years. SoÖmy questions for you are:

    -If I stay a bit longer through the summer and take an extra class or two, I could get a minor in geography. Is a polisci major/geography minor a good combo when looking at masterís programs?

    -Would you recommend taking a little longer to get a geography minor, or does it not really matter?

    -I have a 3.8 GPA, an internship with a ranking Minnesota state senator, a part-time job this fall, and Iím pursuing several internship/volunteer opportunities for my final semester(s). With those stats and hopefully a full-time job for a couple of years prior to law/grad school, what kind of GRE score would I need to get into top city planning programs? Would I have a shot at all?

    -Finally, what other related careers and programs would you suggest given my degree, experience, and interests?

    I realize these questions can be really hard to answer, but any input at all would be extremely helpful. Thanks for your advice!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    A minor in geography is fine but probably not worth the extra time.

    Take a look at the Humphrey Institute, right in your backyard. I loved it there. And you can do a joint degree with the U's law school if you want.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the input. I'm waiting to see if I can get a course to transfer from high school (a college course) which will determine when and if I go after a geography minor.

    I plan on stopping by the Humphrey Institute at some point this semester to talk to someone just to get an idea of what it's all about (addmission/career/acadmics). Any other advice or comments?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I wouldn't opt for a dual degree program. A law degree trains you to be a lawyer. Planning degrees train you to be a planner. There's some overlap when it comes to regulations and zoning, but planning offices aren't staffed with people who have law degrees and law firms aren't staffed with people who have planning degrees. The lawyers who are involved with planning do so strictly from the regulation/zoning/eminent domain side and aren't involved in the creative side of planning.

    It would be an extra year or two of school tuition for no noticeable benefit. Be a lawyer and join a firm that specializes in real estate law for developers and urban authorities. Be a planner with a zoning specialty.

    Planning is not as creative as it may first appear. Forget the studios in planning school - that stuff doesn't happen to 90% of planners working in the real world. Real estate development is where all the creative decisions are made. Private planning firms that do masterplans are increasingly being staffed by landscape architects.

  5. #5
    On admissions: I wouldn't say the geography minor would give you an incredible advantage. As a recent graduate planning student myself, the internships and volunteer experience will show admissions peeps that 1) You are serious about the field and can draw from experience during class discussions 2) It is important enough to you that you might even volunteer your time. Plus, It gives your resume a good boost and your internships might add to your statement of purpose.

    So if I were you, I would devote most of my time to getting an internship in planning before you apply, which for many of the top schools, you'll have to wait probably until next year because the deadlines are coming...so you have time to get a good chunk of experience in the actual field. FYI, with your GPA and experience I would say as long as you break 1000 on your GRE you should be competitive at most the top public schools. I had a 3.4 in undergrad, I got an 1150 and got into 2 of the top 5 public schools and 2 of the top 10 public's. You will be fine with your GPA and your experience in the public policy field.

    As far as getting into the field, I started out with the same general interests as you. If you are unsure, try to read some books on public health planning, urban design, transportation planning, or economic/real estate development/housing and see what topic strikes you most. When you apply to schools, make sure you have the option to take courses in other departments or schools. At my school, I'm allowed to take MBA classes in real estate development and public finance. That was important in choosing where to go and really what career path I'll take as well. So hope that helps a little. Good luck.

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