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Thread: Toronto vs. Penn

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Toronto vs. Penn

    I've been debating whether to post this question for a week or so and have finally determined that it can't hurt to get additional thoughts/opinions. Trying to make a decision between the University of Toronto and Penn. Penn has been my number one choice since the beginning of the application process, but I am concerned about the debt I will incur in pursuit of a PennPlanning degree.

    University of Toronto, on the other hand, has kind of come out of nowhere as a very appealing option. The program is extremely well respected in Canada and the University is well respected in the global academic community. The program is less expensive to begin with and they offered me a nice fellowship that brings the cost of tuition down even further. I just got back from Toronto and liked what I saw and heard. It is certainly considerably less flashy than Penn, but I am wondering how much that should matter.

    If anyone has any thoughts on things I should be considering, ie: post degree prospects, the debt question, program strengths/weaknesses, or anything else, I would greatly appreciate it.

    cheers

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I made a visit to Toronto/met with one of the faculty today, and will possibly meet with another on Tuesday on my way back to the West Coast from MIT's open house. I think one thing you have to understand about Toronto is that the program's position in the department of geography makes a difference. Many professors there are planner-geographers, rather than planner-architects or straight practicing planners. In short, they're comfortable delving into questions of theory, especially around society and space, more than some other programs might be. The best way to describe it would be a program in applied urban geography.

    Also, from my perspective as someone interested in urban design, the one thing that makes me hesitant about Toronto is that I simply won't get as deep of training in design as I would at other places that have more design-educated faculty.

    As far as Toronto/the campus is concerned, for me, the jury's still out. I need to see more of the city to make a decision. If I end up at the school, it will be because of money - their offer to me at this point pretty much amounts to a tuition waver, which is not too bad.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jenmicah View post
    Many professors there are planner-geographers, rather than planner-architects or straight practicing planners. In short, they're comfortable delving into questions of theory, especially around society and space, more than some other programs might be. The best way to describe it would be a program in applied urban geography.
    yeah, I definitely got that impression as well. Fortunately (or unfortunately when it comes to my indecision), applied urban geography might also be the best way to describe my current interests in planning. However, I also believe that these interests might change, and would like to find myself in a program that allows me to explore the field as a whole.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I was accepted at and visited both programs three years ago. Penn's program very strongly emphasizes its design component and is very practice-oriented, which is much better if your end goal is to work in private practice/consulting-type planning. Caveat though: the job market is and probably will remain sluggish for planners, which is reflected in compensation levels even for employed planners. I think a little investigation will give you a better sense of how much you can expect to make, how much student loan you can responsibly take on, and whether going to Penn is an economically sound decision--no small consideration even if, like most planners, you are not in it for the money.

    As for UofT: my understanding is that it's a much more "comprehensivist" program, and graduates are likely to be more broadly conversant in theory, policy, and the practice of physical planning--the flip side being that you can potentially walk out there lacking a core set of employable skills. As someone who went there for undergrad I can also speak to the somewhat alienating experience of being part of a huge faculty -- at my visit to Penn I was pleasantly surprised by the sense of "togetherness" among the small planning student body. That said, the small price tag is definitely attractive, and Toronto itself is a really great and interesting place, both as a place to live and as a laboratory for planners.

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