I am a first year student in an Ivy League planning program and I'm seriously considering dropping out. I would really appreciate advice from planners and other students so I can make the right decision.
I got on the planning track as an idealist and advocate. I want to be an anti-sprawl crusader and a champion of neglected urban centers. I want to help reshape the disastrous development patterns that have ruined much of the American landscape and ravaged our historic built environments. I want to make a difference in the world (as hackneyed and corny as the phrase is) and not just be a cog in the machine that perpetuates business as usual. I realize I'm not special in these desires and that most if not everyone on this site shares them. I just wanted to make clear that I'm passionate about planning and this isn't some random thing I chose to go to school for.
My reasons for dropping out:
- With a couple exceptions, the courses and professors are generally mediocre. I don't feel inspired here and the coursework isn't as rigorous as I expected, ie I don't feel like I am learning genuine skills. The workload is tremendous, which would be fine if I was enjoying the work, but a lot of it is drudgery. Second year students I've talked to says it gets better and first semester is difficult, but this sucks. I feel like I'm not getting what I'm paying for, which leads me to...
- Cost. I will be at least $70k in debt when I graduate. While I would be ok with this if I was loving the program and had more confidence in finding meaningful and rewarding employment upon graduation, neither is looking good right now. Is it worth going into so much debt for this degree? Is the Ivy name worth it on the diploma?
- Jobs. The Republicans are targeting HUD, cities are scrapping entire planning departments, and many planners are already out of work. Future prospects don't look great for the next five or ten years as far as I can tell. Am I wrong?
- I'm worried I can do more as an outsider than as a planner in the system. I'm afraid that if I graduate and get that great city planning job, I'll find myself muzzled in order to keep that job, beholden to elected officials and impotent to advocate for the changes I feel are necessary. Planning is, of course, all about compromise, but I don't know if I have thick enough skin for the perennial disappointments that seem the fate of most city planners. As a private citizen, I could run for the planning commission and be that elected official. As a private citizen, I could advocate to save that historic building or revise that element of zoning code without needing to worry about the political BS planners need to constantly keep in mind. Can an outsider in some ways actually do more good than a planner in the system?
- I don't know if I'm enough of a people person to charm the public and finesse the system.
- Analyzing data and working with a lot of numbers are not my bag. I can do it all right, but it's not a strength or a real interest.
This article by Thomas Campanella articulates a lot of my doubts about going into the field: http://places.designobserver.com/fea...lanning/25188/
What should I do? The deadline to withdraw and get some tuition back is very near. I need to decide right away. I could always finish out the semester so I actually get the credits, but I don't want to throw more money and time at something that isn't right for me. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.