If you can answer the questions
Originally posted by isamu
o "do planners actually do actual work to actually improve these things on the ground" and if so, then then you should go into planning, and you probably are generally "competitive" without even looking at your data. If you cannot answer those questions, you may want to reexamine how to find a profession to address these concerns.
o "how often do they actually get to do these things"
As for this being "competitive", I suspect there are fewer applications into many planning programs right now, so "competitive" is relative. That is: is there competition right now for slots, and at which school(s)? That is the real question (or, alternatively: if there are fewer openings for students, is the environment more competitive? I suspect each school is different and a blanket reply is impossible).
All this is a different way of framing the standard question Detroit Planner asked.
It is all about selling yourself and your ideas to the school. If you can't do that, you won't be successful in planning. If you can, you are competitive.