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Thread: Prospective undergraduate planner?

  1. #1

    Prospective undergraduate planner?

    Hey, I'm Chris, I'm currently a junior in high school.

    I decided within the past year that I want to be an urban planner, and my entire family told me "Well, duh..." I've been drawing maps of made-up cities since I was three, playing Sim City since I was six, so it was a natural decision. Previously, I was interested in civil engineering because I wanted to design highways, but after taking high school physics and introductory engineering, it seems incredibly boring compared to planning. I am much more interested in geography, economics and history than physical science.

    We are in the process of looking at colleges around us; I'm most interested in transportation planning and/or economic/land use planning. I'm probably more swayed toward policy than physical design. Before we look at every college offering a program around us, I have two questions.

    1) Should I get an undergrad major in planning or a related field like geography or urban studies before moving to graduate school?

    2) Which colleges should I be looking at? I don't think I can get in to an Ivy League or MIT or Berkeley or anything. I'm ranked ~30/600 in high school and have a 4.1 GPA. Which schools have the best programs but are still possible to get in to?

    Thanks for the advice. I've been trying to do research, but I know very few teachers in my school/adults in my area that are involved in the field.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by IndianaChris94 View post
    1) Should I get an undergrad major in planning or a related field like geography or urban studies before moving to graduate school?

    2) Which colleges should I be looking at? I don't think I can get in to an Ivy League or MIT or Berkeley or anything. I'm ranked ~30/600 in high school and have a 4.1 GPA. Which schools have the best programs but are still possible to get in to?

    Just my $0.02 as usual...

    1) If you plan on going for your masters in planning anyways, it doesn't really matter what your undergraduate is (given the choices you listed). Just don't become an arts major Geography, planning, or urban studies all are a good fit for a masters program in planning.

    2) Most folks around here (including myself) will tell you that it is not worth going into debt for some "brand name" college degree when there are other, respectable alternatives, such as a state university. Generally speaking, an ivy league degree only makes you marginally more employable (if even), and is not worth the expense. This is especially the case for someone wanting to pursue a masters.

    If you want to pursue planning for your undergraduate degree, take a look at the Planning Accreditation Board's list of accredited universities (easily Googleable). Otherwise, take a look at schools that are affordable (but accredited and respectable... no online universities of course ).
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  3. #3
    Thanks for your response. Nearby programs to my area include Ball State, Cincinnati, Illinois, and Miami, all of which spark interest for me. I'll probably end up looking all over.

  4. #4
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    Ball State probably has the best undergraduate program in your area. It is accredited by the PAB, however, undergraduate accreditation by the PAB really doesn't matter, seeing as only about 12 or so undergraduate programs in the United States are accredited by the PAB. Masters PAB accreditation is much more important. A geography undergrad would make the most sense if you are looking at eventually pursuing a masters degree in planning. Most geography departments either have an emphasis or a separate degree in urban planning, although not accredited, are just as good at giving you a solid background in the topic, as well as analytical skills. GIS skills from geography will be important as well.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Look at OSU's geography program.

    I'm in the MCRP program here, and to be honest, the geography department seems to be doing more around the topics you're interested in than the planning department. Especially mapping! If you want to do GIS in planning they will just direct you to the geography department, anyhow. Geography seems to be much more into examining and asking questions about the environment (learning a subject), while planning is more focused on graphic work and urban design (producing work to get a job). Planning has some classes, though, where you get to work on real world issues and present them to real world planners/city governments. Hell, you should check them both out!

    There is also this oddity of a program: http://aede.osu.edu/

    I dunno how interested you are in economic development through farming, but the classes (graduate at least) that this department offers are usually pretty interesting. They offered one that was about the geography of economic change in developing countries (or something along those lines).

  6. #6
    I did my undergrad in Planning at Illinois (and grad school too for that matter)

    I enjoyed it, I think I enjoyed grad school a lot more. Illinois used to have a 4+1 program where undergrads could get a MUP in 5 years... but they were phasing it out (with new leadership in the department next year, it may or may not come back)

    If you want to be a planner out of undergrad 2 things:

    1.) good luck. and still plan on getting your MUP
    2.) do planning

    if you know you're going to go to grad school right away

    1.) reconsider, I'm really glad I took a couple years off and worked, but
    2.) you can be more open about what you want to do, planning schools admit from a wide variety of backgrounds. If you show a clear path and have decent grades, you'll be fine.


    basically, i don't know what to tell you ... i did BAUP, 2 years working, MUP, and now have a pretty good job at a mid-sized city... it seemed to work out. I'd say do what seems best, have a plan in mind, and be prepared for it to change... which is probably what you're going to learn in school anyways

    A lot depends on what you want to do too... undergrad I went to illinois because I wanted to go to Illinois, grad school i went to Illinois because the program fit with my interests (and I had a bunch of credit there )... planning is quite diverse, and while things here seem to focus on the traditional path and more physical planning related offshoots, there were a lot of different interests in my undergrad and grad school classes.

    I'd say if you wanted to do municipal planning, be prepared to work a lot to get to a good starting job, right now I'd say a city of 50,000-150,000 people is getting 100+ candidates for a Planner I job, and is hiring someone with a MUP and at least 2 years of fairly relevant experience.

  7. #7
    Thank you all for your input. It has been helpful!

    I think that I would want to pursue a major in geography, possibly dual in economics too. As an in-state student with the required GPA and SAT scores, I am able to attain a scholarship from Indiana University covering almost all of the tuition. Illinois, OSU, UNC, Cincinnati, all would cost upwards of 30-40k per year, which is beyond what my family can afford.

    I think that I want to pursue planning via this geography/economics route, and possibly do some relevant GIS/geography or even economics work before going back to school for a MURP. Urban planning is the ultimate goal though; reading about the profession here has only solidified my interest.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by IndianaChris94 View post
    I think that I want to pursue planning via this geography/economics route, and possibly do some relevant GIS/geography or even economics work before going back to school for a MURP. Urban planning is the ultimate goal though; reading about the profession here has only solidified my interest.
    Sounds good from here. Good luck.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

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