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Thread: Hello, Debating the merits of a double major in geography-urban planning and between two schools.

  1. #1
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    Hello, Debating the merits of a double major in geography-urban planning and between two schools.

    Hello, I am a senior in high school in Metro Detroit debating between two schools. I am debating between UIUC and University of Michigan. I have a couple problems though, as both schools have strong pros and cons. If I go to University of Michigan, my education will be cheaper, U-M is a "better" school than UIUC, many friends are going there, and on a purely emotional point, I have grown up a U-M fan and want to participate in such activities as the marching band. The downside to U-M is that they do not have Urban Planning as an undergraduate major. If I wanted to do a major that I think I would enjoy and lead to a M.U.P from The University of Michigan, I would become a geography or a history major. UIUC also has many positives like being ranked by Planetizen as the best Urban Planning school in the Midwest. They also not only have an Urban Planning degree, but the opportunity to double major in geography with it as well. The downside is that it is much more expensive than U-M (Even though cost is not a defining issue for me as to where I go to school, a cheaper education would be appreciated by my parents...) and the fact that I don't know a single soul there, it is not ranked as high as U-M, and I just haven't grown up loving them like I have U-M. While it is obviously hard to tell from just this post, would I be more successful if I went to U-M? I always feel slightly inferior as a planned urban planning or geography major (or perhaps both...) when talking to my friends, many of whom are prospective engineers who tease me for the poor job prospects my career supposedly has. Is this true as well? I know money is not everything or happiness, it would sure seem to help happiness when one is not worrying about paying the bills on time. If someone could give me advice on this, as everyone I know (including my counselers...) has no idea what an Urban Planner is/does, let alone giving a prospective one advice. Many thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Just my $0.02.

    If you're going for your master's anyways, your undergraduate major is less important - so I'd say go to UM. That said, I would recommend geography over history, as geography is much more related to planning than history. Geography, in fact, used to be the most common major for planners before planning degrees became more common at universities. You can do history as well if you really want, but I'd recommend geography over history.

    Also, don't go into huge debt for an undergraduate degree (or master's) in planning - it's not worth it. It really won't make you any more employable after graduation, and it will be hell to pay off your debt.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Hmmm. I like Tarf's response. (However, I majored in history as an undergrad. I focused more on cultural/social aspects of history, and I've found that my education has been somewhat helpful in my planning career -- especially in understanding the evolution of the city. You can definitely get that in geography, as well. And you will get it in a planning program.)

    Have you considered Wayne State? At an institutional level, it has nowhere near the prestige of Michigan or Illinois. It does, however, have two things those other schools don't have: Avis Vidal and George Galster. As someone who is in a Ph.D. program at a top-tier research university, I cannot begin to tell you how important those two individuals are in the worlds of planning, housing, and community development. (I think Wayne State's undergrad program is in urban studies, which is close to--but not quite--planning. I'm not seriously suggesting that you consider WSU, but I do want to point out that some of the most well-known, well-respected thinkers in the field live in your area.)

    Whichever school you choose (Michigan or Illinois), if you get the chance to attend any lectures or special events at which either of those people are speaking, do yourself a favor and go hear them.

    Best wishes.

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    Quote Originally posted by Lambo98 View post
    Hello, I am a senior in high school in Metro Detroit debating between two schools. I am debating between UIUC and University of Michigan. I have a couple problems though, as both schools have strong pros and cons. If I go to University of Michigan, my education will be cheaper, U-M is a "better" school than UIUC, many friends are going there, and on a purely emotional point, I have grown up a U-M fan and want to participate in such activities as the marching band.
    It must be tough growing up a Michigan fan... I mean with all their failure and what not. But aside from that, if you like the school, that is a strong reason to go. But if you should really pick a school that will fulfill your educational needs. If you want to go into planning, I don't see an advantage to getting degrees you don't want to get a masters in what you want.

    Consider this. If you go to a school with planning and graduate in 4 years lots of things in our field will be different. If you get a masters after that, you add two years to that. Really it is impossible to guess our job prospects in 2018 at the earliest. Again, go to a school that allows you to get a degree in what interests you.

    Quote Originally posted by Lambo98 View post
    The downside to U-M is that they do not have Urban Planning as an undergraduate major. If I wanted to do a major that I think I would enjoy and lead to a M.U.P from The University of Michigan, I would become a geography or a history major.
    What good is geography and history going to do you for your goal of a planning degree? It just seems like unnecessary work to get to your final goal.


    Quote Originally posted by Lambo98 View post
    UIUC also has many positives like being ranked by Planetizen as the best Urban Planning school in the Midwest. They also not only have an Urban Planning degree, but the opportunity to double major in geography with it as well. The downside is that it is much more expensive than U-M (Even though cost is not a defining issue for me as to where I go to school, a cheaper education would be appreciated by my parents...) and the fact that I don't know a single soul there, it is not ranked as high as U-M, and I just haven't grown up loving them like I have U-M.
    Planetizen really shouldn't be a guide. It doesn't represent much beyond a really bad list of programs that are in each region. If you want a planning degree they are a step ahead of Michigan. Cost should count towards your decision. Knowing people really shouldn't. You will meet lots of people in college. Many times it is better to go where you know no one going in. It allows you to grow. Again, going to a school because you loved their football program is probably not the best idea.



    Quote Originally posted by Lambo98 View post
    While it is obviously hard to tell from just this post, would I be more successful if I went to U-M? I always feel slightly inferior as a planned urban planning or geography major (or perhaps both...) when talking to my friends, many of whom are prospective engineers who tease me for the poor job prospects my career supposedly has. Is this true as well? I know money is not everything or happiness, it would sure seem to help happiness when one is not worrying about paying the bills on time.
    No one can tell you if you will be successful. That is really up to you. If you work hard, any program you go to will make .successful. Engineering is a different degree. They have poor job prospects too. Everyone does. If money is a priority to you, planning is probably not your field. Many work in the government and don't make a fortune. We work for citizens who think we don't know anything, and elected officials who want the world.

    Quote Originally posted by Lambo98 View post
    If someone could give me advice on this, as everyone I know (including my counselers...) has no idea what an Urban Planner is/does, let alone giving a prospective one advice. Many thanks.
    Again, a college choice is a personal decision. You need to figure out what you value the most. Your education? The cost? Or anything else. I would widen the net to include additional schools. Even within Michigan there a lots of schools with great planning degrees.

    Good luck. Search a bit for what college should I go to threads here. We try to answer them all. Maybe someone else who went through this could help you as well.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Let me point out that there is several years' glut of planning students today. The public sector is shrinking, making a glut of experienced planners. The economy worldwide will likely continue to contract as our leaders are afraid to address the facts and act appropriately. Yes, you should do what you love, but make sure you also learn something in college that allows you to eat and pay debt while you wait years for the backlog to clear and the construction to start again. And limit debt. Things may get better and there may be economic growth such that housing demand gets met eventually, but that is not around the corner. Limit your debt. I agree with Tarf that geography is more useful. Limit your debt. And history is definitely a solid intellectual background for planning, as all this has been done before. Did I mention limit debt?

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