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Thread: Deciding on grad school offers

  1. #1
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    Deciding on grad school offers

    Hello to all,

    I've recently been accepted to a number of planning programs and am trying figure out what I should do. I know this is a type of post that has been presented many times before but I'm willing to bet many of us are still struggling with it and perhaps a 2012 discussion will be helpful.

    I want to pursue a Masters in Planning, my objective is get a position in transportation planning.
    So here goes.

    I've been accepted to
    PSU - No aid
    UCLA - No aid
    UIC - 1st year assistantship - tuition covered & 14k RA stipend, 2nd year I'm on my own (I think)
    MIT - No aid

    I'm located in NYC so relocation costs and out of stater tuition are something that I've been planning for.

    I want to accept the offer from MIT, I'm impressed by their program and am also interested in their dual degree Masters of Science in Transportation.... But MIT is very very expensive. It will end up being almost twice as much as Chicago and Portland, and about 20k more than UCLA. I'm willing to go the loan route, but is it worth it? MIT claims to have fantastic employment rates with avg salary being markedly higher, can anyone attest to this being the case. I see a lot on these forums about taking the road that minimizes debt. I was able to finish undergrad debt free so this will be first debt I build.

    I don't know, I guess I'll just throw it out there. I'd love to hear from others going through the same process and from anyone that could offer any wisdom.

    Many thanks in advance.
    All the best.

  2. #2
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    UIC - 1st year - tuition covered & 7k RA stipend

    Whoops, U of Illinois-Chicago offered a $7,000 Research Assistantship not 14K.
    Last edited by planstudent82; 27 Mar 2012 at 8:11 AM. Reason: bad formatting

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I'm not sure I'm qualified to make any recommendations, but I'd say if you want to live in Chicago after school UIC could be a good place for you. MIT might be better if you want to live elsewhere. I have debt from another graduate degree, and it's a weight I carry with me always, even though it's definitely manageable. I'd recommend you estimate what your monthly payment would be after graduating from each school to help make what it would mean to you more concrete (I'm assuming there are websites with a tool for this).

    If you can go to school in a city/region where you want to work afterwards with less debt, it's worth talking to alumni and seeing what you can get out of the program. Between the cost of tuition at MIT and the cost of living in Boston, I imagine you're looking at 100K of debt - that is a lot of money for a program that probably isn't going to translate into a very high earning potential - although not an extremely low one either. I would think that going to MIT would be a great learning experience and would open some professional doors for you that otherwise might not be available, but on the flip side, afterward, you might not be able to pursue certain career choices because of the debt. (Though I hear there's a new federal loan forgiveness program depending on the job you have/ your income level after school - also worth looking into).

    Either way, good luck with whatever you decide - and congrats on your offers!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Do you have any preferences on the geographic area where you'd like to work after graduation? Considering the geographic spread of the programs, that should be something to consider since you'll likely have an easier time finding your first job in the region where the school is located.

    As for costs, don't forget about cost of living. The areas where these particular schools are located are not known for being particularly cheap. I would check but Portland's difference in cost of living might make cheaper than Chicago with the financial aid.

    As for MIT, I can definitely see the appeal but it is definitely risky in this economy. I would be skeptical of their job placement numbers since those can be very misleading. I don't doubt your earning potential will likely be higher with a degree from MIT but is it worth being saddled with massive debt if things don't work out as planned?

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the responses. I don't have any specific geographic preference, but would like to be in/or near a major metropolitan coastal city. So could be east coast or west, NYC, BOS, LA, SF etc. Cost of living will be somewhat less as I'm moving with my partner, who will be working full time, and will share living costs. Part of what worries me about Chicago is that I don't want to feel tied to a specific place, mobiity would be great, though after reading through these forums it seems like I'll be lucky if I get an entry level position pretty much anywhere....

    Thanks again.

  6. #6
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    Decisions, decisions, decisions...

    Trying to make my enrollment decision. All program have pretty equal merits in regards to my professional interests/pursuits. I have been admitted to the following programs:

    -Rutgers (partial scholarship with the potential for more in the coming weeks)

    -Columbia (with 25% aid)

    -UIChicago (Research Assistantship with tuition waiver)

    -New School for Public Engagement (60% scholarship with the potential for more in the coming weeks)

    My interest in social enterprise and my desire to be in a hands on program with client work directly embedded into the curriculum was the main attraction to the New School program. Does anyone have any insight into their program and how it is perceived in the professional world? I don't want to be limited to any sector (public, private, not for profit) and their alumni seem to find work in all three and beyond(?).

    In regards to the other programs, Rutgers seems to be the most reputable (Planetizen?), however, I am not overly excited about the New Brunswick area as a place of residence and a laboratory/classroom for my studies. Their program does match up pretty well with me, but I will not be moving alone and I have to think about my spouse. With Columbia, it seems that I am adding to the long list of questions here regarding the relevance/weight of name recognition and overall institutional prestige in making your enrollment decision. Their program seems like a good fit for the most part, and I will know more (about all of the school) when I visit them in the coming weeks. Financial considerations are obviously huge, and I will be working hard to mine for some extra $$$$s during my visits. I look forard to visitng UIC since they offered me the most attractive financial package by far.

    Does anyone have any additional insight into these programs? Or if you were in a similar decision-making conundrum, how you made your final decision?

    Comments much appreciated. Thanks!

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