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Thread: NYU, Columbia or Rutgers?

  1. #1
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    NYU, Columbia or Rutgers?

    I'm trying to decide on an Urban Planning Grad school, and I'm choosing between NYU, Columbia and Rutgers. I'm leaning towards Rutgers--it's much less expensive and they seem to have a strong program and a good reputation. However, NYU has name recognition and they seem to devote a lot of energy to career placement. I'm interested in transportation and sustainability. Any advice would be most appreciated!

  2. #2
    I'm in a very similar situation - deciding between Rutgers, NYU and Pratt, with interest in sustainability and smart growth. I couldn't make it to the NYU Admitted Students Day today. What kinds of impressions did people have from it?

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    I'm also accepted to the 4 schools being considered by the 2 of you, and I was able to attend the Admitted students day at Wagner yesterday. The whole program was very much geared to the idea that the interdisciplinary nature on the program (all different forms of public service vs just urban planning) is a great value to anyone who wants to address great social challenges facing us. It was an interesting take on what I had long looked at a unique (and possibly less desirable) focus on topics other than urban planning. The day was never really broken into opportunities for just planners to meet together, for Wagner it's all about the connections between the disciplines. I did like the emphasis that we're all looking to address great problems and we can all help each other, but I still can't shake the feeling that grad school might need to be more specialized and less diverse.

    I hope to see both of you at the Rutgers Open House. For me the decision is likely between NYU and Rutgers, because I do like the policy focus of NYU and Rutgers (although I worry it might go too far at NYU) and I don't think the logistics of Pratt (only night classes, and it'll take more than two years to complete the program, I missed those points) or the bill at Columbia make them viable choices for me.

    @Keb, I'm also interested in transportation (more infrastructure and land use than sustainability, but the topics tie together @LZell) and I think NYU and Rutgers have the better programs for that purpose. Rutgers has been studying smart growth and strong downtowns in NJ for years (the Voorhees center does much of the research for NJDOT and NJTransit) and the Rudin Center and the Taub center for real estate cover similar topics. So I think you've got a good choice between the 2. If I may ask, are you still really considering Columbia, what is attracting you to their program @Keb and same question regarding Pratt @LZell?
    Last edited by TycoonTitan; 03 Apr 2012 at 6:50 AM.

  4. #4
    I watched part of the webcast from Wagner yesterday and sort of got that impression. What I really want to know more from about Wagner is more details about the planning program. I know a few alumni and have spoken with some current students. They all pretty much agree that the biggest benefit of going to NYU is the network that you become a part of. They didn't mean to say anything bad about the actual education Wagner offers, but they were telling me that the network is the best thing you gain from NYU.

    I am still considering Pratt because its literally 2 blocks from where I live, and when I applied I didn't realize the classes were only at night. At this point I am still considering it just so that I can give myself some perspective. I will be attending the Open House tonight.

    I already ruled out Columbia and Hunter. Columbia because the cost does not seem to offer any added benefit. I am becoming more aware that names do matter, even if the planning program at a school may not be top-notch. But even with that, Columbia has no appeal to me because it seems that I could have a great grad school experience at NYU or Rutgers and Columbia just costs so much more.

    I have been leaning towards Rutgers since the beginning of my application process. It has all of the subjects I am interested in studying. I was graciously welcomed by Dr. Burchell when I visited in the fall, and he told me all about his smart growth research, which is something I very much want to get involved with. Rutgers has a very good reputation in the planning community. It is only one hour from New York, where I have lived for the past 5 years. I am interested in suburban issues and the access to many of the NJ local governments and organizations is appealing to me. The tuition is certainly competitive, compared to the other schools I was accepted to.

    Only now that I am hearing so much about the network that NYU provides, it has made me consider it more than I had been before. I am looking forward to discussing this issue with everyone in attendance at Bloustein Open House on Thursday.

    We three seem to be in a similar boat!

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    @LZell you're reading my mind. I was also favoring Bloustein through the whole process, I completed their application first and everything. I guess it was mostly that the Planetizen rankings factored heavily in, but then I visited back in the fall, and I liked what I saw (in my case I met with Dr. Noland of the Voorhees Transportation Center). I also liked that Rutgers each concentration was stand-alone: being in transportation was to take 5 classes in transportation (NYU's specializations cover multiple topics; transportation also includes infrastructure and environment, complimentary topics but Rutgers treats them separately).

    I only really started giving NYU consideration after I got in: between the layperson who doesn't understand that Rutgers has a good program (but could name Wagner as part of NYU), and the strong "Wagner Mafia" of alumni and former professors working all over NYC, Wagner's reputation really struck me as the big player in the New York City planning scene. After yesterday, I strongly see the benefits of belonging to that network, as long as I actually get a good planning education along with it.

    What I can tell you about planning at Wagner (gleaned from the website) is that 2/3s of your courses and credits are already set. Between the School-wide core (4 classes) and the Urban Planning core (5 classes + capstone - or year long studio), most of your classes are set in stone. You have 5 classes for electives that you'll use to make your specialization. When I tried to plot out how the course would work, it appears you spend Year 1 doing only core classes, and Year 2 all your electives, your capstone and the remaining classes in the core. That setup isn't much different than Rutgers, where Year 1 is mostly core classes and Year 2 moslty electives and studio, the core classes are all Planning classes at Rutgers, and you get to take more electives (8 classes).

    Side note: also applied to Hunter, but strangely got wait-listed, even though I took some Urban Studies classes at Hunter between undergrad and applying for school, in which I got all A's. At this point I don't care and their program never imperssed me like others, but it's still intrigues me that I was wait-listed.

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    @TycoonKitten: Hunter is the most competitive planning program in the New York area, and probably the most respected in the city itself (Rutgers is probably the most respected in the larger region). Don't be fooled by the lack of national name brand - it's a solid program and very economical (hence the competitiveness).

    Here are the acceptance rates (info available from the Planetizen guide, or the free one - ACSP, I think?):

    Rutgers: 66% in 2010 (the most recent year reported)
    Pratt: 77% in 2010
    NYU: 53% in 2009 (no data for 2010)
    Hunter: 32% in 2010

    Columbia does not supply any of these publications with numbers (a major red flag, in my opinion, along with not being ranked). I can't help wondering what they're hiding.

    I can tell you that people in planning around the city are saying to stay away from Columbia. Right now, Hunter is the only NYC school that I'm seriously considering. NYU is mostly a policy degree, and Pratt has almost as many red flags (of a different nature) as Columbia.

  7. #7
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    @Haussmann,

    What are your "red flags of a different nature" for Pratt? I was actually accepted into both Pratt and Hunter, and chose Pratt. I was personally more impressed with the passion I felt among the students and faculty, and the facilities are much more impressive (something important to me, considering the amount of time spent on campus). I also felt Pratt was a better option for those who wanted to work or have internships during the day and focus on studies at night - seemed like a much more practical approach to pursuing a Masters, versus the inflexibility of day courses.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by Haussmann View post
    @TycoonKitten: Hunter is the most competitive planning program in the New York area, and probably the most respected in the city itself (Rutgers is probably the most respected in the larger region). Don't be fooled by the lack of national name brand - it's a solid program and very economical (hence the competitiveness).

    Here are the acceptance rates (info available from the Planetizen guide, or the free one - ACSP, I think?):

    Rutgers: 66% in 2010 (the most recent year reported)
    Pratt: 77% in 2010
    NYU: 53% in 2009 (no data for 2010)
    Hunter: 32% in 2010

    Columbia does not supply any of these publications with numbers (a major red flag, in my opinion, along with not being ranked). I can't help wondering what they're hiding.

    I can tell you that people in planning around the city are saying to stay away from Columbia. Right now, Hunter is the only NYC school that I'm seriously considering. NYU is mostly a policy degree, and Pratt has almost as many red flags (of a different nature) as Columbia.
    Good point, Haussman, I can get that it's intensely competitive, I can see from the stats that their acceptance ratio went from 64% in 2008 to 32%. That is an impressive increase in competitiveness. They do some amazing work there (although in my experience, their resources are a little more limited, even compared to Bloustein). I guess it just wasn't in the cards. NYU needs a decision by the 15th, so I'll be making one by then, and that's before I might move off the waitlist.

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    It sounds like we're definitely in a similar situation, @TycoonTitan and @LZel. I've heard a lot of good things about NYU re: career placement and NYU network, but not a lot of great things about the Urban Planning Program--I've read another post on this site that says it's more like a policy degree with a few land use classes. I've also heard from some alumni that it's not very rigorous. That said, I think that it's about what you make of it, and NYU has a lot of great resources and the career placement piece is huge in this kind of economy. The location is great too.

    I'm still leaning towards Rutgers, and I'm really looking forward to the open house--I hope it makes this an easier decision. The commute will be a pain, but if it's for a good (and affordable) education, I think it's worth it. I've also heard really good things about the transportation concentration there.

    Columbia, I agree, is too high of a price tag even though a degree from there will always carry that Ivy-league name recognition. I'm just hoping that Rutgers is well-known with people in and hiring for the planning profession.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by TycoonTitan View post
    Good point, Haussman, I can get that it's intensely competitive, I can see from the stats that their acceptance ratio went from 64% in 2008 to 32%. That is an impressive increase in competitiveness. They do some amazing work there (although in my experience, their resources are a little more limited, even compared to Bloustein). I guess it just wasn't in the cards. NYU needs a decision by the 15th, so I'll be making one by then, and that's before I might move off the waitlist.
    Not sure if this helps your situation, but if you've officially been waitlisted by a school, then you should be able to accept another school's offer and remain on the waitlist. All you need to do is tell the school who's offer you've accepted that you're going to remain on that waitlist. I did this a few years ago for a different degree, and stayed on a waitlist through most of the summer - both schools were completely fine with this.

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    @jh123, thank you for your advice on staying on wait-lists, but I'm generally very pleased with my choices for graduate school, and I think I'll make a choice among the acceptances I have.

    @keb, so you're thinking of commuting to New Brunswick for grad school? I do know that Bloustein students do it, and I know that Rutgers students are eligible for discounts on NJ Transit, so it's not impossible, but that is a long commute (and in my case, I'm an hour by subway from Penn Station, plus the hour long train ride, if I enroll I will live in the New Brunswick area).

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally posted by TycoonTitan View post
    @jh123, thank you for your advice on staying on wait-lists, but I'm generally very pleased with my choices for graduate school, and I think I'll make a choice among the acceptances I have.

    @keb, so you're thinking of commuting to New Brunswick for grad school? I do know that Bloustein students do it, and I know that Rutgers students are eligible for discounts on NJ Transit, so it's not impossible, but that is a long commute (and in my case, I'm an hour by subway from Penn Station, plus the hour long train ride, if I enroll I will live in the New Brunswick area).
    Oh I misunderstood then - sorry about that. I'm on a waitlist I'm not considering too - for the exact same reason.

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    @TycoonTitan: First of all, sorry for my brain fart with your handle in my earlier post! Don't know what I was thinking as I typed that...

    As for red flags with Pratt, I guess it's just that I've also heard that the program is expensive for what you get. I think it might actually be more expensive than Columbia, but the program is taught almost entirely by adjuncts. That sounds good in theory - learning from practicing experts - but in practice, I wonder if it means having a lot of teach-and-run types for whom students are a distant last priority. But if you're seriously considering Pratt, I guess it would be best to talk to students and get the real story (I'm just speculating).

    @bklynbpr - what is your take on this, as a current Pratt student?

  14. #14
    @keb @TycoonTitan
    I would also be moving to the New Brunswick area if I choose Rutgers. From what I have heard, the students make a very nice community for themselves there. I couldn't commute multiple times a week from Brooklyn, it would be too much for me.

    Regarding Pratt, I visited today, and like bklynbpr, I got the sense of passion from the faculty I spoke with (I didn't speak with students today, but the hosts of the Open House strongly suggested that we go speak with students who were around, and it seemed like many attendees were going to do that). Pratt also seems to have an impressive network throughout New York City. From the beginning though, my goal has been to prepare myself for a career in planning on the East Coast, and not just learn about New York. At Pratt and Hunter it seems that the education is very locally focused, which is great if that is where you see yourself working and living for the foreseeable future. I would like a broader classroom (mostly because I am interested in issues facing suburban sustainability), even though I may end up in New York for the long run.

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    Unfortunately, I think I will have to do the commute--my boyfriend works CT, so living in New Brunswick is not really an option for us. Planning on trying to move closer (but not too close) to Penn Station. I guess I'll get to try out the commute tomorrow!

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