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Thread: Columbia MSUP or nada/ reapply next year?

  1. #1
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    Columbia MSUP or nada/ reapply next year?

    Hi, I applied this year to five schools in geographic tandem with my SO, and ended up only accepted to Columbia. So, my options are Columbia or reapplying next year. However, I've been hearing quite a bit of murmuring about the reputation of the program and it's level of quality but nothing incredibly specific. I am able to go financially but obviously I don't want to go to a program that won't actually prepare me to plan. So, before I make a decision I was hoping to hear a more thorough opinion of the program's strength and weaknesses. I'll also be going to the open house next week.

    What specifically is lacking in the program?
    Do current/past students feel like they were prepared when they entered the job market?
    Do current/past students feel like their was adequate opportunities and encouragement for professional development through internships, projects with actual firms or government agencies?
    Were the professors able to convey both a strong theoretical and practical ability?
    Future students: what tipped the scales in favor or Columbia for you?

    I am most interested in a career with municipal/regional government or private industry/ consultation thus I am hoping to get a strong technical background but also a sense of the different aspects and potential of planning. I am specifically interested in tying development to transportation infrastructure through smart growth/complete streets, etc. and would be interested on a take of Columbia's program in respect to those areas as well. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I'll be honest with you: I have heard mixed things about Columbia, but I think it depends on your point of view. It seems to have a reputation of being a very academically-oriented program. I think the people who really knock the program are the ones who prefer a more practical, hands-on education; they think that Columbia students come out not really as ready to do the work of planning as the graduates of other programs. I don't actually think that you need to pay tuition to learn the ins and outs of zoning - you can learn that later. School should be about getting the knowledge that you can't get elsewhere. If you were to go to Columbia and make sure to pursue as many opportunities (internships, etc.) to get really involved in the planning world, then I think you could get some more practical experience - it just won't be handed to you.

    That said, my own personal preference is for a school that balances the theoretical and the practical.

    Will you be able to go to Columbia's open house on April 10th? If so, that might be an opportunity to address a lot of your concerns. If not, I'll be attending, and can try to give you my report afterwards. Of course, you'll have to try to filter out my particular biases.

  3. #3
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    I've also heard mixed reviews (academic, not practical, not respected by "true planners," low communication and encouragement to network), which is what first piqued my hesitation. I, too, prefer a balance between theoretical and practical and all the other schools I applied to were strongly focused in that direction. Honestly, when I first applied to Columbia I hadn't researched it as much as I should have and assumed that it would be okay because it was Columbia. Now that its my only choice for this year I've been researching more. Problem is, I haven't found much. I will be going to the open house next Tuesday so hopefully I will get a better vibe than I have here and on grad cafe. Maybe I'll see you there!

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    What did you think?

    @emijay25: I don't know whether I met you or not...but what did you think of Columbia's open house?

    Personally, I don't think the program is a great fit for me, since I'm interested in the problems facing the domestic built environment. The program seems to be heavily oriented towards international development work. The current students who are most enthusiastic about the program were interested in working internationally. Others cited the thesis as a draw; I'd rather have a studio be the focus of the second year.

    I thought the students I talked to seemed pretty friendly, as did the professors.

    I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

  5. #5
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    @Haussman,

    I was both was both confirmed in some of my hesitations and pleasantly surprised. Here's a short list of my pros and cons.

    Cons:
    More of an international development focus, definitely question/research oriented (though this could be a pro and a con), only one studio (I would prefer as much experience working on real projects as possible), lack of formal employment support and demonstrated connections within the city, unclear specializations (what do I learn in the transportation focus, for example),

    Pros:
    Students seem intelligent and happy with the program (though several mentioned New York as the main draw), Not so academic so as to preclude learning techniques, Most students do have internships, and there does seem to be informal support for them; I liked the potential for outside classes and a dual degree

    I think I have decided that I can get what I want out of it, which I was unsure of before. However, if I had other options I think I would strongly consider looking for a better fit to my interests of transportation and practical.

    Where have you decided on?

  6. #6
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    Hi there, I was also there this week.
    I hadn't heard what you both have about the msup's reputation (probably because I was too busy listening to them gush about it) but I agree that I have found it hard to nail down specifics in either direction. I expected to be much more wowed at the open house, but I think they gave too much time to the students and not enough to faculty. In many ways the students are the best eye into the program, and I really like chatting with them, but I wanted to get to know who I would be studying under.
    Haussmann, do you mind my asking where you think you'll be going? I think our interests might be somewhat similar.

  7. #7
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    Hey dec, Most of what I've heard about their reputation has been fairly vague and second or third hand, which is what prompted me to post. Personally, I was hoping they would elaborate on the curriculum, specializations and employment more than they did. It felt like a lot of the day was spent reiterating the website info and talking about the awesomeness of NY, greater Columbia, and international projects. I also wished we'd had more face time with students and professors to ask questions (but to be fair I headed out before the cocktail party, which may have been the moment for that.) What were your impressions of the program after the open house? Any chance you'll be heading that way come fall?

  8. #8
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    Hi @dec, I'll be heading to Penn in the Fall. Here's what swayed my decision: I really got the impression that students there were pretty happy, and since a lot of them shared my interests, I thought that was a good sign. I'm definitely interested in working domestically, and I'm interested in physical planning and design. This might sound weird, but another thing I liked was that Penn students said over and over again that the program is extremely intense. I want to get an intense experience for my time and money.

    This was a tough decision, with definite downsides like cost and having to move to Philly. But I only get to live once, so I want to go to the program that is the best fit for my interests.

  9. #9
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    NYU anyone?

    Hi all,

    I was accepted to NYU's MUP program for this year and was wondering if anyone has heard much about that program...? I'm having some concerns regarding the direction and focus of the program in terms of practical planning skills and employability of graduates. anyone got an opinion on this?

    thanks!

  10. #10
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    What are the rough GPA / research requirements for admission to the Columbia MSUP? Have seen some stuff on gradcafe, wondering if people here have more to say. Cheers.

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