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Thread: Realistic expectations for grad school acceptance

  1. #1
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    Realistic expectations for grad school acceptance

    I am interested in gaining some insight into what my realistic expectations should be for acceptance in to some programs I am applying for. Here are the programs:

    UT Austin - Dual CRP/SD
    UVA - Urban and Environmental Engineering
    UNC - Urban Planning
    Cornell - Urban Planning
    Penn - Urban Planning
    Harvard - Urban Planning

    I graduated from the Univeristy of Florida with a degree in Ecology and minor in Zoology.
    3.23 GPA
    GRE - 161 verbal, 160 quantitative, 5.5 analytical
    Returned Peace Corps volunteer with environmental research and development experience
    Independent marine science research experience and professional presentation at an academic conference
    2 years experience teaching high school science
    Science department chair at a 1200 student high school

    Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks!!!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Based on your stats it seems like you'd have a decent shot at any of the schools, but I'm not sure how the newish GRE scoring system compares to the previous 1600 point system. Peace Corps is looked at highly favorably. GPA is OK but you picked some competitive schools. Most important thing as you probably know is your Personal Statement.

  3. #3
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    Thanks..

    Thanks for the response. My percentile GRE scores are 81st Quantitative, 86th verbal, 96th analytical. I worked really hard and had a lot of editing input on my statement of purpose to tie together my background with why I want to do this. I know Peace Corps helps a lot but I think it is kind of a wild card depending on who is on the admissions committee. I have been looking at UVA as more of a safety and Cornell as the holy grail with UNC and UT as both great schools I would be excited about. I'm also thinking of applying to VaTech. I'm actually thinking about taking Harvard and Penn off of my list because I hear they are overrated. What do you think about all that?

    AND... I have no idea why I wrote "Urban and Environmental Engineering" for UVA... I had just gotten off the phone with my engineer brother. Anyway... UVA - Urban and Environmental Planning.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by Coin View post
    Thanks for the response. My percentile GRE scores are 81st Quantitative, 86th verbal, 96th analytical. I worked really hard and had a lot of editing input on my statement of purpose to tie together my background with why I want to do this. I know Peace Corps helps a lot but I think it is kind of a wild card depending on who is on the admissions committee. I have been looking at UVA as more of a safety and Cornell as the holy grail with UNC and UT as both great schools I would be excited about. I'm also thinking of applying to VaTech. I'm actually thinking about taking Harvard and Penn off of my list because I hear they are overrated. What do you think about all that?
    Applying to a large number of programs is a great strategy. There might be offers of funding sent with the admitted letters or shortly thereafter. You'll be able to compare the various assistantship packages that might be offered before committing to a program.

    You may also find this classic thread of interest: http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=813
    Last edited by OfficialPlanner; 20 Dec 2012 at 5:19 PM.
    The content contrarian

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    This was a long time ago, but I applied to MIT, Harvard and Berkeley. I suspect that in my time the custom was to apply to fewer schools.. nowadays I notice that people apply to more than 3 or 4. I got accepted at the first two, rejected at the third. MIT funded me, Harvard did not because all of its assistanceship and grant programs had to be need-qualified at the time and I didn't qualify for family financial reasons, I can't remember what my scores were, but I think in the high 90s quant/analytical and (very) low 90s verbal.

    My best advice is, go meet with students and professors at the schools to which you're applying. Go to open house days.. or just arrange a visit and stop in. Try to meet with people whose research interests align with yours and share with them your ideas. If you click with them and, when they see your name come up on an application and can say "Oh yeah.. I remember that one. Bright young thing...", they may very well champion you through the admissions process. Also, remember that current students often read files.. not just the professors.

    I visited MIT and Harvard but just put in an application to Berkeley, sight-unseen.. never set foot on the campus, so I'm not surprised that I got in at the former two and rejected from the third. I was just a bunch of stats and essay questions to them so there was no reason why they'd give me serious consideration. Shame.. I would've went there too, being Californian.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 21 Dec 2012 at 11:55 AM.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post
    Applying to a large number of programs is a great strategy. There might be offers of funding sent with the admitted letters or shortly thereafter.
    You may also find this classic thread of interest: http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=813
    I agree that having a choice is better. I don't know anything about the actual chances of acceptance, esp to eastern schools, but I do suspect that planning programs are hurting for students, as the profession currently is moribund and there are lots of grads looking for work, so there should be more open slots these days if the programs haven't been cut. Just a suspicion, no data to back it.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    planning programs are hurting for students,

    Not really. Somebody told me my alma mater is seeing record applications. Yes, a lot of planners are out of work, but fewer planners are out of work than most of the allied professions, and even compared with areas like law and finance. Not everybody has what it takes - or any desire to be - a healthcare professional, actuary or computer programmer.. three areas where there's no shortage of jobs. Remember, the official new graduate unemployment rate in the whole country is just below 30%, and, as of September, the Economic Policy Institute reported that the real un- and under-employment rate for new grads is 53%. One out of two new college and graduate degree holders are now jobless or working in menial or service capacities that do not require a college degree. Against these odds, planning looks darn good. In fact, I've read we're one of the fastest growing professions, technically. It's just the times we live in.

  8. #8
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    lowering expectations for grad school acceptance

    I'd like some honest feedback about my chances for admission. I've submitted apps to four top-15ish schools, but many sleepless nights have resulted in a reevaluation of my life (half-joking, of course )

    I graduated over five years ago from an Ivy with a social science degree. I have five+ years of professional experience working in policy & non-profits. I also recently completed one year of an M. Arch with a 4.0, and I scored pretty well on the GRE - 95%V, 73%Q, 4.5AW. I'm first generation American & college grad.

    Now the bad stuff: My brother was killed during my junior year of college, and my GPA which was steadily climbing, plummeted miserably: I graduated with a sub 3.0. I feel confident about my academic focus and I have clear career goals. I've evolved exponentially from the person I was during undergrad, but I'm realistic about how competitive admissions will be for the schools I'm applying to. Should I hurry up and apply to a few more schools to increase my chances of ending up somewhere next fall?

    One more recent consideration (why didn't I consider this before??) is the whole money thing. If I do get lucky and am admitted to one of the four I applied to, my chances of receiving funding is probably slim. I'd like to have more options to compare offers and try to minimize my debt.

    Any constructive feedback would be really appreciated! Thanks and happy holidays everyone!

    :edit: i should mention that i'm in the housing field, and it's the specialization i will pursue in grad school. -- If anyone has any insight or program-specific advice, i'm really appreciative for any feedback! thank you!!
    Last edited by vl3; 28 Dec 2012 at 11:30 AM. Reason: adding info

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Without knowing what schools you're applying to, I do think you have a decent chance of getting in wherever you applied. Just use part of your letter of intent to explain why your undergrad GPA tanked and also point out your M. Arch GPA.

    I think the bigger issue you need to decide for yourself is whether a school name is worth the additional cost. I think in most situations, most around here would say it's not worth it. There are a number of good planning programs that are known for having more generous financial aid so it might be worth looking into those. Clemson, Georgia Tech, and UNC are programs that tend to have good financial aid.

  10. #10
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    I would definitely apply to non name-brand good schools, but now the problem is that most deadlines are quickly approaching, and many have already passed. One reason I narrowed my list of schools to 4 is because one of my recommenders (a former professor, head of the Arch dept.) said he would only have time to "carefully tailor" 4 letters. So I'd have to find a back-up recommender (which I can do, but I feel bad only giving her 2 weeks to write it, assuming she would even have time to write one!). So it's more of a time issue at this point. I put a lot of thought into each application I submitted, and I wonder if adcom's would look disfavorably on any future apps I submit if they appear to have been rushed.

    Thanks for your feedback, Blide! I'll be researching additional programs this afternoon.

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