I was able to speak to some MdesS students. One was about to enter the program. He had a finance background and was looking forward to learning more about design and law.
The other student I met was about to finish the program. He had worked for a few years in Dubai prior to attending the GSD. He was hoping to find a job in London, working on some large scale projects.
Unfortunately, professor Peiser was not at the open house.
I've been accepted to both for a masters in planning but I'm unable to visit either of the schools before I make my decision, which is coming up in a few days. Having talked with several students from both schools, I understand that both are great options but are quite different. Originally, I was set on public transportation. However, as I don't plan on becoming an engineer, I feel the opportunities to make a difference in the field will be limited and am reconsidering my focus.
At this point, I think I want a private sector planning related job, perhaps real estate development or planning consulting. Which school is better for sending graduates into the private sector?
MIT seems to be stronger in giving students quantitative skills, which I think are more attractive to employers; however, many of the graduates go into non-profit or governmental work. How is MIT's private sector alumni network? Also, will my desire to go into the private sector distance me from my classmates? Will it preclude me from departmental camaraderie?
Harvard, on the other hand, seems a bit weaker quantitatively but I think more grads go into the private sector. If this is because they are attractive for their design competencies, I don't think this would matter for me. However, if students are going into non-design private firms, or working in non-design roles in design firms, I think Harvard would prepare me well for finding a career in the private sector. Can anyone speak to the quantitative aspect of Harvard's program and the types of private sector jobs available to Harvard grads?
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Although I cannot answer your question Skittles since i haven't attended either - I too am trying to make the same decision -
I too have been admitted at both Harvard and MIT's MUP/MCP planning programs and couldn't visit the Open Houses, making the decision really difficult. From the impressions I could get from online reviews, talking to students and reading the online program requirements - if anyone disagrees with me or has experience otherwise please correct me! - MIT's program seems more established with active faculty members working in different fields (transportation, energy etc...) whereas Harvard's program is more design focused with more practicing practitioners (more locally in the US?). Overall I feel Harvard is the right place to go for anyone seeking a career in design whereas MIT would be the place to go to specialize in a particular field of interest or to work in development internationally.
Seeing as Urban Planning is in part design and in part quantitative, and has so many socio-economic /political aspects, as someone who studied architecture in my undergraduate degree, I am wondering if it makes sense to jump straight into a specialized program like MIT's (in the energy field I was working on) without first getting a more general perhaps design-based background first? Or continue in energy/sustainable urban planning since it seems to be critical in our time and try and gather sufficient understanding of other areas as I go along?
Would be really great to hear some advice from someone with experience with the programs and practice of course!
When I worked in Massachusetts in the 90's I used to get group project work from both Harvard and MIT for my fair town - I have to say that MIT had the most applicable work products and much better than Harvard's
I saw more of a sense of entitlement at Harvard at the time, where MIT students were eager to learn and sopped everything up and spit back a real good document every time
Plus, I think MIT is a lot more fun than Harvard - the parties were better at least, in the 80's anyway
so this may be a get off my lawn post but there it is anyway
bumping this for skittles
Harvard's program has improved a lot since the mid-90s--they've made some great hires, and a real effort to cultivate a more open & accessible culture for the MUPs. That said, having been to both open houses in the fall and the DUSP open house last week (didn't have time for both), these are my thoughts:
- How prepared are you to commit a lot of time to studio? At MIT, you can do as much or as little design/studio work as you'd like; at Harvard, it seemed to take about 50% of the students' time. If you're into that, it's great--the students I talked to at Harvard loved it--but if there's a chance it won't be for you, go to MIT.
- Since so many MIT students have substantial RA-ships in order to pay their bills, they spend a lot more time researching and a lot less time networking/holding outside internships than Harvard students might. A + or a - depending on how interested you are in research, and what your financial aid package was.
- On that note, there is a lot more interesting research being done at MIT, period, and it seems better connected to the rest of the university. It made it feel like a more exciting place, and I think it's also great in the sense that it's probably easier to find thesis advisors who really fit your interests. BUT, this does of course depend on what you're interested in--I'd check the research of professors at both schools, and figure out who's doing things you find fascinating. If you really like theory, for example, you might want to go to Harvard and work with Neil Brenner. If you're into public transportation, check out Zegras at MIT.
- The professors I talked to at both schools were generally quite friendly and fun to talk with.
- Gund is a really interesting building, but it also feels a bit cramped...I found MIT had just as much character and was an open, brighter, more pleasant atmosphere (great student lounge, for example), though it doesn't have the same buzz/hum of energy as the GSD. After visiting in the fall, I favored the GSD in terms of where I'd want to spend time, but after hanging out at MIT all day last week, I discovered lots of cool spaces that changed my mind--I really like the CDD headquarters, for example.
- The students at each school actually felt very similar to me, in terms of interests, backgrounds, political leanings, etc. I was impressed by students in both schools, but I would say that the Harvard students seemed a bit more consistently polished in their self-presentation, and also seemed a bit closer in age (it seemed to me that there were more married and/or older students at DUSP, though they are a minority). And Skittles, going into the private sector is definitely not going to be an issue at either school; there is a mix of future careers, from management consulting to labor activists, at DUSP and they all seemed quite close-knit.
- Teaching quality is similar at both schools and perhaps slightly more consistent at Harvard (I think because it is smaller), but there are great classes to be taken at both schools, and since you can cross-register and shop around, I feel pretty confident that I'll be able to weed out poorly-reviewed courses.
- It's possible to graduate from DUSP in three semesters, but I'm pretty sure it's not possible at the GSD (unless you're doing an approved dual). Just an FYI, if cost/time savings are very important.
- DUSP's MCP program is just insanely flexible. You can test out of core classes like stats, econ, and GIS, or you can sub those classes with ones taken elsewhere if it's better for your schedule. The program groups don't matter much; you can basically take whatever classes you want beyond the core, so long as you do a practicum and complete a thesis. And the thesis can be traditional, media-based, a client-project...there's a bunch of different options there, too. This can all be a positive if it fits your personality, but if you're looking for more structure and handholding, it is definitely NOT the place for you.
- Employment outlook seems pretty good at both schools. MIT DUSP has a better reputation among those in the know, but if you're looking for a job somewhere where people don't know much about planning schools, perhaps the Harvard brand would give an advantage.
- Some of the professors bring their dogs to DUSP. I saw no dogs at the GSD. You know, just saying
Hope this is helpful, if you're still deliberating! I unfortunately won't have much time to check back here in the next week, but good luck choosing! I'm sure you'll be happy either way.
ozjohnson thanks so much for your extensive reply!
After a lot of online research, reading reviews and talking to both professors and current students at both Harvard and MIT, I decided to go for MIT.
I think the program is more diverse and more in line with my interest in international development, energy and technology as related to planning. I'm hoping it was the right choice, I'm sure both programs are great though for anyone who went/is going to the GSD (especially if you are more interested in design) and thanks to everyone who chipped in towards this decision!
Thank you all for the input. It was a difficult decision but I went for MIT. I hope it was the right choice!
I'm sure you will have a great experience. I had 3 professors who went to MIT and they were among the most brilliant and creative thinkers I have studied with.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose