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Undergrad relevance

Pegguy11

Cyburbian
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#1
As someone contemplating urban planning once I finish my degree (BA in Geography), I'm interested in how useful / relevant have others have found their undergrad degree for preparing them for a masters program in urban planing. Has it been just non-planning specific skills like communication, GIS/data work, knowing how to study? Or did you find certain aspects of your undergrad directly related to your masters?

Secondly, do you recommend trying to find planning work before a masters, or drive right into to school/

Thanks for the free advice ;)

Pegguy11
 

dvdneal

Cyburbian
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#2
My undergrad was planning so it mirrored the master's program. I took my master's in public admin. I think my undergrad helped with teaching me a little about how cities work, but maybe my undergrad isn't typical. I have nothing to compare it to. I think what helped me through my master's most was taking time to work a little. That gave me a clear understanding of how cities work and I could apply it to my degree. Then again, sometimes it's helpful to have that masters just to get hired.
 

gtpeach

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#3
My undergrad degree is in materials engineering and my master's is in Public Policy. There was no overlap whatsoever. I work as a planner now, and am doing fine. A lot of graduate schools actually value a difference in educational/professional background from their applicants. I still found my undergrad to be helpful in preparing me for grad school type work, but the subject area I studied didn't make much difference as far as how I performed. I still did very well in my classes, and I think I probably got something different out of the material than some of my peers.
 
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#4
A Geog undergrad can be highly relevant in terms of covering basic urban studies tenets if one followed more urbs related courses. I know many Geog undergrads who went on to MUPs at fine schools like McGill and Rutgers.

It seems that for some reason PoliSci degrees often end up in planning, especially in the top tier programs - as was the case with a friend of mine who is a whiz kid and just finished a MUP at Columbia. I had a Geog/Planning/History hybrid degree (because Quebec universities are well....special) and it got me into my MUP program, at least satisfying the "have a bachelors" requirement. My Bachelors prepped me for having the critical knowledge background to produce academic product, GIS skills and basic knowledge of Planning. Most MUP programs know they are not getting Planners per se, so you have basic intro courses that will be like Planning 101 at the first year of any program.

Really, your GPA in any undergrad, recommendations, relevant experience and cogent, focused reasoning for applying to a Planning program also have much weight when it comes to admissions.
 
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#5
My undergrad was in planning (same with Master's). There was some overlap, but not that much because my undergrad had a more rural focus. I think mostly undergrad helped shape an general understanding of planning not only through coursework and projects, but through doing internships during summers and during a year off between college and grad school. Otherwise it was mostly just general study skills. Coming in knowing GIS and Adobe programs helped, but kind of put me behind because I didn't learn the newest stuff coming out of grad school (chose to take other classes instead, since I already had some technical skills coming in).

Definitely recommend taking a year (or two, if you find a great job) to work (in anything really - nonprofit work, GIS, government, etc.), save money, and do your grad school applications. Just keep in touch with your old professors and maybe pay them a visit if you're ever in town. After all, they will be writing your rec letters! (and make sure to end your senior year with strong grades!).
 
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#6
A Geog undergrad can be highly relevant in terms of covering basic urban studies tenets if one followed more urbs related courses. I know many Geog undergrads who went on to MUPs at fine schools like McGill and Rutgers . . .Really, your GPA in any undergrad, recommendations, relevant experience and cogent, focused reasoning for applying to a Planning program also have much weight when it comes to admissions.
. . . Definitely recommend taking a year (or two, if you find a great job) to work (in anything really - nonprofit work, GIS, government, etc.), save money, and do your grad school applications. Just keep in touch with your old professors and maybe pay them a visit if you're ever in town. After all, they will be writing your rec letters! (and make sure to end your senior year with strong grades!).
Terminator, I'm currently taking an urban studies course, and luckily my human geog prof is pretty heavy on the urban issues, and that definitely the path I want to pursue. Thanks!! I'm also glad you and akshali confirm my thinking that taking a year (or two) between degrees if I can line up relevant work would be a good thing for me and applications. Thanks for the info.
 
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#7
My grad school classmates had undergrad degrees in a wide variety of subjects including design, hard sciences, social sciences, and liberal arts (mine was in geography, too). I think that variety added to a diversity in opinions and perspectives in classroom discussions, and we all turned out to be some good planners.
 
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#10
My grad school classmates had undergrad degrees in a wide variety of subjects including design, hard sciences, social sciences, and liberal arts (mine was in geography, too). I think that variety added to a diversity in opinions and perspectives in classroom discussions, and we all turned out to be some good planners.
I went the social science route as an undergrad - honestly wish I hadn't. Yeah, it made me more adept at office politics and better able to deal with management issues, but the reality is that most places promote experts not good managers. You're better served with a solid STEM undergrad followed by a nice soft urban affairs master (aka MPP, MPA, MCP, MUP)
 
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#11
LOL I appreciate the curiosity but I still have 2(ish) years left on my BA, I'm just an eager beaver wanting to think ahead and plan my next steps.
It's really great that you're thinking about all this now! A lot of people don't. Haha in that case, I would advocate A) doing as many internships as you can and B) milking that student status for as long as you can. For example, if you've always wanted to travel, do it now (ex: study abroad, etc.), or attend conferences, do it while it's a cheap student rate, because doing these things as an entry level employee is really hard on both the wallet and watch (meaning finding money and time). Oh, and pay off as much of your undergrad student loans as possible before you start grad school. That may mean taking a job that isn't planning related, which is fine. You're going to grad school for planning where everyone will start over as an entry level anyway. Might as well make some money and lower your debt, or if you don't have debt, then save up some cash for grad school.
 
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