"What school?" Help!

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#1
Hello Cyburbia! Please help me select a school.

Here are my stats:
GRE 166Q 165V
GPA 3.4
2 letters of rec from Professors, 1 from employer

I work at an IT Consulting company where I write proposals and other marketing material in response to RFPs put out by procurement offices. I also am a jr consulting analyst at a large transportation authority, where I take notes on a project to revamp a certain business process. Otherwise I have no planning experience.

I am currently applying for Fall 2016. I am interested in, in order: environmental/sustainability, economic development, transportation. My priorities regarding school are, in order: price, job placement, education, weather(warmer is better), brand/reputation. I would prefer to not have to take out any loans, so I would target schools with a lot of assistantships, or schools where I would have a good shot at an assistantship. What are my best options? Also let me know if there are other factors that may help/hinder my application process. Thank you for your time.
 
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#2
Based on your priorities...

1.) Price - Obviously, in-state and public schools will be your cheapest option. If you are dead set on out-of-state schools, you'll need to secure some type of funding (assistantship, scholarship, fellowship, whatever).

2.) Job Placement - I would lie to you if I said that planning wasn't still a tough field to crack in to. Find schools that require or heavily emphasize field placement, internships for credit, or have good connections with firms/governments/organizations in the city you want to work in.

3.) Education - I would argue that any school in the top 50 will provide you with a solid planning education. If you really want to specialize, find a school with a strong reputation in 'sister' programs. For instance, if you were interested in urban design, go to a planning program at a school that also has a strong architecture/landscape architecture program. You will most likely be afforded more opportunities to take electives in other disciplines this way.

4.) Weather - If you want nice weather and a solid school, I would pick California. Texas, Florida, and Georgia probably has some warmer weather as well (and strong planning schools).

5.) Brand/Reputation - Some will tell you this matters, and I would agree based on my personal experience. Schools with a strong reputation could (all else remaining equal) open a door to an interview for you. But I think there are more important things to focus on in choosing a school than this.


One more thing..... It appears that you really aren't sure what you'd like to specialize in. That's totally okay (I didn't either). In that case, maybe pick a school that has a great core curriculum (classes with all of your interest areas covered) and plenty of opportunity to explore what you want. I entered graduate school wanting to do transportation. Hated it, so I did more physical and land use planning, loved it. Got a job in local government, took on an urban design role and that is my passion-of-the-moment.

Don't freak out if you don't know exactly what you want at this juncture. We're planners; we're broad by nature.

Best of luck to you!
 
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