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What do you guys consider a “decent scholarship”? I’m still waiting on scholarship info from half of my schools, but the offers I’ve received so far have been around half tuition. I’m just conflicted on how much debt is worth it, if maybe I should reapply next year, or just go for it and hope to get more funding the second year. I know it’s all up to personal circumstances, but I was just curious how much in loans others are willing to take out for their top choice programs.

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I work at an Ivy in admissions and financial aid, and we did see an increase in app numbers this year across our programs, a bit higher in planning than in others. From what I can tell, the gains for

I feel like me commenting here earlier might have made some of you worried that admissions committees regularly lurk here, but I honestly don't think that's the case. Most adcoms are made up solely of

Speaking as someone who is in their 30s and has been working in the "real world" for a number of years before applying to go back to grad school, my advice is take on as little debt as possible. Go to

23 minutes ago, planning said:

What do you guys consider a “decent scholarship”? I’m still waiting on scholarship info from half of my schools, but the offers I’ve received so far have been around half tuition. I’m just conflicted on how much debt is worth it, if maybe I should reapply next year, or just go for it and hope to get more funding the second year. I know it’s all up to personal circumstances, but I was just curious how much in loans others are willing to take out for their top choice programs.

Since I live in NY, my barometer is if it's competitive, price-wise, to an in-state program such as Hunter. That includes tuition - scholarships/RA/TA + cost of living.

I've asked planners in the field and what I've come across is that there's no program worth getting into large debt, and that program prestige doesn't matter as much in the real world, especially if you plan to work on the public sector.

If you're an international student, maybe it matters a bit more in terms of program prestige, but the salaries are not there to make it worth going severely into debt.

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1 hour ago, planning said:

What do you guys consider a “decent scholarship”? I’m still waiting on scholarship info from half of my schools, but the offers I’ve received so far have been around half tuition. I’m just conflicted on how much debt is worth it, if maybe I should reapply next year, or just go for it and hope to get more funding the second year. I know it’s all up to personal circumstances, but I was just curious how much in loans others are willing to take out for their top choice programs.

Half tuition is definitely a good scholarship! It looks like (to me at least) most people are typically getting none to a few thousand, so congrats on your offers. No one can tell you what next year looks like, unfortunately. Who knows if there’ll be more or less applicants or funding. If funding is your biggest priority, you should probably go to the cheapest school for you (unless it’s significantly lower in academic quality than others, but I doubt that). But of course, it’s important to consider other things like location, curriculum, and faculty.

For me, funding is a big concern, but I also have a kind of YOLO mindset. Sure, UCLA will be over twice the price if I get into it as opposed to my second choice, and I’ll be sinking myself into a lot of debt, but UCLA has been a dream school in an amazing location and social environment (the sports, arts, etc!), that I think the experience and pride I’ll feel will make it worth it.

However, I still feel like going to a much cheaper, lesser-known school will give me the same set of skills that can ultimately land me the same job as if I went to UCLA. Planning doesn’t really seem to care about where degrees come from (though the location of where your school is can definitely help you work where you want, ie LA). But I think planning degrees overall travel well. And prestige isn’t the end-all — a planning office in CA will probably have everyone from Berkeley to a small state school working at a similar position there.

TL;DR, at least for me, I’m not only going to grad school for a degree, but for the life experience. I’m willing to pay more for that. I’m only going to grad school once in my life. This is NOT advice, let me be clear, but just my personal reasoning for myself. I’d agree with the previous comment - if you just want to get your foot in the door, then a cheaper school will do just fine.

Edited by yellowsurf
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18 minutes ago, planning said:

What do you guys consider a “decent scholarship”? I’m still waiting on scholarship info from half of my schools, but the offers I’ve received so far have been around half tuition. I’m just conflicted on how much debt is worth it, if maybe I should reapply next year, or just go for it and hope to get more funding the second year. I know it’s all up to personal circumstances, but I was just curious how much in loans others are willing to take out for their top choice programs.

At the risk of being identified by adcoms (as I think my profile is pretty recognizable)... my definition of "decent scholarship" really depends on the school. For context, I'm looking study and build a career in the NYC area/Northeast, and am greatly fortunate not to have undergrad debt to build on so I have some wiggle room for loans. However, anything that would require me to take out more than the federal max $20k/year just seems extremely impractical.

My top choice, Rutgers, has significantly better job placement and salary statistics than most planning programs, so I don't mind having to take out a little bit more to go there. Through scholarships/assistantships, etc., I'd be very happy to have $15-20k/year or better (about half tuition for OOS first-year), and I applied with the expectation that Bloustein would have more resources for funding opportunities than other schools. I'm also hoping to move and establish residency there so I can have instate during my second year, and of course expect other opportunities to be made available for that time as well.

Conversely, NYU and especially Columbia seem like cash cows, so I'm wary of paying a similar amounts to go to those places unless funding offers bring a price tag significantly lower than Rutgers. I got $10k/year from NYU (my only funding offer so far), which is nice but only covers around 20% of tuition. Don't get me wrong, I'm aware NYU is notoriously expensive, when applying I wanted to throw my hat in the ring to see what they would offer (same with Columbia). 

Compared to the above options Hunter and UT are much more affordable without funding — Hunter is slightly more so but this is offset by NYC cost of living. UT looks like the superior program but Hunter is (obviously) way better located for where I want to build a career. If I get funding offers from any of the other three schools that would take me under $30k for both years, it would take a near-full ride from one of these two to sway me into enrolling.

This is just a general idea of what I'm looking for... I can't comment super specifically until after I get offers to compare, because I honestly don't know how competitive my profile is.

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28 minutes ago, cityplace_uptown said:

At the risk of being identified by adcoms (as I think my profile is pretty recognizable)... my definition of "decent scholarship" really depends on the school. For context, I'm looking study and build a career in the NYC area/Northeast, and am greatly fortunate not to have undergrad debt to build on so I have some wiggle room for loans. However, anything that would require me to take out more than the federal max $20k/year just seems extremely impractical.

Haha, I also feel recognizable especially knowing my peers lurk here. But I just really want to talk to people and help others during this unusual time.

I agree with $20k/yr max in loans — I don’t want to take any loans with higher rates than the federal loans.

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I feel like me commenting here earlier might have made some of you worried that admissions committees regularly lurk here, but I honestly don't think that's the case. Most adcoms are made up solely of faculty, and they just don't have the time to be teaching their full courseload, reviewing admissions for new students, and living their own lives, to be hanging around here!

I love working in grad admissions (vs. undergrad) because the faculty make the decisions and that makes me I feel like I can be an honest advocate for applicants and students without any conflict of interest. I do volunteer work on the side to help students even outside of the school I work at; it's just something I love. I really doubt many of my colleagues even bother to look much at GradCafe; I think I'm just a weirdo!

Since I also handle financial aid, I will say that you all seem to be taking into consideration everything I would advise a prospective student to consider. The big thing that many folks forget to consider is cost of living as far as loan debt is concerned, and it can really make a difference, so definitely include that in your calculations.

Lastly, I really can't speak for institutions other than my own, but at my institution a half-tuition scholarship is very competitive because there will only be a handful of folks awarded an amount higher than that and many that will be offered well below that. But that does not mean you still shouldn't respectfully ask to be considered for more funding; the worst they can say is "No, unfortuantely we have nothing else to offer" (and while you may think the school is just rolling in dough due to people not understanding how endowments work, believe me, there is a set scholarship budget that they have to adhere to in order to stay financially stable even outside of a pandemic!)

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Speaking as someone who is in their 30s and has been working in the "real world" for a number of years before applying to go back to grad school, my advice is take on as little debt as possible. Go to whatever school is most affordable for you. 

Seeing people talk about taking on 40k+ in debt saddens and scares me. It's just not worth it, and that debt is going to hang over you for a long time. 

I know a lot of milestones in life seem like they are a long ways off, but they aren't. That debt will get in the way if you want to buy a house, travel, have kids, take a leave of absence, decide planning isn't right for you, and everything else.  

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@lululadybug, I didn't mention the adcoms because of you, don't worry... it's more an acknowledgement of my paranoia, lol. Appreciate the heads-up though!

And @CanPlan, thanks for the excellent (and sobering) advice. I don't want to do anything stupid, but at the same time I don't want to count anything out before funding offers come in.

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I appreciate all of the insight, it’s helpful to hear where others are at in terms of the financial side! I’m very grateful for all of the funding offers I’ve received so far, but still trying to be realistic about how many loans I want to add on to my undergrad debt. Still, it’s an experience I’m willing to pay for as an investment in myself and my career!

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Especially for people who have been working for a few years post-undergrad like myself, you have to keep in mind other financial implications beyond tuition.

Even with half-scholarships at in-state schools, you are probably going to have to borrow for cost of living alone, which will probably max out the 20k/yr federal loan limit. On top of that, in the United States at least, leaving the full-time workforce for two years forces you to address issues like what you'll do about heath insurance and losing two years of retirement savings. I'm finding myself doubting whether pursuing two years of planning education full-time is a sound investment when I'm making nearly the median salary in my current career.

 

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I'm curious what everyone's ideal job or goal is after they graduate from a MURP program? Do you envision yourself as a traditional planner working in government or maybe something entirely different?

For me, I'm focused on environmental work. I could see myself in roles related to environmental policy and research, sustainability advising, food systems, waste/sanitation. I'm leaning towards a role in government.

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12 minutes ago, yellowsurf said:

Is anyone considering sending an email to appeal for more funding or have any advice for it? I’m specifically thinking about UNC.

I haven't done this myself. However, a faculty member recommended that it is possible if another school offered me more money. So, you can go to UNC and say "this other school offered me $$$ more than you, is there anything we can do to close that gap? UNC is my preferred program, but it may not work financially." 

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6 hours ago, yellowsurf said:

Is anyone considering sending an email to appeal for more funding or have any advice for it? I’m specifically thinking about UNC.

Also, thinking to send an email. DM and we can brainstorm. 

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On 3/11/2021 at 8:55 PM, gardentomato said:

I'm curious what everyone's ideal job or goal is after they graduate from a MURP program? Do you envision yourself as a traditional planner working in government or maybe something entirely different?

For me, I'm focused on environmental work. I could see myself in roles related to environmental policy and research, sustainability advising, food systems, waste/sanitation. I'm leaning towards a role in government.

I am very tunnel vision on becoming a Service Planner for a transit agency of any size. I'm not sure exactly how traditional or nontraditional or not that's considered to be. I assume v. traditional

 

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Has anyone had any luck negotiating aid offers this year, given COVID and the overall paltry status of most school's aid offerings? I got a great offer from 1 school that I'm less excited about, and nothing from another school that I'm thrilled about. If anyone has had any success, or has any suggestions, feel free to respond here or PM me!

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1 hour ago, anxiousplanner said:

Has anyone had any luck negotiating aid offers this year, given COVID and the overall paltry status of most school's aid offerings? I got a great offer from 1 school that I'm less excited about, and nothing from another school that I'm thrilled about. If anyone has had any success, or has any suggestions, feel free to respond here or PM me!

Hey! I originally didn't get a scholarship offer at a program I am very interested in so I set up an appointment to speak with someone in their admissions and financial aid office. I asked if they had a policy allowing aid applications to be reconsidered. Turns out they have a system where you submit a form requesting to be re-reviewed. I included tons of need- and merit-based considerations with budget of why I needed the aid I requested. I received a scholarship offer after that, but it was still quite small in comparison to other programs I'm looking at, so I reached out to the school again to see if I could chat with someone. I essentially said that I was really interested in going to the school and wanted to find a way to make it work, but was concerned that I wouldn't be able to afford the program at the current offer. They got back to me fairly quickly and offered a higher scholarship. 

Happy to share more of the details of what I said/what they said if helpful! Feel free to send me a message. 

I think the main takeaway is that these programs really want us to enroll. You may not come up with anything, but it definitely doesn't hurt to ask. Just (a) be polite and appreciative of your acceptance and any aid already offered, (b) explain your interest in the program/why you think it's the right fit for you, and (c) why you need the amount of aid you're asking for. I'm no expert, but my thoughts are that it's definitely helpful to share if other programs are more affordable options, just be careful to make sure it doesn't come off as if you're trying to strong arm them.  

One other thing to note (which I believe may have been mentioned by someone before, but I want to reiterate): If you are offered a higher scholarship, the school CANNOT demand you make a decision on whether to accept before April 15. Schools are trying to juggle their available aid right now and it's really helpful for them to have students accept/decline aid ASAP, but as part of the CGS Resolution they must give students until April 15 so it's an even playing field across programs and so that students have enough time to explore all their options thoughtfully. Just a word to the wise in case someone tries to pull this on you. 

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I got into my top choice planning program at UCLA and received no funding, but as a California high school grad who did undergrad in California for 4 years and has since then been an NY resident, am hoping to at least be granted an exception for in-state tuition which is around $17K for me to got there as a possibility. I received 85% tuition remission for my second choice program at Rutgers, which is a Dean's scholarship for 2 years, which means I'll walk away with very little debt, and on top of that was told I should be able to get a paid research position. I had reached out to the faculty I wanted to work with at UCLA before the application deadline twice before the application deadline, and didn't hear back, while the Rutgers faculty were all very responsive and made time to do zoom calls with me as a prospective applicant, but it's the UCLA faculty that I really want to work with in addition to the centers which really align with my interests. I am hoping to reach out again to the faculty that I would like to work with at UCLA again, but am wondering how realistic is it to expect that they will reply to me before the April 15 decision deadline, and that the UCLA program will reconsider me for scholarship funding and/or give me some sort of guarantee that I'll get a paid graduate position (at ucla I understand my pay would go toward tuition remission). Is it true that faculty can also advocate for you to get funding as a masters student? Also if centers at UCLA that I want to do research at have recently gotten a lot of funding, does this mean more paid grad opps will become available? I am wondering what else I can do try to get scholarship or fellowship $ to attend UCLA as most that I have come across are for currently enrolled students. I would really like to be able to move back to LA to attend, but am hesitant to take on debt to move back since the cost of living around UCLA has always been quite high even with covid. 

Post-grad I'm hoping to get a job at a foundation job or fellowship in California or NYC around BIPOC community development work and UCLA seems like it may have a network better suited for that, but not sure if paying $17K a year will be worth it toward this goal. And as someone who has been working for almost a decade since graduating and went from jobs with good benefits to progressively lower paying nonprofit community development jobs with bad or not health insurance, I am eager to be able to get decent health insurance due to some ongoing health issues I'd finally like to be able to properly address. Not sure how health insurance works in grad school or how I'll be able to afford that with tuition expenses. I was really excited about getting into UCLA, but feeling the pressure to figure out how it's going to work out financially for me before the April 15 decision deadline...

Edited by manateeluv
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11 hours ago, manateeluv said:

I got into my top choice planning program at UCLA and received no funding, but as a California high school grad who did undergrad in California for 4 years and has since then been an NY resident, am hoping to at least be granted an exception for in-state tuition which is around $17K for me to got there as a possibility.

You'll get in-state. I am in the same boat as you (not UCLA but CA/NY), I am in NY now and doing a GIS program at a community college in CA paying in-state tuition. You'll fill out a form called the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request (under AB540 which was actually intended for DACA students but casts a wide net) and you'll write down your school history in the state and you're good to go. Took a matter of days for mine to get verified.

Granted UCLA is a bigger institution than the community college I went to but it was a painless process and I can all but guarantee you'll be okay.

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13 minutes ago, jbourne1 said:

You'll get in-state. I am in the same boat as you (not UCLA but CA/NY), I am in NY now and doing a GIS program at a community college in CA paying in-state tuition. You'll fill out a form called the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request (under AB540 which was actually intended for DACA students but casts a wide net) and you'll write down your school history in the state and you're good to go. Took a matter of days for mine to get verified.

Granted UCLA is a bigger institution than the community college I went to but it was a painless process and I can all but guarantee you'll be okay.

I agree that the CA high school will very likely allow for in-state tuition for your continuing studies.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 4/5/2021 at 8:24 AM, hayamate said:

Has anyone been successful in asking, and getting, more funding?

I got a substantial offer from a top 20 program and I'm trying to leverage it to get more funding from a top 10 program.

I did! Honestly, all I did was have a phone call with the person in charge of finaid, tell the person in question why I liked their program / how much I liked it, and then told them my other offers. I didn't have a number in mind but apparently others have. I only spoke earnestly, honestly, and transparently and they seemed to appreciate that. 

My offer was upped a few days ago. Still unsure if it's enough to take it over some of my others, but it was a massive bump. 

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3 hours ago, ojireojire said:

I did! Honestly, all I did was have a phone call with the person in charge of finaid, tell the person in question why I liked their program / how much I liked it, and then told them my other offers. I didn't have a number in mind but apparently others have. I only spoke earnestly, honestly, and transparently and they seemed to appreciate that. 

My offer was upped a few days ago. Still unsure if it's enough to take it over some of my others, but it was a massive bump. 

Nice congrats! I was able to speak with chair of the department, told them the gap between their program (#1 choice) and the program that offered me the best packages (#2 choice). They gave me a bit more money, but it still leaves a 30k difference in cost of attending.  Love the program, but can't justify spending twice as much for it.

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