I have a prepared short speech about what urban planning is because so many new people I meet have no idea what it is. “Is it civil engineering?” “Not really…” “Oh, so it’s government administration?” “Not quite…” One guy got it on the spot after only minimal aforementioned stammers at a party I recently went to: “So, you’re the link/problem solver between social and economic issues for communities?” [With some liberties taken to clarify.] YES! Perfect. But I digress…
Certainly not all students are created equal, and it’s also true within planning. While most give advice to all majors, there are some specifics left unnoticed mostly out of ignorance of what in the world planning is. [Guy above’s next question was if there’s a demand for planning… a major road and intersection expansion affecting urban farmers was literally 3 blocks away from the party. So, just a smidge in ‘Portland North’.] These are specific towards the beginning out of personal experience and trickle down towards vague mud. Have fun!
1. Collaborate! (Even on individual assignments)
Cheating? To some. Enriching to your education because it’s what you’ll have to do on a daily basis when you’re, you know, in the career you’re studying for? Absolutely! Even a brainstorming session will get the gears turning at the most minimal. But remember that with all collaboration efforts: you’re in the same boat: if one drowns (or jumps… that jerk) you (all) drown.
2. Research x10
Getting census data for a population projection? Find out why there was a slump in the 40s and get an extra gold star in your heart when the prof smirks at your ingenuity. Use multiple methods, people! It pays off big. Compare centric journals to mainstream media opinions, interview people you know, interview people you don’t know, compare every single variable to explain data in layman’s terms (after all, you will in the long run for the public!)
3. Ask all your professors the same question
Their differences define them not just as professors but as practicing planners as well. This also works for other majors, but still.
4. Use proper grammar
As excellently exhibited in the sentence above, take the time too read every thing outloud & REVISE!
5. Question everything
Be a 5 year old. Ask why that was this way and why it’s different now. This is excellent practice for your actual career because that will literally be your job.
6. GET INTERNSHIPS
Purposeful ones, no coffee runs. It could prove to substitute a master’s. I’ve looked at job openings for more than a year. It’s pretty cool that happens.
7. Stay up-to-date
Write a blog! Read novels outside of class! This and the one above should prove to fill your summer (and school year!) easily.
8. Stand up for your opinions
You should probably learn this earlier than later, because no matter where you are, there will be that one jerk that’s louder than you, though most likely less informed than you, whose short-term goal in life right now is to make a fool and ‘example’ out of you. [See the first episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation: the scene of the public meeting so conveniently does not have a clip anywhere on the amass that is the web. Good side: you can watch the entire series, start-to-finish on Hulu for free. We now have something to talk about that doesn’t involve maps. Entirely.]
9. HAVE FUN and don’t take yourself too seriously
On the note of standing up for your opinions, don’t be ‘that person’ who must be right about every point every time because they talk the longest. Nobody likes that person, and neither do you. Let’s eliminate those d-bags by not being one ourselves.