From the Archives: Advice from the Class of 2017

Back in 2016, the UNC City and Regional Planning’s Class of 2017 answered some of the incoming class’s deepest darkest questions as they began their first year of graduate school. As the Class of 2023 wraps up week 1 of the program, we revisit this great advice, still just as relevant a full five years later.

By Rachel Wexler, Daniel Bullock, and Chris Bendix, MCRP ’17

2018: What advice do you have for students who are transitioning from working full-time to being a student full-time, in terms of getting back into an academic mindset?

2017: Depending on your priorities, you might not need to change your mindset too much. If you’re organized and efficient you can treat school like a 9 to 5. Generally though, you will likely not have a full day of rest and relaxation until summer time. So hold onto your hat. Also, it’s pass-fail and there will be times when you will need to do less than you’d ideally like to for the sake of your schedule and your own sanity.

2018: How much group-work is required, and do you have any tips for working in groups?

2017: A large amount of projects are done as groups but once tasks are delegated work is largely independent. Assign project components based on the skills each member has and the skills they want to gain. Have internal deadlines.

2018: How early should first-years start thinking about summer internships?

2017: It should always be in the back of your mind but second semester is the time to actively seek internships. With that being said, if you know you want to stay in the area and start working before summer starts, go ahead and start looking now. With that being said, internships can and may come together at the last minute and still work out really well.

2018: Do you recommend that first-years take the introductory courses for all of the DCRP specializations to get a sense of options, or is that unnecessary?

2017: No. Don’t do this. Maybe take two courses in different specializations if you’re trying to decide but really, there isn’t enough time. If you are unsure about what specialization you’re aiming for try to take courses that count towards multiple specializations. This is not hard to do if you’re wavering between ED and Housing.

2018: Any advice for balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities like TA-ships?

2017: Be prepared to turn in work that you know you could have done better on. There is not enough time to do everything to the best of your ability. Focus on the things you want to get out of the program and forget about perfectionism.

2018: What’s your favorite bar and/or coffee shop in Carrboro/Chapel Hill?

Grey Squirrel – hip
Open Eye – study spot
Johnny’s (now called Present Day on Main) – local community vibe
Honeysuckle Tea House – if you like tea and farms this is the place
OCSC -seems to be the grad student go-to
Beer Study – for beer geeks
Zog’s – divey (now closed)
Lantern – for the fancy occasion
Steel String – nice patio and people-watching

2018: Any advice for cultivating relationships with professors in your first year?

2017: You probably heard this in undergrad but the same goes for grad school– go to office hours, ask questions, be engaged in class. They’re generally really accessible and genuinely care about helping their students but they’re not going to come to you. Try not to be too intimidated by them. They understand how ridiculously complex planning things tend to be so it’s ok if you show up and ask really basic questions. Also, use your TAs, especially if they’re DCRP PhD candidates. They’re crazy knowledgeable.  

Rachel Wexler specialized in Economic Development at DCRP, and is now a German Chancellor Fellow at ZK/U – Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik in Berlin, Germany.

Daniel Bullock was in the Housing and Community Development and Real Estate specialization, and now works as the Housing and Facilities Development Manager at CASA of Oregon in Sherwood, Oregon.

Chris Bendix studied both Housing and Community Development and Transportation, and is a Project Developer at Mercy Housing in Seattle, Washington.

Featured image courtesy of Alison Salomon