MSRED/MRED 2019 (MIT vs. USC vs. Columbia) WHICH ONE?

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yoko1 - Certified Professional
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I've been accepted to MIT/USC/Columbia MSRED/MRED programs and would like to get feedback from industry professionals, anyone who is going through the similar process, and recent graduates. Since yesterday, I have been contacting my acquaintances in the real estate industry to gain their opinion and also browsing through endless forum comments about this topic, however with no success as my situation is not exactly the same as others. I have few questions that I need everyone's feedback on.

- Past experience: 5 years working in international commercial real estate with roles like analyst, business program manager and asset manager. Undergraduate in a business program, thus not applying to MBA. Through MSRED/MRED, I want to hone down my real estate development knowledge and network with RE professionals. I am an Asian international student.
- Career goal: Becoming a developer or owner's representative. After graduating from MSRED/MRE, I would like to work in US for few years but open to great opportunities anywhere in the world afterwards.

1. Which alumni network is the best? within US and internationally? size? culture (do alumni actively support each other / casual vs. formal)?
2. MIT program - Is the curriculum comprehensive enough to cover all facets of real estate development? I noticed that the core curriculum is definitely finance/economics focused, and I read so many other people's comments in various forums emphasizing this fact. Is the curriculum not practical?
3. Columbia program - Large class size does make me think I won't get enough face to face time with professors as compared to other schools. I do thrive in smaller group environment. Does Columbia provide other assistance to ensure every student is properly supported?

Look forward to any relevant feedback. Thank you!

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Comments (22)

Mar 8, 2019

There are a lot of posts related to all of these programs on the board. I will say that if you want to be in LA (or the West Coast more generally), USC would be the choice. USC also has an incredible alumni network, especially for real estate.

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Mar 11, 2019

If OP chose USC would he still have a solid shot at NYC roles? Or would location put him at a disadvantage?

Mar 11, 2019

It would put him at a disadvantage, not necessarily because of the school, but because it dramatically increases logistical barriers to employment. You are incapable of networking cross country to the same level as you can in the same city.

Mar 11, 2019

Thank you everyone. Since I'm an international student, geographic location wasn't a priority factor. In regards to this aspect, I think what is most important is which state/city has most development pipeline and level of dynamism. From research so far, I'm concluding that there are more in number and more interesting development projects in NYC, followed by LA and then Boston. LA and Boston, however, seem to have interesting city planning projects.

Networking wise... agree with everyone cross-country is difficult. If I'm comparing just MIT vs. Columbia, then it seems like Columbia has a bigger class size and consequently larger alumni network in country and internationally.

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Mar 8, 2019

If you want to be in Cali then USC

If you want to be in NYC then Columbia

MIT would probably give you cred across the country

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Mar 8, 2019

MIT no doubt. It's not even close. Columbia's is very development focused and USC has a good rep on West Coast, but all in all MIT hands down.

Mar 11, 2019

Since I'm targeting to become a developer, the fact that Columbia is development focused actually seems like an advantage to me as MIT's reputation seems to be finance-focused (or maybe more comprehensive than I thought?).

Mar 8, 2019

Potentially, I would start reaching out to current students in order to get their perspectives.

Mar 11, 2019

Is Columbia's program really that much more "development" focused than MIT's? I understand that MIT is going to be finance/theory heavy, but if OP were to focus on development electives at MIT do you think it would be comparable to Columbia's curriculum?

Mar 8, 2019

Yes, MIT would work well for development if you took the right courses. That being said Columbia gives you a much more well rounded development curriculum including classes that delve into other topics like architecture and construction that MIT cannot give you. That being said if you plan on working on the finance side MIT is a better, hard to get into program.

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Mar 8, 2019

Curious on your two career path choices you mention - development vs owners rep. They are very different roles. I've been on the owners rep side far too long and just started my Masters at Georgetown (online, I'm in the south) to help facilitate my move to development. Owner's rep is great when you get a great client, and shit when you get a shit client. Definitely target development, be the owner.

Mar 11, 2019

Thank you for your career advice. I've also heard similar comments from my industry friends about being an owner's rep and I definitely agree with you. I thought of owner's rep because I had few owner contacts that I wouldn't mind working with in the future. At this point, developer is my target for sure.

Mar 8, 2019

You're welcome. Have you had a chance to visit these schools and explore the cities they are within? I think if you hustle for what you want in the long run, any of your options are great. When making your decision you might consider some of the more qualitative factors of what you want out of your living situation as well.

Mar 11, 2019

As others have said, each of them has its strongest network locally. I think MIT's program has the best reputation overall.

If you're international, your visa status is obviously going to be a big factor in what happens after graduation. I'm sure you know more than I do about that, but my impression is that it's a major source of worry for international students, even ones at elite schools (not long ago I spoke with a second-year HBS MBA student who was worried about it). If I were you I would try to set up a backup plan in your native country in case things don't work out here. Don't put every egg in the US development basket. Not trying to alarm you, but it is a big deal.

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Mar 11, 2019


I'm in similar shoes as you. I have recently been admitted to MIT and Columbia MSRED; waiting to hear back from Cornell and Johns Hopkins.

I've read extensively here on WSO about the different pros and cons of each program (thank you to everyone for your insights). I gather that the WSO community in general holds the MIT MSRED in highest esteem, though that's not to say Columbia or Cornell are not better given a particular student's career goals, such as where they want to be located come graduation, etc.

HOWEVER, one thing I HAVEN'T seen any discussions related to thus far (and forgive me if I've missed it), is the male/female class ratio at each of these schools. And further, insights about the student life and networking potential as a female in these programs.

While I network as much as possible with both men and women, I tend to make the most meaningful professional connections with other women. My 3 recommenders were all female, 2 of which are partners at my current firm. This is not intentional by any means, but I think people are typically drawn to like people, and I've just had the best luck so far really making lasting relationships with female advisors.

Any insights on if one of these programs in particular is a 'boys club'? Or one in particular has a favorable female ratio?

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Mar 13, 2019

Hi there, thank you for writing and contributing to this discussion. I was wondering if you, or anyone else reading this, could share any insight that you found to be the most appealing as well as any points of concerns about Cornell's program.

I agree that generally MIT's program is given high regard. And Columbia appeals most to those who are interested in development heavy curriculum while wanting to study/network in NYC. And USC is ideal for those looking to end up in west coast after grad school.

However, I am wondering if Cornell has any particular advantage in terms of the program/curriculum. And any disadvantages outside of it's location in Ithaca? If someone is willing to travel to different cities to network, could they compete for the same kinds of jobs as someone coming out of the MIT program? Or are there any ceilings that one can expect to hit?

Thank you to everyone in advance.

Mar 11, 2019

Congrats to you as well. I wouldn't know for sure but both Columbia and MIT do not give me any 'boys club' vibe so I don't think this should be a problematic factor. I found male/female ratio for below schools. Interestingly, only MIT has near half-half ratio.

Columbia - Female (%): 25%-30%
MIT - Female (%): 40%-50%
Cornell - Female (%): 20%-25%

1. 2.

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