Southern California MLA Programs

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    Jake K

    Hello everyone,

    I have an undergrad degree in Urban Studies and Planning and have decided to pursue a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture. For a variety of reasons I need to stay here in Southern California, so the options for schools are limited.

    I’ve been accepted to USC with the standard graduate merit scholarship and also Cal Poly Pomona. I haven’t heard much about the USC program but would prefer to go there if it’s comparable to CPP, which I know more about.

    Anyone with some insight on the two schools? Thanks.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Don’t forget SLO and UCLA…



    SLO and UCLA unfortunately only have a BLA programs. I was also under the impression that USC was not accredited? 


    I’m in a similar position, trying to stay in the LA area. I’ll probably be going to Cal Poly Pomona next year. The school was ranked fairly highly by design intelligence. Although Pomona seems a little shady, the program impressed me.

    Brent Jacobsen

    Hi Jake,

    Congrats – both are great options.  I have not attended either school, but now practice here in LA.  I can verify that Cal Poly Pomona is very well-regarded in Los Angeles (and beyond) and has a huge alumni network and connections in the area for potential jobs.  It is, however, still facing a lot of economic challenges due to the state’s budget issues that may or may not affect resources while you are there.  USC is a newly accreditated program so its reputation is much less established.  However, it has a lot of buzz going for it, and my impression is that its goal is to build an internationally renowned design program similar to Harvard or Penn (in fact many of their faculty and adjuncts are Harvard-trained).  I know someone there right now in the 18-month MLA II program, and he has had a very good experience there, including working on an international studio in Argentina.  But, sometimes new programs can have growing pains that may affect your time there.  Probably the bigger questions are what kind of program you want to be a part of (studio culture and community), what kind of debt you might acquire (can you survive and then pay it back), whether you prefer the project types or student work being done at one or the other (graphic styles and project types provide a good idea of what you will do at school), and what kind of practice interests you (where do grads end up?). 


    My impression is that Cal Poly Pomona and USC will tackle similar issues in Los Angeles, but diverge some in the next few years in their methods, style, and approach.  I don’t think you can err with either, but one might help you go down paths you are more interested in walking.  Good luck!



    Jake K

    Thanks Brent, that is the most informative response I have come across yet. I am going on Monday to check out both studios and hopefully be able to talk to some students and professors. Anyone else have any helpful thoughts or information?

    Brian Baldauf

    Hey Jake,


    Nice chatting with you at CPP.  How did the visit at USC go?  Did you get any resolve in your decision?  Good luck with everything, you definitely have some great ideas that could be explored in depth at either school.

    Brett T. Long

    Hi Jake.  Congratulations on your career path.  I graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 1997 with a BS in Landscape Architecture.  I hold both the graduate and undergraduate programs in high regard. I was really impressed with the campus improvements and design studios at CPP .  I think your best bet is to talk to the current students at both universities to get some insight.  Good luck. Go Broncos.



    Were you at UA when USC sent everyone in the program letters encouraging them to transfer?

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