How to Apply and What You Need

Here you’ll find important dates and application details for the PhD program in Regional Planning.

Who Should Apply

We seek applicants who show promise as leading scholars. We also seek students whose interests match our faculty’s expertise and strengths. We place strong emphasis on personal statements, academic performance, letters of recommendation, and communication skills. We look for applicants to highlight:

  • excellence in prior academic work and research
  • creativity and leadership in professional and other activities
  • a commitment and readiness for advanced research and teaching
  • a passion for problem solving
  • the capacity for original contributions to planning scholarship


Research Poster on Public Health

Who We Accept

We seek motivated students whose academic record demonstrates:
the ability to conduct advanced and independent research

  • academic excellence
  • leadership in fields of practice and research
  • intellectual creativity
  • a strong promise of scholarship

Our program is selective. On average, we admit only 2-4 students per year from a pool of 60-80 applicants. Most students enter with a master’s degree in planning or related field.

Research Poster on Public Health

Application Details and Admission Dates

Applicants should complete and submit the following:

  • An Online Application Form through the Graduate College
  • Statement of Purpose (upload into Statements section)
  • Transcripts
  • TOEFL/IELTS Examination Scores
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Writing Sample (Recent Publication or Report)

Online Application

The Graduate College online application opens September 15 and closes December 1. We only accept students for the following year’s fall semester.

Statement of Purpose

We place significant emphasis on your Statement of Purpose.  In no more than 1500 words, your Statement of Purpose should address your academic and professional aspirations. Focus on the future – what you propose to do at Illinois and how this program will contribute to your career goals. The Statement of Purpose should convey:

  • your reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. in Regional Planning in our department
  • your interest and experience in research and teaching
  • why the University of Illinois matches your research interests and career goals


Provide transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions. You must have completed (or be in the final year of) a master’s program from an accredited college in the United States or a comparable degree from a recognized institution of higher learning elsewhere. If you are in a master’s program at the time of your application, indicate the date by which you expect to obtain your degree. If there is any change to your expected graduation date, you must notify us of your status change. Failure to do so will jeopardize admission.

Language Proficiency

If your first language (native language) is not English, submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) as evidence of your English proficiency. We recommend the following scores for full status admission:

  • 103 on TOEFL IBT
  • 7.5 on IELTS
  • or 135 on Duolingo

All scores must be dated within two years of the beginning of the proposed admission term. Please read here for full information about language requirements.

Please note that if you want to be considered for departmental funding, we ask that you demonstrate oral English proficiency prior to campus arrival via TOEFL or IELTS exams. More information can be found here.

Letters of Recommendation

Arrange for 3 letters of recommendation from people who can evaluate your intellectual capability. These letters help us assess your prospects for conducting advanced research. At least 2 letters should be from faculty members with whom you have taken courses or have conducted research. All letters should be from people who know you well enough to address your abilities and accomplishments in detail.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Please submit your professional resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Your resume should look clean and professional. List all relevant experience with month and year. For the writing sample, we recommend a recent publication, report, or unpublished term paper that highlights your academic writing abilities.

Writing Sample

The writing sample should be a recent publication, report, or unpublished term paper that highlights your academic writing abilities. The writing sample should be sole authored by the applicant.

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