Admissions Criteria

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning welcomes applications from individuals with a proven commitment to solving the types of open-ended problems facing cities throughout the world. We welcome individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds who have demonstrated potential for extraordinary professional achievement. Admission to the Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program is highly competitive: each year, we receive approximately 150 applications for a class of around 30 students. The following criteria are considered when evaluating MUP program applications: 

Academic Qualifications

Students seeking a MUP degree typically come from a wide range of academic backgrounds. While common undergraduate majors include architecture, engineering, sociology, economics, political science, environmental sciences, public administration, urban planning, and public policy, many other fields also serve as excellent foundations for graduate study in planning.

  • The Graduate College considers for admission only applicants who graduated from an accredited college or university who hold or will be granted by the end of the current academic year a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent).
  • Prospective students must have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 computed from the last 60 hours of undergraduate work and any subsequent graduate study (the median GPA of admitted students is 3.7). On rare occasion, DURP may request an exception of the GPA minimum for a student with professional experience, outstanding recommendations, or other extraordinary circumstances.
  • The Graduate College evaluates the transcripts of international applicants for the purposes of determining a GPA equivalent to U.S university records.

Test Scores

All applicants must submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the tests of verbal, quantitative, and analytical ability. GRE scores submitted must come from a test taken within the past five years. Applicants to dual degree programs may need to submit other exams in addition to the GRE as required for admissions to those programs.

  • The department has no minimum GRE score requirement. In recent years, median percentile scores of admitted MUP students are:
    • Verbal: 80th percentile
    • Quantitative: 70th percentile
    • Analytical Writing: 65th percentile

Students who are non-native English speakers must meet additional minimum requirents based on their country of origin, including the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. English proficiency scores should qualify for full status admissions to the Graduate College, and the test date must be less than two years prior to the date of program entry.

  • International applicants must earn a TOEFL score higher than 102 or IELTS greater than 7.0. Limited status admission may be granted to applicants with slightly lower test scores who exhibit extraordinary potential for success throughout the remainder of their application.

Academic Preparation and Professional Experience

The department is especially interested in applicants with professional experience. That experience need not be in planning or related fields. Each fall's entering class is typically comprised of students from a wide range of professional backgrounds from both the private and public sectors, including those making mid-career shifts.

Academic preparation and professional experience are assessed not only through an applicant's transcripts, test scores, and resume, but also through letters of recommendation submitted by individuals who are highly familiar with the applicant's work and potential. Important information about the letters of recommendation include the following:

  • The primary purpose of the letters of recommendation is to help us determine your ability to successfully complete our program, your potential to make significant professional contributions, and your commitment to the field of urban and regional planning. At least one of your letters should be from an academic source.
  • Applicants with extensive professional experience are likely to have their remaining letters from colleagues or supervisors; applicants with less experience may have all three of their letters from academic sources.
  • Letters should be from references who know you well enough to say specific things about your abilities, accomplishments, and professional potential.


We are committed to increasing diversity within our student body and to providing a positive environment for the academic and professional development of all students. We seek an applicant pool that represents a mix of racial and ethnic populations, a range of social and economic backgrounds, different philosophies and perspectives, and a variety of life experiences.

Statement of Purpose

Our MUP admissions admissions committee places particular emphasis on each applicant's statement of purpose. Applicants should use the statement to convey information about their backgrounds, personal experiences, and intellectual perspectives, in the context of articulating why a MUP degree from the University of Illinois will help them achieve their professional goals. The best statements communicate an applicant's career aspirations, not simply his or her technical qualifications. Your statement of purpose should be around 1,500 words in length.

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