Admission Requirements & Criteria

We seek applicants likely to become leading scholars and professors whose interests match the expertise and strengths of our faculty. We pay close attention to each applicant's personal statements, previous academic performance, Graduate Records Examination scores, letters of recommendation, and communication skills. We look for evidence of excellence in prior academic work and research, creativity and leadership in professional and other activities, commitment and readiness for advanced research and teaching, passion for problem solving, and capacity for original contributions to planning scholarship.

Admission to our doctoral program is extremely selective. We admit on average 2 to 4 students each year, from a pool of approximately 60 to 80 applicants. Each year we are unable to admit many very impressive applicants. We are constrained by the number of assistantships and fellowships we can offer and by our insistence that we limit ourselves to the number of doctoral students for whom we can be attentive, effective mentors and provide a very high quality, individualized program of study.

Most of our Ph.D. students complete a master's degree in planning, architecture, economics, geography, political science, sociology, or another related field before enrolling. To apply, you must have completed or be in the final year of study for either a master's degree from an accredited college in the United States or a comparable degree from a recognized institution of higher learning elsewhere. If you are enrolled in a master's degree program but have not completed the degree program at the time of your application, you need to indicate the date by which you expect to obtain your degree. If there is any change to your expected graduation date or status, you must notify the staff of your change of status. Failure to do so will jeopardize any offer of admission that may have been extended. In exceptional cases we may consider applicants with unique academic records or research experience with only a bachelor's degree from an accredited college in the United States or a comparable degree from a recognized institution of higher learning elsewhere. In such a case the student should also complete key courses required for a master's degree in urban planning, as determined by the adviser and plan of study committee. Completion of such courses may require additional time to complete the PhD degree. The Graduate College of the University of Illinois requires a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (A=4.0) for the last 60 hours of undergraduate study and any subsequent graduate study, but successful applicants usually have far higher grade point averages. On rare occasions the Department requests a waiver of the minimum GPA because of a student's previous research, professional experience, outstanding achievements, or other extraordinary circumstances.

In our admissions we look for motivated students whose record demonstrates the ability to conduct advanced and independent research, academic excellence, leadership in fields of practice and research, intellectual creativity, and a strong promise of scholarship.

Applicants are expected to submit the following material:

  1. Completion of online application form
  2. Statement of Purpose
  3. Statement of Personal History
  4. Transcripts
  5. Examination(s): GRE and/or TOEFL/IELTS
  6. Three letters of recommendation
  7. Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  8. Sample of writing, recent publication or report

Your Statement of Purpose and Statement of Personal History are very important. Your Statement of Personal History in no more than 500 words should offer a narrative description of your life background in terms of how it has prepared you for this next stage of your studies. You should describe what experiences, accomplishments, aspirations, have led you to your present state of capabilities and interest in the PhD program. Be selective in describing life experiences and personal history that specifically relate to your academic goals and intellectual pursuits. Avoid general statements that start from childhood or say, "As a child I always loved." Instead, focus on specifics of your social, cultural, familial background, research work, volunteer activities, community or social service involvement, leadership experiences and how these experiences have prepared you for the pursuit of your doctoral studies.

Your Statement of Purpose should focus on your academic and professional aspirations. This statement of purpose is focused on the future: what you propose to do at UIUC, and how this fits into your career goals and aspirations. More specifically in no more than 1500 words it should convey 1) your reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. in Regional Planning, 2) your interest and experience in research and teaching, and 3) why the University of Illinois in particular matches your research interests and career goals.

You also must provide transcripts from your prior education and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the tests of verbal, quantitative, and analytical ability. Take the GRE exam no later than the fall of the year before you wish to enroll. If you have taken the exam within five years, you need not retake it. Our expectation is scores above the 75th percentile, but again we occasionally request waivers in extraordinary cases.

If your native language is not English, in addition to the GRE scores you must 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. To be admitted to the Ph.D. program, you must submit TOEFL scores greater than 610 on the paper-based test, 102 on the internet-based test, or 253 on the computer-based test or IELTS scores greater than 6.5 in all sub-sections. The test date must be within two years of the date you enter the program.

You must arrange for three letters of recommendation from people who can evaluate your intellectual capability and previous scholarship and help us assess your prospects for conducting advanced research. At least two of the letters should be from academic sources, faculty members from whom you have taken courses or with whom you have worked on research. All your letters should be from people who know you well enough to be specific about your abilities and accomplishments.

Finally, please submit a concise and updated copy of your professional resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV) as well as any writing sample you might want to share. This could be a recent publication or report or an unpublished term paper you believe represents your academic writing abilities.

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