Masters of Urban Planning

Frequently Asked Questions

When is your application deadline?

Technically, applications from domestic applicants are considered on a continuous basis. However, because slots in the entering class and financial awards are both highly competitive, you should apply as early as possible for the subsequent fall semester. We recommend that you apply by December 15th, the date in which the department's admissions committee begins reviewing applications.

Applications from international students cannot be considered on a continuous basis. International applicants must submit all materials no later than January 15 to be considered for fall admissions. However, as with domestic applicants, we highly recommend that international applicants also apply by December 15 to receive full consideration for admissions and financial awards.

We begin extending most offers of admission and competitive financial support in early March. These offers are made on an ongoing basis through mid- to late-April.


Why do you recommend applications be submitted by December 15th if you do not begin extending offers of admission until mid-March?

Because our admissions committee undertakes an extensive review of all applicant materials. The committee seeks to review as many applications as possible (and preferably all applications) before extending admissions and financial award offers. This process, which allows us to identify the very best pool of applicants, takes time. However, it does ensure that your application will receive a very careful and thoughtful review.


How do I apply?

Access an online application through the Graduate College in their Apply Yourself online application system. You can upload your personal statement online, and send out requests for recommendations. If your reference letters are uploaded to the Apply Yourself system, you do not need to mail copies to the Department. Transcripts must be uploaded to the Apply Yourself system.

If you have already received a graduate degree from UIUC, you will use a petition process rather than Apply Yourself. Graduate College instructions for this process are found here. Follow the instructions for Entering a New Graduate Program after Previous Enrollment. In addition to the paperwork required by the Graduate College, you will need to submit to DURP all of the supporting materials required by those using Apply Yourself (see next FAQ). Your submitted petition packet will be reviewed at the same time as all other applications received through Apply Yourself.


What supporting materials are required for my application?

  • Application for admission to the Graduate College, with application fee
  • Your statement of purpose
  • Your resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores (official scores sent to University, code 1836)
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores if you are an international student (official scores sent to University, code 1836)
  • Academic transcripts.

Exceptions: You do not need to send transcripts for any coursework at the University of Illinois, as long as you have listed UIUC as a school attended in your online application. The Department can access those materials internally.


Where should I send transcripts?

Transcripts from all secondary and post-graduate educational institutions should be uploaded to the Apply Yourself system. If admitted to the department, official transcripts will be required within one month of starting classes.


What test scores do I need to send?

All applicants must submit scores for the verbal, quantitative and analytical writing components of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test. Scores may be entered into the Apply Yourself system. All applicants should request the Educational Testing Service send scores to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using our institution code number 1836. Our university does not use department codes so that may be left blank.

International students must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores. Please submit all test scores into the Apply Yourself system and request official scores be sent to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using our institution code number 1836. If you have earned a graduate degree from an English-speaking institution abroad or are from an exempted country, you may not need to submit TOEFL scores. Please see the Graduate College requirements for further information. However, non-native speakers of English who wish to be considered for teaching assistantships must provide evidence of spoken English language proficiency.


Do you offer admission for the spring semester?

No. Our program is designed for full-time students to begin each fall.


Should I include a portfolio?

No. Since the MUP degree is not a design degree, we ask that you do not submit a portfolio. Your carefully crafted Statement of Purpose is sufficient.


When will you complete your admission decisions?

We begin reviewing applications on December 15th. We begin extending most offers of admission and competitive financial support in early March. These offers are made on an ongoing basis through mid- to late-April. Students should have their applications in no later than December 15th for full consideration for admissions and financial awards. As a general rule, submit your application as early as possible in the fall.


What types of financial aid do you provide?

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning does not offer need-based financial aid. Rather, we offer merit-based fellowships and research and teaching assistantships. Assistantships typically require ten hours of work per week and include a partial or full waiver of tuition and most fees. Information on need-based financial aid (grants and loans) is available from the Graduate College.


Are international students eligible for financial awards?

Yes.


What is the minimum GPA you will accept?

The University has a grade point average (GPA) cutoff of 3.0 (B) for admission to the Graduate College, based on the final 60 hours of your undergraduate degree. Occasionally we admit students with lower undergraduate GPA's if they have significant professional experience, a strong statement of purpose, outstanding recommendations, or other extraordinary qualifications. The median GPA of admitted MUP students is 3.7.

The Graduate College evaluates the transcripts of international applicants for the purposes of determining a GPA equivalent to U.S. university records. The Graduate College uses a conversion formula specific to the international university.


What is the minimum GRE score you will accept?

We have no minimum GRE score. In recent years, median percentile scores of admitted MUP students have been about 80 percent for the verbal component of the exam, 70 percent for the quantitative component, and 65 percent for the analytical writing component. We consider an applicant's full set of qualifications in making admissions decisions, and occasionally admit students with lower GRE scores if they are strong in other areas (e.g., professional experience). Please see the discussion of admissions criteria for additional information on how we make admissions decisions.


What is the minimum TOEFL score you will accept?

You must achieve a TOEFL score higher than the following: 610 (PBT), 253 (CBT), and 102 (iBT). Note that we prefer your scores to be much higher. See here for more information on Graduate College TOEFL score requirements.


Do you make exceptions to the minimum GPA and TOEFL requirements?

Yes, though infrequently. To do so requires that we submit a detailed request to the Graduate College; the case for the exception must be very strong (e.g., the application is highly exceptional in other areas, such as professional experience, professional achievement, etc.).


Do I need to submit a separate application to be considered for a merit-based financial award?

No. All applicants are automatically considered for financial awards in the form of assistantships and fellowships.


What are my chances of receiving a merit-based financial award offer at the time of admission?

We offer awards to our very best domestic and international applicants each year. Only the top 15 to 25 percent of our applicants will receive financial award offers, depending on the number of applicants and our resources in any given year. Applicants with exceptional professional experience and academic records stand the best chance of winning an award. Test scores are also considered, though they have proven to be less reliable predictors of applicants' abilities and therefore they are emphasized less than experience and academic record in the awards process.


What is the value of a merit-based assistantship?

It varies, depending on whether the student is an Illinois resident or not and whether the package includes a partial waiver of tuition, a full waiver of tuition, additional scholarships, etc. In AY 2014-15, the annual base graduate student tuition rate is $25,546 for non-residents of the state and $11,824 for Illinois residents. The College of Fine and Applied Arts assesses an additional tutition charge of $1,126. Quarter-time assistantship stipends are approximately $7,999 in AY 2014-15. Thus, an award package that includes a stipend plus waiver of all non-resident tuition and selected fees would be valued at over $34,000.


What is my wage as a teaching or research assistant?

It depends on how you count it. A one-semester assistantship obligates you to 10 hours of service per week for 18 weeks (180 hours). The stipend is $3,999 in AY 2014-2015. Therefore, from one point of view, you are earning $22.22 per hour. However, the University is also paying some or all of your tuition and most of your fees as you pursue your graduate degree, as well as providing you health coverage (including dental and vision). Considering those costs, which are a direct savings to you, the assistantship "compensation" is considerably higher than $22.22 per hour.


What are the most important factors in determining whether I get admitted and receive a financial award offer?

Please see the discussion of our admissions criteria.


What are my chances of finding a teaching or research assistantship after enrolling, if you do not offer me an assistantship upon admission?

Quite good, though it may take you one semester to get to know the faculty and find projects requiring assistants. In recent years, about half of MUP students enrolling without assistantships were subsequently able to obtain an assistantship and tuition waiver for at least one semester of the MUP program.


Do you offer awards specifically for minority students?

The University has a fellowship program for domestic students from traditionally underrepresented groups. We nominate two outstanding applicants each year for this highly competitive program. Our nominations for minority student fellowships must be submitted to the Graduate College by no later than January 15th. Therefore, to be considered, you should submit all of your application materials no later than December 15th, to provide us with sufficient time to consider all candidates. Include a note that states your interest in the minority fellowship program.


How many applications do you receive each year, and how many students do you admit?

We receive approximately 150 applications each year and make admissions offers to slightly less than half of those. We aim to enroll 22-25 students in our MUP program each year.


Whom should I ask to send letters of recommendation?

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 sources. 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. Most importantly, your letters should be from references who know you well enough to say specific things about your abilities, accomplishments, and professional potential.


How long should my Statement of Purpose be and what should it include?

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning has no minimum or maximum length for your Statement of Purpose, however, the Apply Yourself system allows for up to 1,500 words. Applicants should use the statement to convey information about their backgrounds, personal experiences, and intellectual perspectives, in the context of articulating why a masters in urban planning 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. If you have specific interests in your proposed field of study or are interested in working with any particular faculty members, please tell us about them as well.


Is my undergraduate major adequate preparation for an urban planning degree?

Yes. In recent years our new students have come to us with bachelor's degrees in over 25 different fields, from architecture to zoology.


Are there any courses I should take to prepare for the MUP program?

We require that all incoming students have had at least introductory courses in microeconomics and statistics. If you have not had those courses, or you took them many years ago, you may have difficulty completing some of our core courses, especially if your quantitative skills are limited. If you feel rusty in the subject matter of introductory microeconomics and statistics, we strongly recommend that you do independent review and reading or take refresher courses at a local college or community college in the summer prior to the fall semester.


Do you offer online or distance learning courses?

Very few, and only to students enrolled in our program.


How many students are in the MUP program?

Our entering MUP class each year is typically between 22 and 25 students.


What does it cost to live in Champaign-Urbana?

It is a very affordable community. Housing accessible to campus is readily available, and rental vacancies exist throughout the year. Students can usually find acceptable housing ranging from $250 to $700 per month. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is about $500 to $600 per month. Although you can find apartments as late as August, you can find better, less expensive places if you line them up in May or June or even earlier. Graduate dormitory rooms and university apartments are also available from University Housing for prices similar to those above. If you must live more than a mile or two from campus, the bus system is excellent, and your student fees cover unlimited bus use.


What are some of the other resources and facilities for students on campus?

According to the American Library Association, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library is the sixth largest library in the United States and the second largest public university library, holding more than 10.71 million volumes, more than 90,000 serial titles, and more than six million manuscripts, maps, slides, audio tapes, microforms, videotapes, laser discs, and other non-print material. The Krannert Center for Performing Arts maintains a busy schedule of events throughout the year. Campus recreation and exercise facilities are extensive, and include, among many others, the new Campus Rec Center-East (CRCE) and the newly renovated Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) building. There are scores of clubs and interests groups on campus. See the Campus Life and Opportunities page of the Student Affairs website for more information. As the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enrolls more international students than any other public university in the U.S., programs, resources, clubs, and supporting programs for international students and domestic students with interests in international issues are many. The Illinois International website is a resource for international programs at the University.


Can I visit the Department?

Please see the visit page.