Doctor of Philosophy in Regional Planning
Frequently Asked Questions
When is your application deadline?
Admission and financial awards are highly competitive, so we encourage you to apply as early as possible for the subsequent fall semester. To received full consideration for admission and financial awards, completed applications must be received by December 15.
How many applications do you receive each year, and how many students do you admit?
We receive 40 to 60 completed applications each year. We typically offer admission to three to six applicants and usually all admitted students enroll.
When will you complete your admission decisions?
In most common circumstances admission decisions should be completed by mid-March.
Do you offer admission for the spring semester?
Rarely. The special cases are students who apply for fall enrollment but are delayed for visa or other reasons, transfer into the doctoral program immediately after completing master’s degrees at the University of Illinois, or have an exceptional record and match the mid-year assistance needs of a new or on-going research project.
Can I apply to the Ph.D. in Regional Planning directly on completion of a bachelor’s degree?
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 advisor and plan of study committee. Completion of such courses may require additional time to complete the PhD degree.
What materials are required for my application?
- Application for admission to the Graduate College, with application fee
- Your statement of purpose
- Three letters of recommendation
- GRE scores
- TOEFL or IELTS scores if you are an international student who is not exempt from this requirement
- Academic transcripts.
If you have listed UIUC as a school attended in your online application, you do not need to send transcripts for your coursework at Illinois because we can access those records internally.
How do I apply?
Access the Apply Yourself online application system through the Graduate College. You can upload your personal statement online and send out requests for recommendations, which your letter writers can submit online, too. Transcripts may be uploaded to the Apply Yourself system as well.
Whom should I ask to send letters of recommendation?
The primary purpose of the letters of recommendation is to help us assess your ability to complete our program with distinction, your potential to make significant scholarly contributions, and your commitment to teaching and advanced research in planning or related fields. All your letters should be from references who know you well enough to say specific things about your abilities, accomplishments, and potential relevant to doctoral study. At least two of your letters should be from faculty members from whom you have taken courses or with whom you have worked on research. If you have had extensive professional experience, such as doing research for a year after your master’s degree, your third letter might be from colleagues or supervisors. Otherwise, all three letters may be from academic sources.
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. These scores should be submitted into the Apply Yourself system. Applicants who have already taken the GRE should request the Educational Testing Service send scores to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using our institution code number 1836.
International students must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores. We also recommend Test of Written English (TWE) and, if possible, Test of Spoken English (TSE) scores if you are seeking financial support. Please submit all test scores into the Apply Yourself system. 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.
What is the minimum GRE score you will accept?
The minimum GRE score is 75th percentile on each of the three components. Yet, because we consider an applicant's full set of qualifications in making admissions decisions, we occasionally admit students with lower GRE scores. Please see our
admissions requirements and criteria for additional information on how we make admissions decisions.
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 post-secondary study. Most entering Ph.D. students have GPAs of 3.5 or more.
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 TOEFL score you will accept?
You must achieve a TOEFL score higher than 610 on the Paper-Based Test (PBT), 253 on the Computer-Based Test (CBT), or 102 on the Internet-Based Test (iBT) or an IELTS score greater than 6.5 in all sub-sections, but we prefer your scores to be much higher. Click here for more information on Graduate College score requirements.
Do you make exceptions to the minimum GPA and TOEFL requirements?
Yes, but rarely. To do so requires that we submit a detailed request to the Graduate College. The case for requesting the exception must be very strong and depends on the applicant having other outstanding qualities, such as extraordinary research or professional achievements.
Should I include writing samples?
Your statement of purpose should be sufficient, but, if you have a research paper or piece of professional work that represents you well, feel free to send it in pdf or paper form with a note explaining your role in the research or project. We shall not return any materials to you.
Where should I send transcripts and other paper materials?
All transcripts, letters or recommendation, test scores, resumes, statement of purpose and paperwork needed from international students should be uploaded into the Apply Yourself system.
What types of financial support do doctoral students receive, and what does it cover?
The Ph.D. program offers merit-based fellowships and research and teaching assistantships, but not need-based financial aid. The assistantships typically require 10 or 20 hours of work per week and include a waiver of tuition and most fees. A twenty-hour assistantship pays roughly $1600 per month, $15,000 per academic year (August 16-May 15), and $18,000 if two summer months are included.
The waiver of graduate tuition for the fall and spring semesters, the partial waiver of fees, and health coverage (including dental and vision coverage) are worth another $25,000 for students who are not in-state residents. The total investment of more than $40,000 a year in doctoral students helps explain why admission and assistantship decisions are made carefully and cautiously.
A one-year assistantship also includes a waiver of summer tuition and a partial waiver of summer fees, valued at roughly another $10,000, but very few graduate courses other than independent and dissertation research are offered in the summer months. Information on need-based financial aid (grants and loans) is available from the Graduate College.
Do I need to submit a separate application to be considered for merit-based financial support?
No. Your admission application qualifies you for consideration for assistantships and fellowships.
What are the main sources of the financial support?
The research grants and contracts of faculty members are the primary source of Ph.D. financial support. That is why the match between an applicant’s skills and interests and a faculty member’s research is so important in admission decisions.
Other important funding sources are (1) teaching and research assistant positions our doctoral students secure in other units, (2) Fulbright Foreign Student Program awards and other external competitive grants to students, (3) fellowships and scholarships provided by home countries or employers, (4) competitive fellowships awarded by the Graduate College or the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and (5) teaching assistant appointments in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. These five sources are listed in approximate order from the most frequent to the least frequent.
What are my chances of receiving a merit-based financial award offer at the time of admission?
We strive to offer financial awards to all doctoral students we admit who do not already have fellowships or financial support from their employers, home countries, or other sources. That goal is one reason our doctoral program remains small, and we must turn away many impressive applicants each year.
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 a semester to get to know the faculty and find projects requiring assistants in this Department or elsewhere on campus.
What is my wage as a teaching or research assistant?
It depends on how you count it. A one-semester half-time assistantship obligates you to 20 hours of service per week for 18 weeks (360 hours). The current stipend for beginning doctoral students of $7,483 per semester means you are earning $20.79 per hour. Yet, the University is also paying 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 more than $50 per hour (less if you are an Illinois resident who would pay in-state tuition).
Your compensation is a cost for a faculty member paying you through a research grant or contract, which may help you understand why faculty members are very cautious in making multi-year commitments to incoming doctoral students.
Are international students eligible for financial awards?
Do you offer awards specifically for minority students?
The University has a fellowship program for domestic students from traditionally underrepresented groups. We can nominate two outstanding applicants each year for this highly competitive program. To be considered, submit all of your application materials no later than December 15th. Include a note that states your interest in the minority fellowship program.
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. We admit three to six students each year from as many as 60 applicants, most of whom are well qualified. We try to identify students for whom our faculty are particularly well suited as research mentors and for whom we can identify sources of financial support. Sometimes we cannot admit very strong applicants because a research group is complete or a faculty member is reluctant to add another advisee because of other commitments. Given this element of randomness, we try to make decisions promptly. Our advice to you is to submit the best application you can while also applying to other schools to increase your chances of gaining admission to a Ph.D. program.
How many students are in the Ph.D. program?
Usually there are 25 to 30 counting all stages of coursework and research. Generally 20 to 25 reside on campus, while the others typically are doing dissertation research full-time elsewhere or holding teaching or research positions while completing their dissertations.
Do you offer online or distance learning courses for doctoral students?
No. Intense interaction with faculty members and other doctoral students on research, as well as learning from your fellow students, are defining characteristics of our Ph.D. program.
What does it cost to live in Champaign-Urbana?
Champaign-Urbana is an 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 similar prices. The bus system is excellent, and your student fees cover unlimited bus use. For additional information see the Housing page of the Graduate College website as well as the University's Community page.
What are some other resources and facilities for students on campus?
The University enrolls over 11,000 graduate and professional students in more than 100 programs. It is among the top eight universities in number of earned doctorates awarded annually in the United States. Advanced research is supported extremely well by the University Library, one of the largest public university collections in the world, with more than 10,500,000 volumes, over 6,000,000 manuscripts, periodicals, and other non-print materials, and more than 65,000 journals. The Library’s subscriptions to journals on-line enable students to download articles without charge. The City Planning and Landscape Architecture collection is now housed in a modern, airy, well-wired facility, the ACES Library, which is adjacent to the Department’s home in Temple Buell Hall.
A world leader in supercomputing design and applications, the University is home to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and developer of the internet browser Mosaic(TM), which revolutionized the use of the World Wide Web. Students have access to over 3,500 computer terminals in classrooms, residence halls, and campus libraries. Seventy-six percent of classrooms and over 130 buildings allow wireless connectivity, including Temple Buell Hall.
The Krannert Center for Performing Arts maintains a busy schedule of events throughout the year, bringing international star performers and orchestras to campus. 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. Scores of clubs and interests groups are on campus. See the Campus Life and Opportunities page of the Graduate College website for more information.
Do doctoral students have offices?
Yes, doctoral students have shared offices in Noble Hall or in the Regional Economics Applications Lab in Davenport Hall.
Do the University and community welcome international students?
Yes! The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enrolls more international students than any other public university in the United States. Many programs, resources, clubs, and supporting programs exist for international students and domestic students with interests in international issues. The Illinois International website is a resource for international programs at the University.
Can I visit the Department?
Yes. With sufficient notice, we can schedule a visit for you on most weekdays. Contact the Ph.D. Program Director by email to arrange a visit so that we can be sure that you meet the faculty members most pertinent to your areas of interest. If the timing allows, we shall try to give you an early indication of your admission prospects in case it affects your plans to visit.