An Informal Letter to Potential Applicants to the Ph.D. in Urban & Regional Planning at the University
Thank you for your interest in the doctoral planning
program at the University of Michigan! For 50 years, students have come to Ann Arbor to engage in the
intellectually demanding and richly interdisciplinary environment of doctoral
planning studies. (Over 200 students have received their PhD in planning from our program.) We have a large and diverse planning faculty who welcome the opportunity to collaborate with doctoral students. Students take
courses both in planning and in a wide range of disciplines across campus. Graduates
work in universities, government, non-profits and the private sector, both in
the U.S. and around the world. The curriculum integrates analytical methods,
research design, a rigorous understanding of urbanization dynamics, and an
examination of broader social processes and policies. Students address complex
systems that typically encompass an array of spatial, environmental, social,
political, technical, and economic factors. The emphasis is on theory, analysis
and action. Here are links to the research interests of our current doctoral students and recent graduates.
Should I apply for the Ph.D. or the MUP?
- The Urban and Regional Planning Program offer two degrees: the two-year professional MUP (Master of Urban Planning) degree, and the four-year Ph.D. Almost all students who apply to the Ph.D. already have their masters (or are currently completing their masters) in urban planning or a related field (such as public policy, environmental studies, geography, architecture, social work, economics, civil engineering, etc.). Applicants with other master’s degrees will be considered as well.
- For most applicants without a masters, applying to the MUP program is usually the appropriate choice. However, some exceptionally well-prepared applicants (with just a bachelors degree) may already be interested in pursuing the Ph.D. and choose to apply directly to the Ph.D. program. Such applicants have two choices: (a) apply only to the Ph.D. program (since the masters degree, though typical, is NOT a prerequisite for the Ph.D.); (b) simultaneously pursue the MUP and Ph.D. degrees (and thus apply to the integrated MUP/Ph.D. program).
- If the Masters of Urban Planning (MUP) is a better fit with your interests and academic background, please see this link to the MUP program.
- The deadline for applications is
- Can I still apply if I miss the January 15 deadline? Do contact the admissions staff if you miss the January 15 deadline to make sure they are still accepting applications. Sometimes we are able to also review applications received in late January and early February. The doctoral admissions committee typically reviews application materials starting in late January, with most decisions about admissions and financial aid
made by late February/early March. The main admissions season concludes by mid April.
- Can I apply during other times during the year? Though unusual, if space is available, we sometimes can also consider applications during other times of the year. (Please contact the program if you are considering applying to the program outside of the usual January deadline framework. Most doctoral students begin their studies in September -- the start of the academic year. In exceptional situations, starting during the winter semester in January has sometimes been an option.)
Advice for your application:
- Admission is highly competitive. We are able to offer all of our
incoming doctoral students four years of funding (tuition, stipend, health
insurance) through a combination of teaching assistantships, research
assistantships and fellowships. (Of course, incoming students also may seek
additional aid through outside fellowships.) The goal is to complete the doctoral program in four years (though additional funding opportunities exist for studies extending beyond four years).
- The application
process is done on-line, and all our printed materials are also available
on the web.
- IMPORTANT: Please note that you do NOT need to arrange a faculty sponsorship of your dissertation research project ahead of time NOR do you need to identify a specific
faculty member here as a potential advisor as part of your application process.
(You are applying to the program as a whole, not to work specifically
with a single faculty member. You may later work closely with one or more
faculty members on funded research projects, but you do NOT need to arrange
that ahead of time.) We offer four years of financial aid to all our incoming doctoral students regardless of their areas of specialization.
- For the doctoral application process, we place
particular importance on past academic performance (especially in master's
level programs), your letters of recommendation (especially from faculty, including from your most recent degree program), and
the statement of purpose. The statement of purpose is a vital component of
your application. Explain how you arrived at the decision to pursue a Ph.D. in
urban and regional planning, what you plan to do during the course of your
studies, and how you hope to use your doctoral education in planning. In
particular, discuss the intellectual and policy challenges that you hope to
address in your doctoral studies, outline the methodological skills you plan to
pursue, and briefly note any tentative dissertation research topics. (There are
no requirements for length. The typical length is 2+ single-spaced pages.)
- We require the GRE (taken within the past five years).
- Regarding English language tests: Yes, we require the TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language (taken within the past two years). (Exception:
"Applicants who have earned or will earn a Bachelor or Master degree
from an institution where the language of instruction is English, exclusively,
are exempt from submitting an Official English Proficiency Score. Verification
from the school may be required.")
- We do not require an interview as part of the admissions process. Of course, we would be happy to informally meet with you at any time throughout the year and have you speak with both faculty and other doctoral students if you will be in the Ann Arbor area. Please contact Lisa Hauser (contact info below) to help schedule a visit.
- For a more detailed discussion of the application process, please see the "How to Apply" web page.
- The Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning is one of two doctoral degree programs in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The other doctoral program is the Ph.D. in Architecture.