Graduate Admissions Frequently Asked Questions


1. How are MURP applications screened?

A faculty committee considers (1) undergraduate preparation (including overall GPA, GPA trajectory, and rigor of courses), (2) letters of recommendation, (3) GRE test scores, (4) personal statement, and (5) if submitted optionally, work/writing sample or professional experience. No single factor outweighs the others; rather, the committee attempts to arrive at a "balanced" assessment of academic and professional promise.

UCI minimum standards for graduate admission are: college grade point average (GPA) = 3.0 (on a scale 0-4), and combined GRE Verbal and Quantitative scores (V+Q) = 1,000; applicants falling below the minimum on either standard should exhibit compensatory strengths in other areas. Exceptions to the minimum standards are rare for Ph.D. applicants, but are granted more commonly for MURP applicants. Typical compensatory strengths include (but are not limited to): GPA in latter years of undergraduate enrollment, relevant work or extra-curricular activity, strong letters of reference or self-statements.


2. How will my Ph.D. application be screened?

The general procedure described above is also applied for doctoral applicants, with differences in emphasis. MURP applicants can be generalists, and teamwork and professional skills are especially desirable. By contrast, the interests of doctoral applicants should be focused (and match those of one or more specific faculty members), and independence in research is especially desirable. Finally, the scarcity of doctoral slots appreciably raises the competitive standards for GREs, GPA, and so on.


3. Can I begin a program during Winter or Spring quarters?

MURP students may start enrollment only during Fall quarter. Doctoral students are also expected to start during Fall, though extenuating circumstances (for example, student visa issues) occasionally justify exceptions.


4. Can I keep my regular job while attending school?

The PPD graduate programs require full-time commitment, with many classes offered on weekdays during working hours. Nonetheless, most MURP students do hold jobs or internships during the academic year. We have found that MURP students can typically balance their course load with up to 20 hours of work per week in planning or planning-related positions. While the department does not schedule classes to accommodate outside employment, the department recognizes that internships are a valuable part of the MURP experience, and maintains a large database of employers who provide both internship and permanent job opportunities. Ph.D. students frequently hold teaching or research assistantships at UCI.


5. What is the ratio of applicants to offers of admission?

Based on the three most recent years, the ratio is about 2:1 for MURP and 5:1 for Ph.D.s, but note that there is a significant variation from year to year.


6. What are the average GPA and GRE scores for admitted applicants?

Based on the three most recent years: for MURP, GPA about 3.3, GRE (V+Q) about 1,100; for Ph.D., GPA about 3.6, GRE (V+Q) about 1,300. But note that there is significant variation from year to year, and applicants with lower grades or scores but compensatory strengths have succeeded both in UCI's program and as professionals.


7. What are the prospects for financial support?

Resources for financial support vary in response to the size and composition of the applicant pool, legislative and campus appropriations, the state of the general economy, and other external factors. In general though, here is how things work, first for masters, and then for doctoral students.

MURP students should plan to be self-supporting (it's the same at master's programs everywhere). The top third of students is usually eligible for competitively awarded, non-renewable funding awards. The typical award includes one quarter of in-state fees, though top students sometimes receive more substantial offers. All enrolled MURP students are eligible to compete for small travel grants and performance awards (typically in the hundreds of dollars). Teaching and research assistantships are occasionally available (though in some years never) but, as a rule, practice internships (paid or not) are encouraged as a more useful alternative for career building. The department maintains a list of over 250 potential employers who provide opportunities for practice-based internships.

Ph.D. students are eligible for support from a variety of sources, including department, school, campus, and extramural fellowships and awards, and teaching and research fellowships. Non-renewable, first-year "start up" packages, ranging from modest to substantial, are awarded competitively. Following the initial year, teaching and research assistantships form the bulk of doctoral student support. Doctoral students are encouraged (and have been successful) at seeking outside funding for their work.


8. How important is work experience?

PPD welcomes applicants with professional experience. Roughly one-third of each MURP class enters with experience in a planning-related profession; another smaller but significant proportion has other professional experience. The level of professional experience among doctoral classes is somewhat lower. In any event, an absence of professional experience will not detract from evaluations of either MURP or Ph.D. applications.