Graduate Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

We've listed some of the most common questions that our prospective graduate student students ask below. But if your question isn't here, or if you need more information, please get in contact with Graduate Coordinator, Janet Gallagher.

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 requires a college grade point average (GPA) = 3.0 (on a scale 0-4); applicants falling below the minimum standard should exhibit compensatory strengths in other areas. 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. Exceptions to the minimum standards are rare for Ph.D. applicants, but are granted more commonly for MURP applicants.

MURP applicants can be generalists, and teamwork and professional skills are especially desirable.

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

The general procedure described above is also applied for doctoral applicants, with differences in emphasis. The academic and research 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 indicators of past academic success and future potential, including GPA, GRE scores, and writing skills.

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

MURP students may start enrollment only during UCI's fall quarter, due to the schedule of curricular requirements over the course of the program. Doctoral students are also expected to start during the fall quarter, however extenuating circumstances (for example, student visa issues) may occasionally justify exceptions.

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

The UPPP graduate programs require full-time commitment, with many classes offered on weekdays during working hours. Nonetheless, many 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. The department recognizes that internships are a valuable part of the MURP experience, and provides opportunities for students to network with employers who may 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. 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 recent years: for MURP, GPA about 3.3, GRE (V+Q) over 300; for Ph.D., GPA about 3.6, GRE (V+Q) over 300. 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 terms, MURP students should plan to be self-supporting (a common feature of Master’s degree programs), but may be eligible for additional funding resources. A significant proportion of highly qualified students are offered competitively awarded, non-renewable funding awards that cover a portion of in-state fees, while top applicants may be offered more substantial amounts to defray the cost of tuition and fees. 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 but, as a rule, practice internships (paid or not) are encouraged as a more useful alternative for career building. The department maintains and shares information from potential employers who provide opportunities for practice-based internships.

Ph.D. students are eligible for support from a variety of sources, including fellowships and awards granted by the department, school, campus, UC system, or extramural organizations, as well as teaching and research fellowships. Non-renewable, first-year "start up" packages are awarded competitively based on application strength. 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.

UCI’s campus-wide Graduate Division provides some additional  information about Funding your Graduate Education.

8. How important is work experience?

UPPP 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 percentage of students with 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.