Graduate Admissions

Graduate Program Application Deadlines

How to Apply to Graduate Programs

All applicants who are applying to MS or PhD programs must start by submitting an electronic application to the Graduate School online here.

After completing this step, applicants are required to submit all of the following:

  1. Reasons for Graduate Study
  2. Three (3) Letters of Recommendation
  3. Official Transcripts
  4. Test of English Proficiency (for students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not entirely in English)
  5. Supplemental Materials [optional]
  6. For the MSLA application: Design portfolio or research-based writing samples

Descriptions of each part of the application can be found below.

#1: Reasons for Graduate Study

This should be a thoughtful, reflective, one or two page statement discussing why you wish to go into the field of planning or design and what you expect to do professionally. If you have an interest in a particular concentration, you should discuss that; if you have planning or design related experience, this should also be discussed.

The statement of purpose should be attached to the electronic application to the Graduate School.

#2: Three (3) Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of reference from people who know your academic or professional work. Letters are submitted through your electronic application to the Graduate School. When you put in the names and email addresses of your recommenders, they will receive an email instructing them how to submit their letter. You can send reminder emails through the electronic application portal to your recommenders if for some reason they misplace this email.

#3: Official Transcripts

You will be prompted to submit an unoffocial transcript in your online application. If recommended for admission by the Department, you will receive a request for your official transcripts from the Graduate School at that time. Send official transcripts or academic records from each institution attended to the Graduate School at the address below.

UW–Madison Graduate School
Office of Admissions
217 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Do not send transcripts to the Department. The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at UW–Madison only requires you send one official copy of your transcripts to the Graduate School.

International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and official signatures. Documents issued to the student are not considered official.

#4: Test of English Ability

Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB), or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). TOEFL scores must be sent electronically from ETS. Use ETS institution code 1846. There is no department code. Paper copies of the TOEFL are not acceptable. Official IELTS scores should be sent by mail to the Graduate School.

UW–Madison requires that an admitted applicant whose TOEFL (paper-based) test score is below 580, TOEFL computer-based test (CBT) score below 237, TOEFL Internet-based test score below 93, or MELAB below 82 take an English assessment test upon arrival. You must then register for any recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) course(s) in the first semester you are enrolled.

#5: Supplemental Materials

Optional, supplemental materials, like a resume, curriculum vitae, or writing samples, should be emailed to the PLA Graduate Admissions Coordinator, Amy Rivera


As the PhD is an advanced degree, applicants are expected to already have a Master’s degree in planning or a related field. And because planning is a practice-oriented field, applicants are also expected to have completed at least one year of full-time experience as a professional planner.

However, the PhD program is flexible and is intended to appeal to individuals from diverse academic backgrounds. Therefore, it is possible to be admitted without having met the practice requirement. This deficiency may be made up once a student is in the program.

To be admitted a student must be sponsored by a regular member of the URPL faculty. Before final admissions decisions are made, student files are circulated among the faculty. Only when a faculty member agrees to sponsor an admissible candidate is a final admission decision made. The sponsor is the student’s academic advisor, and it is expected that the sponsor will become the chairperson of the student’s PhD Committee.

The GRE examination is required in order to be considered for admission to the PhD program. Please submit your GRE test score with your application.

Financing Your Graduate Education