Frequently Asked Questions

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What should my undergraduate major be if I want to pursue a graduate degree in Planning at UW–Madison?

Our students come from a wide array of backgrounds, with undergraduate majors as diverse as philosophy, civil engineering, and art history. What is most important is that you learn how to think analytically and critically while gaining a sensitivity for understanding complex issues. With that said, the most common undergraduate majors of our students are: civil engineering, environmental studies, geography, history, international studies, political science, and urban planning/studies. Even if your undergraduate major is in a different field, you can still take courses related to these areas to gain a grounding that will help you in your graduate planning education.

If I already have an advanced degree, can I still be considered for the M.S. program?

Yes, you will still be considered for the M.S. program even if you currently hold another master’s degree, professional degree, etc.

Is there a minimum GPA?

According to Graduate School policy, a minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 is required. Applicants from an international institution must demonstrate strong academic achievement comparable to a 3.00 for an undergraduate or master’s degree.

Applicants to the Master’s program with an undergraduate GPA of less than 3.0 can only be admitted on probation. In such cases, justification for admission on probation must be made to the Graduate School, which has final authority for admission decisions.

Are GRE scores required?

GRE scores are not required, but a student can submit them as supplemental information if they want to.

What are the prerequisite courses for admission?

Students must have taken an introductory statistics course for grade and credit prior to beginning their course of study as it is a prerequisite for URPL 721. This requirement may be met by taking an introductory course, for no graduate credit, during the student’s first semester of study. You may also take statistics after you are admitted through an online program or over the summer. Introductory statistics courses are offered frequently at both UW–Madison and Madison College. Why is statistics so important to studying planning? Planners use and assess a wide variety of data in their work; it is necessary for all planners to have the basic skills to understand such concepts such as tax incremental financing local government budgets, impact fees, and population forecasts to aid in informed decision-making.  Furthermore, planners must interact regularly with other analysts (economists, demographers, etc.) who provide analysis to decision makers.

Can I study a specific field of planning in the M.S. program, like transportation or environmental sustainability?

Students take core (required) courses and acquire skills that are basic to all areas of planning work. Students then tailor their studies to develop a focus on particular fields of planning such as regional design, housing and community development, historic preservation, food systems planning, natural resource development and planning, dispute resolution and public participation, smart growth and rural communities, watershed management and planning and social justice and environmental equity. They do this by carefully selecting electives offered by PLA faculty and by other departments on campus. See areas of concentration for more information.

Do you have dual, double, or joint degree programs? What about certificates?

About a quarter of our students complete double or dual degrees, with a joint degree being rarer. The Graduate School policy allows that one-fourth of credits taken for one graduate degree can be counted for a second graduate degree. Please see our page on double degrees for more information. If the prospect of essentially completing two graduate degrees is daunting, there are also some certificate programs offered on campus that can serve to enhance your studies in urban and regional planning. You can learn more about certificates here.

What financial aid options are there?

Please see our page on financial aid for more information.

What is it like being an international student at UW–Madison and the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture?

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has a long history as a host institution for international students. In 1990, there were approximately 3,610 international students in residence. These undergraduate and graduate students came from over 122 countries. The University and the Madison community have developed a number of special programs to meet the needs of these students and their families. In addition, many of the international students have formed their own national cultural organizations, both to aid in adapting to life in America and as a means for presenting the richness of their cultures to the Madison community. Dinners, films, and festivals are sponsored by many of these groups. The International Student Services can provide details of the many services, activities, and organizations.

Reflecting the larger University situation, the department of Planning and Landscape Architecture has had students from numerous foreign countries. Among them are Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Great Britain, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Venezuela. The department’s faculty are accustomed to working with international students and encourage such students to relate course work and assignments to the situations and problems of their own countries. On group projects, efforts are made to ensure that international and American students interact and learn. Several seminars on planning in developing countries are offered.

It has been the experience of the department that the success of an international student enrolled in its program depends heavily upon possession of a good working knowledge of English. While special courses are available to aid international students in improving their abilities in English and while the department’s faculty are understanding of the problems of comprehension and reading that visiting students often face, a certain basic competency in English is absolutely mandatory. Those prospective applicants who do not feel comfortable with working in the English language are strongly urged to consider further language study before applying for admission into one of the department’s programs.

As an international student, will I need to submit a financial statement?

You do not need to provide a financial statement until you are accepted, at which time the Graduate School requires a notarized financial statement as well as proof of funds for study. If you are accepted they will contact you through the application asking for this and sending you the link to the document. They will not send you an I-20 until they have this. See more information here.

Can I take courses as a Special Student prior to being admitted?

Special Students are those not admitted to the department or to the Graduate School. Sometimes students who wish to enter one of the programs begin as Special Students. Generally, they take a minimum of 9 hours of graduate-level courses before their case is reviewed (independent study and research credits are not acceptable to fulfill this requirement.) Students may begin as Special Students, but this will not guarantee acceptance as regular degree candidates; they could be passed over for more qualified students. Courses taken as a Special Student can be taken in a single semester or cumulatively. They do not count toward graduate residence credit, but may be counted toward degree course credit. The Master’s Program Committee will not accept as transfer credit more than 12 credits of work taken as a Special Student. The Master’s Program Committee does not necessarily guarantee that all credits (up to 12) taken as a Special Student will be accepted as transfer credit. All courses accepted for transfer credit must have a B or better. The decision as to what will be transferred will be made by the Master’s Program Committee on the recommendation of the student’s advisor, and must be based on information indicating that the courses for which transfer credit is given fit logically into the student’s overall program.

Can I be admitted to a graduate program in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture if my undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0?

Applicants to the Master’s programs with an undergraduate GPA of less than 3.0 can only be admitted on probation. In such cases, justification for admission on probation must be made to the Graduate School, which has final authority for admission decisions.

Students admitted on probation can achieve full standing in the department (i.e. be removed from probation) by receiving a GPA of 3.0 or above for the first semester of courses taken as a student in the department, with nine (9) credits constituting the minimum number of credits needed to remove probationary status in reference to part-time students.

To the extent possible, students admitted on probation are encouraged to take core courses as a part of their first semester schedule. In all other matters, students admitted on probation are subject to the same standards and requirements as students admitted in full standing (e.g. residency requirements, satisfactory student performance, minimum grades in core courses [BC], and so forth.

Can I transfer credit?

The Master’s Program Committee has authority to approve the transfer of credits taken outside the scope of the normal Master’s degree program in accordance with the following criteria:

  • A maximum of 21 credits are allowed from non-URPL Degree Programs in Planning (PAB accredited). Courses allowed for transfer credit must be related to planning.
  • 25% of credits completed up to a maximum of 11 credits are allowed from non-URPL Degree Programs in fields other than planning. Courses allowed for transfer credit must be related to planning.

The following special conditions apply to the transfer of credits identified above:

  1. All transferred credits must be earned as a graduate student (including University Special students or their equivalent). Any course taken as part of an undergraduate degree (whether required or optional) cannot be transferred.
  2. Credits can only be transferred for courses in which a grade of B or better was received.
  3. The number of credits transferred will be adjusted into “semester” equivalents for courses taken on a quarter (or non-semester) basis.
  4. Credits may be transferred for courses taken as part of an awarded graduate degree, subject to the appropriate maximum credit limitations listed in the section on Double Degrees (e.g., 25% rule or other special arrangement). Courses taken as part of degree programs in UW Professional Colleges (e.g. Law School) are subject to the limitations listed above for “All other fields.”
  5. The awarding of a credit transfer request does not affect otherwise existing curriculum requirements. Determination of whether transferred credits can be used to waive required courses must be made by current or past instructors of the respective course (i.e., determination is not made by the MPC).
  6. The Master’s Program Committee will determine the appropriate number of credits for transfer based on transcripts, supporting course information, advisor recommendation, or other requested information as needed.

The process for requesting transfer of previously earned credits is as follows.

  1. Student meets with advisor to discuss transfer options and requirements.
  2. Student prepares a detailed request for MPC consideration. This request should include specific course-related information (such as school, degree program, date taken, grade) and should include appropriate supporting documentation (such as transcript, course description, or syllabus). All requests should be sent to the current Chair of the MPC.
  3. Student’s advisor sends an independent assessment of the request to the MPC. This assessment should address the appropriateness of the request vis-a-vis relevance to the URPL Master’s program.
  4. The MPC will notify both the student and the advisor on the number of credits (if any) that may be transferred. At its discretion, the MPC may request additional information concerning the requested transfer as necessary.

Can I waive courses?

Upon entering PLA programs, a student must seek waivers for core courses during the first week of the first semester in which the course is given. Waivers will be granted if the subject matter of the core course duplicates the student’s previous coursework or experience. The instructor of the course at the time that the waiver request is made will have sole responsibility for determining if the request will be granted, and the instructor’s decision will be final. After acting on the waiver request, the instructor will send written notification of the decision to the student, the advisor, and the student’s file.

Can I send photocopies of my transcripts/TOEFL scores?

No. You must send Official Transcripts, sealed by the university. Please do not send photocopies of transcripts or of test scores like TOEFL. The only test scores we accept by paper are official IELTS scores.

How can I check the status of my application?

You can check the status of your own application through your UW Student Center. Your Student Center information will be sent to you as soon as you submit an application to the graduate school.

How will my application be evaluated?

Applications are carefully reviewed by the Master’s Program Committee, which consists of at least two faculty members appointed by the Department Chair who participate actively on matters of admission, the granting of fellowships and scholarships, and other program administration concerns. In reviewing applications, the Committee gives extra weight to planning-related work, such as Peace Corps or professional planning experience. The department also considers graduate work (not taken as an undergraduate), even if it is in another field.

When will I hear back if I have been accepted to the program or not?

Applications submitted by February 1 will be reviewed the first week of February, and decisions will be sent out by the end of the second week of February.

Applications submitted between February 2 and March 1 will be reviewed the first week of March, and decisions will be sent out by the end of the second week of March.

If I have more questions about the admissions process, who do I ask?

First, check the Graduate School’s FAQ about admissions. If your question is not answered there, contact the Graduate Admissions Coordinator.