Urban Design & Planning Interdisciplinary PhD


Criteria for Admission

Admission to the PhD program is based on evidence of promise of high scholarly achievement and research orientation. The applicant’s statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, examples of past work, and other considerations factor into admissions decisions. Further, to ensure the highest level of faculty support and proper level of faculty guidance, the program accepts those students whose research interests match areas of specialized faculty competence. Students are encouraged to identify faculty whose interests coincide with theirs in their statement of purpose.

Applicants are required to have completed a Master’s degree before entering the program, typically in fields ranging from planning and public affairs to natural and social sciences. Students interested in a professional degree in urban design and planning should apply to the Master’s program in Urban Design and Planningudp@uw.edu).

The applicant’s statement of purpose often proves to be the most important document in the application process. While other documents help establish general qualifications and background, the statement of purpose is a personal expression that distinguishes an applicant from other applicants and relates her or his specific interests to those of program faculty.

The objectives of the statement of purpose are twofold. First, it builds on the content of more generalized documents, such as transcripts and resumes, by providing further details regarding the applicant’s background and academic qualifications. Second, it delivers a clear description of the applicant’s objectives, including his research interests and intended course of study. This information is critical to the application process and a focused, well-written document is essential to the decision to admit. For this reason, the statement of purpose should reflect your best thinking regarding your decision to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Washington.

In particular, the statement should be structured around the following five pieces of information. First, begin with a brief overview of your academic and professional background, including a description of any previous research experience. Second, describe your motivation for pursuing doctoral studies and your current research interests. Remember that this is your opportunity to explain what you would like to learn through advanced study and what you plan to achieve by doing so. Third, identify at least three members of the faculty whom you would like to work with. Fourth, briefly outline your intended course of study including your primary research interests. You may also want to list several courses that you would like to take during your first year in the program. Finally, conclude with a short description of your envisioned future and the role that you would like to play in the planning field.

As you write, please keep in mind that it is important to be as specific as possible. The admissions committee seeks to understand your objectives and to ensure that your interests are compatible with those of the program faculty. And while it is understood that your knowledge of the University of Washington may be limited, you are encouraged to seek information via the Internet and through faculty that you have an interest in working with. The more informed and focused your statement of purpose, the better your chances of admission.

All statements should be typed in twelve-point font and limited to no more than two pages in length. Due to the significance of the document, it is highly recommended that you allow yourself plenty of time to prepare it and that you seek feedback from academic advisors.

Application Procedures

Application Deadline

All application materials are due by January 15.

Application Forms

A completed on-line Application for Admission to the Graduate School must be submitted. This will include submission of the following materials. (Note: Materials cannot be accepted via email attachment.)

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation: at least two from college instructors and, if appropriate, one from an employer. Additional letters are welcomed but not required. Applicants should include letters from instructors knowledgeable about the applicant’s research and academic potential, one preferably to include the master’s thesis advisor. Please use the on-line submission process activated when submitting the graduate school application.

Curriculum Vitae

Please submit a detailed biographical outline, including publications, and explanation of work responsibilities.


An exhibit of work which best illustrates the applicant’s interests and abilities in areas related to urban design and planning must be submitted. This can be an essay, a paper, a publication, a report, or a project for which the applicant has had major responsibility. The exhibit should be uploaded into the on-line application; we cannot accept these via email attachment.

Statement of Purpose

Prepare a statement outlining your career objectives, reasons for choosing to undertake doctoral study in urban design and planning and your expectations from the program. The admissions committee uses this statement to understand your personal goals and desires with respect to the field of planning. It is important to outline clearly your research objectives and focus. You are encouraged to prepare this document very carefully.


Please upload into the online application a set of unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

The UDP PhD program understands that many applicants are having difficulty accessing GRE testing services due to the pandemic; therefore GRE scores will not be required for the January 2021 application cycle. Those who do wish to submit results of GRE taken within the past 5 years may have the results mailed by ETS to institution code 4854. For further information about GRE examinations write to:

Educational Testing Service
Box 955
Princeton, New Jersey 08540

English Proficiency

Proficiency in English is required for graduate study at the University of Washington. Therefore, every applicant whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency. No waivers of this English proficiency requirement may be given. See Graduate School Memo #8 for the University’s policy.

Submitting the Application

Apply directly on-line to Graduate Admissions. Please access the On-Line Graduate Admissions Process.

(Note: Materials cannot be accepted via email attachment.)
Applications are considered only once a year, with the January 15 deadline, for autumn quarter admission.

The Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning is committed to inclusiveness and diversity among its students, faculty, and staff. For programs specifically addressing graduate school diversity please see the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program web site.

For questions please contact: Urban Design & Planning PhD, urbdp@uw.edu, 206.543.6398.

Tuition and Fees

To budget your expenses, including tuition, books, transportation, etc., please see this UW financial web site.

Specific questions and verification of residency status should be addressed to:

Residence Classification Office
264 Schmitz Hall

More Information

For information on the on-line Graduate Admissions process, access the On-Line Graduate Admissions Form.

International Applicants

An international applicant is anyone who is NOT a United States Citizen or Permanent Resident. If you fit this definition, please click here for important information about admission and application requirements. For further information about the PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning, contact:

Coordinator Interdisciplinary Programs
University of Washington
The Graduate School
Box 352192
Seattle, WA 98195-2192

For information on the Master’s of Urban Planning (MUP) Program, access the Department of Urban Design and Planning.

The University of Washington is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation contact the Disability Services Office at least ten days in advance at: 206.543.6450/V, 206.543.6452/TTY, 206.685.7264 (FAX), or e-mail at dso@u.washington.edu.