F.A.Q.   (Frequently Asked Questions) for incoming Master of Urban & Regional Planning (MURP) students at Michigan

last updated: July 31, 2020

Note:  Please email me with suggestions/corrections to this FAQ.  Thanks, Scott Campbell

2020 Fall Orientation?
I recommend attending the urban planning program, college and Rackham graduate school orientations. Rackham is a wonderful (and sometimes overlooked) resource for graduate students, and it is well worth the effort to get to know Rackham (the building, the staff, the web pages, the programs and funding opportunities). Taubman College live sessions begin August 10 and continue through August 28. Orientation Canvas site goes live to new students August 3.


When should I take the required core courses? 
MUP students typically complete most of their required core courses in their first year, giving them the flexibility to take mostly electives in their second year.  Note:  if you need to take both introductory statistics and public economics, then you have seven core courses (including the capstone);  if you waive out of both, you have seven.  Dual degree students:  this schedule will be different for dual degree students who take more than two years of courses at UM.

Core Course (for 2020 - 2021)

Fall (Year 1) Winter (Year 1) Fall (Year 2) Winter (Year 2)

500 Planning Theory and History (take either Section 1: Policy Planning Emphasis Section 2: Physical Planning and Design Emphasis)*

Campbell (Sec 1) or
Kinder (Sec 2)

502 U.S. Planning Institutions and Law OR
503 Comparative Planning Institutions and Law
  Norton (502)
Pimentel-Walker (503)

506 Planning Methods Quantitative Focus (normally offered in winter, but this year offered in fall)


507 Fundamentals of Planning Practice


509 Public Economics (take if you have no micro-economics background)


510 Fiscal Planning and Management


603 (six-credit capstone) OR
601/602 (masters project/thesis)

      [multiple sections]

* If you are in the Physical Planning & Design (PPD) focus area, we recommend taking the Physical Planning and Design Emphasis section (Kinder). Note: if you take the policy planning emphasis version of planning theory and later decide to do the PPD area, don't worry: you will be fine.

For more details, see: MURP Degree Requirements


So, what courses should I take my first semester?
In the fall, students generally take four courses:  mostly core courses, and an elective or two.  

Many students take the less formal, one-credit course: URP 600 (Expanded Horizons).   In addition, if you waive out of Public Economics [see below], you will have more room for electives this fall. Course schedule for Fall 2020: http://www.ro.umich.edu/schedule/      (URP508 Spatial Thinking and Environmental Systems is no longer a required course, though highly recommended.)   Click on Fall 2020 Online Schedule, then navigate to Architecture and Urban Planning, then Urban & Regional Planning Schedule of Classes.


What is an average course load (i.e., how many credits per semester)?
Generally students take 12 credits/semester, but you can take more/less depending on your needs and workload.  (15 credits/semester is not unusual, but more would likely be an excessive load for most students.)  You need 48 credits to graduate with your M.U.P.  Most courses are three credits.
Note that if you are pursuing a joint degree (e.g., MUP/MPH) or a degree plus a certificate (e.g., MUP/Real Estate Certificate), the second credential increases both the required substantive courses and the required number of credits.  (For example, the Real Estate Certificate requires 17 credits from courses on the approved list;  8 of these credits can be double-counted for your MUP degree.  The MUP/Real Estate Certificate combination therefore requires 48+9=57 total credits.)    More information: http://taubmancollege.umich.edu/urbanplanning/special-programs/graduate-certificate-real-estate-development


How will my graduate education be different during the current COVID19 pandemic?
We recognize that these are exceptional times and that protecting the public health of you, your classmates, faculty and staff requires changes to how university life normally operates. The planning program, Taubman College and the university have all been actively meeting and preparing for the upcoming semester. I would encourage you to make an extra effort to reach out to faculty (including taking advantage of office hours/one-on-one appointment), get to know your classmates and build up a sense of community, and rely on second-year MURP students for advice. Please don't hesitate to reach out to student services staff and faculty with any problems or concerns (from technology issues such as internet access or connecting to online resources, advising, or anything else). Please also take advantage of the rich range of resources on campus, both long-running resources and those set up in 2020 to address the pandemic. We are here to provide the most compelling and engaging educational experience possible, which requires added creativity, effort, improvisation and a sense of community purpose.

A few selected resources (not a complete list):


Should I take courses outside planning?
Yes! There are many strong programs across campus, and many overlap in interesting ways with planning issues. You will likely find more flexibility in your schedule to take outside courses in your second year, but some MURP students do take outside courses in their first year.


Will I have difficulty getting into some courses?
Courses have an upper limit of students (listed as “capacity” on wolverineaccess) ranging from ca. 12 to 60+.   In many planning courses, enrollment doesn’t hit capacity and so you shouldn't have a problem enrolling.   However, some courses have restricted class sizes and excess demand, including the GIS course, and some of the real estate courses.  Also, core courses with multiple sections (e.g., planning history & theory; capstone) have enrollment limits to evenly distribute students across sections.  If you can't get into a class, some (but not all) may have official waiting lists on wolverine access.  If you are not able to take Intro to GIS in your first semester, you should be able to take it during a later semester.  Some URP students also take GIS in the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS).  [You will find that some programs outside URP may make it harder for students not in their program to get into their courses, but persistence is often effective.]
Most classes are offered ONCE per year.  So, if you don't take it this fall, it will likely be offered next fall. (Exceptions: include  two PhD theory courses, URP 700 and URP 701, are offered alternate years).  Sometimes an elective course might be offered as just a one-off (e.g., a customized course taught by a visiting faculty member) or not offered certain years (for faculty scheduling reasons).   So, if you see an interesting course offered this year and think "Oh, I may try to take that next year," ask first whether it in fact will be offered next year. 


Do courses have prerequisites?
Though most URP courses do NOT have prerequisites, some do.  Some examples (not a complete list, and please confirm with individual course instructor):

Course (*indicates core course)


URP 510 Fiscal Planning

URP 509 Public Economics (or equivalent)

URP 521 Intermediate GIS

URP 520 Intro GIS

URP 593 Real Estate Development

URP 592 Real Estate Essentials or FIN 318

URP 603 Integrative Field Experience (2nd year capstone)

URP 507 Fundamentals of Planning Practice

URP 700 Advanced Urban Theory

URP 500 Planning History & Theory or equivalent (Note: students may take 500 and 700 during the same semester.)


How soon do I need to finalize my fall course schedule?
You can easily ADD/DROP courses within the first three weeks.   Students "shop around" for courses during the first week or two of class, and faculty generally expect to see students coming and going during the first few sessions (even arriving late and/or leaving early to go to another class that overlaps). Students typically settle on their course schedule by the end of the second week (if not earlier).  Remember:  though you don't need to finalize your schedule until the third week of the semester. you do need to register by the first day of class and have at least one course on your schedule. 

Academic calendar: http://ro.umich.edu/calendar/


How do I waive out of a required course (i.e., get an exemption)?
To request to waive out of the course, complete the course waiver form (link).  Waivers are not automatic:  they require written approval by the Program Chair or the faculty member teaching the course. Waivers for fall courses should be requested upon your arrival in the fall and approved before the end of the official drop/add date for the current semester. You will need to show a record of recently taking a comparable previous course with a grade of "B" or higher (provide a transcript & a syllabus or equivalent).  If the waiver is granted, be sure to note the relevant box on your "Degree Requirements Checklist" sheet, which should be kept on file with the program administrator. (You will need to submit a completed version of this sheet during the semester you plan to graduate.) For more information see the section "COURSE WAIVER(S)" on this web page.

The most frequent waivers are for statistics and public economics: in past years, I would estimate that ca. one-third to one-half of MURP students waived out of each of these courses. Waiving out of the other core courses is far less frequent.

Here are a few comments on waiving from specific core courses:


What is the role of my advisor(s)?
Advisors can assist you with course selection, the selection of concentrations, answer overall questions about the program, and provide useful advice about navigating graduate school and the demands of the semester.  We try to match students and faculty based on areas of interest, but you are certainly welcome to change your advisor anytime throughout your time at Michigan.   You will also find that students tend to use many of the faculty as informal advisors.    Second-year students are also great resources of knowledge about courses, etc.


What do I need to do to make sure I graduate on time?

This URP web page outlines the requirements. The essentials include:


Interested in the urban planning PhD degree?
Here is a link to a useful page about applying to the PhD program. MUP students interested in the PhD program typically apply by January of their second year for fall admission. Contact Prof. Larissa Larsen (director of doctoral studies) if you have more questions.


In what other activities do MUP students get involved?
The program, college and larger university all are very active places with many events, organizations, and opportunities. Here are just a few:


Michigan-Speak Glossary