Admission to the PhD program is quite competitive. In order to maximize your chances of being accepted, please read the following helpful hints before preparing your application:

  • Before you apply, it is important that you establish contact with one or more PhD faculty members with whom you’d be interested in working. Please do not contact prospective faculty advisors with a generic email asking to “join their research group.” Instead, try to find key synergies with regard to research topics, methodologies, and contexts that can provide the foundation for a fruitful working relationship. If you cannot find a faculty member with a research program that might directly support your own interests and goals, then our program might not be the best fit for you.   
  • All applications go through a single application process and are vetted by the entire PhD Admissions Committee. Individual faculty members do not admit students directly into research groups.
  • If your background and qualifications are a good fit with the current needs and interests of the program’s faculty, we may accept you with an offer of tuition assistance, a fellowship, or a research and/or teaching assistantship. Your letter of offer will include any/all information about the financial support we are offering.
  • In your statement of purpose, please be sure to describe your research interests and skills, faculty with whom you are interested in working, and your specific interest in the CU Denver PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design.
  • We normally inform students of our admissions decision around 6-8 weeks after the application deadline. 
  • Students admitted into this program must have completed an undergraduate degree before they will be able to begin this program. An official conferred degree transcript is required by the university. For additional information, please see Graduate School Policies and Procedures.

Applicants admitted to the PhD Program must already hold a Master’s degree and will normally have completed the requirements for the Master of Architecture, Master of Planning, Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of Geography, or a related program. Students from allied fields are also encouraged to apply, and field specialization and background are open. 

Consistent with University requirements, applications are evaluated based on Grade Point Averages (GPA), Graduate Record of Examination (GRE) scores (if submitted), and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores (when applicable). All exams must have been taken within a year of applying to the program.

  • Academic achievement as evidenced by an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or better, and a graduate grade point average of 3.5 or better.
  • If submitted, the program looks for GRE scores of 158 or better on each of verbal and quantitative reasoning tests and for a minimum of a 4.00 score on analytical writing, unless a student’s record documents substantial professional or scholarly achievement as evidence of exceptional ability.
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam, or have a graduate degree from a university in the U.S. or another English-speaking country. Applicants can view current score requirements on the International Admissions site.‚Äč For more information, please visit our International Admissions office at

The following documents must be submitted before an application will be considered:

  • Online Application
  • Application Fee (or request an Application Fee Waiver here)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Examples of previous research and written works
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions of higher learning
  • Statement of Personal and Professional Goals (Statement of Purpose)
  • Scores of Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for non-U.S. residents whose native language is other than English. For more information, please visit our International Admissions office at
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (optional)

For Fall 2021 Admission:

Application Opens: September 1, 2020
Application Deadline: December 15, 2020 Deadline has been extended to January 15, 2021

To apply to the PhD program, click here.

If you’re interested in coming to CU as a new student or to continue your education, we are here for you. Please contact Jodi Stock.

Questions on how to submit your application should be addressed to:

Lindsey O’Reilly
Graduate School Admissions
Phone: 303-315-5843

The PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design is a member of the WICHE-WRGP program, which provides in-state tuition for residents of the 16 western states and territories listed here. If you are a resident of any of the states or territories (except Colorado), please fill out the WICHE-WRGP section of the online application to be considered for WICHE-WRGP status

Accepted students may receive financial packages that cover some or all tuition and fees and a living stipend. PhD students may also have opportunities to teach their own courses or work as research or teaching assistants alongside faculty from the college and across the university. For more information on financial support, please visit CAP’s Scholarships and Funding page.

Current students are funded by grants and contracts from agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Babbitt Center, Denver Housing Authority (DHA), the Water Research Foundation, and the Gates Family Foundation.

The doctoral program also provides two additional internal funding opportunities:

  • $5,000 Dissertation Completion Fellowships for candidates in the dissertation phase
  • $1,000 Conference Travel Fellowships for students/candidates presenting papers at national conferences