Department of Geography and Planning

Department of Geography and Planning
Department of Geography and Planning

Admissions: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the minimum admission requirements?

A four-year undergraduate degree with a B+ average or better in the final two years. Two letters of reference. International students are required to have a total score of 100 on internet-based model, 250 on the computer-based model, or a total of 600 on the paper-based model on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

2. Do I have to write the TOEFL?

The program is delivered in English. Therefore, it is required that you demonstrate a strong command of the English language (written and verbal). If your undergraduate degree was not completed in the English language, then TOEFL is required to demonstrate language proficiency.

3. How long is my TOEFL valid?

Two (2) years.

4. Will I gain admission to the program if I just meet the minimum requirements?

Meeting the minimum requirements is enough to warrant consideration of your file, but does not guarantee admission. Over half of this year's class held first class degrees.

5. How many students are admitted each year?

The School of Urban and Regional Planning admits only 35 students per year.

6. How competitive is admission?

Each year we received hundreds of informal enquiries and over 100 completed applications for 35 places.

7. Is there an application deadline?

Queen's uses a 'rolling' admission process which ensures that applications are reviewed as soon as they are complete. But, candidates are encouraged to apply before March 1st.

8. How do I submit my transcripts?

1. Submitted directly to the School of Graduate Studies & Research from the university (preferred method);
2. Submitted by the applicant, providing that it is received in a sealed, signed university envelop; or
3. Submitted by the applicant, providing that an authorized official has certified the transcript as a true copy and has signed the flap of the sealed envelop (may apply to international students).

9. Do I need to arrange for two copies of my transcripts?


10. What grade point average is required?

Averaging a 3.0, 75% or 'B+' or better in your final two (2) years.

11. Is it compulsory to have a four-year undergraduate degree?


12. Do you conditionally admit candidates with a three year degree for a qualifying year?

We do not make conditional offer of admission to candidates with a three-year degree. Candidates are welcome to apply to the Queen's Faculty of Arts and Science for admission as a special student, but we have not preference where your fourth year is completed. So most students in this situation, complete a fourth year at the university nearest to their home.

13. I do not have a degree in Geography, Engineering, Architecture, or Environmental Studies. Should I still apply?

Yes. We have no fixed pre-requisites. The majority of our students come from the social sciences and humanities.

14. I have never taken a planning course before. Will I be in over my head?

The vast majority of our students have never completed a planning course before enrolling in the program.

15. When will I hear from the Admissions Coordinator?

When your application file is complete, it will be examined by the Admissions Coordinator. You should hear from the Coordinator within 6 weeks of the completion date.

16. Can I take the Master's degree part-time or by correspondence?

The M.PL. program is a rigorous professional education with extensive group work and many out-of-classroom activities. Our students are typically engaged over 60 hours per week, so combining the program with a full-time job is not possible. All our students are full-time and resident in Kingston during the fall and winter terms. Some students who have completed their coursework and accepted a full-time professional job are granted part-time status after their fifth term to complete their Master's thesis or report.

17. Will I be interviewed?

An interview is not part of our admissions process. But we encourage prospective candidates to visit the school if you are in Central Canada, to meet our faculty, staff and students. The fall Open House is a good time to visit, but we welcome visits throughout the year. Please contact Jo-Anne Tinlin ( in advance to ensure that your visit goes smoothly.

18. Is it possible to earn the master's degree in planning from Queen's through distance education, or would I have to attend classes at the University?

No, the course is only offered by classes at the university.

The programme is an intense, 5 term professional education, similar to an MBA or MPA. In addition to 12 hours classes and labs per week, the students have numerous group projects, site visits, field trips, public lectures, etc.

Our students tell us that they are engaged about sixty hours per week during the busy times; this experience cannot be combined with a full-time job.

To facilitate this experience, the school provides the students with 24 hour, 7 day access to shared private offices, with desks, bookshelves and high speed internet connections.

19. How long is the average length of study in the program?

A typical programme is five terms: two terms of classes (September- April); one term of paid internship (summer); two terms of classes and report/thesis (September- April). Some students extend their report-thesis into the following summer, sometimes with a second paid internship.

20. How many students receive entrance awards and what is the average amount of the award?

That varies from year to year. The entrance awards depend upon academic merit. All first class students typically receive Queen's Graduate Awards. Many upper second class also receive Queen's Graduate Awards. The Queen's Graduate awards vary from $1,000 to $10,000. The students with first class standing are also entered in the competitions for larger scholarships; in recent years, they won several prestigious external awards ranging from $10,000 to $17,500. These graduate awards are grants - quite different from the teaching assistantships offered by other departments, which involve many hours of grading for large undergraduate classes.

21. Could you advise me of the procedure to be considered for awards within the department?

You tick the box "Wish to be considered for Financial Aid" in the on-line application. We do the rest. Decisions on school awards are typically announced in March, with acceptance letters. The larger Queen's awards competitions results are announced in April or early May. There is usually a second round of internal awards in late May, after the results of the big provincial /national competitions.

22. What about other financial aid?

University wide graduate scholarships bring $10-$15,000 per year. First class students are automatically entered into these competitions in March.

The Graduate School also has many bursaries for financial need, and special tuition bursaries for international students.

We are proud that Queen's distributes the highest proportion of its operating budget to student aid in Canada.

Many of our students also qualify for the Work-Study Program, which provides part time jobs in the school or on campus (maximum 100 hours per term)

First Class Students may also apply for external support, which typically ranges from $15,000-$17,500.

Ontario Graduate Scholarship from Ontario Student Assistance Program

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

23. Does the School offer Teaching Assistantship (TA) jobs?

The MPL program does not offer TA jobs.  MPL students are considered for TA positions in the Department of Geography and Planning after PhD and research MA/MSc students.  But you may also write the head of the Queen's Department in your undergraduate field to enquire about opportunities. SURP students have TAed Geography, Environmental Studies, Women's Studies and Civil Engineering courses recently, but the jobs are often mainly reserved for grad students in research streams in these departments.

A TA job is a big commitment for a student in an intense, course-based professional Master's degree like a MBA, an M.PL. or an MPA.

24. How heavy is the program in terms of science and math?

The planning profession wants our graduating students to be numerate, and we assume a facility with basic high school mathematics. One undergraduate methods course is a good idea, but not a prerequisite. Our core analytic methods course is pitched at the introductory level, so if students already have two undergraduate methods courses, they are usually exempted.

25. I'm a liberal arts student. Will I be able to take the program?

We accept people from the liberal arts and social sciences all the time. A keen interest in the environment and human settlements seems to be the main pre-requisite for success.

26. How does the internship program work for international students?

International students can accept volunteer (unpaid) positions relating to their planning education with off-campus agencies. International students can also accept paid on-campus employment relating to their planning education, subject to some conditions. Other international students take courses and do fieldwork for their reports and theses in the summer.

27. Are international students fully funded for their studies?

We cannot offer full financial support. Our best support packages might include perhaps one half to two thirds of the typical annual cost of $44,397. We recommend that prospective international graduates seek support from their home country and international agencies like the United Nations and World Bank.

28. Do I need to arrange for a research supervisor and topic before admission?

No. Students select research topics at the end of first year, on issues of mutual interest with faculty. Unlike other graduate programs, admission does not depend upon the availability and research funding from an individual faculty supervisor arranged in advance. There is no need for prospective students to contact individual faculty members about research topics, and we find that student research interests often evolve during the first year.

29. How are report/thesis supervisors selected?

Supervisors are matched late in the first year, based upon the final topic of the students report or thesis proposal and the availability and research skills of the particular faculty members. Most students preparing a thesis or Master's research report find a research supervisor from among the regular or adjunct faculty of the School.

30. Is a acceptance deposit required?

Yes, a deposit is required to secure your place with us. The amount and deadline for receipt of the deposit is indicated in the student's offer of admission. The acceptance deposit will be applied to your tuition fees. In the event of subsequent withdrawal, the acceptance deposit is not refundable.

31. How does SURP consider academic standing / GPA for admission to the MPL program?

We look at academic records two ways:
1) the average mark / GPA from student's entire academic record over their undergraduate (and graduate, if applicable) career

2) the average mark / GPA from student's last two years of study before applying (last 20 term-length courses if part-time).

We use whichever record is better for considering academic standing for an applicant. For mid-career students with relevant experience, we may consider a smaller number of recent courses.

32. I have commitments in another city. Can I take the MPL part-time? / Over the Web?

Unfortunately, our graduate professional degree is only offered for full-time study. The MPL is an intensive two-year graduate degree that requires a lot of teamwork, group projects and faculty-student collaboration that occurs outside the classroom. All of our graduate students come to Kingston from other parts of Canada (and internationally), take accommodation within a few minutes walking distance of campus, and immerse themselves in the degree program for two years. We provide students with offices on the same floor as the faculty, school classrooms, labs and administrative facilities, so SURP is a high-contact educational experience.

We have found that our model does not match the needs or schedule of those with other jobs, especially in another city. The students say that the program absorbs about 60 hours a week, without any travel time.

For mid-career staff interested in upgrading their planning background on a part-time basis , we recommend the Professional Master's in Public Administration Program from the Queen's School of Policy Studies. This part-time mid-career program is offered in the same building (Robert Sutherland Hall) as SURP's MPL, and PMPA students may take some SURP courses as options.

33. How can I find out more about a career in urban Planning?

A recent overview of working in the profession is Becoming an Urban Planner A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design

For a Canadian Perspective see the CIP.

For our intro to the field, visit the Planning Canadian Communities website.

If you are in central Canada, please consider visiting our school for its open house during the Fall term. Contact Jo-Anne Tinlin for an invitation.