Frequently Asked Questions

Prospective Students – MS Geography

What is the possibility of getting funding after securing admission in the form of Teaching/Research Assistantships which will come with a full tuition waiver, stipend, health insurance, etc?

Once you apply to the program, you will be considered for financial assistance (including departmental Graduate Teaching Assistantship – GTA). Funding in the department is offered on a merit basis. While all applicants are considered for funding, I encourage you to apply by early February for the best chance to obtain funding if you plan to apply for the Fall semester. GTAs come with a stipend of $14,000 for Fall and Spring semesters ($7000 per semester).

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) decisions are made by individual faculty who are recruiting students for their research projects.

Assistantships do not automatically come with a tuition fee waiver. The department Graduate Committee offers a few ‘out-of-state’ tuition waivers on a merit basis. This waiver allows a student to pay tuition at the ‘in-state’ rate which is much lower than the ‘out-of-state’ rate. ECU does not provide full tuition waivers.

There is some summer funding available for students on a competitive basis. International students on federal visas are not permitted to work outside the campus on internships.

Do I need to secure/look for a faculty advisor before I can get admitted into the program?

You are not required to secure a faculty advisor before applying. However, you may contact the faculty whom you want to work with beforehand and have an initial conversation before you apply here.

If you do plan on applying here, we suggest that you give serious thought to your ‘Statement of Purpose’ (SOP). Explain your academic background, interests, and goals. Identify the faculty whom you would like to work with and explain why you want to work with this specific faculty. Be sure to explain in your statement how you think this program and the faculty research here fits your interests.

What is the procedure for selecting an advisor in the department?

There is no set procedure for selecting an advisor in the department. Usually, students contact the faculty they would like to work with. The initial contact can happen before the student puts in an application for admission into the program. This is a good way for faculty and students to learn about each other’s research interests. You can approach more than one faculty if you are interested in their research and would like to work with them. A student’s thesis committee must have three members; the main advisor is the committee chair.

Is my unofficial GRE, TOEFL, and transcript sufficient for review? May I attach a scanned copy of my transcripts?

Unofficial transcripts are not accepted. You must submit official transcripts as part of your application. We do not require GRE for our graduate program applicants.

If your previous school had English as the primary language of instruction, ECU could offer you a placement test in lieu of the IELTS or DuoLingo test. Please contact the ECU graduate school directly for questions about language tests or TOEFL scores by emailing the Graduate School:

International students must also provide foreign transcript evaluations to determine equivalency. More information is available on this through the Graduate School website.

Does my situation allow me to apply for an application fee waiver OR Could you consider waiving the application fee?

We understand that there can be financial constraints for students. The department does not have control over decisions regarding applications and associated fees. This falls under the ECU Graduate School.

For US-based applicants, the Graduate School does offer limited application fee waiver scenarios. Applicants should contact the Graduate School for information on the application fee waiver petition process.

For international students, the Graduate School ‘allocates up to 10 application fee waivers for highly competitive international applicants with high financial need. International applicants who believe they fit this criterion should contact the Graduate School for information on the application fee waiver petition process. Detailed instructions on how to secure an application fee waiver will display in the online application if you answer yes to the qualifying question.’

All questions about the application process and waiving the application fees should be directed to the Graduate School (

How many students do you admit each year?

There is no set number that we admit. It depends on the applicant pool and available funding and varies from year to year.

I want to know if I have the chance of getting admission with my cumulative GPA?

It is difficult to answer this. The graduate committee looks at the entire application packet (Statement of Purpose, Letters of Reference, and previous Transcripts) before making a decision.

Prospective Students – MS Planning and Development

Would this program be a good fit for someone like me who has relatively little experience but a passion for city/regional planning?

Thank you for your interest in the MS in Planning and Development program. Professionals in the planning field come from a variety of backgrounds. You would be a great candidate with your interest in planning.

Can I get a jump start on the MS in Planning by taking a course or two as a non-degree student?

Yes, absolutely! You can get a start on the program by taking courses as a ‘non-degree seeking student’. We allow students to take classes while completing the application to the degree program. Here are a few items to keep in mind as a non-degree seeking applicant:

  • Though a student may take PLAN courses as a non-degree student, it does not guarantee their admission in the MS in Planning and Development program.
  • While students can take classes in the fall and Spring semesters as a non-degree seeking student, they must re-apply for admission into the MS in Planning and Development program.
  • Non-degree seeking students are not eligible for financial aid.
  • Non-degree seeking students can take up to 9 credits total.

The ECU Graduate School has further information on the application process for non-degree applicants.

Are there prerequisites for the MS in Planning and Development program? Do I need to satisfy any educational prerequisites to be admitted into the program or will my existing education and professional experience satisfy the admission requirements?

There are no pre-requisites for applying to the MS in Planning and Development program or to take planning courses in the program. The only potential prerequisite is for students who are interested to take advanced GIS courses in the department but do not have prior GIS experience. If this is the case, you will first need to complete the introductory GIS graduate course at ECU.

I am interested to know about the GPA requirements for admission. Also, my GPA is currently X, would I still qualify for no GRE testing?

The minimum GPA required by the Graduate School is 2.7 to be eligible for standard admission. We do not require GRE to apply for the MS in Planning and Development. So, GRE testing is not necessary.

What are the associated costs per semester for the MS in Planning and Development?

We follow the UNC System/ECU’s standard. You can find information about tuition costs for online programs at ECU Online. Moreover, ECU Financial Services has information on fees for DE students from previous semesters.

Some graduate schools require me to work with a specific professor throughout the process. Does this program have a similar requirement?

You may be required to work with a team of faculty advisors when you write your Professional Reports. Other than that, there is no requirement for a student to work with a specific faculty.

Is it possible to choose two concentrations? If yes, what would be the additional amount in hours required?

Yes, you can choose two concentrations. You would need to complete three more courses for the second concentration. So, a total of 9 credit hours of additional work.

Though an internship is not required, am I eligible to do an internship in the graduate program?

Yes, you can do an internship. Please note the following guidelines:

  1. Internships must be approved by the Internship Coordinator.
  2. Internships should occur outside of current full-time or part-time positions.
  3. Internships should occur concurrent to enrollment in the degree program and cannot be retroactive from prior to enrollment.
  4. You can enroll for PLAN 6018 (1 credit), PLAN 6028 (2 credits), or PLAN 6038 (3 credits) to get internship credits. Students complete 50 hours of internship work to earn 1 credit hour.
  5. Internship materials are to be submitted to Dr. Hur (Internship Coordinator) for academic credit records. Further information is available on the Planning Program website.

Will the classes in this online program be taught in synchronous or asynchronous format?

Course formats are usually decided by individual instructors. Most courses are taught in an asynchronous format to suit the schedule of working professionals.

I have a X degree from Y university. Would any of my classes be allowed to transfer or would I have to start over again?

ECU does not allow courses from a graduated master’s degree to apply towards another master’s degree. The Transfer Credit policy in the Graduate Catalog states: “No credit hours completed as part of a previously earned master’s degree can be counted toward a second master’s degree.”

I took a few courses at Y university but did not complete my degree. Can I transfer some of those courses to apply towards the MS in Planning and Development?

For transferring course credits there are a few points to note.

  • Based on the minimum 30-hours requirement, 50% of the credits (15-hours) must be from ECU. So, ECU will allow 15 hours of previous completed work at another university to be transferred, but the student must complete the other 15 hours in the ECU MS in Planning and Development program.
  • The student must complete the degree in 6 calendar years total (including the years they took the courses that are being transferred in).
  • There is a process for petitioning the Graduate School to document equivalency and request approval for transfer courses.

The process: A petition needs to be submitted to the Graduate School for ‘Transfer Credit Evaluation’ for each course being transferred. The Graduate Director can help put in the petition and will need a couple of items for this.

  • Once you are at ECU, contact the course instructor for the ECU course that you think is equivalent to the one you are transferring in. Explain that you are applying for transfer credits for this course, but that you need to establish ‘equivalency’ first. Send him/her/them the syllabus of your previous course and ask if the instructor can evaluate equivalency based on the syllabus and course textbook. The Graduate Director will need the course instructor to send an email note that says this specific course is equivalent to the previous course you took.
  • Forward the previous and current course syllabi and the instructor’s email confirming equivalency to the Graduate Director.

The Graduate Director will put in the petition to the Graduate School. It can take from a few days to a few weeks to be approved.

Is there a hard deadline to submit applications for enrollment into the MS in Planning and Development program?

The hard deadline for the fall semester is August 1st. However, that is very close to the start of the fall semester, and it is recommended that an applicant complete and submit their application by April 15th. Please also note that once the spring semester ends, faculty (most are on 9-months contract) are not available during the summer months. Hence, admission decisions by the Graduate Committee may take much longer for applications submitted over the summer.

Are there scholarships available for MS in Planning and Development applicants?

Planning program scholarships are mostly for undergraduate planning students. There may be opportunities through the university. Please visit the ECUAwards portal to help you match with scholarship opportunities and the Office of University Scholarships for details on how to apply for ECU scholarships.

Can international students or someone living in Canada apply for the online MS in Planning and Development degree?

We are unable to enroll students who are living outside the United States, including Canada, because the university does not currently have the necessary agreements that are needed to be in place prior to such enrollments.

I am currently registered for PLAN 6301 (Computer Applications for Planning and Development). Do I need to purchase a new computer according to the requirements listed on the department website?

The specifications listed on the department website are mainly for students who plan to take GIS courses. Students will learn design applications in PLAN 6301 related to Adobe softwares such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and other online applications. Adobe Help lists the specification requirements for each Adobe software. This course does not include GIS applications.

Current Students – MS Geography

Can I apply for summer funding? How do I know summer funding is available?

First year master’s students and second year students who are graduating during Summer Session II are eligible for summer funding. However, priority will be given to first year students.

The Graduate Program Director will send out a call in the spring semester inviting proposals for summer funding with an early to mid-March submission deadline. Please note that summer funding is contingent upon the Graduate School approving the amount and hours.

Students can work up to 25 hours per week during the summer months in positions that are funded by the ECU Graduate School. Additional 10 to 15 hours per week of work is possible if the position is funded from other sources.

I would like to add a Certificate to my degree program? Whom should I contact?

Students must apply for the certificate by themselves as described below:

  • Go to the ECU Graduate School website
  • Click on ‘Students’ from the menu on the top
  • Select ‘Forms’
  • Under ‘Students – Online Forms’, click ‘Request to Add a Certificate (for students currently enrolled)’

Once you add your information through this form, the certificate coordinator will get a notification to approve. Once approved, the request will move through a series of further approvals before reflecting on your Degree Works.

I am having technical difficulties with the Thesis Signature page. What should I do?

Please contact Marquerite Bond ( in the ECU Graduate School. She will be able to assist you with this.

I want to change my graduation from spring to the summer. What should I do?

Students should contact the ECU Registrar’s Office ( to make the change.

My Degree Works shows that I am in the X concentration. This is incorrect. What should I do?

You or your advisor can put in a petition in Degree Works to correct this.

How do I get the pre-thesis portion completed in my Degree Works?

You would need to fill out and submit the Pre-Thesis forms available on the Graduate School website. Scroll down to the Thesis-Dissertation Forms section and look for the ‘Pre-Thesis Research Approval Instructions’ link and a separate link for the ‘Pre-Thesis Research Approval Form’ immediately below.

How many credits do I need in the last semester to be considered full-time?

A domestic (US-based) student is considered enrolled full-time when registered for 9 semester hours during a regular semester. However, if the program’s curriculum requirements have been met, then 3 semester hours can be considered full-time during the graduating (final) semester only.

Please note, if a student is on a GTA or GRA contract during the graduating semester, they must be enrolled for 3 credit hours. Students on a GTA/GRA contract during the regular semester must be enrolled in 9 credit hours to remain eligible for an assistantship.

I will not be able to meet the summer thesis submission deadline and need to push my graduation back to the fall semester. What steps do I need to take?

If you were enrolled for 3-6 credit hours in the spring semester prior and are unable to submit your thesis by the summer deadline, then you need to register for at least 1 credit hour in the fall semester.

You can register for an independent study course with your advisor (for those on the thesis track) OR enroll in GRAD 6999 (only for those on the non-thesis track, DE section available), which is a cheaper non-graded placeholder course offered by the Graduate School. Please coordinate with the Graduate School and the Department Administrative Assistant, if you plan to register for GRAD 6999.

Also, confirm the credit requirement with the Graduate School ( and the Registrar’s Office (

How many internship hours do I need to complete for 3 credit hours?

A graduate student must complete 60 hours of internship work to get 1 hour of GEOG 6803 credit. For 3 credit hours, 180 hours of internship work are needed, and 360 hours of internship work for 6 credit hours. Any internship work beyond that does not get further credit as graduate students can enroll for a maximum of 6 hours of internship credits.

Internships are usually completed over the summer months. Students can take GEOG 6803 twice or a combination of GEOG 6803 and PLAN 6038 to get the full 6 credit hours.

For PLAN 6038, a graduate student must complete 50 hours of internship work to get 1 credit hour.

How many internship hours do I need to complete to count toward graduation?

You must have a minimum of 3 internship credits and can enroll for up to 6 internship credits maximum.

When I find an internship, do I need to contact someone within the department?

The department does not have a Geography Graduate Internship Coordinator. Dr. Misun Hur is the Planning Graduate Internship Coordinator. If you take PLAN 6038, you must contact Dr. Hur to submit internship related work listed on page 5 of the Planning Internship Contract (PDF) on the planning program website.

You would also inform your advisor about your internship and discuss the next steps with them. Your advisor would be the instructor of record for your internship courses and give you the appropriate grade upon completion of work.

While completing their internship, students on the non-thesis internship pathway also work with their advisor to identify a research question related to their internship work, carry out data collection through their internship, analyze the data, and then write their Internship Report under the guidance of their advisor.

I plan to take the Internship pathway. Do my internship proposal and report have to be related to internships I am specifically seeking credit hours for? If I accept an internship but don’t pursue credits for it, can I still use it as my proposal?

Your Internship Report should be related to internship work but does not have to be related to the internship that you seek credit for. You can base your internship proposal and report on an internship that you do not pursue credits for.

Does the internship on which my proposal is based need to be a paid position, or can it be a volunteer position?

Your internship can be either a paid or a volunteer position.

Do I need to apply for internship credit during the same semester in which I worked? If I meet all the academic objectives for internship credits, can I apply for those credits during the fall semester?

You do not have to enroll for internship credits during the summer. If your advisor is on board, you can enroll in the internship courses during the fall semester and get credit for it retroactively. If you intend to enroll for the PLAN 6038 internship course, be sure to cross-check this with Dr. Hur (Planning Internship Coordinator). There is no Geography Graduate Internship Coordinator. Your advisor will give you the credit for all your internship courses.