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How to Write the University of Wisconsin Madison Essays 2023-2024
The University of Wisconsin at Madison has one supplemental essay on the Common App. If you apply through the UW System Application, there is an additional personal statement prompt you must respond to, similar to the Common App essay that goes to all schools.
UW Madison is fairly selective, and admissions officers will look closely at your essays, especially if you’re on the academic threshold of their average admitted student statistics. While drafting these essays can be daunting, CollegeVine is here to help! Read on for a guide to tackling UW Madison’s supplemental essays.
Also check out this UW Madison essay example by an accepted student to see what it takes to get in.
UW Madison Essay Prompts
All applicants (common app), tell us why you decided to apply to the university of wisconsin-madison. in addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. if you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (80-650 words), uw application only.
Prompt 1: Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words)
Prompt 2: Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words)
This is a classic “why this school” and “why this major” supplemental essay prompt. An effective essay for this prompt will achieve the following goals:
1. Highlight your authentic reasons for wanting to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
2. Highlight your authentic reasons for wanting to study your major of choice.
The word “authentic” above is very important—one of the biggest mistakes students make in this type of essay prompt is writing a generic essay that could just as easily have been written about the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities, or the University of Michigan. This is the single biggest pet peeve for admissions officers, as they strongly prefer students that have specific reasons for choosing their university. They also want to ensure that students are passionate about their chosen major, not just pursuing the one that will lead to the highest paying or most prestigious jobs after graduation.
With this prompt, your goal is to give admissions officers concrete reasons why UW Madison is an especially good match for you, as well as specific reasons why you love your major. Consider beginning your essay with a story about how you discovered UW Madison and decided to apply. For example, you could write the following introduction if you decided to apply to UW Madison after visiting the campus:
I wasn’t used to the snow. In fact, this was the first time I ever experienced a snowfall. It doesn’t really happen where I’m from—a small town in Mississippi. Then again, so much of what I saw at the University of Wisconsin at Madison during my snowy campus visit doesn’t happen where I’m from either.
Then, highlight unique aspects of the university that appeal to you, and be holistic with what you talk about. Study the UW Madison website in detail, watch videos of campus tours and student reviews, and visit if possible. Find the names of one extracurricular and one part of campus where you can imagine yourself spending lots of time. Then, weave them into your writing. The strongest essays are deeply personal, so connect the campus to yourself. Here is an example:
I am passionate about volunteer work and community service. Throughout high school, some of my fondest memories have been spent serving food in soup kitchens and volunteering at clothing banks. At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I know I would be able to continue pursuing my passion for community service because of the integration between the university and the surrounding town. The University of Wisconsin at Madison feels incorporated into Madison’s culture, rather than having a closed-off, guarded, and separate campus. The connection between the campus and the community would enable me to be a member of a Badger Volunteers team through the Morgridge Center for Public Service. This program would provide me with new opportunities to give back to the community and help others.
The activist culture in Madison excites me. Living in a small town, I have had few opportunities to attend political rallies. Since I grew up in the Unitarian Universalist church, I was raised to value activism and social justice, and it is important to me that I go to college in a place where people are well-informed and care about affecting change in the world around them. I hope to join the Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministry, where I would be able to continue my activism while also building friendships and continuing to explore my religion.
I also love Madison’s surroundings—I would love to join the Wisconsin Hoofers so I could take full advantage of all the outdoor opportunities in and around Madison, especially skiing, hiking, and watersports on Lake Mendota. I have never had the opportunity to try these sports in humid and hot Mississippi, so I would love to explore new activities in a different environment.
This excerpt clearly shows the student’s specific interest in attending the University of Wisconsin, and highlights the kind of authenticity you want to show to admissions officers. It is particularly effective when the applicant connects her own background to the culture of activism at UW Madison, as that highlights her personality and positions her to create an authentic connection to UW Madison’s admissions counselors.
Next, think about your chosen major or academic interest. Imagine yourself as a student working toward a specific degree:
- What interesting classes would you take?
- Which professors do you hope to work with?
- How would the unique opportunities at UW Madison enhance your background and serve your career interests?
Your specified major should logically stem from your background. Use your prospective major to structure a logical narrative, even if you aren’t fully committed to pursuing it. For example, a student that CollegeVine worked with during the 2016-17 admissions cycle covered the following themes in their essay:
The student lived in Minnesota and in middle school became passionate about history education. In high school, he volunteered as a docent at a local museum and started a research project on the history of Norwegian and German immigration to his hometown. He also served as student representative on the local school board, and led the charge to redesign his school’s history curriculum to make it more engaging for other students.
This student intended to major in history at UW Madison. He planned to take classes with Professor Smith, a noted expert in immigration history. And outside of his major, the Center for Pre-Law Advising would help him achieve his dream of being an immigration lawyer by helping him gain relevant experience.
This thematic structure highlights several elements of a successful response to this prompt. In particular, the student demonstrates specific and deep ties to his chosen major and career path, and specific ways in which he will leverage UW Madison as a setting to obtain an education in what he is passionate about.
If the student was undecided about a major , they could take a similar approach. But Instead of writing about one interest, they could pick 2-3 of their potential interests, and discuss how UW would support those.
Finish the essay with a succinct conclusion that ties back to your introduction. Summarize how you know that UW Madison is the school for you because its campus matches your personal values and its academics satiate your intellectual curiosity. End with a phrase that relates to the school’s philosophy, e.g. “Most of all, I would like to attend UW Madison because I want to join the Badgers in their commitment to make a difference.”
UW Application Only, Prompt 1
Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words).
This prompt is actually the same as Prompt 1 on the Coalition Application , so we recommend checking out our guide for that. It’s also very similar to Prompt 1 on the Common App .
The reason for this is that if you’re applying via the UW Application, UW admissions officers will not see your Common App or Coalition Application essay, so they’re asking for a personal statement-style essay on their own platform. You should apply via the Common App or Coalition Application if you’re already using it, but if you’re not, then you can consider reusing the personal statement you write for this prompt for those application platforms.
UW Application Only, Prompt 2
Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the uw. (300 words).
This is the classic Diversity Essay , but with an added component of how the aspects of your own diverse identity will enrich UW.
UW is clear in the prompt that diversity can mean many things; we often associate it with traditional aspects of identity—such as race/ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, or religion—but you can also be diverse because of a hobby, your hometown, group of friends, personality trait, or many other aspects.
To come up with a topic, consider two things: one, the most defining aspects of who you are, and two, what aspects will best allow you to contribute to the diversity of UW. You want to try to find a balance between the two.
For example, you may be super passionate about soccer and are very close to your team, but there are a lot of soccer players at a big school like UW. Try to dig a little deeper; you can still write about your soccer team, but instead of discussing the general supportive environment, focus on a unique and specific aspect of your involvement in this community.
A good topic would be an essay on how you became known as the “team mom” when you were a senior because you always had extra cleats, shin guards, and shorts for anyone who forgot theirs. You also volunteer tutored teammates who were struggling in math and hosted a monthly team bonfire at your house. At UW, you look forward to finding similar community on an intramural soccer team, and you’ll take similar initiative in other campus spaces, such as getting more students involved in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters.
This essay is a fairly straightforward one, but there are a few mistakes to avoid:
1. Describing the community without explaining your involvement in it. You want the focus to be on you and your contributions.
2. Forgetting to specify how your diversity will enhance UW. Make sure to research a specific UW group or resource you’ll join and improve as a result of your diverse trait.
Where to Get Your UW Madison Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your UW Madison essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
Related CollegeVine Blog Posts
University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022
Not sure how to approach the UW-Madison essay prompts? With tips from an Ivy League graduate, CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the UW-Madison essay prompts will show you exactly how to write engaging essays for your UW-Madison application and maximize your chances against the UW-Madison acceptance rate.
Want help crafting your UW-Madison essay prompts? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.
UW-Madison Supplemental Essay Guide Quick Facts:
- The UW-Madison acceptance rate is 57%— U.S. News ranks UW-Madison as a competitive school.
- We recommend answering all UW-Madison supplemental essays comprehensively and thoughtfully.
What is the acceptance rate for the University of Wisconsin-Madison?
According to U.S. News, the UW-Madison acceptance rate is 57%. Last year, over 53,000 students applied to the school, which was a 17% increase over the previous year. While the UW-Madison acceptance rate increased temporarily to about 60%, the normal rate falls near 57%. Like most schools, UW-Madison was test-optional last year in response to COVID. This year, they’ve continued the test-optional policy. Admissions experts believe that changes in testing requirements have caused the spike in applications that most schools have experienced.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, it does indicate that the UW-Madison supplemental essays will be an important part of your application. Without mandatory test scores and given the rise in applications, admissions officers will pay more attention to other aspects of your application.
In other words, for your best chance against the UW-Madison acceptance rate, we recommend that you take time to make sure that your responses to the UW-Madison essay prompts reflect your strengths.
Additionally, remember that the UW-Madison acceptance rate is not the only factor to consider when building your school list. Make sure that you’re looking at schools holistically. For more information on how to evaluate the UW-Madison acceptance rate (and more details on the data behind acceptance rates), read our article .
What is the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s ranking?
The UW-Madison ranking is #42 in National Universities , according to U.S. News.
Other U.S. News UW-Madison rankings: the UW-Madison ranking in Best Undergraduate Teaching is #71; UW-Madison ranking in Best Value Schools is #81; and the UW-Madison ranking in Top Public Schools is #14.
In terms of specific programs, the UW-Madison ranking is #15 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs , and the US Madison ranking is #19 in Nursing .
Finally, the UW-Madison ranking is #64 in First-Year Experiences .
These are just some of the UW-Madison rankings. However, a school’s rankings should not be the only thing you take into consideration when compiling your college list. You should also consider other factors—including the school’s location, programs available, and size—when you look at schools. The UW-Madison rankings are not the only important factor in deciding to apply.
Keep in mind that the best college for you may not be the one you expected! There are a lot of different resources available when it comes to researching colleges; be sure to consult a few to ensure you create a comprehensive list.
Need help creating a college list? Check out our resources on the college list process here .
Does the University of Wisconsin-Madison require essays?
Yes. In addition to the Common App personal essay, there are specific UW-Madison essay prompts. The UW-Madison supplemental essays differ depending on how you submit your application. The Common Application and UW System Application are available for all applicants. You will be required to write a “Why UW-Madison” essay no matter how you submit your application.
Need tips on writing your Common App essay? Check out our blog article .
How many essays does the University of Wisconsin-Madison require?
In addition to the Common Application Personal Statement, there is one required UW-Madison essay that all applicants must complete: the “Why UW-Madison” essay.
However, if you apply through the UW application portal rather than the Common App, you will have to submit a second UW-Madison essay. This second essay functions as a replacement for the Common App essay. If you apply via the UW application portal, give yourself ample to complete both UW-Madison essay prompts.
Does the University of Wisconsin-Madison care about essays?
Yes, all colleges care about your essays, UW-Madison included. The UW-Madison essay prompts are a great chance to show admissions officers something new about yourself. When responding to the UW-Madison essay prompts, you will want to demonstrate that you would be a great fit for their UW-Madison. This is especially true when writing the “Why UW-Madison” essay. This is referred to as demonstrated interest (DI). DI is a tool the admissions officers use to determine how interested a student is in attending their particular school. By writing specific “Why UW-Madison” essays, students can show their DI in attending UW-Madison and increase their admissions odds.
The high UW-Madison ranking indicates that students may apply just because of UW-Madison’s prestige. In response to this, admissions officers will be on the lookout for students whose interest in the school runs deeper than its reputation. For more information on DI and how to use it to your advantage, check out this article from Forbes .
Finally, in light of the UW-Madison acceptance rate, well-crafted responses to the UW-Madison essay prompts will strengthen your application. Don’t underestimate the UW-Madison essays and their impact.
Does the University of Wisconsin-Madison have a “Why UW-Madison” essay?
Yes. This is the classic supplemental essay question, and the UW-Madison essay prompts are no exception—all colleges want to know what makes them special to you. The “Why UW-Madison” essay is your chance to showcase any research you have done about UW-Madison while you’ve been writing your UW-Madison supplemental essay or as you’ve been completing the rest of the application.
Given the UW-Madison acceptance rate, your research will be an important part of acing the why UW-Madison essay. Why? When it comes down to two candidates with similar GPAs and extracurriculars, a strong “Why UW-Madison” essay can be the determining factor in who is admitted.
UW-Madison Essay Prompts – Question 1 (required)
Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected “undecided” please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (650 words maximum).
How do I write a good essay for UW-Madison?
The rest of this guide will show you how to write engaging UW-Madison supplemental essays.
Let’s start with the first UW-Madison essay, which is required of all applicants. You have 650 words to respond to this why UW-Madison essay, which is the same length as the Common Application’s personal statement. You should be prepared to spend a fair bit of time both researching and writing this UW-Madison essay, considering its length.
For this UW-Madison essay, avoid over-generalizing with statements like “The campus is beautiful” or “I just feel like I belong there.” Instead, offer concrete examples of why you belong there. You should do research into specific aspects of the UW-Madison community that appeal to you.
This UW-Madison essay prompt has two parts. First, the prompt asks why you decided to apply to UW-Madison. Then, it asks why you are interested in your chosen academic field. You’ll want to ensure you respond to both parts of the question. If you are undecided in your major, you will still want to address your academic interests and explain how attending UW-Madison would help you to hone these interests and discover a major that excites you.
Do your research
Before answering the first part of this UW-Madison essay prompt, do some reading. For example, you can look into extracurricular activities , research, or travel opportunities that only UW-Madison offers to its students. You might also review the calendar of student events. The list of student organizations on their website can be a great resource to find campus organizations you’d like to join.
If you want to get your finger on the pulse of student life, check out UW-Madison’s student publications. Additionally, leverage the alumni network to ask questions about previous students’ experiences. This can help you learn about student-specific traditions and events that you can’t read about on the website.
If all of these options seem overwhelming, try starting with a structured free-write session. Take about 15-20 minutes and create two lists. Under one, list every reason why you want to attend UW-Madison. Under the second list, list every reason why you selected your major. If you’re unsure of your major, list every area of academic interest that you may want to pursue. Then, take an additional 15 minutes and draw connections between the two. Perhaps you listed that you want to participate in UW-Madison’s DSE Mentorship Program for undergraduate engineers. If you also engineering as a possible major, that’s a great connection to highlight in your essay.
The second part of this UW-Madison essay prompt is a great way to demonstrate your academic and intellectual goals. Take a look at their list of 9,192 courses and 288 undergraduate majors and certificates. Pick three courses that look interesting and explain why each of those courses appeals to you. How would you benefit from taking these courses? How do your previous academic experiences set you up for success?
You want to avoid listing out numbers and statistics that admissions officers already know. For instance, instead of spending words talking about how the average class size is 31, explain specifically which professors you would be excited to learn from in such a personal teaching environment. If you are interested in two contrasting majors, you should support both of them with anecdotes about your academic experiences.
This is the space to show off your expert investigation skills and name-drop courses, clubs, professors, and research opportunities only available at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Colleges can tell when you swap out their name for another University and submit the same “Why here?” answer. Your application will be stronger if your answer to this “why UW-Madison” essay could not be swapped with any other schools’ applications.
UW-Madison Essay Draft Key Questions:
- Do you prove that you’ve done research on the school?
- Do you explain what unique opportunities UW-Madison would provide you that you could not get anywhere else?
- Does your draft provide specific details about what you hope to do while on UW-Madison’s campus?
UW-Madison Essay Prompts – Question 2
If you apply using the Common Application, you will be asked to respond to one of the freshman Common Application essays. If you apply within the UW System Application, you will need to answer the following prompt:
This part is all about you. Tell us about something you’ve done—academically or personally—and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence your education? (650 words maximum).
Who completes this prompt?
Not everyone applying to UW-Madison will complete this UW-Madison essay. If you are applying to UW-Madison through the Common App, you will not need to respond to this UW-Madison essay prompt. If you are applying through the UW Systems Admissions Application then this UW-Madison essay will be the substitute for your Common App personal essay. This means you will want to spend a fair amount of time drafting your response to this UW-Madison essay prompt, since UW-Madison will not read your Common App personal essay if you apply through their college-specific portal.
There are several different parts to this UW-Madison essay prompt. At first glance, it may seem quite general. “Something you’ve done” is a pretty broad topic. However, the follow-up questions might qualify your chosen topic a bit more. You’ll need to describe how you learned from the situation. Was it something you succeeded in or was it a challenge you overcame? Did you find it to be a turning point that pushed you into a new phase of your life? You should be sure to address the final part of this UW-Madison essay prompt—about the event’s influence—and discuss how it will influence your education moving forward.
For this UW-Madison essay prompt, you could expand on something that is already present in your application. However, make sure that your topic is proportional to the length of this UW-Madison supplemental essay. For example, if you decide to write about an extracurricular, you will want to select something that you have a large role in. You should then discuss an anecdote that really challenged you, and as a result, prompted you to grow. Topics such as scoring an A on a big exam or winning an important sports game can be a little clichéd. Try to think of a unique situation that you overcame and the skills that you gained from that experience.
One of the most important parts of this UW-Madison essay is how your topic will impact your education. Make sure you discuss how you will contribute to academic life at UW-Madison. However, don’t repeat anything you already said in your “Why UW-Madison” essay. Overall, you want to make sure this UW-Madison supplemental essay shows who you are as a person and how you have grown. Given the relatively low UW-Madison acceptance rate, you should present detailed, well-written answers to the UW-Madison essay prompts.
UW-Madison Essay Prompts: Final Thoughts
Completing the UW-Madison essay prompts can seem daunting in light of the UW-Madison acceptance rate and high UW-Madison rankings. However, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from applying. The UW-Madison supplemental essays are a great opportunity to introduce yourself to UW-Madison admissions officers. With the lower UW-Madison acceptance rate, these UW-Madison essay prompts can boost your application if you have a lower-than-average GPA or SAT score .
Use this guide as a step-by-step aid when approaching the UW-Madison supplemental essays, and start earlier than you think you should. Don’t be afraid to ask for revisions from someone; it’s helpful to have another set of eyes checking your UW-Madison supplemental essays for grammatical errors, tone, and clarity. Good luck!
This 2021-2022 essay guide on UW-Madison was written by Laura Frustaci , Harvard ‘21. For your best chance against the UW-Madison acceptance rate, and more CollegeAdvisor.com resources, click here . Want help crafting your UW-Madison supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.
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"Why University of Wisconsin"
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest.
80 - 650 words
( University of Wisconsin-Madison )
Why This Essay Works:
- Shows They Know The School Well : This essay uses a lot of a great, specific references about UW Madison that show that the author has done their research and know the school well. Your reasons for applying in these "Why Us?" essays should be as specific as possible. This essay uses references to specific professors and their work, lab equipment ("biolayer interferometry"), courses, and features about campus. All of this works to create a compelling reason why this student would be a good fit, while also demonstrating strong interest in the school. When writing "Why Us" essays, doing your research to find unique and specific aspects is most important.
- Connects To Area Of Study : Even for "Why Us?" essays that don't explicitly ask you to write about your major, referencing your intended major is often a strong reason "why." By connecting what you want to study with what the school offers, you can show how your studies would be made even better. Admissions officers are trying to imagine how you'd fit into campus, so try showing them how you'd be engaged in the specific department. Researching the department is also a good idea, as often times it is easier to find unique qualities about a department (like "Biochemistry department") than it is to find about the school as a whole.
- Shows Personality And Humor : This essay starts off with a somewhat unserious introduction, referencing Wisconsin's reputation for cheese-making. Although this is casual and humorous, it serves as an engaging introduction into their main ideas about what the school offers. Using humor can show your personality, while also making it more fun for admissions officers to read. They'll be more likely to find your essay likable if you can include small moments of lightheartedness. This student also shows their personality through interjecting their thoughts (like this is doing here) using parentheses, which works to bring the reader into your thought process.
What They Might Change:
- Avoid Prefacing Your Ideas : In this intro, the author sets up three points that they use as criteria for what they want in a school. However, this ultimately ends up creating unnecessary repetition because they later they discuss each of those points in detail. In general, avoid prefacing your ideas or thoughts. That is, you don't have to "prepare" or "introduce" what you're about to say to the reader. Instead, it is usually more compelling to just start with those juicy details rather than setting them up.
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Prepare Your Essay
You are more than facts and figures.
It doesn’t get said enough, but your UWs are literally looking for reasons to admit you. That’s why they ask for an essay. They simply want to hear about you. Take your time. Give it some thought, share it with a few people you trust, and revise.
In the end, it’ll be worth it.
All campuses ask the following question of freshmen and transfer applicants:
All Campuses This part is all about you. Tell us about something you’ve done — academically or personally — and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education?
If you apply to UW-La Crosse or UW-Madison, you’ll need to answer a second question, as well:
UW-Madison Tell us why you would like to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided, please describe your areas of possible academic interest.
UW-La Crosse Please respond to ONE of the following: (1) How will your life experiences or commitments enrich the UW-La Crosse campus community? OR (2) Tell us why you are interested in attending UW-La Crosse and what aspects of the campus are especially important to you.
Tips & Recommendations
We’ve collected some of the best tips and recommendations for writing a great essay.
The Admissions Strategist
How to write the university of wisconsin-madison essays 2020-2021: the complete guide.
Wisconsin may not be home to New York City, but if your heart desires a sprawling campus with countless ways to enjoy the outdoors, look no further than the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
It has an acceptance rate that hovers around 51%.
The university sits on 936 acres – that’s not a typo, folks – it’s really that huge. The campus is located between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.
Beyond a range of academic programs, the university offers extensive opportunities to play sports, join clubs, and participate in on-campus and community activities. Applying to the University of Wisconsin-Madison can be done either through the Common App or directly through the UW website .
What are the University of Wisconsin-Madison supplemental essay requirements?
Two essays are required for admission to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Click above to watch a video on Wisconsin Madison Supplemental Essays.
If you apply through the Common App, you will have to answer question #2 below, in addition to the first question.
If you apply through the UW System Application, you will need to respond to both of the following:
1 ) Tell us about something you’ve done—academically or personally—and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education? 2) Tell us why you would like to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided, please describe your areas of possible academic interest.
In the UW System Application, the maximum word count allowed is 650 words. However, according to the “Application Tips” page on the UW website, admissions prefers for you to plan for 300-500 words.
Note: If a university publishes an application tips page, follow it precisely. Not only will your application be stronger, but admissions will be able to tell you did your research.
Wisconsin – Madison Supplemental Essay 1: Academic & Personal Achievements
1 ) Tell us about something you’ve done—academically or personally—and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education?
Before writing this essay, it’s important to note that UW isn’t looking for a resume or laundry list. Don’t get trapped into writing a list of achievements.
It’s important to the admissions committee to understand the story of your achievements. In order to tell that story, you must begin to analyze what you’ve accomplished and learned from those achievements.
Therefore, we must identify the two separate pieces to this prompt.
- Your academic and personal accomplishments.
- Lessons learned from those achievements and challenges.
As you begin to break down your accomplishments, think about the communities, projects, academic pursuits, extracurricular activities, and teams to which you’ve contributed. UW suggests developing your thoughts with an outline before you begin writing.
Don’t limit yourself to academic or official accomplishments. Also consider your contributions to:
- Religious institution (ex. church, mosque, synagogue)
- Volunteer organization (ex. Meals on Wheels)
For each of these communities, brainstorm people/places/ideas/events you believe often go unnoticed and are important to you.
Don’t get hung up on language. “Achievements” and “accomplishments” are subjective. You can also write about small personal victories and contributions that led to a greater result. All told, you don’t need to have won a ribbon or trophy to justify your action as an achievement.
When brainstorming achievements, consider creating a bubble map for a visual representation of your ideas. If you’re digitally savvy, you could use a tool like Bubbl.us to create your map.
Once you have a detailed list , start narrowing down your choices by considering what is most important to you.
- The more you care about a pursuit, the more you will be able to write about it and convey your passion.
- Again, don’t shy away from topics that are strictly personal to you – that’s what this essay is all about!
Your goal is to find an accomplishment or string of achievements that are closely related.
- Did you take care of a sick sibling while mom worked to pay the bills?
- Were you a founder or leader of an extracurricular activity that grew by 15% during your high school career?
- Did you raise $200 for a political campaign or charity that worked on issues you care about?
Now that you’ve identified achievement(s), it’s time to start drafting an essay. Context is always important when you are writing to strangers.
- Start your essay by providing some background information, a cold hook, or a quote.
While context is important, do keep it short. You want to save the majority of your word count for explaining why the achievement is important to you.
The second part of the essay is critical:
- UW – Madison wants to know how you’re a better person for having achieved or struggled?
- And how will you bring that change to their campus?
Don’t be afraid to talk about your challenges—in life, failure and struggle are often the best teachers.
You spent the first part of your essay introducing and describing your achievement. This includes the actions you took to succeed (20- 25% of your essay).
Now, spend close to 30-40% of the essay explaining what you learned from those accomplishments. If you’re having trouble thinking of how you changed, brainstorm these questions:
- What qualities did I need to display to accomplish this goal?
- How am I a better person for having gone through this challenge?
- What qualities of mine can I improve?
- Were there qualities that I did improve?
Once you’re done with this part, it’s time to move to the last part of your essay: explaining how you’ll implement your lessons learned into your education. Spend the rest of your essay on:
- Describing how your learning pattern has changed
- Your newfound appreciation for teamwork
- Developing a conceptual understanding of a field
- A budding curiosity of a teaching style
- Affirmed passion for an educational vector
Whatever you choose, make sure you’re telling UW – Madison that you’re a developing student who is looking forward to implementing your lessons learned on campus.
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Wisconsin – madison supplemental essay 2: why this school.
2) Tell us why you would like to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided, please describe your areas of possible academic interest.
In the second essay, you will have to address why you applied to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and what you hope to get out of the academic experience.
The first part of this prompt is fairly standard and, if you’re applying to multiple universities, it should start to sound familiar.
However, your response to the question shouldn’t sound familiar to UW’s admissions committee. Instead, your answer must be tailored to you and the University of Wisconsin-Madison specifically.
- The litmus test for this requirement is to read through your final draft and ask: Could this essay be submitted to any other university other than the University of Wisconsin?
- If you answered “yes,” you need to revise .
The best way to prepare for this essay is to perform research. This, by the way, is not only beneficial for your essay but will also help you to get an idea whether this school is the right fit for you.
- First, browse through the University of Wisconsin-Madison website.
- Don’t stop at the admissions page. Explore the plethora of information on academics, research opportunities, sports, clubs, daily living, and so on.
- Search for more information about UW on college review websites, which often feature testimonials from current students.
- If possible, go to the campus for a tour to see in person what the university has to offer.
- Most important: Research the academic program you’re interested in. Explore professors, projects, fellowships, internships, career counseling, grants, and public-private partnerships.
All of the above research will fuel your essay and give you concrete reasons to help you describe why you are applying to the school. When writing your essay, try to focus on one significant reason or a few reasons instead of just a single superficial idea, such as “academics” or “because I’m receiving a swim scholarship.”
As a rule, never write about one of the following topics:
- Social life
Then, think about what you want to get out of your college experience and how your future goals are related to obtaining a degree.
When describing your reasons for applying, use detail, and then link those details back to your professional or academic goals.
Admissions officers want to see that their university is an important channel that will help you achieve your college and career goals.
Even if you have yet to decide on a major, you should address this question through the lens of your academic interest(s). Consider both your research and academic/extracurricular history.
- What majors or academic programs are you interested in pursuing? What you write about now isn’t final, so don’t worry if you waver between different subjects. Choose a subject.
- Are there research programs or co-ops for which you are interested in applying?
Perhaps you are really interested in medicine and engineering, leaning toward pursuing biomedical engineering. You could take a look at the senior design courses where you work in a team with a clinician or industry professional to create a product.
When writing your essay, link back to previous ideas and your big-picture goals.
Let the university know that they’re the perfect fit, and you are passionate and enthusiastic about their program offerings.
- Don’t write about what you think they want to hear.
- Instead, be honest and allow the admissions committee to see your interests and values through your response.
- Ultimately, what UW – Madison has to offer needs to relate to you.
- Don’t spend too much time complimenting their academic offerings. Trust me, they know they’re a great school. They want to know why you think you’re a good fit.
We strongly recommend that you include the following elements in your essay:
- A short introductory story or hook that explains your interest in the field, major, or program.
- Toward the end of your essay, explain your professional ambitions and how you’d use your UW education to contribute to your community, country, or the world.
Here’s an outline of a “Why UW – Madison” essay that effectively answers this prompt:
- Your parents were never interested in community politics and barely ever voted. A few years ago, a local politician approved the building of a large chain store near your home, which lead to increased pollution and traffic in your community.
- You canvassed to stop the construction, but it wasn’t enough. You didn’t get enough signatures. Still, this process sparked your love for politics. You realize that your parents were mistaken.
- You want to study in UW – Madison’s political science program because you’re interested in increasing voter turnout. UW has a fellowship and multiple research programs in this vector.
- After explaining how you’d take advantage of a fellowship and research opportunity, you want to become a community organizer. UW will help you do that.
Conclusion: Writing the University of Wisconsin – Madison Supplemental Essays
Before submitting your essays, you should definitely check out the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s page of Application Tips . There you’ll learn more about the university’s vision and advice for applying.
In regards to essays, here’s a short list of the university’s advice:
- Plan for 300-500 words, although the maximum is 650
- Revise, proofread, and share your writing with a peer/trusted adult
- Be honest and authentic in your writing
If you have questions that are particular to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s requirements, they welcome you to contact them directly.
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Apply as a First-Year Student
A first-year student includes anyone who is currently a student in high school or who has not taken college coursework since graduating from high school.
Starting on August 1 every year, you can begin applying to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
As a first-year applicant, you can apply using either the Common Application or the UW System Application . There is no preference between applications.
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First-Year Application and Materials Deadline
Applications and all required application materials must arrive in our office by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the noted deadline dates.
Please note that it may take up to 72 hours for our system to reflect that you have submitted an application; you will receive an email the next business day acknowledging its receipt.
Students who submit their application within 5 days of the deadline will not receive a reminder of materials that are missing from their application.
Early Action is non-binding. You’ll receive your admissions decision earlier but will not be required to commit until the national deadline of May 1.
Our admissions counselors review each application individually and are looking for students who demonstrate strong academic ability, as well as leadership, community service, creativity, talent, and enthusiasm. We also consider personal characteristics that will contribute to the strength and diversity of our university.
Academic Course Preparation
Your high school record should demonstrate both rigor and breadth in the types of course work you pursue. A competitive academic record should show some of the most challenging advanced-level work offered at or through your school in as many areas as possible, while maintaining a strong GPA. The following chart shows the number of years that most admitted students studied in each subject area.
*Math requirement includes at least one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced math, or an integrated sequence of courses. If you take any of these courses in middle school, that will count toward the requirement. Courses that will not fulfill this requirement include: statistics, business math, and computer classes.
**Students who are not native English language speakers can satisfy the world language application requirement with an official transcript verifying their education in that language. If they were educated in their native language through grade seven, they will receive two units of world language. Those who were educated in their native language through grade eight, will be awarded four units.
Students who have studied a world language using only Rosetta Stone have not fulfilled the world language requirement.
American Sign Language (ASL) may be accepted to meet the world language requirement for admission if it is taken through the student’s school and is reflected on an official transcript.
In rare circumstances, students may be admitted without two units of a single world language. When this happens, students should call the Office of Admissions and Recruitment or meet with an advisor at SOAR to discuss options for clearing the deficiency within the first 60 credits on campus.
Integrity in Applying
Academic Integrity is valued in our community and in the admission process. By signing your application, you certify that it is complete and accurate. We hold you accountable to ensure the authenticity and honesty of your application; essays; self-reported grades, courses, and test scores; and additional materials subsequently submitted.
Senior Course Changes
The University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment does not “approve” or “deny” senior-year course schedule changes. You should consult with your high school counselor and other advisors and consider the pros, cons, and repercussions of a course change. Students who make a course change or who have a change in their grades, should self-report their first semester grades in their MyUW Student Center between January 22 and February 14. Be aware that a change that results in a less academically rigorous course of study may jeopardize your admissibility or offer of admission. Admission to UW–Madison is based on our evaluation of a number of factors, including reported senior-year (or college) course work and your predicted continued academic success. It is very important that you successfully complete the course work entered on your application. Any curriculum change could affect your admission status, and declining grades may be cause for revoking admission.
Required First-Year Application Materials
We cannot begin to review your application until all required materials are received. These deadlines and requirements pertain to both domestic and international applicants.
Application requirements for admission to the university are the same for all students, regardless of the academic major/area of interest.*
*Students who wish to be considered for direct admission to a program in the areas of dance or music, will also need to complete an additional application and an audition. Learn more about our Direct Entry process.
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1. Admissions Application
First-year applicants can apply using either the Common Application or the UW System Application
UW–Madison does not prefer one application over the other. Please choose only one application and use only that application all the way through to submission.
We strongly recommend that you apply with an email that is not affiliated with your high school and that you check often.
Please note that we do not start processing fall term applications until September 1.
Applicants will be asked to identify both a first and second choice major when completing the application for admission. If we are unable to offer you admission to your first choice major, your second choice will be considered in our application review to assess interest and preparation. Due to the competitive nature of some of our programs, admissions expectations may be different for students pursuing majors in business, engineering, dance, and music. We encourage you to visit our direct entry page to learn more.
2. Application Fee
The application fee is $70.00 US and is non-refundable.
Electronic payment is preferred. If you apply using the UW System Application, the fee can be paid by check or money order, drawn on a bank located in the United States and payable to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Send the check or money order to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment . Please include the applicant’s name with payment. Do not send cash.
Application fee waivers are available for applicants with financial hardship. Eligible students can request a fee waiver as part of their application. If you did not request an application fee waiver at the time of application, but are eligible to have your fee waived, you may print the Application Fee Waiver Request Form and have your counselor/advisor submit it to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. If the College Board or ACT grant you a fee waiver, we will also accept it.
3. Two Essays
As part of our holistic review, we refer to the essays you submit to understand more about you. What you choose to share gives us an idea of who you are and what you want to accomplish as part of our community. Tell us about you and your unique story to help us know you beyond your GPA and test scores. Your essays might also be used for campus program and scholarship review.
If you apply using the Common Application, you will be asked to respond to one of the first-year Common Application essays . If you apply with the UW System Application, you will need to answer the following prompt:
- This part is all about you. Tell us about something you’ve done—academically or personally—and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education?
All applicants will also need to respond to this prompt:
- Tell us why you would like to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided, please describe your areas of possible academic interest.
Keep these tips in mind as you work on your writing:
- Develop your thoughts before you begin the writing process, and create an outline.
- The maximum word count for each essay is 650, but we recommend planning for 300–500 words.
- Do not type directly into the web form. Instead, work on your draft in word processing software.
- Allow time to develop and revisit your writing.
- Check for spelling mistakes and ask someone to proofread your final version.
- Be genuine and honest in your writing.
4. Course and Grade Information
We require course and grade information from all schools you attended for grades 9–12.
If you apply via the Common Application, you may meet this requirement one of two ways*:
- Self-report your coursework within the application to meet the course and grade information requirement to complete your application for admission
– OR –
- Have your school submit an official transcript from your school(s).
If you apply via the UW System Application, you may meet this requirement one of two ways*:
- Submit an unofficial transcript within the UW System Application at the time you complete it
– OR –
*If you have already graduated from high school, an official final transcript with your graduation date is needed to meet this requirement.
How to Send Official Transcripts
Students applying from outside the United States can find country-specific official transcript requirements here .
If you were or are homeschooled, we will need additional documentation to complete a full, holistic review of your application. Learn more about specific application policies and requirements and how to send your official materials.
If you earned your General Educational Development (GED) certificate or a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) , submit your official score report in addition to all high school or home school transcripts.
Note: official transcripts from all schools and colleges attended (including dual credit) will be required prior to enrollment. Incorrect reporting of courses and/or grades may result in your admission offer being revoked and scholarship awards being forfeited. Official college transcripts are also required to award college credit. Official transcripts should be sent directly from each school attended.
GPA and Class Rank: Applicants are expected to achieve a high level of performance in the course work they pursue and an increasingly strong academic record. We ask for your GPA and class rank. We also realize that many schools consider GPA on different scales and some do not report GPA or class rank at all. We consider both GPA and rank in the context of your school. We typically see unweighted, academic GPAs between a 3.8 and a 4.0, and a class rank in the 85–97 percentile.
5. One Required Letter of Recommendation
We require you to submit one letter of recommendation written by someone who can attest to your academic ability, such as a teacher, school counselor, or faculty member. If you choose, you can also submit another letter of recommendation from an additional source, such as an employer, coach, research mentor, community leader, or clergy. Students with an interest in engineering are encouraged to obtain a letter of recommendation from a math or science teacher. Remember to have a discussion with your chosen recommender first to see if they are willing and able to provide a letter.
We encourage applicants who have been away from formal classroom teaching for an extended period to request a letter of recommendation from someone who can speak to their academic potential, such as an employer (preferably a supervisor or manager), a program or departmental trainer, or some other individual in an official instructional capacity.
Those who apply using the Common Application should request a recommendation through that system.
If you apply using the UW System Application, your recommender should select the link that best describes your situation:
- Invite someone to submit a recommendation (I have my NetID)
- Invite someone to submit a recommendation (no NetID)
Recommendations that are mailed to our office Letters of recommendation must be sent directly from the school and/or recommender, in a sealed envelope. Recommendations must include the applicant’s full name, birth date, and campus ID number (if known). Additionally, letters of recommendation from a school staff member may also be sent through Naviance. Please note that letters of recommendation expire after one year from the date it is written.
6. TOEFL, IELTS, AND DET Scores (English Language Proficiency)
First-year applicants educated in non-English speaking countries must submit an official TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test (DET) score, unless English was the primary language of instruction in all four years of secondary school.
All English proficiency exams should be sent electronically, directly from the testing service.
Please note: Sending official test scores from the testing agency does have an additional costs and will add 3-6 weeks to the application completion process. Plan to send your test scores early to ensure your scores arrive before the the materials deadline.
How to Send Official Test Scores
We do not superscore any English Proficiency exam and score reports cannot be older than two years from the time you apply.
Duolingo English Test (DET)
- Minimum accepted score: 115+.
- When submitting your score(s): Search category should be “Undergraduate,” then select “University of Wisconsin–Madison.”
- Please do not send to offices listed under “Other,” as we are unable to retrieve those scores.
- The DET should be sent with sub-scores.
- Minimum accepted score: 6.5+.
- IELTS does not require a code.
- Select our account name, “University of Wisconsin, Madison Undergraduate”
- Please do not send paper copies of your IELTS scores.
- We do accept the IELTS Indicator.
- Minimum accepted score: 80+.
- When submitting your score(s): TOEFL test code is 1846.
- We do not accept “MyBest” score from TOEFL nor any English Proficiency exam.
- For each TOEFL you submit, we will require the full score report. Wisconsin does not accept the TOEFL iTP Plus for China but we will accept the iBT Special Home Edition.
If you feel that you qualify for an English Proficiency Exam waiver based upon the requirements above, please submit all required transcripts to our office. Other test scores such as ACT, SAT, or AP (Advanced Placement) scores do not meet the requirements for a waiver. Once your transcripts are received in our office (are no longer displayed on your to-do list in your Student Center), we will determine your waiver eligibility. Waivers will not be processed prior to receipt of both the admissions application and transcripts.
Optional First-Year Application Materials
Act and sat scores (test optional through the spring 2025 term).
Including scores from either the ACT or the SAT with your application is optional for students applying for admission through the spring 2025 term, with an application deadline of October 1, 2024. You will not be disadvantaged in our evaluation process if you do not include these scores for consideration in your application.
More information on our test optional policy can be found by viewing our ACT/SAT Test Optional FAQs .
You will indicate your choice regarding including test scores at the time of application. The choice that you indicate on your application is final.
If choosing to include ACT or SAT test scores with your application, you are encouraged to self-report your test scores. If self reporting scores: official test scores for each test date self-reported will be required prior to enrollment. Incorrect reporting of test scores may result in your admission offer being revoked and scholarship awards being forfeited.
If applying with the Common Application, you can do so within the application or after in the MyUW Student Center (beginning September 1 and after your application is received and processed). If applying with the UW System Application, in the MyUW Student Center (beginning September 1 and after your application is received and processed). You may also submit your official scores directly from the testing site.
Please note sending official test scores from the testing agency does have an additional costs and will add 2–4 weeks to the application completion process. Our test code is 4656 for the ACT and 1846 for the SAT. Do not send your results rush (SAT) or priority (ACT); we receive all scores electronically on a daily basis so there is not an advantage to rush or priority delivery.
If you wish to add updated score(s), you can do so by self-reporting in the MyUW Student Center.
To assure that your test score(s) are considered with your application, you must either self-report your scores or have official scores sent from the testing agency, received in our office by our deadlines .
Statement on Score Choice: Students choosing to include test scores with their application are encouraged to submit all exam scores. It can be a benefit to see your complete testing history as part of our comprehensive review, and since we will only consider your highest score (by test date), there is nothing to be gained by suppressing scores through Score Choice. However, applicants are free to use the College Board’s Score Choice option for the SAT and/or the similar option offered by ACT. Superscores are not considered in our review.
University of Wisconsin-Madison 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide
University of Wisconsin-Madison 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanation
The Requirements: 1 essay of 650 words (or less)
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why
Tell us why you would like to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (You may enter up to 650 words, but 300-500 is recommended).
This sneaky prompt is a twofer, though both parts cover classic why essay territory: admissions wants to know just what appeals to you about the University of Wisconsin-Madison. So, take a moment to look inside. What exactly do you want out of your college experience? Research opportunities? Weekend football games? To dip your toe into city life? Now, if you were to imagine a Venn diagram of your expectations and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s offerings, what would land in the overlap? The only way to know for sure is to do your research!
The goal is to show admissions that you’ve done your homework. Make sure Admissions Officers know that you’ve already thought about what you want to do when you get there and that you’re ready to act on those hopes and dreams and so forth.
But, wait, there’s more! The second part of the prompt gives you the opportunity to include information about specific academic programs at Madison that appeal to you. So just as before, utilize the school’s website, but this time pay careful attention to the specific majors and academic offerings that catch your eye. What do you love about your chosen major and/or minor? If you’re interested in UW’s Gender & Women’s Studies pr ogram, can you describe what you will take away from this program and how it relates to your long-term ambitions ? How did you become interested in this field, and what resources does Madison provide that will help you achieve your goals? Finally, if you’re undecided, think about what makes Madison the ideal environment for your academic exploration. How do you plan to hone in on the perfect major as you attend? Remember, the more details you include, the better.
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