Application Tips

Your application will receive a thorough review from more than one admissions professional. Admission to our university is competitive and selective, and we review applications using a holistic process. We consider your performance in rigorous course work, essays, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and one required letter of recommendation from an academic source. Our counselors are also looking for sustained involvement in activities in or out of school, leadership, community involvements, research, or any special gifts or talents that you would bring to our university.

Here are a few tips to help you get started, but contact our office if you have questions along the way.

Join our mailing list

Join our mailing list to receive reminders about our application deadlines, information about visiting campus, and to get the latest announcements from the Office of Admissions and Recruitment.

Provide a current email address

We need to have an accurate email address on file for you to share important reminders. We also deliver you a notification by email when your admission decision is available. Our office prefers to communicate directly with applicants throughout the admissions process, so we ask parents and family members to sign up with the Parent Program to get information about the university.

Know your deadlines

Keep track of admission deadlines and make sure required materials arrive in a timely manner. Any application submitted by the deadline and completed in a timely manner will be reviewed, so be sure to plan accordingly using the dates posted for freshmen and transfer students. If all required materials are not received in a timely manner, your application may not be reviewed.

Develop strong 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.

Your essays might also be used for campus program and scholarship review. Tell us about you and your unique story to help us know you beyond your GPA and test scores. Here are the two questions that all applicants must answer:

Essay One:
Consider something in your life you think goes unnoticed and write about why it's important to you.

Essay Two:
Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, share with us the academic, extracurricular, or research opportunities you would take advantage of as a student. If applicable, provide details of any circumstance that could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular involvement.

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.

Request transcripts early

When you apply, we require official transcripts for all high school and college-level work you completed. Students applying for fall will be reminded in spring about submitting midyear or trimester grades. See what we need to receive for transfer students, homeschooled students, and reentry students.

Request test scores to be sent

Freshman applicants must submit test scores from the ACT or SAT. Our test code is 4656 for the ACT and 1846 for the SAT. We receive all scores electronically on a daily basis so there is not an advantage to rush or priority delivery.

To assure consideration in our Early Action competition, freshmen are encouraged to take the ACT or SAT no later than the end of September. For consideration in our Regular Decision competition, freshmen are encouraged to take their test no later than the end of December.

Transfer students are not required to submit ACT or SAT scores, but they will be considered if submitted.

International applicants should review our requirements for submitting either a TOEFL or IELTS score.

Ask for a 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, faculty member, school counselor, or advisor. If you choose, you can also submit a letter of recommendation from another 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.

If you apply using the UW System Application, your recommender can use our online recommendation form. This system allows you to request letters from each of your chosen contacts. By creating a log in and entering your information, your recommender will receive an email with a link to upload a letter to our office. Those who apply using the Common Application should request a recommendation through that system.

Check your application status

Once we receive your application for admission, we will send you an application acknowledgment email with instructions on how to monitor the status of your application. This online system will allow you to:

  • Check that we have received all of your application materials
  • Update your mailing address, phone number, and email address
  • View your admission decision
  • Monitor the status of your financial aid application
  • Accept or decline an offer of admission

If you do not submit an email address, you will receive the acknowledgement letter in the mail. This acknowledgement will include your campus ID number, which can then be used to activate your UW NetID and ultimately check your application status.

Ask questions and stay informed

Our office is available to help you through the process, and we welcome you to call or email. If you have a general question, reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Remember: never post your Student ID number, birth date, or government ID number online when asking your question.