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university of wisconsin application essay

How to Write the University of Wisconsin-Madison Application Essays 2017-2018

university of wisconsin application essay

The University of Wisconsin–Madison (the official state university of Wisconsin) is a public university that was founded in 1848, directly following Wisconsin’s acquisition of statehood. Wisconsin is well known not only for its excellent academics, but also for its hugely successful NCAA athletic teams. The 936-acre campus is located right next to downtown Madison, which is consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in the country.

With nearly 5,000 unique courses and over 200 distinct majors, it’s no wonder that the University of Wisconsin–Madison attracted 32,887 applicants to the Class of 2016. The 52.6% acceptance rate necessitates strong supplemental essays, and we at CollegeVine are here to help you break them down step by step!

Students can apply online, using either the Common Application or the University of Wisconsin Application System. Both application options require two supplemental pieces of writing: a short prompt and a long prompt. Below, you’ll find the two prompts along with our take on the best way to tackle the essays, as well as some tips on what you should (and shouldn’t) include in your supplements.

Want to learn what University of Wisconsin Madison will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take?  Here’s what every student considering University of Wisconsin Madison needs to know.

University of Wisconsin Application Essay Prompts

Short essay prompt, briefly explain which activity you entered in the common app activities section is the most important to you. (50-100 words).

This prompt shouldn’t be too difficult — with a limit of 100 words, you’re going to be writing no more than a few sentences. While you should use this short essay as an opportunity to elaborate on the activity that portrays you in the best light, make sure that the selected activity is actually “important to you.” If the extracurricular that you select appears impressive (think three-time section leader in your all-state band, or coordinator of a peer tutoring program that works with nearly one hundred kids), but you’re not able to articulate why it’s relevant to your life and your journey through high school, the admissions committee won’t be impressed.

Don’t feel like the activity you write about needs to be one in which you held leadership; while leadership in the activity is of course looked highly upon, the genuine story you tell about its importance to you is key.

Take this scenario: You were elected student body president as a junior and presided over all student council meetings. While you enjoyed the position, you’re planning on majoring in biology and not government. Last summer, you were one of the few interns at a local research hospital, where you helped discover a previously unknown bacterium. Even though you’ll likely put “student body president” as the first item on your activity list, you may want to write the short essay about your experience at the hospital, which led you to decide on a biology major.

If you participated in any type of volunteer work, at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, and feel that those experiences had a profound impact on you, you could write about the volunteer work. That being said, you don’t necessarily need to write about volunteer/community service activities! If you were the president of your high school’s school store, or the captain of your town’s travel soccer team, and that significantly defined your past few years, you can absolutely choose it as your activity. The key is just to make sure admissions officers get a more in-depth look at who you are through the lens of the activity.

Whichever activity you choose, be sure that your writing is clear, concise, and effective. There’s no need for complex metaphors, nor overly intense descriptions. As long as it’s evident to the reader that your activity had a meaningful impact on your development as an individual, you’ve done your job!

university of wisconsin application essay

Long Essay Prompt

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. (80-650 words).

In the long essay prompt, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking for a modified version of the “why us” supplement. Even if Wisconsin isn’t your top choice, for the purposes of this essay, you should put yourself in the shoes of a student that’s wanted to attend Wisconsin for the past few years. If you have family ties to the university, or live in Wisconsin and have grown up rooting for the Badgers in sporting events, don’t hesitate to mention it! The admissions committee wants to see commitment and genuine interest in the school—they should instantly feel your passion for Wisconsin as they read through your essay.

While the prompt appears to pose two questions: “Why Us?,” and “What opportunities would you take advantage of as a student?” you should be blending the two questions together throughout your supplement. Show your passion by mentioning specific courses, clubs, or programs that you are interested in. The university website will be your greatest resource for this — there’s a wealth of information available!

Explain how your experiences throughout high school qualify you for admission to the University of Wisconsin. Articulate how those experiences demonstrate, in the words of the admissions website, “leadership, concern for others and the community, and achievement in the arts, athletics, and other areas.”

Try to provide an example of each of those three areas (or, better yet, find an activity that combines multiple). Serving as the captain of a school athletic team demonstrates both leadership and athletic achievement while selling handmade crafts at charity auctions demonstrates concern for community and artistic achievement. Don’t try to make the entire essay just about these three facets of your personality, but do make sure that you adequately explain how your activities exemplify each character trait.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk about experiences unrelated to your major: If you’re applying to the School of Education, you can absolutely bring up an organization in the School of Business that focuses on entrepreneurship, like the WAVE or WEB program, or a research opportunity, like the Grainger Institute in the School of Engineering — the more well-rounded your interests are at Wisconsin, the more likely you are to be accepted.

The last, and optional, component of the prompt asks you to explain any “circumstance that could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular involvement.” Be very careful with what you write here, and remember that it’s completely optional. If you choose not to include it, there’s really no harm done (and, if anything, it eliminates the possibility of writing something that could decrease your chances of admission). If there was a situation throughout high school that was thrust upon you (think family/personal medical emergency or moving schools), you can absolutely write about that, as it will help to establish sympathy with the reader.

If you’ve had any experiences that could reflect negatively on you, including them in the essay may not be wise. Writing about depression, drug/alcohol use, or criminal activity could raise red flags and prevent you from being accepted. If you feel strongly about including one of these topics (or something similar), definitely reach out to a guidance counselor, teacher, or trusted adult to ensure that you’re crafting your message in the best possible way.

We hope our analysis of the two supplemental essay prompts has helped you to fine-tune your plans for your Wisconsin-Madison application!

Best of luck with your application, and GO BADGERS!

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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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.

University of Wisconsin - Madison Supplemental Essays: How to Write Them!

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)
  • Neighborhood/city/county/state

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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university of wisconsin application essay

Freshman Re-Entry Transfer Graduate International Non-Degree Applicants

Applying for freshman admission.

It’s time to show us what makes you great and why you’ll flourish at the Universities of Wisconsin. The following is what you’ll need to successfully apply for admissions.

Let’s get you started

Step a • check the guidelines and requirements for your uw.

Each Universities of Wisconsin have unique admission guidelines. You can review the specific requirements and guidelines for each UW. Remember, if you’re applying to more than one campus, you’ll want to review the guidelines for each.

Step B • prepare your essay

New freshman applicants and transfer students are required to complete an essay as part of their Universities of Wisconsin Application. It’s your chance to tell your story and help your UWs get to know you — the real you — a little better. Please note that students applying to UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse will also need to complete an additional essay.

Step C • Gather up your materials

We created a handy checklist for new Freshman applicants and transfer students to help make sure you haver everything you need on hand when you fill out our Universities of Wisconsin Application.

Step D • apply!

Hopefully after all your hard work, this will be the easy part. Find out how to apply, plus get some tips and pointers to make your application a breeze.

Application Fee

The following UW universities charge an application fee for every application submitted: UW-Eau Claire ($25), UW La Crosse ($25), and UW-Madison ($70).

For the other UW universities, you may submit up to three applications for free to either the main campus or branch campus. After that, you will be charged $25 per application.

Note that UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater allow you to apply to both their main campuses and branch campuses. Doing so will incur the same fee as applying to any single campus within that university.

For domestic applicants, if you are concerned about paying application fees, please note your financial hardship on the personal information section of the application to apply for an application fee waiver. 

After You Apply

After you apply, your UW will send you an email to help guide you through their next steps. Each campus will have different requirements, so be sure to keep up with their dates and requirements!

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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 University of Wisconsin Supplemental Essay Prompts

university of wisconsin application essay

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Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

university of wisconsin application essay

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Respond to the 2023/2024 University of Wisconsin Supplemental Essay Prompts

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, also known as UW Madison, is a public land-grant research university located in Madison, Wisconsin. It has a 88% graduation rate, so you know that students are thriving there. Writing stellar UW Madison supplemental essays is the first step toward admission, so let’s get started!

The University of Wisconsin-Madison supplemental essay prompts

UW Madison requires two supplemental essay prompts for applicants, and both need to be answered if you apply through the UW System Application. If you’re applying through the Common Application, you will only need to respond to Prompt #1 (you will also have to choose one of the general Common App essays as well). Learn more about the UW Madison supplemental essay prompts below!

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. (You may enter up to 650 words, but 300-500 is recommended).

This is a common question for college applications: why do you want to go here ? UW Madison is asking you to display your interest in not only their campus in your essay, but also in their course offerings and the experiences you could have there.

Use your essay to highlight the values at UW Madison that you support, or an activity they offer that you want to get involved in. It’s all about what makes this university stand out to you. Do your UW Madison research and take notes for when you start writing. 

UW Madison also offers a wide variety of majors in different industries. When discussing your academic interest, explain how a specific program or major might help you to achieve your goals. 

Some of the categories you could choose from for your major include:

If you’re still trying to figure out your major, don’t stress! Your supplemental essay can still help you stand out to the admissions office. Try to focus on how you hope to grow at UW Madison. Are you undecided because you want to experience different types of classes? Or maybe you want to take some courses on a subject before declaring your major. 

No matter what your story is, make UW Madison a part of it. Colleges want to know that they’re instrumental in your academic journey.

Questions to consider:

  • What’s unique about UW Madison that makes me want to apply?
  • What do I want to do after college?
  • How would UW Madison help me toward my goals?
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? (You may enter up to 650 words, but 300-500 is recommended).

UW Madison uses this prompt to get to know you, the potential next generation of their university. They also indirectly emphasize the Wisconsin Idea , and you should try to mention it in your supplemental essay. 

The Wisconsin Idea is a tradition that follows the principle that education should continue to impact people long after they step outside of the classroom. UW Madison wants to know how a specific event has formed you because now you carry that knowledge with you to the doorsteps of their university. 

Your essay should highlight the impact of the event you choose to write about and how it relates to the ideals that UW Madison upholds. The Wisconsin Idea can be reflected in different ways, and suggesting new ones in your essay could make your application really stand out.

  • What life lesson did I learn from this activity or event?
  • How can I incorporate the Wisconsin Idea in my own essay?
  • What do I hope to gain while at UW Madison?

Final thoughts for applicants

Now that you’re finishing up your UW Madison supplemental essay, there are still a couple of things to keep in mind. For example, there is some leeway with the word count, but it’s ideal to stay within the recommended word limit unless other details are vital to your essay. When you’re done writing, try to read your essays out loud or peer review with some friends. You might’ve missed some errors along the way and going through one more time will help you fix them.

Read up on what UW Madison is looking for in their applicants on their website . This can give you insight on what to include in your essay and help make sure UW Madison is a perfect fit for you. 

Additional resources

Now that you’ve finished up with the University of Wisconsin supplemental essays, give yourself a pat on the back. Congratulations on finishing up your application! Here are a couple extra resources to get you started on your journey toward college:

  • Figure out your major
  • Stay on top of deadlines
  • Compare financial aid award letters
  • How to write an essay about yourself
  • The ultimate guide to finding and winning scholarships

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Application Essays

Content under development

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Supplemental Essays 2023-24

September 6, 2023

UW university of Wisconsin Madison supplemental essays

The University of Wisconsin—Madison has joined the ranks of other premier flagship universities that high-achieving teens from all around the country/world now line up for a chance to attend. Like  UVA,   UNC—Chapel Hill , and the  University of Michigan , UW-Madison requires its in-state residents to sport excellent grades and test scores. Further, it has an even higher bar for out-of-state hopefuls. This makes the University of Wisconsin – Madison supplemental essay more important than ever before.

 (Want to learn more about How to Get Into UW-Madison? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into the University of Wisconsin-Madison: Admissions Data and Strategies   for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

In evaluating applicants, the University of Wisconsin—Madison places a strong emphasis on the quality of one’s essays. Below are UW-Madison’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with our advice for creating a needle-moving admissions essay.

2023-2024 University of Wisconsin-Madison Supplemental Essay Question—Common App

The following prompt is the only supplemental essay that students will encounter when applying to UW-Madison via the 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. (650 words max)

Prospective Badgers face a two-parter here. You are tasked with presenting a compelling case as to:

1) Why you want to attend UW-Madison.

2) Why you have picked your particular academic discipline.

University of Wisconsin Madison Supplemental Essay (Continued)

As you move through the “Why Us?” and “Why this Major?” portions of this essay, consider taking some of the following steps to address why UW-Madison is the perfect fit for you  and  why you are the perfect fit for UW-Madison:

  • How did your interest in your major of choice begin and how has it matured over the years?
  • How do you pursue knowledge about your subject of interest? Talk about sources of learning (teachers, podcasts, books, news, etc.).
  • While pursuing your majors(s)/interest(s) of choice, how will you take advantage of the university’s immense resources both inside and outside of the classroom? Be sure to cite specific academic programs , professors,  research opportunities , internship/externship programs ,  study abroad programs , etc. Discuss why they pique your interest.
  • How will you be an active, contributing member of the Badger student body? What special talents and passions will you bring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison? Check out this list of nearly  1,000 student-run organizations  on campus.
  • Lastly, show evidence of how your past/current endeavors (academic and extracurricular) will carry over onto UW-Madison’s campus.

Again, if you are applying through the Common App, this essay will be the only supplement you need to worry about. However, if you elect to apply via the UW System Application (as some in-state students applying to multiple UW campuses do), you need to address the next prompt as well.

2023-2024 University of Wisconsin-Madison Supplemental Essay Question— UW System Application

(Only for students applying through the UW System Application)

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? (650 words)

This open-ended prompt is a platform from which you can share more about an academic or extracurricular achievement, chronicle a challenge/obstacle you overcame, or just share a meaningful event in your life.

No matter which route you choose, what truly matters here is that you use this essay as an opportunity to reveal something deep and important about yourself. Use the questions provided— 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?— to guide your content. It’s clear that UW-Madison is interested in both short- and long-term influence. Accordingly, before you start writing, do some brainstorming to make sure that the experience/event/achievement that you chose can satisfy all aspects of the prompt.

Remember, these essays will be your best chance to forge a human connection with an admissions officer since UW-Madison is too large a school to offer you an interview. In sum, be honest, vulnerable, sincere, and reflective in your essay and the result will be a compelling composition that will ultimately aid your admissions chances.

How important is the essay at the UW-Madison?

The essays are “very important” to the University of Wisconsin–Madison admissions committee. The only other factor rated this highly is the rigor of one’s secondary school record. GPA, recommendations, and state residency are rated as “important.” In other words, the University of Wisconsin is clearly very interested in the quality of your essay. Therefore, we can conclude that the admissions committee will weigh your essays heavily in their evaluation of your candidacy.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

Interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your University of Wisconsin—Madison supplement? We encourage you to get a quote  today.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

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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.

Start free-writing

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?

Avoid statistics

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.

Avoid cliches

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!

university of wisconsin application essay

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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How to ace the university of wisconsin-madison essays | guide & examples, 2022-2023, school supplements.

How to Ace the University of Wisconsin-Madison Essays | Guide & Examples, 2022-2023

Brad Schiller

Don’t you find this question rude?

Why are you applying to the University of Wisconsin–Madison? 

As college admission essay coaches , we see students struggle with these “Why Us” essays all the time. 

It seems almost invasive to answer what’s really sending you to the school — generally, a complex mix of: (1) where you think you can get in, (2) price, (3) what your parents want, and, (4) maybe, how you liked the campus when you visited? You yourself might not be fully sure.

Well, relax. You can ace this type of essay with an easy formula that will convince UWM that you will fit right in on their campus and do well there. 

In addition, we’ll show you how to do a spectacular job of the UWM “personal statement” question if you’re not applying with the Common App . 

Meet us below the table of contents to see how it’s done. 

(For help with all aspects of your college application, head to our College Essay Help Center .)

Q1 — UWM wants to know if you’ll be a good fit for their campus and likely enroll 

The question is: 

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. (you may enter up to 650 words).

Note : UWM recommends aiming for 300-500 words .  

This is a classic “Why Us” prompt. UWM is digging for two simple answers: will you be a good fit for their campus + will you likely enroll . In fact, we’ve written everything you need to know about these types of essays here: The Simple “Why Us” Essay Strategy that Works . Go read it now. You’ll be in strong shape for UWM. 

Note that this isn’t a “Why major” essay (even though it looks like one). Why Majors want to know if you can cut it academically in your major. By contrast, Why Us prompts want to know if you’re going to succeed academically at that particular college . Given how short the recommended word count is for this question, it clearly falls in that category. 

With that out of the way, here are the three steps for acing a Why US essay (though, again, reading our comprehensive guide is best). 

  • (1) articulate your college-related interests and
  • (2) show how they match what’s available at UWM (aka research).
  • (3) Write it all up straight-forwardly. 

In addition, since what you’re aiming for is to show you’ll likely enroll at UWM if admitted, be sure to read up on Demonstrated Interest: Why Showing Colleges You Like Them Gets You In .

Step 1: Brainstorm detail on your academic and non-academic interests

Close read of the prompt: See that phrase “in addition”? That tells you that UWM wants to see that you’re drawn to the school for more than just your intended major. 

Therefore, we recommend brainstorming two separate lists: Non-major and Major (or main academic interests). 

Again, we go into more detail in our “Why Us” article, but you should spend time brainstorming and researching your own interests, in UWM’s case, extracurricular and academic . 

Aim to think deeply about 3-5 of these interests — which can also include career-related aspirations if you have them (it’s fine if you don’t). For each interest, develop granular detail (aka essay-fodder), by asking yourself questions such as: 

  • What most interests you about the thing?
  • What first got you interested in it?
  • How does this interest relate to your career ambitions (if any)?
  • What big questions do you have about this interest? 
  • What are you most curious about within this interest? 
  • How would you like to pursue this in college?

Note that you can organize your thoughts for free in the Dashboard at our guided Why Us Brainstorming module (after creating an account ).

At the end of this process, you should have 2-3 great interests with lots of detail that you can use as fodder for this essay. Again, make sure you have at least one academic and one extracurricular interest for this essay. 

Step 2: Figure out what UWM has to offer that matches your 2+ identified interests

Remember, the goal is to show you’ll be a great fit on UWM’s campus. So the next task is to see what UWM has going on that will match with your interests.

The more research you do (on a campus tour, UWM’s website, their news service, their student newspaper, or just by talking to a student or alumni), the more specific you’ll be able to be about what UW Madison offers, and the more your essay will stand out. 

Again, you want two lists here: Non-major and Major (or main academic interests). 

In the Non-major list , write down everything about UWM that connects to your passions and interests apart from your major (if you’re undecided, substitute your main academic interests instead). This might include clubs, the structure of classes, campus housing, the school’s emphasis on community service. Make sure the features you mention aren’t too general; they should be specific to UW Madison. Then include specific examples from your life illustrating why these aspects of UW Madison excite you.

In the Major list , write down specific resources (classes, faculty, study abroad opportunities) at UW Madison that will help you pursue your major or main academic interests. However, notice that the prompt asks “why you are interested” in studying your major. So you’ll also want to write down the events, people, books, classes, teachers, films, etc. that inspired you to pursue this subject. 

For your academic research, your most rewarding source will likely be the department website for your major or field(s) of interest. Look at courses that are more advanced, as these tend to be more distinctive than entry-level courses. Look at the opportunities in your field. 

Optionally, you can also list your future goals—what will you do with this specific degree? By connecting your intended major to your past life experiences, current passions, and (optionally) future goals, you’ll show how your academic interests represent a vital part of who you are.

Step 3: Put your two pieces together using a straightforward, clear style (Example)

As you likely know, a 300-500 essay is not the place for clever metaphors or philosophical musings. Your goal is to share your academic and non-academic reasons for applying to UWM. That’s really as simple as this should be. 

But being clear isn’t necessarily easy, which is why we highly recommend having someone review your work for clarity only (not content - you know what content to include from this article). Obviously, a college essay coach is the best person to look your essay over and provide substantive guidance, but a well-trained adult can step in, too.  

Again, the prompt is: 

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.

I decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison once I got the strong sense that it would be a nurturing, challenging, and exciting fit for my nature-loving soul. 

I’ve been hiking and exploring nature my whole life, but particularly as a high school student, when I started hiking and mountain climbing every weekend, sometimes with friends and sometimes solo. 

This commitment to being in nature fed my desire to find a career that would help reduce global warming. Two summers ago, I was an intern for a solar energy company, and mostly just got to learn about the business model involved in trying to expand the number of customers who rely on the sun instead of fossil fuels for energy. Last summer, I was given much more responsibility at the same company: I got to go on sales visits and talk to customers, and was responsible for a project mapping out twenty potential institutional targets and ranking them on a number of factors for sales potential. 

In addition, I love leading the Green Newton club, which finds ways to make our high school more sustainable. Thanks to our efforts, our school has committed to expand its solar energy consumption by 30% by next academic year and also replaced plastic knives and forks with compostable wooden ones. 

At UWM, I’d want to be part of the GreenHouse learning community . I couldn’t believe it when I saw that was a possibility. I love the idea of working to make a living situation as sustainable as it can be while taking advantage of seminars, field trips, and volunteer opportunities to learn more about how we can build a more sustainable world. Of course, if I didn’t get into GreenHouse, there’s so much more I’d be interested in: BioHouse and StartUp would both be amazing for my interests in eventually working in a business focused on sustainability. 

For my major, I cannot wait to begin exploring Biological Systems Engineering . Science has always been my strongest subject, and I’d love to keep pushing in that direction. I would want to specialize in the Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering Option because it’s exploring how science can help us steward the natural world with imagination and knowledge.

Outside of class, you’ll be able to find me at the King Student Farm — in fact, I spent much of my campus visit there and became friends with a number of the students who work it as part of the Sustainable Agriculture organization. 

  • This is 414 words.
  • The essay has lots of specificity, mentioning specific clubs, areas of study, and houses that the student would like to engage with. It also is specific about what the student has done that matches with those resources. 
  • The essay shows a dynamic student who would contribute a lot to the campus and fit well with it.
  • The essay demonstrates enthusiasm about attending the college.
  • Note that while the students’ academic and extracurricular interests in this essay are similar, that’s not necessary — they can be quite different and still form a great “Why Us” essay. 

Q2 — Ace the “personal statement” essay by focusing it on your very best high school experiences

What about the other UW Madison essay? Well, that depends on which application you use: 

  • If you choose to apply to the University of Wisconsin through the Common App , you'll have to submit a personal statement and activities list . We definitely recommend this route if you are applying to any other Common Application schools.
  • If you do apply through the Wisconsin application, this will be your required “personal statement” 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? (250-650 words)

Well, this is going to be a short section because, to ace this question, you need to know a lot about writing a great college essay — your most important essay: the personal essay. And we covered everything you need to know about personal essays in better detail than we can here.

Even though this article is about the Common App personal statements, we promise that it will 100% apply to this UWM personal statement. (And take out a lot of agonizing you’d otherwise suffer through!)

Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to U-Washington (and other schools)

A few helpful resources for the non-supplement parts of your application:

  • Common App : If you decide to use it, first read our guide to acing everything to do with writing your Common App application . 
  • Whether to submit test scores: UWM is test-optional through 2025 . Read our test-optional article to learn how to think about submitting scores or not. 
  • Early options: UWM has an Early Action option . Read our Early Admissions article so you know how to approach this decision. 

BTW, here’s our guidance for approaching any college supplement + here’s where you can find our guides for almost every college’s supplements . 

Feeling inspired? A great place to start is at our College Essay Help Center . 

More articles on Prompt.com’s admissions-boosting methods:

  • Work with a college essay coach
  • Strong essays increase your chance of admission by up to 10x
  • Don’t let influencers influence your college essays
  • Should I apply test-optional?
  • Early admissions: Everything you need to know
  • College Essay Help Center

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University of Wisconsin Whitewater

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  • SAT Code: 1921

What to expect next

After you submit your application, you’ll receive an email with information about setting up an account for our student information system, WINS . You can track your college application progress, such as what documents still might be needed.

What we’re looking for in a Warhawk

At UW-Whitewater, you’re more than a test score and GPA; we review freshman applications from many angles, including personal characteristics that would contribute to the strengths and diversity of our campus community.

Non-academic factors we consider might include:

  • Leadership experience
  • Community service
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Special talents

The most competitive freshman applications typically include positive factors that are both academic and non-academic in nature.

If you have questions about applying to UW-Whitewater, Contact us »

  • ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS
  • APPLICATION DEADLINES

Academic preparation is an important part of an admission decision.

The following list identifies the minimum course requirements necessary for admission consideration. The most competitive candidates for admission to UW-Whitewater typically surpass these unit requirement totals.

  • English: 4 units
  • Math: 3 units
  • Algebra, Geometry, and other mathematics courses with Algebra and Geometry prerequisites (preferably fitting the college preparatory math sequence of Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II)
  • Natural Science: 3 units
  • Social Science: 3 units
  • Typical electives include a combination of extra courses in the above subjects, arts, music, computer science, foreign language or business

We encourage you to apply to UW-Whitewater as early as possible. Although we accept students on a rolling basis, it’s possible we’ll close applications once we’ve reached our capacity for admitted freshmen.

Application deadlines:

  • New freshmen who have been admitted to UW-Whitewater by Jan. 1 of their senior year for the upcoming fall term are automatically considered for academic scholarships.
  • Spring 2025 Semester: Submit application materials prior to December 13, 2024.

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university of wisconsin application essay

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

  • Cost & scholarships
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Want to see your chances of admission at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire?

We take every aspect of your personal profile into consideration when calculating your admissions chances.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts

All about you essay.

This part is all about you. What should be included in this essay: any academic and personal hurdles and/or challenges you‘d like us to know about in the context of your application, any information that is inclusive of your family or your community experiences. Before you submit your essay, please make sure to: check your spelling and grammar, ask someone to proofread your final version, include 250-650 words.

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?

What will first-time readers think of your college essay?

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University of Wisconsin-Madison 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision Deadline: Jan 15

You Have: 

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.

About Kat Stubing

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College Tips

The inside scoop for future students

How to write a college essay

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Posted 4 a.m. Thursday , Aug. 10 , 2023

university of wisconsin application essay

College admissions counselors offer tips to help your application essay stand out

A well-written college admissions essay can boost your application. Admissions officers read a lot of essays. Here UW-La Crosse Admissions staff share some of their best advice for college essay writing.

1.  Start strong.

How many times have you read the first few lines of an article to help you decide if you wanted to read the whole piece? Begin your essay by letting the reader in on where your story is heading. The first 2-3 sentences should capture their attention and keep them engaged.

2. Don't tell the reader. Show them. Use the power of story.

Share what you experienced and how you overcame it. Do you have a short story that helps explain a semester of lackluster grades? Did you have a challenging year that inspired a career goal? Bring the admissions officer reading your essay into that moment, and help them understand the full picture of who you are. Your story doesn’t need to be dramatic, but it does need to be authentic and original. Think of examples of challenges that will separate you from the pack and allow readers to see your determination, leadership, empathy or other qualities.

3. Keep your essay forward looking.

Admissions officers want to know about the experiences and struggles you have had. However, don’t exclusively focus on the past. Explain how you grew from those experiences. What did you learn? How did the experience shape you into who you are today? How will you use what you learned as you start your college journey?

4. Separate your essay into paragraphs

One giant paragraph can be painful to read and your message gets lost.

5. Let your personality shine through.

While an admissions essay should be written in a professional way, it doesn’t need to be stale or overly formal. Your personality and voice should come through. Be yourself.

6. Don’t use abbreviations or slang.

LOL and OMG may be fun expressions when texting friends and family, but it's not admissions essay material.

7. Focus on all aspects of you.

Don’t dwell on facts admissions officers already know from your application, such as grades or class rank. Instead, use your essay to communicate information they don’t know. Ask friends and family about your qualities to spark ideas. Then, share experiences that demonstrate how you have grown and developed certain qualities. If you devoted considerable time to a specific group, go beyond listing your title with the organization. Explain what you accomplished and why you were involved.

8. Don’t make common spelling and grammar errors.

Your ability to write will likely be factored into the college admissions decision, so treat it that way. Here are some common errors:

Confusing there, their and they’re Confusing too and to Confusing it’s and its Confusing then and than Confusing affect and effect Confusing peek, peak and pique Writing run-on sentences Confusing past and present tense Forgetting to use document spell check to catch misspelled words

9. Write clearly and concisely.

If you are not given a specific word count for your essay from the school where you are applying, write enough to get your main point across. This is ideally about two-three paragraphs or 350-400 words.

10. Avoid formatting errors.

Write from a desktop computer instead of a mobile phone if possible. This will allow you to see your essay in full and clearly spot errors such as formatting. If you are moving text from one document to another, clear the formatting so you are not copying odd spacing or mixing different fonts.

11. Use the name of the school you are applying to.

It sounds obvious, but accidentally using the wrong school name is more common than you think. If you’ve copied sections of your essay to send to multiple schools, thoroughly search and replace school names that don’t match where you are applying. Also, keep in mind that tailoring your essay to a particular school and what they offer is a best practice. Schools typically release essay prompts. They will be looking for answers to those specific questions.

12. Don’t link to videos or websites.

Often admissions counselors receive essays in a format that doesn’t allow them to click on links to view videos or websites. If there is something you think they will be interested in seeing online, make it a supplement to your essay instead of the main point. Then, help the reader find it by describing where to search online.

13. Talk about what you bring to the community.

Admissions essay prompts often ask why you are interested in a particular school. Don’t just think about the physical place you want to go. Consider the community you want to join, and share how to you plan to contribute to the campus community through an activity, club or a program. Admissions officers want to see that you are familiar with their school and what you will bring to the community.

14. Have someone proofread your essay.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, find someone to read it. Have them check not only for spelling and grammar errors, but also where your writing doesn’t flow or make sense. High school teachers, librarians, and counselors love to do this. Utilize peer writing centers at your high school if you can.

Want more information on applying to UW-La Crosse? Visit UWL Admissions Apply . 

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New Freshman

Freshmen include students who are graduating high school seniors or high school graduates (or equivalent) who haven’t previously attended a college or university. Students who enrolled in college courses while in high school should still apply to UWM as a freshman.

Application requirements for new freshmen are below. Ready to apply?  Review your steps for applying to UWM.

Preparing to Apply to UWM as a Freshman

During the college application process, you’ll be asked for a variety of information, including personal information and academic history. To make completing the application as easy as possible, we recommend having the necessary information on hand. If you’re current enrolled in high school, we recommend having this information available:

  • Your current class schedule.
  • A PDF of your most recent transcript, which you’ll have the opportunity to upload to your application.
  • Your ACT/SAT scores (optional). On the Common App, you have the option to self-report your scores. You can also use our self-reported test scores form.
  • A list of activities and work experience.
  • Personal and parent contact information (if applicable).

If you’re a high school or GED/HSED graduate, we recommend having this information available:

  • Final high school transcript or GED/HSED transcript.

UWM Application Essay

When you apply to UWM as a freshman, the application essay is completed before you submit your application through either the UW-System Application or Common App.

Sample essay question:

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?

Essay questions may differ depending on which application you use. Please complete the essay prompt associated with the application that you prefer .

Your application essay should include:

  • Any academic and personal hurdles and/or challenges you’d like us to know about in the context of your application.
  • Any information that is inclusive of your family or your community experiences.

Before you submit your application essay, please make sure to:

  • Review your spelling and grammar.
  • Ask someone to proofread your final version.
  • Check that your essay is between 250 and 650 words in length.

Required Application Materials

High school transcripts.

Official or unofficial high school transcripts may be submitted for initial application review. You may choose to upload your unofficial transcripts when completing the UW-System application. Unofficial transcripts can also be emailed to [email protected] for review.

Admission decisions are conditional until an official final high school transcript is submitted after high school graduation. Official transcripts can be sent to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions through an approved electronic service or via mail to:

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Office of Undergraduate Admissions P.O. Box 749 Milwaukee, WI 53201-0749

[email protected]

Test Scores (optional)

UW System institutions, including UWM, are not requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of the application process this year. UWM will consider applicants for admission with or without one of these standardized test scores. On the application, students can indicate whether or not they intend to send an ACT or SAT score to be reviewed with their application. Students who plan to send test scores can submit official scores directly from the testing service, self-report their test scores on the Common App or in your UWM Admissions Portal.

To send scores directly from the testing service, select UW-Milwaukee as a recipient (ACT school code: 4658; SAT school code: 1473).

Application Review

Academic preparation.

Your academic performance in the classroom is the most important factor in the review of your application. We carefully consider the pattern and rigor of your high school coursework, class rank (if available), overall GPA and grades in specific courses related to your intended major at UWM. The most competitive candidates for admission to UWM typically surpass these unit requirements:

  • English: 4 units
  • Math (Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 or equivalent): 3 units
  • Natural Sciences: 3 units
  • Social Sciences: 3 units
  • Academic Electives: 4 units

Performance on ACT or SAT (optional)

If you choose to submit test scores, performance on the ACT or SAT is only one factor considered in the admission process. In addition to your composite score, we also consider your sub-scores in the area(s) (English, math, reading, science) that closely relate to your intended major at UWM. Although the writing portion of the ACT is not required, we will consider these results if you wish to submit them.

Additional Information

We want to know more about you beyond your academic record and test results! Other factors considered in the review process include but are not limited to: student experiences, work experience, leadership qualities, motivation, community service, special talents, etc.

This information is collected when you complete the application. The essay is where you answer the prompt and tell your story. Letters of recommendation are not required but will be considered if you choose to send them.

Related Links

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university of wisconsin application essay

What We Look For in Our Applicants

At UW–Madison, our holistic application process is designed to help us find remarkable students—students who will add to the legacy of UW–Madison. We don’t use formulas or charts. We read each application thoroughly, one by one.

First, we focus on academic excellence and preparation. Beyond academics, we look for qualities such as leadership, contributions to your community, and achievement in the arts, athletics, and other areas. We’re also seeking diversity in personal background and experience and your potential for positive contribution to the Wisconsin community.

We truly believe in this model, and because of that, we are not able to tell a student whether they will be admitted until their admission decision is made. Instead, we can give you some insight into what makes students competitive for admission.

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What Are We Looking For in an Applicant?

Grades and coursework.

First-Year Students:   When we consider your grades, we are looking both at the grades you earn and the level of difficulty of the courses you take (rigor) throughout your high school career. We look for you to be earning top grades—mostly As—in challenging courses, including honors, IB, and/or AP, when available. While we don’t specifically base a decision on your GPA or your class rank, we do consider your academic performance in the context of the available offerings at your school.

While we do not have minimum requirements, competitive students will often have earned credit beyond four years of math, including at least one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced math, or an integrated sequence of courses. We would highly recommend taking math your senior year and advancing through pre-calculus or calculus, if available. Courses that will not fulfill this requirement include statistics, business math, and computer science classes. We also look for four years of English, three to four years of science, social science, and world language, and two years of fine arts/additional academics.

Transfer: When reviewing applications, we pay particular attention to the college-level coursework you have completed, and specifically:

  • Rigor of coursework: Appropriate for continued study at UW–Madison and increasing in difficulty.
  • Course breadth: Showing a combination of English, math, science, literature, social science, and world language.
  • Grade trends and patterns: Steady or improving trends and patterns that show consistency across all academic areas.
  • High school performance: Your academic performance in high school will be more or less important to us depending on how many college credits you have earned. Generally speaking, students who are in their first two years of college-level coursework will have their high school records more carefully analyzed. The more college-level work you have completed, the less we will rely on high school performance criteria, such as rigor of coursework, academic GPA, grade trends, and class rank.
  • Required courses: Applicants must have completed one year each of high school algebra, plane geometry, and college-preparatory math, and two high school years or two college semesters of a single world language.

ACT/SAT Test Scores

In light of the limited availability of ACT and SAT testing because of COVID-19, the University of Wisconsin–Madison received authorization from the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to waive the requirement for applicants to submit an ACT or SAT test score as a part of their application to the university through the spring 2025 term. During this time, including scores from either the ACT or the SAT with your application is optional, and you will not be disadvantaged in our evaluation process if you choose to not include these scores for consideration in your application. You can indicate your choice regarding including test scores at the time of application.

More information can be found by viewing the news release  and our ACT/SAT Score FAQs .

Extracurriculars

We also review your extracurriculars and the positive impact they have had on you as a student. If they matter to you, they matter to us. On your application, you can list your extracurriculars, including activities and involvement, leadership, service, employment, talents, and interests.

As part of our holistic review, we ask for two essays to understand more about you. What you choose to share gives us an idea of who you are, why you want to be a #FutureBadger, and what you want to accomplish as part of our community. Tell us about you and your unique story.

Academic Course Expectations

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First-Year Students

Your high school record should demonstrate both rigor and breadth in the types of coursework 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 speakers can satisfy the world language requirement if they were educated in their native language through grade eight. 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.

Transfer Students

Regardless of the number of college credits earned, your high school transcript (supplemented in some cases by your college transcript) must show that you completed the following required course work:

  • Algebra: One year in high school
  • Plane Geometry: One year in high school (cannot be modified, basic, or informal)
  • College-Preparatory Math: One year in high school, or 1 college course at the level of Algebra 2 or beyond
  • Single World Language: Two years of the same language in high school or two semesters of the same language in college*

*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.

Admissions FAQs

What does direct entry mean.

While most majors at UW–Madison you apply to as a current student, direct entry majors officially accept students into the program at the time of the application. These are majors in the Wisconsin School of Business , the College of Engineering , and music and dance majors.

How Do I Apply for a Direct Entry Program?

If you are interested in being considered for a direct entry program, you must indicate that program as your first choice major on your application. Your application will be reviewed for direct entry along with admission to the university as a whole. It is possible to be admitted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison but not be directly admitted to a direct entry program.

Music and dance majors are required to complete an audition with the program for direct entry.

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university of wisconsin application essay

Apply as a Second Degree Student

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  1. Scholarship Essay Sample

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  2. Striking College Application Essay Sample ~ Thatsnotus

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  3. 2020-21 U of Wisconsin-Madison Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

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  4. 012 Uw College Essay Example Application Examples ~ Thatsnotus

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  5. Expert Guide to Write a College Application Essay

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  6. College Application Essay Examples Format

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write the University of Wisconsin Madison Essays 2023-2024

    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 ...

  2. Prepare Your Essay

    Prepare Your Essay. Your application is a lot like a resume, with dry lists of dates, grades, and achievements. But the essay is different. It's your opportunity to shine through. Your UWs want to hear about the whole you — from the little victories, stumbles, and lessons learned to what makes you excited for college and life after high school.

  3. Required Application Materials and Documents

    Every year, we are fortunate to receive thousands of applications from a diverse range of students who are incredibly bright, engaged, and passionate. They have challenged themselves and those around them to make a difference in the world. They know that the University of Wisconsin-Madison is their next step toward something extraordinary—a place where they can lead,…

  4. Apply as a First-Year Student

    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.

  5. UW-Madison Essay Example from an Accepted Student

    The University of Wisconsin Madison is considered one of the best 50 schools in the nation, thus making gaining admission a difficult task. You'll need more than good grades to get into this school—your essays will have to shine as well. In this post, we will share a real essay an accepted UW Madison student submitted.

  6. How to Write the University of Wisconsin-Madison Application Essays

    University of Wisconsin Application Essay Prompts. Short Essay Prompt Briefly explain which activity you entered in the Common App Activities section is the most important to you. (50-100 words) This prompt shouldn't be too difficult — with a limit of 100 words, you're going to be writing no more than a few sentences. While you should use ...

  7. Tips for Writing a Better Essay

    ESSAY BASICS. Write your essay in a program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs so you can simply copy and paste it into your online application. Keep your essay between 250 and 650 words (UW-Madison requires all essays to strictly follow these guidelines). Ask a friend or teacher to look for inconsistencies, grammatical mistakes, and typos.

  8. How to Write the University of Wisconsin-Madison Essays ...

    The University of Wisconsin - Madison has an acceptance rate that hovers around 50%. It is an excellent school that requires two essays. Use this guide to write your UWM essays and earn admissions success. From brainstorming to structure, this guide will help you write the essays.

  9. Apply to UW-Madison

    At University of Wisconsin-Madison, we offer eight undergraduate schools and colleges that are home to our 140 undergraduate majors. Each school and college is distinct and provides unique academic communities, facilities, resources, professors, and academic programs. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Wisconsin School of Business School of Education College of Engineering School of ...

  10. Freshman

    Step B • prepare your essay. New freshman applicants and transfer students are required to complete an essay as part of their Universities of Wisconsin Application. It's your chance to tell your story and help your UWs get to know you — the real you — a little better. Please note that students applying to UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse ...

  11. Before you begin: useful tips for writing your essay

    For this reason, leave yourself time to proofread and enlist the help of others to make sure that your essay is clearly written and error-free. Read through our "Get more help with your statement" page for more information about soliciting advice from others. Before you start writing, keep these principles in mind: Less is more That is, you ...

  12. How to Respond to the 2023/2024 University of Wisconsin Supplemental

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison, also known as UW Madison, is a public land-grant research university located in Madison, Wisconsin. It has a 88% graduation rate, so you know that students are thriving there. Writing stellar UW Madison supplemental essays is the first step toward admission, so let's get started!

  13. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. Option 1. Some students have a background, identity, interest ...

  14. Application Essays

    Contact Us. Writing Center 6172 Helen C White Hall 600 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706; Email: [email protected] Phone: 608-263-1992

  15. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Supplemental Essays 2023-24

    He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020). The 2022-23 University of Wisconsin-Madison supplemental essay offers applicants a chance to improve their admissions chances at UW-Madison.

  16. How to Write the University of Wisconsin Madison Supplemental Essays

    University of Wisconsin Madison Supplemental Essay Prompt #2. 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 max)

  17. College Essay Guides

    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 ...

  18. How to Ace the University of Wisconsin-Madison Essays

    Q2 — Ace the "personal statement" essay by focusing it on your very best high school experiences. What about the other UW Madison essay? Well, that depends on which application you use: If you choose to apply to the University of Wisconsin through the Common App, you'll have to submit a personal statement and activities list.

  19. Freshmen Applicants

    Application deadlines: Fall 2024 Semester: Submit application materials prior to May 1, 2024. New freshmen who have been admitted to UW-Whitewater by Jan. 1 of their senior year for the upcoming fall term are automatically considered for academic scholarships. Spring 2025 Semester: Submit application materials prior to December 13, 2024. Apply Now

  20. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's 2023-24 Essay Prompts

    Required. 650 Words. This part is all about you. What should be included in this essay: any academic and personal hurdles and/or challenges you'd like us to know about in the context of your application, any information that is inclusive of your family or your community experiences. Before you submit your essay, please make sure to: check ...

  21. New freshman

    Middle 50% Range of Admitted Students - ACT: 23 to 27. Middle 50% Range of Admitted Students - SAT: 1130 to 1270. Extracurricular activities. Demonstrated leadership. Special talent. Essays: each essay response should be 250-650 words. Essay prompt #1. This part is all about you.

  22. 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.

  23. How to write a college essay

    College admissions counselors offer tips to help your application essay stand out. College admissions counselors offer tips to help your application essay stand out. Accessibility menu. ... University of Wisconsin-La Crosse 1725 State Street La Crosse, WI 54601. 608.785.8487 | [email protected].

  24. New Freshman

    UWM Application Essay. When you apply to UWM as a freshman, the application essay is completed before you submit your application through either the UW-System Application or Common App. ... University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Office of Undergraduate Admissions P.O. Box 749 Milwaukee, WI 53201-0749.

  25. What We Look For in Our Applicants

    We also look for four years of English, three to four years of science, social science, and world language, and two years of fine arts/additional academics. Transfer: When reviewing applications, we pay particular attention to the college-level coursework you have completed, and specifically: Rigor of coursework: Appropriate for continued study ...

  26. UW System Admissions Application

    UW System Admissions Application. Contact Us. Need an account? < back to home.