What We Look For in Our Applicants at University of Wisconsin-Madison

By | May 31, 2023

What We Look For in Our Applicants at University of Wisconsin-Madison

What We Look For in Our Applicants at University of Wisconsin-Madison

What We Look For in Our Applicants at University of Wisconsin-Madison

At UW–Madison, we have a comprehensive and individualized application process that aims to identify exceptional students who will contribute to the university’s legacy. We do not rely on formulas or charts but rather read each application thoroughly.

In evaluating applicants, we prioritize academic excellence and preparation. In addition to academics, we value qualities such as leadership, community contributions, and achievements in areas like arts and athletics. We also seek diversity in personal background and experiences, as well as the potential for positive contributions to the Wisconsin community.

While we firmly believe in this holistic model, we cannot provide students with admission decisions until the decision-making process is complete. However, we can offer some insight into the factors that make applicants competitive for admission.


For First-Year Students: When considering your grades, we assess both the grades you have earned and the level of difficulty (rigor) of the courses you have taken throughout high school. We expect top grades, predominantly A’s, in challenging courses, including honors, IB, and/or AP if available. While we do not base decisions solely on GPA or class rank, we do consider your academic performance within the context of the offerings at your school.

Although there are no strict minimum requirements, competitive students often have completed more than four years of math, including at least one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced math or an integrated sequence of courses. We highly recommend taking math in your senior year and progressing to pre-calculus or calculus if possible. Courses such as statistics, business math, and computer science do not fulfill this requirement. Additionally, we expect four years of English, three to four years of science, social science, and world language, and two years of fine arts or additional academic subjects.

For Transfer Students: When reviewing applications, we pay close attention to your college-level coursework, focusing on factors such as:

  • Cumulative grade point average (GPA): Competitive for both admission to the university and your intended major. Please note that repeated courses will have all grades included in the GPA calculation.
  • The rigor of coursework: Appropriate for continued study at UW–Madison, with increasing difficulty.
  • Course breadth: Demonstrating a combination of English, math, science, literature, social science, and world language.
  • Grade trends and patterns: Consistent or improving trends that apply across all academic areas.
  • High school performance: Your high school record’s importance depends on the number of college credits you have earned. Generally, we analyze high school records more closely for students in their first two years of college-level coursework. As you complete more college-level work, high-school performance criteria, such as coursework rigor, academic GPA, grade trends, and class rank, become less influential.

Required Courses:

  • Applicants must have completed one year each of high school algebra, plane geometry, and college-preparatory math, as well as two years of a single world language in high school or college.

ACT/SAT Test Scores:

  • Due to the limited availability of ACT and SAT testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, UW–Madison has waived the requirement for applicants to submit test scores as part of their application until the spring 2025 term. Including test scores are optional, and not submitting them will not disadvantage your application. You can indicate your choice regarding test scores when submitting your application.


  • We also evaluate your extracurricular activities and the positive impact they have had on your development as a student. We value your involvement, leadership, service, employment, talents, and interests. You can provide details about your extracurriculars in your application.


  • As part of our holistic review, we ask for two essays to gain a deeper understanding of who you are, your aspirations to become a #FutureBadger, and what you hope to achieve within our community. These essays offer an opportunity for you to share your unique story and experiences.

Click here to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related Links

Yale University Online Application

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