Apply as a Freshman

Freshman Application and Material Deadlines

Decision Plan Application & Materials Deadline Decision
Spring Regular Decision October 1* End of December
Fall Early Action November 1* End of December
Fall Regular Decision February 1** End of March

Early Action is non-binding. You’ll receive your admissions decision earlier but will not be required to commit until the national deadline of May 1*.

*If deadline falls on a weekend, it is extended to the next business day.

**If you live in or attend school in mainland China, Hong Kong, other affected areas in Southeast Asia, or those who are currently in the U.S. with missing secondary or post-secondary work from China, and you have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), please click here for more information. 

Academic Requirements

Our admissions counselors review each application individually and are looking for students who demonstrate strong academic ability, as well as leadership, community service, creativity, talent, and enthusiasm. We also consider personal characteristics that will contribute to the strength and diversity of our university.


Your high school record should demonstrate both rigor and breadth in the types of course work you pursue. A competitive academic record should show some of the most challenging advanced-level work offered at or through your school in as many areas as possible, while maintaining a strong GPA. The following chart shows the number of years that most admitted students studied in each subject area.

Subject Area Years
English 4
Math * 4
Social Studies 3-4
Science 3-4
Single Foreign Language ** 3-4
Additional Academic/Fine Arts 2
Total Units 19-22

* Math requirement includes at least one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced math, or an integrated sequence of courses. If you take any of these courses in middle school, that will count toward the requirement. Courses that will not fulfill this requirement include: statistics, business math, and computer classes.

** Students who are not native English language speakers can satisfy the foreign language application requirement with an official transcript verifying their education in that language. If they were educated in their native language through grade seven, they will receive two units of foreign language. Those who were educated in their native language through grade eight, will be awarded four units. 

Students who have studied a foreign language using only Rosetta Stone have not fulfilled the foreign language requirement.

American Sign Language (ASL) may be accepted to meet the foreign language requirement for admission if it is taken through the student’s school and is reflected on an official transcript. 

In rare circumstances, students may be admitted without two units of a single foreign language. When this happens, students should call the Office of Admissions and Recruitment or meet with an advisor at SOAR to discuss options for clearing the deficiency within the first 60 credits on campus.


Academic integrity is valued in our community and in the admission process. By signing your application, you certify that it is complete and accurate. We hold you accountable to ensure the authenticity and honesty of your application, essays, and additional materials subsequently submitted.


The University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment does not “approve” or “deny” senior-year course schedule changes. You should consult with your high school counselor and other advisors and consider the pros, cons, and repercussions of a course change. Students who make a course change or who have a change in their grades, should self-report their first semester grades in their MyUW Student Center between January 22 and February 14. Be aware that a change that results in a less academically rigorous course of study may jeopardize your admissibility or offer of admission. Admission to UW–Madison is based on our evaluation of a number of factors, including reported senior-year (or college) course work and your predicted continued academic success. It is very important that you successfully complete the course work entered on your application. Any curriculum change could affect your admission status, and declining grades may be cause for revoking admission.

Required Freshman Application Materials

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Freshman applicants can apply using either the UW System Application or the Common Application.

UW–Madison does not prefer one application over the other. Please choose only one application and use only that application all the way through to submission.

Please note that we do not start processing fall term applications until September 1.

Applicants will be asked to identify both a first and second choice major when completing the application for admission. If we are unable to offer you admission to your first choice major, your second choice will be considered in our application review to assess interest and preparation. Due to the competitive nature of some of our programs, admissions expectations may be different for students pursuing majors in business, engineering, dance, and music. We encourage you to visit our direct entry page to learn more.


The application fee is $60.00 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 US bank and payable to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Send the check or money order to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. Please include the applicant’s name with payment. Do not send cash.

Application fee waivers are available for applicants with financial hardship. Students who apply using the UW System Application can print this form and submit it to their school official for verification of hardship and signature. Send the completed form to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. Students who apply using the Common Application may request a fee waiver while filling out their application. Your counselor must validate and approve your request for a fee waiver, and then our office will review it and a decision will be made regarding waiver of the fee. If the College Board or the ACT grant you a fee waiver, we will accept it.


As part of our holistic review, we refer to the essays you submit to understand more about you. What you choose to share gives us an idea of who you are and what you want to accomplish as part of our community. Tell us about you and your unique story to help us know you beyond your GPA and test scores. Your essays might also be used for campus program and scholarship review.

If you apply using the Common Application, you will be asked to respond to one of the freshman Common Application essays. If you apply with the UW System Application, you will need to answer the following prompt:

  • This part is all about you. Tell us about something you’ve done — academically or personally — and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education?

All applicants will also need to respond to this prompt:

  • Tell us why you would like to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided, please describe your areas of possible academic interest.

Keep these tips in mind as you work on your writing:

  • Develop your thoughts before you begin the writing process, and create an outline.
  • The maximum word count for each essay is 650, but we recommend planning for 300-500 words.
  • Do not type directly into the web form. Instead, work on your draft in word processing software.
  • Allow time to develop and revisit your writing.
  • Check for spelling mistakes and ask someone to proofread your final version.
  • Be genuine and honest in your writing.


If you apply via the Common Application, you will need to self-report your courses and grades. If you apply via the UW System Application, or elect to not self-report your grades via the Common Application, we require you to submit official transcripts from all schools attended. Official transcripts should be sent directly from each school attended.

If you earned your General Educational Development (GED) certificate or a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED), submit your official score report in addition to all high school or home school transcripts.

Electronic transcripts must be sent through a secure, approved document sending service to Transcripts sent through email, as an attachment, will not be accepted as official. Paper transcripts sent to our office must bear an official school seal or be printed on the school’s custom watermarked/security paper.

Students applying from outside the United States can find country-specific official transcript requirements here.

Homeschool: Homeschooled students are expected to cover required course work at a level of achievement similar to that of our freshman applicants. On a transcript, the homeschool administrator should be sure to indicate:

  • what courses are completed and what is in progress,
  • the grades earned for each course, and
  • a brief summary of what is covered in each course.

Detailed performance evaluations or course bibliographies are helpful but are not required. To figure out a format that works best, you might find it helpful to review tips about preparing a transcript provided by or the HSLDA.

If homeschooling has been supplemented by formal coursework either at the secondary school or post-secondary level, official transcripts from the school(s) or college(s) are required.

GPA and Class Rank: Applicants are expected to achieve a high level of performance in the course work they pursue and an increasingly strong academic record. We ask for your GPA and class rank. We also realize that many schools consider GPA on different scales and some do not report GPA or class rank at all. We consider both GPA and rank in the context of your school. We typically see unweighted, academic GPAs between a 3.8 and a 4.0, and a class rank in the 85-97 percentile.


Scores from either the ACT or the SAT are required and must be sent directly from the testing agency. We do not require the writing portion of either the ACT or the SAT. Our test code is 4656 for the ACT and 1846 for the SAT.

Test scores are not received immediately. The time for test scores to arrive in our office from the testing agency can vary greatly and may take multiple weeks. We highly recommend that you send your test scores as early as possible to ensure they arrive before our deadlines. Do not send your results rush (SAT) or priority (ACT) as there is not an advantage to rush or priority delivery.

To assure consideration for Early Action, scores must be requested from the testing agency and received by our office by November 1. Students who wish to apply for Early Action are encouraged to take the ACT or SAT no later than the end of September and request their scores be sent immediately. For consideration in our Regular Decision period, students are encouraged to take their test no later than the end of December.

Freshman applicants educated in non-English speaking countries must submit a TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo English Test (DET) score (Effective for 2021), unless English was the primary language of instruction in all four years of secondary school. Our TOEFL test code is 1846. TOEFL must be submitted electronically from the testing service. We do not accept the IELTS electronically. Please have a paper copy of your results sent directly from the testing agency to our office through the mail. Be sure to give additional time for this process. Duolingo scores should be sent to us electronically through the DET testing site. The DET should be sent with test scores.

If you feel that you qualify for a TOEFL, IELTS, or DET waiver based upon the requirements above, please submit all required transcripts to our office. Other test scores such as ACT or SAT score do not meet the requirements for a waiver. Once your transcripts are received in our office (are no longer displayed on your to-do list in your Student Center), we will determine your waiver eligibility. Waivers will not be processed prior to receipt of both the admissions application and transcripts.

Regarding Required Testing: We continue to monitor information from College Board and ACT regarding the testing schedule and the developing situation due to COVID-19. In light of new information regarding the SAT and availability of testing, the university is determining how to proceed. Once a decision regarding test scores for admission is available, we will update the admission website and contact our prospective students with more information. Students should complete our Request for More Information Form to ensure they are included on this and other emails going forward.

Statement on Score Choice: UW–Madison encourages students to submit all exam scores. It is a benefit to see your complete testing history as part of our comprehensive review, and since we will only consider your highest score (by test date), there is nothing to be gained by suppressing scores through Score Choice. However, applicants are free to use the College Board’s Score Choice option for the SAT and/or the similar option offered by ACT. Superscores are not considered in our review.


We require you to submit one letter of recommendation written by someone who can attest to your academic ability, such as a teacher, school counselor, or faculty member. If you choose, you can also submit another letter of recommendation from an additional source, such as an employer, coach, research mentor, community leader, or clergy. Students with an interest in engineering are encouraged to obtain a letter of recommendation from a math or science teacher. Remember to have a discussion with your chosen recommender first to see if they are willing and able to provide a letter.

We encourage applicants who have been away from formal classroom teaching for an extended period to request a letter of recommendation from someone who can speak to their academic potential, such as an employer (preferably a supervisor or manager), a program or departmental trainer, or some other individual in an official instructional capacity.

Those who apply using the Common Application should request a recommendation through that system.

If you apply using the UW System Application, your recommender should select the link that best describes your situation:

Recommendations that are mailed to our office must include the applicant’s full name, birth date, and campus ID number (if known). Additionally, letters of recommendation from a school staff member may also be sent through Naviance. Please note that letters of recommendation expire after one year from the date it is written.