ACT/SAT scores are optional through the spring 2027 term - Bucky Badger hold a scantron sheet reading "Update"

Apply as a First-Year Student

First-Year Application and Materials Deadline

Decision Plan Application Deadline Materials Deadline Decision Release
Spring Regular Decision October 1 October 15 On or before December 31
Fall Early Action November 1 November 8 On or before January 31
Fall Regular Decision January 15 January 22 On or before March 31

Applications and all required application materials must arrive in our office by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the noted deadline dates.

Please note that it may take up to 72 hours for our system to reflect that you have submitted an application; you will receive an email the next business day acknowledging its receipt.

Students who submit their application within 5 days of the deadline will not receive a reminder of materials that are missing from their application.

Early Action is non-binding. You’ll receive your admissions decision earlier but will not be required to commit until the national deadline of May 15.

Required First-Year Application Materials

We cannot begin to review your application until all required materials are received. These deadlines and requirements pertain to both domestic and international applicants.

Application requirements for admission to the university are the same for all students, regardless of the academic major/area of interest.*

*Students who wish to be considered for direct entry to a program in the areas of dance or music, will also need to complete an additional application and an audition. Learn more about our Direct Entry process.

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1. Admissions Application

First-year applicants can apply using either the Common Application  or the Universities of Wisconsin Application

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

We strongly recommend that you apply with an email that is not affiliated with your high school and that you check often.

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

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

2. Application Fee

The application fee is $70.00 US and is non-refundable.

Electronic payment is preferred. If you apply using the Universities of Wisconsin Application, the fee can be paid by check or money order, drawn on a bank located in the United States and payable to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Send the check or money order to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. Please include the applicant’s name with payment. Do not send cash.

Application fee waivers are available for applicants with financial hardship. Eligible students can request a fee waiver as part of their application. If you did not request an application fee waiver at the time of application, but are eligible to have your fee waived, you may print the Application Fee Waiver Request Form and have your counselor/advisor submit it to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. If the College Board or ACT grant you a fee waiver, we will also accept it.

3. Two Essays

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

If you apply using the Common Application, you will be asked to respond to one of the first-year Common Application essays. If you apply with the Universities of Wisconsin Application, you will need to answer the following prompt:

  • Each student is unique. Please tell us about the particular life experiences, talents, commitments, and/or interests you will bring to our campus.

All applicants will also need to respond to this prompt:

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

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

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

4. Course and Grade Information

We require course and grade information from all schools you attended for grades 9–12.

If you apply via the Common Application, you may meet this requirement one of two ways*:

  • Self-report your coursework within the application to meet the course and grade information requirement to complete your application for admission

– OR – 

If you apply via the Universities of Wisconsin Application, you may meet this requirement one of two ways*:

  • Submit an unofficial transcript within the Universities of Wisconsin Application at the time you complete it

       – OR – 

*If you have already graduated from high school, an official final transcript with your graduation date is needed to meet this requirement.

How to Send Official Transcripts

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

If you were or are homeschooled, we will need additional documentation to complete a full, holistic review of your application. Learn more about specific application policies and requirements and how to send your official materials.

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

Note: official transcripts from all schools and colleges attended (including dual credit) will be required prior to enrollment. Incorrect reporting of courses and/or grades may result in your admission offer being revoked and scholarship awards being forfeited. Official college transcripts are also required to award college credit. Official transcripts should be sent directly from each school attended.

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

5. One Required Letter of Recommendation

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

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

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

If you apply using the Universities of Wisconsin Application, select the link that best describes your situation:

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

6. TOEFL, IELTS, AND DET Scores (English Language Proficiency)

First-year applicants educated in non-English speaking countries must submit an official TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test (DET) score, unless English was the primary language of instruction in all four years of secondary school.

All English proficiency exams should be sent electronically, directly from the testing service.

Please note: Sending official test scores from the testing agency does have an additional costs and will add 3-6 weeks to the application completion process. Plan to send your test scores early to ensure your scores arrive before the the materials deadline.

How to Send Official Test Scores

We do not superscore any English Proficiency exam and score reports cannot be older than two years from the time you apply.

Duolingo English Test (DET)

  • Minimum accepted score: 115+.
  • When submitting your score(s): Search category should be “Undergraduate,” then select “University of Wisconsin–Madison.”
  • Please do not send to offices listed under “Other,” as we are unable to retrieve those scores.
  • The DET should be sent with sub-scores.


  • Minimum accepted score: 6.5+.
  • To submit scores electronically, students need to request an “ETRF” request from their testing center. When requesting electronic scores, please note:
    • IELTS does not require a code.
    • Select our account name, “University of Wisconsin, Madison Undergraduate”
  • Please do not send paper copies of your IELTS scores.
  • We do accept the IELTS Indicator.


  • Minimum accepted score: 80+.
  • When submitting your score(s): TOEFL test code is 1846.
  • We do not accept “MyBest” score from TOEFL nor any English Proficiency exam.
  • For each TOEFL you submit, we will require the full score report. Wisconsin does not accept the TOEFL iTP Plus for China but we will accept the iBT Special Home Edition.

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

Optional First-Year Application Materials

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ACT AND SAT SCORES (test optional through the spring 2027 term)

Including scores from either the ACT or the SAT with your application is optional for students applying for admission through the spring 2027 term, with an application deadline of October 1, 2026.

You will not be disadvantaged in our evaluation process if you do not include these scores for consideration in your application.

More information on our test optional policy can be found by viewing our ACT/SAT Test Optional FAQs.

You will indicate your choice regarding including test scores at the time of application. The choice that you indicate on your application is final.

If choosing to include ACT or SAT test scores with your application, submit your official scores directly from the testing site.

Please note sending official test scores from the testing agency does have an additional costs and will add 2–4 weeks to the application completion process.  Our test code is 4656 for the ACT and 1846 for the SAT. Do not send your results rush (SAT) or priority (ACT); we receive all scores electronically on a daily basis so there is not an advantage to rush or priority delivery.

How to Send Official Test Scores

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

The Wisconsin Guarantee

Beginning in the fall 2025 semester, first-year applicants from Wisconsin high schools who are in the top 5% of their class at the end of 11th grade, or Wisconsin residents who are homeschooled and receive an ACT score in the top 98th percentile of the nation,  or are a National Merit Scholarship finalist will be guaranteed admission to the University of Wisconsin–Madison through the Wisconsin Guarantee.

Academic Requirements

Required Coursework

An applicant’s high school record should demonstrate both rigor and breadth in the types of coursework they pursue. Applicants must meet the minimum course requirements listed below to be eligible for admission to UW–Madison. Competitive applicants often take additional credits in the core subject areas, including the most challenging advanced-level work offered at or through their school in as many areas as possible, while maintaining a strong GPA.

Subject Area Minimum Requirement
English 4 years
Math * 3 years
Social Science 3 years
Natural Science 3 years
Electives** 4 years
Total Units 17 credits

Note: For trimester schools, two trimesters is considered one year/credit. One trimester is considered 0.5 years/credits.

*Math requirement includes at least one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced math with algebra or geometry prerequisites. If an applicant takes 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.

**Taking two years of the same world language in high school is highly recommended, as this can fulfill the world language requirement as a student at UW–Madison.

Students who do not fulfill the university world language requirement with high school work will be required to do so as a student at UW–Madison.

To meet the requirement in high school, world language credit must be on the student’s high school transcript as credit earned at an accredited institution. Online language programs or applications such as Rosetta Stone will not be accepted.

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.

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

English Language Proficiency

First-year applicants educated in non-English speaking countries must submit an official TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test (DET) score, unless English was the primary language of instruction in all four years of secondary school. Applicants must meet the minimum required score for admission consideration.

Exam Minimum Required Score
Duolingo English Test (DET) 115+
IELTS 6.5+

Integrity in Applying

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

Senior Course Changes

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment does not “approve” or “deny” senior-year course schedule changes. You should consult with your high school counselor and other advisors and consider the pros, cons, and repercussions of a course change. Once you have made course changes, please submit the Senior Year Course Change Webform to notify us of the change. Please note that you may only submit this form once.

Be aware that a change that results in a drastically 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. Any changes in curriculum or declining grades may be cause for revoking admission prior to the start of the term.