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.
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