How to Write the University of Wisconsin Madison Supplemental Essays: Examples + Guide 2022/2023

uw madison why us essay


If you’re looking for something special from your college experience, the University of Wisconsin-Madison probably has it. With over 70 programs ranking in the top 10 of their respective fields and a well-rounded, rigorous academic climate, there’s a place in the school’s 30,000+ student body for just about everyone. If you’re excited to wade into the wealth of resources the school has to offer but don’t know where to start on the UW supplemental essays, we’re here to help by providing some examples and tips to kick off the writing and brainstorming process.

Want to get an even better sense of what the University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking for? You’ll find an extensive, by-the-numbers look at its offerings, from enrollment and tuition statistics to student life and financial aid information, on its Common Data Set . For deep insights into how this public university envisions student success (and how it wants to grow and evolve), read through its most recent self-study report —a simple yet elegant way to quickly get a strong idea of what the University of Wisconsin-Madison values.

What are the University of Wisconsin Madison supplemental essay prompts?

University of wisconsin madison supplemental essay prompt #1.

(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 (approx. 1 page). 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?

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)

How to Write Each Supplemental Essay Prompt for U Wisconsin Madison

How to write the u wisconsin madison supplemental essay prompt #1.

This prompt is 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 (approx. 1 page). 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?

This question is basically the UW System’s equivalent of the Common App personal statement. By that, we mean that it’s looking for you to answer three very important questions:

Who are you?

Will you contribute something of value to our campus?

Can you write?

Because this prompt can essentially be anything you want it to be, it’s important that you come in with a game plan before sitting down and writing. Great brainstorming is the first step toward a great essay. Here are five exercises for you to try out as you begin to look for a topic:

Essence Objects Exercise (12 min)

Values Exercise (4 min)

21 Details Exercise (20 min)

Everything I Want Colleges to Know About Me Exercise (20 min)

The Feelings and Needs Exercise (15-20 min)

If you’re short on time and can’t do all five, we recommend completing the first two. Carving out some time and tackling those exercises will help give you a blueprint for an essay that better amplifies the story you want to tell. Based on your topic, you might choose to write a narrative essay or a montage essay . A narrative essay is often centered around a challenge or series of challenges and  follows a more linear storyline, whereas a montage essay is a series of moments or experiences connected by a common thematic thread. We have more details about what those approaches look like and what they require in our extensive guide on How to Write a College Essay .

No matter what you end up writing about, a standout essay will often do three things: focus on an un common topic, make un common connections, and use un common language. Lots of people, for example, write about sports and how it’s taught them the value of sportsmanship and hard work. But not a lot of people talk about how playing basketball has shown them the importance of beauty or activism, for example. Even if your topic is common, creating unexpected connections to your values can help you stand out.

Below is a great example of what a strong essay looks like for this prompt. 

U Wisconsin Madison Essay Example 1:

Day 1: “Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk,” we chant, sweat dripping onto the wispy sand in brutal Arabian heat, as millions of us prepare to march from the rocky desert hills of Mount Arafat to the cool, flat valleys of Muzdalifa. As we make our way into the Haram, my heart shakes. Tears rolling down my cheeks, we circumvent the Ka’ba one last time before embarking on Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage of Islam. It became the spiritual, visceral, and linguistic journey of a lifetime. Day 3: “Ureed an Aśhtareę Hijab.” “Al-harir aw al-Qathan?” “Ķhilaahuma.” “Kham ťhamanu-huma?” “Mi’at Riyal.” “La. Khizth sab’een.” “Sa’uethikhá Sab’een.” “Shukran laķ.” “Show me hijabs.” “Silk or cotton?” “Both.” “How much do these cost?” “100 Riyal.” “No. Take 70.” “Fine. Thanks Hajjah.” In Makkah, I quickly learn shopkeepers rip off foreigners, so exchanges like this, where I only have to say a few Arabic words, make me appear local. It also connects me with real locals: the Saudi Arabian pharmacist who sells me cough syrup, the Egyptian grandmother seeking directions to the restroom, the Moroccan family who educates me on the Algerian conflict. As the sounds of Arabic swirl around me like the fluttering sands (Jamal, Naqah, Ibl, Ba’eer…), I’m reconnecting with an old friend: we’d first met when I decided to add a third language to English and Bengali. Day 6: The tents of Mina. Temperature blazing. Humidity high. I sleep next to an old woman who just embarked on her twentieth Hajj. When I discover she’s Pakistani, I speak to her in Urdu. Her ninety-year old energy--grounded, spiritual, and non-materialistic--inspires me. So far, every day has been a new discovery of my courage, spirit, and faith, and I see myself going on this journey many more times in my life. My new friend is curious where I, a Bengali, learned Urdu. I explain that as a Muslim living in America’s divided political climate, I wanted to understand my religion better by reading an ancient account of the life of Prophet Muhammad, but Seerat-un-Nabi is only in Urdu, so I learned to read it. I was delighted to discover the resonances: Qi-yaa-mah in Arabic becomes Qi-ya-mat in Urdu, Dh-a-lim becomes Zaa-lim… Urdu, which I had previously only understood academically, was the key to developing a personal connection with a generation different from mine. Day 8: “Fix your hair. You look silly,” my mom says in Bengali. When my parents want to speak privately, they speak our native tongue. Phrases like, “Can you grab some guava juice?” draw us closer together. My parents taught me to look out for myself from a young age, so Hajj is one of the only times we experienced something formative together. Our “secret” language made me see Bengali, which I’ve spoken all my life, as beautiful. It also made me aware of how important shared traditions are. As I think back to those sweltering, eclectic days, the stories and spiritual connections linger. No matter what languages we spoke, we are all Muslims in a Muslim country, the first time I’d ever experienced that. I came out of my American bubble and discovered I was someone to be looked up to. Having studied Islam my whole life, I knew the ins and outs of Hajj. This, along with my love for language, made me, the youngest, the sage of our group. Whether at the Al-Baik store in our camp or the Jamarat where Satan is stoned, people asked me about standards for wearing hijab or to read the Quran out loud. I left the journey feeling fearless. Throughout my life, I’ll continue to seek opportunities where I’m respected, proud to be Muslim, and strong enough to stand up for others. The next time I go to Hajj, I want to speak two more languages: donc je peux parler à plus de gens and quiero escuchar más historias. — — — 

Tips + Analysis:

Use images to convey a sense of time, place, and self. Notice how this author’s use of images and details gives this essay a dream-like quality, hopping between spaces, people, languages, and thoughts. This approach allows the author to talk about many different aspects of their culture. The way the details are conveyed also speaks to the author’s aesthetic sensibilities, providing another window into who they are as a person. When you’re writing, consider using imagistic language to show the reader what you care about. 

Leverage dialogue. Dialogue isn’t always the best strategy, as it can take up a good chunk of your word count without explicitly saying anything about who you are. In this piece, however, the author does a great job of using their conversations with people they meet along their journey to convey their values and interests. Not only does the dialogue emphasize their fascination with language and cultural exchange, but it breaks up what would have been dense paragraphs into nicely manageable chunks that are easier to read.

Use visceral and evocative language. Details about the specific resonance of Urdu words and the conversations this author shared with the people they met on their Hajj brings this essay to life. Nearly every line is full of vivid imagery and textured language . Those details make this piece fun to read, while drawing us into the author’s world. When you’re writing, think about how you can engage all five senses to show, not simply tell, how you engage with the world around you. 

How to write the U Wisconsin Madison Supplemental Essay Prompt #2

This is what we call a “Why us?” prompt. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate — through specific details and examples — why you’re a great match for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and why it’s the perfect school for you. We recommend checking out this complete guide on how to write the “Why us?” essay , paying close attention to the “Why Cornell” and “Why Penn” examples, which are two of our favorites.

A number of schools ask some variation on this question on their applications, so you may be writing more than one of these “Why us?” essays during your college application journey. Here are six common mistakes to look out for, and avoid, when answering:

Mistake #1: Writing about the school’s size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking.

Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit (i.e., “It just felt right”).

Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors, or names of any important people or places on campus.

Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language.

Mistake #5: Describing traditions the school is well-known for.

Mistake #6: Think of this only as a “Why them” essay.

The common theme here is: Do your research. Most of these mistakes are the result of students not taking the time to conduct a thorough dive into a college’s website and available resources. Really take your time with this prompt and find specific clubs, events, professors, classes, etc., that pique your interest. Most importantly, connect those specific opportunities to your specific values (remember the Values Exercise). Remember, this essay is a two-way street. Talk about not just what UW can offer you, but also what you can offer the university. 

If you don’t have the time to read the full guide linked above, here’s the SparkNotes version of how to write the “Why us?” essay:

Spend 1 hr+ researching 10+ reasons why UW-Madison might be a great fit for you (ideally 3-5 of the reasons will be unique to the University of Wisconsin and connect back to you).

Make a copy of this chart to map out your college research.

Create an outline for your essay based on either Approach 1, 2 (recommended), or 3 in the full guide above.

Write a first draft!

Here’s a great sample essay for this prompt:

U Wisconsin Madison Essay Example 2:

When I was young, I drew planes almost everyday. Planes with three, four, or even eight turbines. Planes with multiple wings and two fuselages. My planes were impossible according to the laws of physics, but I tried to create them anyways.  In middle school, I became fascinated with building planes. After watching hundreds of hours of FliteTest on YouTube and building their kits, I was ready to create my own. My first idea started with a single wing. I drew up a 3’ 4” long wing on a sheet of foam board and, after drawing three more prototypes, I assembled it. Then, I wired the two servos and a single 2280kv Radial 2218 brushless motor. On its maiden flight, I threw it into the air and it went straight into the ground. Too much weight in the front, Kanishka. Back to the garage.  In high school, I became captivated with cars, more specifically hydrogen and electric cars. I created a Hydrogen Car team to compete in a hydrogen fuel cell endurance race. I learned how to make a fuel cell more efficient. Ambitious, I worked tirelessly to get to the world finals. I devised a way to use the motor’s thermal energy and convert it into electrical energy, making our car more efficient.  I am a creator. The laws of physics often hinder my creativity, but I keep trying to push the limits of what is possible.  In college, I hope to combine my research in hydrogen fuel cells and airplanes to design a new type of plane that isn’t electric or combustion based. At UW, I want to major in mechanical engineering to accomplish just that.  For me, learning through building is essential. I enjoy applying angular momentum equations from AP Physics C into my coding projects to make a virtual car move. At UW, I am particularly interested in the project-based format of some classes. I’m eager to take Energy Systems Laboratory as it is a unique class to UW that explores different energy conversion systems in a lab-based format. By learning about the different systems, I can explore how they can be combined to achieve maximum efficiency.  Outside the classroom, I want to conduct research on energy systems in the transportation sector. UW’s Energy Institute is perfect for that. I’m intrigued by Professor Xin Wang’s research on ‘Energy Sponges.’ I think that his idea could be used in a lot of transportation sectors and could change the way we use energy. I want to assist him in his research. Further, I want to conduct research on thermoelectric plates and the possibility of making them flexible to accommodate a greater variety of uses.  Throughout high school, racing has been my favorite extracurricular. The drive to create a car that is 12% more efficient while also being 10% faster keeps me thinking of different ways to cut weight or innovate upon the fuel cell. In college, I want to continue racing. As lead engineer of the UW Formula Electric SAE Team, I want to utilize thermoelectric plates and new battery technology to make a faster, more efficient car.  While my future is still unknown, UW will provide me the skills needed to create new technology. Further, I’ll contribute in racing and engineering through meaningful activities and research.  — — —

Build a personal narrative. The author could have just said, “I like physics and am interested in airplanes.” But we’re glad he didn’t. Because, instead of just telling us about his interests, he builds a vivid picture of himself as an applicant: curious, innovative, pragmatic. Specific details about the length of the airplane wings and his thought process as he watched YouTube videos help us envision what kind of person he is beyond his academic credentials and extracurricular activities. Using stories in your essay can help make you multidimensional, adding details that can allow readers to see you in a more personal and intimate way. Also, notice that, because the author starts with an anecdote from his childhood, he’s able to use the passage of time to show how he’s developed his interests and to expand on the work he’s done since. The first sentence in each paragraph takes us closer to the present, allowing us to see how he’s grown over time. Think of how you too can create a narrative that helps you structure your essay and highlight your unique thought processes.

Connect to university-specific resources. You can tell this student has done his research. After he gives us some background info about his interest in engineering, he tells us he wants to major in mechanical engineering at UW and take some project-based classes (like Energy Systems Laboratory). He takes it to the next level by explaining why the lab-based format of the class is particularly appealing to him, showing that he’s looked into the syllabus and done more than a quick, 5-minute search on the UW website. He names a UW professor (Professor Xin Wang) he’d like to do research with on “energy sponges” and expands on why that work would suit his academic goals. The takeaway here: Do more than the bare minimum in terms of looking into what the school has to offer. And, when you identify university-specific opportunities that you’re excited about, briefly explain why they speak to you, to offer a further peek into what motivates and inspires you. 

Vary sentence and paragraph length. If you want to keep your reader engaged throughout your essay, it’s important to think about how you can use structure to pace your writing. Notice how most of this student’s paragraphs are no more than 3-4 sentences max. He doesn't drone on about one topic for long or try to cram everything into a huge, dense block of text that’s impossible to read. He uses paragraph breaks to delineate between different focuses or resources, intuitively guiding readers through his story. Short sentences and sentence fragments can also be your friend. If used well, they can create impact and help draw the reader’s attention to a specific idea or value. In other words, be intentional with how you write and structure your piece.

With that, you should be ready to start researching and writing your UW supplementals.

Want advice on dozens of other supplemental essays? Click here

uw madison why us essay

Special thanks to Luci for contributing to this post.

Luci is an audiophile and storyteller with a love of all things radio and writing. In the wild, you might catch her struggling through a NY Times crossword puzzle, snuggling her abnormally fluffy dog Oreo, or saying her favorite expression “cool beans.” Crosswords, cute dogs, cool beans. What more could you ask for?

Top values: Interpersonal connections | humor | openness to new experience


Create amazing supplemental essays for the most selective schools, polish your activities list, and complete everything else with ease and joy. Learn more here.



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uw madison why us essay

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

Brad Schiller

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). 

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: 

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. 

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: 

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:

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’s admissions-boosting methods:

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uw madison why us essay

How to Write the University of Wisconsin Madison Essays 2022-2023

uw madison why us essay

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is one of the nation’s best public institutions, consistently ranking in the top 50 universities.  Furthermore, UW Madison receives high marks for quality of life and is noted for its especially liberal culture.

UW Madison is fairly selective, and admissions officers will look closely at your essays, especially if you’re on the academic threshold of their average admitted student statistics. While drafting these essays can be daunting, CollegeVine is here to help! Read on for a guide to tackling UW Madison’s supplemental essays.  

UW Application Prompts

There are two prompts associated with UW Madison’s application. Depending on how they apply, applicants must answer one or both of them. UW Madison allows prospective students to use the Common Application or the UW System Application.

If you apply with the Common Application, you just have to submit the supplement essay (in addition to your Common App essay). If you apply through the UW System Application, there is an additional prompt you must respond to. Want to know your chances at UW Madison? Calculate your chances for free right now.

UW Madison Essay Prompts

All applicants.

(Common Application and UW Application Supplemental Prompt)

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. (80-650 words)

Uw application only, 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 (300-500 words recommended, 650 max).

This is a classic “why this school” and “why this major” supplemental essay prompt. An effective essay for this prompt will achieve the following goals:

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 easily have been written about the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities, or the University of Michigan. This is the single biggest pet peeve for admissions officers, as they strongly prefer students that have specific reasons for choosing their university. They also want to ensure that students are passionate about their chosen major, not just pursuing the one that will lead to the highest paying or most prestigious jobs after graduation.

With this prompt, your goal is to give admissions officers concrete reasons why UW Madison is an especially good match for you, as well as specific reasons why you love your major. Consider beginning your essay with a story about how you discovered UW Madison and decided to apply. For example, you could write the following introduction if you decided to apply to UW Madison after visiting the campus:

I wasn’t used to the snow. In fact, this was the first time I ever experienced a snowfall. It doesn’t really happen where I’m from—a small town in Mississippi. Then again, so much of what I saw at the University of Wisconsin at Madison during my snowy campus visit doesn’t happen where I’m from either. 

Then, highlight unique aspects of the university that appeal to you, and be holistic with what you talk about. Study the UW Madison website in detail, watch videos of campus tours and student reviews, and visit if possible. Find the names of one extracurricular and one part of campus where you can imagine yourself spending lots of time. Then, weave them into your writing. The strongest essays are deeply personal, so connect the campus to yourself. Here is an example:

I am passionate about volunteer work and community service. Throughout high school, some of my fondest memories have been spent serving food in soup kitchens and volunteering at clothing banks. At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I know I would be able to continue pursuing my passion for community service because of the integration between the university and the surrounding town. The University of Wisconsin at Madison feels incorporated into Madison’s culture, rather than having a closed-off, guarded, and separate campus. The connection between the campus and the community would enable me to be a member of a Badger Volunteers team through the Morgridge Center for Public Service. This program would provide me with new opportunities to give back to the community and help others.

The activist culture in Madison excites me. Living in a small town, I have had few opportunities to attend political rallies. Since I grew up in the Unitarian Universalist church, I was raised to value activism and social justice, and it is important to me that I go to college in a place where people are well-informed and care about affecting change in the world around them. I hope to join the Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministry, where I would be able to continue my activism while also building friendships and continuing to explore my religion.  

I also love Madison’s surroundings—I would love to join the Wisconsin Hoofers so I could take full advantage of all the outdoor opportunities in and around Madison, especially skiing, hiking, and watersports on Lake Mendota. I have never had the opportunity to try these sports in humid and hot Mississippi, so I would love to explore new activities in a different environment.

This excerpt clearly shows the student’s specific interest in attending the University of Wisconsin, and highlights the kind of authenticity you want to show to admissions officers. It is particularly effective when the applicant connects her own background to the culture of activism at UW Madison, as that highlights her personality and positions her to create an authentic connection to UW Madison’s admissions counselors.

Next, think about your chosen major or academic interest. Imagine yourself as a student working toward a specific degree:

Your specified major should logically stem from your background. Use your prospective major to structure a logical narrative, even if you aren’t fully committed to pursuing it. For example, a student that CollegeVine worked with during the 2016-17 admissions cycle covered the following themes in their essay:

The student lived in Minnesota and in middle school became passionate about history education. In high school, he volunteered as a docent at a local museum and started a research project on the history of Norwegian and German immigration to his hometown. He also served as student representative on the local school board, and led the charge to redesign his school’s history curriculum to make it more engaging for other students.

This student intended to major in history at UW Madison. He planned to take classes with Professor Smith, a noted expert in immigration history. And outside of his major, the Center for Pre-Law Advising would help him achieve his dream of being an immigration lawyer by helping him gain relevant experience.

This thematic structure highlights several elements of a successful response to this prompt. In particular, the student demonstrates specific and deep ties to his chosen major and career path, and specific ways in which he will leverage UW Madison as a setting to obtain an education in what he is passionate about. 

If the student was undecided about a major , they could take a similar approach. But Instead of writing about one interest, they could pick 2-3 of their potential interests, and discuss how UW would support those.  

Finish the essay with a succinct conclusion that ties back to your introduction. Summarize how you know that UW Madison is the school for you because its campus matches your personal values and its academics satiate your intellectual curiosity. End with a phrase that relates to the school’s philosophy, e.g. “Most of all, I would like to attend UW Madison because I want to join the Badgers in their commitment to make a difference.”

UW Application Only (not Common App Applicants)

Students only have to answer this prompt if they apply using the University of Wisconsin System Application. UW Madison also accepts the Common Application, which CollegeVine strongly recommends. 

However, some in-state students might use the UW System Application if they are applying to other University of Wisconsin campuses. This guide therefore includes an overview of the second prompt. 

As with the first essay, you will be well-served by highlighting your character, emphasizing specific details, and demonstrating thoughtfulness.

While this prompt has some parallels to the first one, it is different in its specificity. It is asking for one moment that had a large impact on your life direction. Start by brainstorming some of these moments. Examples may include: 

You’ll notice that these examples demonstrate challenges, and we recommend that you choose a significant challenge in your own life to write about. However, if you do choose to write about a success, make sure that it was achieved after setbacks and hard work. 

Discussing challenges is a powerful way of conveying your character. They show your ability to reflect on disappointment and improve yourself, which makes you a highly appealing candidate. While writing about overcoming a challenge, be open and allow your reader understand your thoughts as much as possible. Be sure to discuss your feelings, state of mind, and mental approach at each moment in order to craft an effective narrative.

Begin your essay by recounting your challenge as a story. Imagine yourself as the main character and paint a picture with words. To write an essay about getting lost in the woods, you would tell a descriptive account of how you got lost, what it was like to move through dense, thorny foliage, and how you were found. This part should take up about a third of the essay.

The next third of the essay should explain what you learned from your experience, whether it was a success or a challenge, and whether it represented a turning point in your life. 

This would be the portion of your essay where you would talk about how you learned the power of teamwork as you were building your stirling engine with classmates. You would tell a story of the difficulties you encountered—the numbers didn’t make sense at first, there was a leak, you dropped the engine and had to start over again, etc. Highlight the setbacks and unforeseen obstacles you faced during this process, regardless of whether your experience was a success or a challenge. 

When trying to determine if your experience was a turning point for you, ask yourself these questions: 

If you answered yes to one of these questions, say that your experience was a turning point. If not, mention that while your experience was not a turning point, it was influential in your personal or academic development. To explain how it was influential, imagine who you would be today without your experience. 

Maybe, before helping a family member battle pancreatic cancer, you were quick to give up when something became too difficult. However, this experience taught you to be more persistent and optimistic in the face of even the most daunting challenges. Additionally, even though you previously had not been interested in the medical field, you have been inspired to become a medical researcher and work towards a cure for cancer. 

Finally, structure a logical narrative about how your experience has impacted your educational goals at UW Madison. Since you’ve already discussed a possible major, it could be helpful to elaborate on your mindset going into college and what you hope to accomplish for yourself and others on campus. 

For example, you could talk about how losing the chess tournament has made you more open minded. Now, you aspire to try as many new experiences as possible, because every loss is a learning opportunity in the quest for knowledge. 

Lastly, conclude with a sentence about how UW Madison, with its [resource related to your newfound direction], will help you continue to foster the path you have been on since your turning point occurred.

Where to Get Your UW Madison Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your UW Madison essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools.  Find the right advisor for you  to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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The Admissions Strategist

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.

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:

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 to create your map.

Once you have a detailed list , start narrowing down your choices by considering what is most important to you.

Your goal is to find an accomplishment or string of achievements that are closely related.

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.

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:

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:

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:

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.

Connect us to your school's principal!

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 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.

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:

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.

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.

We strongly recommend that you include the following elements in your essay:

Here’s an outline of a “Why UW – Madison” essay that effectively answers this prompt:

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:

If you have questions that are particular to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s requirements, they welcome you to contact them directly.

Learn how we can help you and your school with college and career guidance!

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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,’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:

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:

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!

uw madison why us 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 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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Home — Application Essay — Engineering Schools Application Essays — My Interest in Studying Chemical Engineering: Why Wisconsin Madison

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My Interest in Studying Chemical Engineering: Why Wisconsin Madison

So why Wisconsin? More globally, I have come to know The University of Wisconsin—Madison as a school that is practical, versatile, and passionate. Snowboarding is just the start, for me and for the UWM curriculum. I intend to explore my interest in Chemical Engineering at your university, which is home to an Engineering World Health (EWH) chapter, an organization open to any science or engineering student who wants to improve the global status of human health. EWH presents an opportunity to put theory into action by allowing its members to travel to places in need of help. Furthermore, as someone with a multicultural background, I especially appreciate UWM’s diverse environment, which will introduce me to people with different values and experiences from all over the world. Given my interest in engineering, I value the opportunity to explore this breadth of moral values and to familiarize myself with the development needs of different countries. Hopefully, I will cultivate my global perspective in the process.

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Application Essays

Fall 2023 application essay.

Here’s your chance to tell your story based on specific questions or prompts.

All UW System campuses share one common essay question. You will find this essay within the Holistic Background section of the online application. Please note that UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse do require an additional essay.


All campuses use the following essay:

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?


A couple of campuses have additional essays.

Before you start writing, keep these principles in mind:

Less is more

That is, you have a lot you could say, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should try to say everything.

Be selective. Organize your statement around a unifying theme rather than merely listing your accomplishments.

Give good examples and explanations

Try to avoid writing sentences that could be cut and pasted out of your statement and into someone else’s with little difficulty. One detail is worth a thousand cliches.

For example, “I have always wanted to study physics because I like science,” is a sentiment with which almost anyone applying to graduate physics programs might agree. Remember that you’re applying to an advanced research degree, so the admissions committee will want to see evidence not only that you like a particular discipline, but that you engaged with the questions of the particular subfield in it—that you’re interested in that subfield’s ideas and research. You’ll need to show how that you’ve taken concrete steps to pursue your interests (like, for example, engaging in undergraduate research) and in doing so, you’ll use the jargon of your field to indicate that you are knowledgeable about it and can talk like someone who will be joining it.

Instead of saying that you “like” something, you can give a describe an experience that inspired or confirmed your interest. Explain how and why it had an effect on you. These details show your enthusiasm and dedication far more effectively than just saying that you like something does.

You may also want to describe a challenge that you’ve encountered while pursuing your academic interests—maybe a lab experiment didn’t turn out correctly or perhaps you encountered an issue with the archive you were studying. Explain how you tried to mitigate an obstacle or (if appropriate) how you overcame it. Including information about a problem that you’ve confronted can demonstrate your persistence and indicate that you’re ready to meet the challenges of graduate study. (Be careful though, an essay full of challenges and complaints may persuade a committee of just the opposite.)

Help your reader

Remember, the reader isn’t inside your head and may not always be able to understand why you are including certain information in your statement or may not be able to easily understand the connections between different parts of your statement. Don’t be afraid to be explicit and to clearly state how a particular experience demonstrates your potential for advanced study or the soundness of your reasons for pursuing it.

Follow instructions carefully

Make sure that your essay is responding to the question(s). Each department you apply to may have different requirements and expectations for their admissions essays. For this reason, ensure that read the admissions directions thoroughly and consult your advisor if you have any questions.

Cover your bases

Make sure that you’ve called attention to your successes and relevant experience and that you’ve explained any discrepancies in your record.

Proofread your essay!

Spelling, typos, and grammatical errors may distract your reader. Because readers often have to make quick judgments about potentially hundreds of candidates, they may be quickly turned off by any errors they perceive and may assume that the writer isn’t fully prepared for graduate study if a statement seems sloppy.

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.

uw madison why us essay

Academic and Professional Writing

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Analysis Papers

Reading Poetry

A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

Using Literary Quotations

Play Reviews

Writing a Rhetorical Précis to Analyze Nonfiction Texts

Incorporating Interview Data

Grant Proposals

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Additional Resources for Grants and Proposal Writing

Job Materials and Application Essays

Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs

Resume Writing Tips

CV Writing Tips

Cover Letters

Business Letters

Proposals and Dissertations

Resources for Proposal Writers

Resources for Dissertators

Research Papers

Planning and Writing Research Papers

Quoting and Paraphrasing

Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Creating Poster Presentations

Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Thank-You Notes

Advice for Students Writing Thank-You Notes to Donors

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Critical Reviews

Writing a Review of Literature

Scientific Reports

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