University of Wisconsin-Madison


UW was first established in 1848, the same year as the state of Wisconsin. In 1849, a class of 17 students met at the Madison Female Academy. By the next year, the university had purchased 50 acres of land in downtown Madison. Women were first admitted to the university in 1863, and the Graduate School was established in 1904. In 1971, the government of Wisconsin merged the University of Wisconsin system with the Wisconsin State Universities system, putting UW Madison at the head of an addition roster of nine universities and four underclassmen branches.

The culture of UW Madison has been shaped by the “Wisconsin Idea,” which seeks to infuse the benefits of university education, in one form or another, into every single home across Wisconsin. UW is particularly friendly to university/community partnerships and cross-departmental collaboration.

One of the best known aspects of the campus is the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, which has been working to restore prairie and other native landscapes since 1934. The first-ever artist-in-residence program began at UW in 1936. In true Wisconsin style, there is an on-campus dairy facility at UW. Today, the main campus spans 933 acres. UW maintains branch campuses in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Parkside. There are also ten underclassmen centers throughout the state.


Information Summary

Ranks 2nd in Wisconsin and 188th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 92.9
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $26,025
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 32 / 1450
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 18 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 95% / 75%
Enrollment Total (all students) 43,463


There are 20 schools at UW with 135 undergraduate majors, 151 master’s degree programs, and 107 doctorate programs. In 2011, there were over 29,000 undergraduates at UW, nearly 9,000 graduate students, and 2,500 professional students. The College of Letters and Science is the largest school at UW, with an enrollment of about half of the undergraduate body. It is comprised of 39 departments and 5 professional schools.

The Center for Measuring University Performance has ranked UW-Madison as the 11th best university in the nation. It is considered by many to be one of the very best for languages, community service, and research productivity. The proof is in the pudding: As many S&P 500 company CEOs hold degrees from UW as do from Harvard or Princeton.

Research at UW

UW is considered to be a very high research activity institute by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Research expenditures of over a billion dollars a year are common. It is in the top ten universities for receiving research funding, both from the government and from private sources. UW-Madison is also a sea grant college, which means that the university receives significant funding to conduct scientific research, education, training, and other projects concerning the conservation and use of coastal areas, including around the Great Lakes.

Honors Program

Within the College of Letters and Sciences, the Honors Program offers an enhanced curriculum to over 1,700 qualifying students. A number of scholarships and grants are available through the Honors Program. A number of student organizations, including the award-winning forensics team, are sponsored by the Honors Program.


UW has one of the largest research library collections in North America. There are over 40 libraries on the Madison campus, with a collection of over 8 million volumes. All the libraries are linked through MadCat, the online catalog system.

Memorial Library, the central branch, contains over 3 ½ million volumes, a vast periodical collection, a letterpress printing museum, the historical archives for the university, and the Mills Music Library.

Kurt F. Wendt Library serves the departments of computer sciences, statistics, atmospheric sciences, and the College of Engineering. The Kurt. F. Wendt Library is a Patent and Trademark Depository Library, which means that any patent on any product, idea, or process in the United States of America is recorded in its entirety here.

College Library at Helen C. White Hall contains many special collections, including Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Poetry. The College Library also houses the Open Book Café and a media center with more than 200 computer workstations for student use and an equipment check-out facility where students can access projectors, digital cameras, and other forms of technology needed for classroom projects. The Open Book collection at the College Library offers items of non-academic interest for undergraduates, such as video games, DVDs, audiobooks, and light fiction.

Most Popular Fields of Study


building :: University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Wisconsin Camp Randall Stadium :: University of Wisconsin-Madison


68% of applicants are admitted to UW-Madison. Most application materials are due by February 1 for the following fall.

Financial Aid

In addition to the standard forms of financial aid open to college and university students, UW-Madison offers several grants, scholarships, and work opportunities of their own. Most scholarships require application by May 1 for the following fall.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 1906th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Wisconsin.


Student Unions

Memorial Union, on the shore of Lake Mendota, is the center of campus life. First built in 1928 as a tribute to World War I veterans, it continues to be home to art galleries, a live arts theatre, a movie theatre, and the Craftshop, where classes and studios for the arts offer a panoply of activities for students, staff, faculty, and the public. Memorial Union is also home to the popular German pub Rathskeller, where patrons play backgammon and drink Rathskeller Ale.

A second campus union, Union South, is largely used by students in the sciences. It houses a bowling alley, a movie theatre, and a dance floor.

Clubs and Organizations

There are more than 750 different student clubs and organizations at UW-Madison. Every April the alumni association and the student board collaborate with local businesses and student groups on the week-long All-Campus Party (ACP). Events at the ACP include a Wisconsin-specific version of American Idol, a free “Breakfast with Bucky," concerts and dances such as “Buckystock” and “Club Bucky," and a fair with free pizza and gladiator matches.

Student Publications

There are two student newspapers at UW-Madison. Both The Badger Herald and The Daily Cardinal are both published daily. The university is also home to the Journal of Undergraduate International Studies (JUIS). The radio station, WSUM 91.7 FM, is staffed by about 150 student disc jockeys.

Student Service

In keeping with the Wisconsin Idea, the university has an especially rich profile of community partnerships that involve students with residents of the Madison area and vice versa. Some of these partnership programs include:

Alternative Breaks This program takes students into hands-on working situations for their spring breaks, giving them opportunities to build, teach, and learn in rural Appalachia or inner-city Chicago instead of partying in Tampa.

Community Inclusion Programs of the Waisman Center Students in this program offer information and assistance about developmental disabilities, especially on the autism spectrum, to affected families in Wisconsin.

Morgridge Center for Public Service This is a multipronged program to match student volunteers with community needs. The Center offers over 50 classes for credit that teach students how best to provide services while giving the opportunities to immediately put their education to work.

PACE This program works to reduce high-risk drinking and its consequences both on-campus and off.

South Madison Partnerships Inventory This program provides support for the South Madison farmer’s market, provides assistance to businesses developing multicultural resources, and generally works to enhance economic development in South Madison.

Students Helping Achievement in Public Education (SHAPE) This School of Education program facilitates student tutors for the Madison public schools.

Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) This program provides focused, directed services for minority children in middle- and high-school in Madison and Milwaukee.

UW-Madison Connections Program This dual admission program allows Dane County residents to enroll in a Madison-area technical college with guaranteed transfer to UW-Madison for a four-year degree.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


The athletics department at UW-Madison is known as the Badgers, with a mascot named Bucky Badger. The Bucky fight song, “On, Wisconsin,” dates to 1907. For several decades early in the university’s history there were actual live badgers at many games, although this practice has since been discontinued. The Badgers belong to NCAA Division I-A and compete in the Big Ten Conference in 25 varsity intercollegiate sports. In recent years, the men’s cross country team, the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, and the men’s and women’s crew team have all claimed several national titles.

Football is the most popular sport at UW-Madison. The Badgers play home games at Camp Randall Stadium, a facility which seats more than 80,000 people. There are many traditions particular to games at Camp Randall, including the ever-popular “Jump Around” during the fourth quarter. The team has won several championships in the last decade. The football team’s archrival is the University of Minnesota. Each year these two teams compete for a trophy known as Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Basketball is the second most popular sport at UW-Madison. The Badgers play basketball at the Kohl Center. Basketball fans are known as “the Grateful Red”. The basketball team’s historic rivals are the University of Illinois and Michigan State University.


The list of impressive alumni from UW Madison is huge. Nobel Prize winners included Saul Bellow, John Bardeen, Paul Boyer, Herbert Spencer Gasser, Alan G. MacDiarmid, Stanford Moore, Erwin Neher, Edward Lawrie Tatum, John H. Van Vleck, and Theodore Schultz. Entertainers include Don Ameche, Tamara Braun, Joan Cusack, Honor Ford-Smith, Uta Hagin, Sorrel Hays, Steve Miller, Jemeel Moondoc, Kevin Murphy, Ken Navarro, Gena Rowlands, Boz Scaggs, Charlie Trotter, Butch Vig, Jerry Zucher, and many, many, more.


There are over 2,000 faculty members at UW with large numbers of published authors, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, and internationally renowned researchers among them. One of the most famous, Professor James Thomson, was the first researcher to isolate human embryonic stem cells.


Student Activities. University of Wisconsin Madison. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.

Fiske, Edward B. Fiske Guide to Colleges 2011. Chicago: Sourcebooks, 2010. Print.

Outreach. University of Wisconsin Madison. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.

Pope, Loren. Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That’s Right for You. New York: Penguin. 2007. Print.

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