Wisconsin, University of (Madison)
College review by Lisa Bleich
We arrived at around 8:30 pm on a Sunday night to University of Wisconsin in Madison. We stayed at the hotel right inside the South Campus Student Union. As we rolled our suitcases across the “lobby,” we walked by students sitting comfortably in a beautifully appointed living space, with big leather chairs, a fireplace crackling, and lap tops buzzing. The building had every conceivable amenity, and I felt like I was in a very large hotel lobby filled with students. Energy filled the air.
My roommate and I decided to walk around Madison to get a feel before our tour the next day. It took around 15 minutes to reach State St., the main shopping area of campus, from the South Student Union. Starbucks, Chipotle, Red Mango and other standard college town shops lined the streets.
The next day we had the opportunity hear from several of the administrators for Madison. Wisconsin has implemented two programs to help freshmen integrate into the university and feel more connected. The first is called FIG (First-Year Interest Groups) where a group of 20 students enroll in a cluster of three classes taught by a professor who links the classes together by a theme. UW has found a direct correlation between FIGs and student success. One of the students on the student panel took a Modern Myth and American Literature FIG. She took classes in Latin, English, and an Integrated Liberal studies class on Mythology. The second program is called Residential Learning Experiences, which allows students to live and learn together with a professor across a common theme. Approximately 40% of freshmen participate in one of these two programs.
The students on the panel had a varied set of interests and backgrounds. For example, we met Mike from NH who was majoring in Political Science/Biology with a certificate in leadership. He was part of the honors college, which is a select group of 400 students. They receive special advising and can take honors only classes. Mike was an intern at the Margaret Center for Public Service as well as the State Director of College Democrats. Robin, a material science engineering major, did undergraduate research and tutors incoming freshmen. She heads to Georgia Tech for a PhD program next year. Matt, from WI worked for admission and biked 1,800 miles to raise money to collect and deliver sporting equipment to third world countries.
Regardless of their background, the one thing that ties all Badgers together is football. The massive stadium sits right outside campus and students attend games or at least wear red every Saturday. School spirit abounds on campus; even in post football season, red wellies and apparel littered the campus.
The campus itself is varied. There are two distinct areas of campus. The Lakeshore campus sits atop a hill offering a tremendous view of the Lake as well as a nature preserve right next to it. As we walked around the beautiful campus, we headed down the main quad steps and walked right into State Street peppered with food trucks line- deep in students waiting to get lunch. State Street was bustling during the day and we could see all the way to the State Capital. Outside of the main Lakeshore campus lays an urban campus with the Engineering, Business, and Law buildings integrated within the city of Madison. There are buses that take students from one side of campus to the other, but many prefer bicycles during the warmer weather.
UW accepts approximately 51% of its applicants. 74% of students come from Wisconsin or Minnesota (reciprocity among states) and 26% are from out of state/international. Students from the coasts are affectionately knows as “coasties.” The average weighted GPA is a 3.5-3.9. UW does NOT superscore either the SAT or ACT. (In fact, none of the Wisconsin schools superscore either of the tests). The average ACT was 27-31. Students are admitted to the University and then apply directly to each of the schools during their sophomore year. Engineering, Business, Education, Nursing and Pharmacy are the most competitive programs. Athletic recruits represent 8% of admitted students.
One of the directors of admissions recently joined the UW staff from the University of Chicago. Future applicants can expect some essay topics inspired by traditional UChicago questions which inquire how students grapple with ideas rather than straight forward prompts that deliver literal, fact-based responses. Even though a teacher’s letter of recommendation is optional, they will consider it if included in a student’s application.
Admissions looks for the following attributed for prospective students:
1) Taking on challenge of HS and being successful
2) Writing ability
3) Why do you want to be here? Students need to show that they understand the UW community.
4) Testing profile. 1800-2200 in SAT; the higher the test the better
UW has made a concerted effort to provide more and different types of academic advising and support. All students are assigned an advisor based on background, e.g. student athlete, honors, first generation, undecided majors, etc. They make a big effort to help students transition to college. UW also offers the McBearny Disability Resource Center, which provides support for learning differences, mental health, and medical disabilities. Each college also offers specialized career advising.
So what is a Badger?
Badgers all come from different backgrounds; they work well in groups. Many come from rural areas since Wisconsin has a lot of farms and open space. They are passionate, friendly, dedicated, and want to do something with their lives. And most importantly, they all know that if it’s Saturday, it must be game day!
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Armory & Gymnasium
716 Langdon Street,
Madison, WI 53706