Graduate Admissions FAQs

Applying to the Graduate Program

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Where can I find information about applying?

Applications to UW-Madison are completed online. Information on the requirements, the process, and links to the materials are available through the Admissions section.

Does UW-Madison offer an application fee waiver?

The Chemistry Department provides application fee grants for under represented minority applicants who were CHOPs participants, or have attended NOBCChE, SACNAS, or ABRCAMS. If you qualify, email

The Graduate School also provides fee grants to students who can demonstrate that they grew up in a low income household, to participants of pipeline programs, or to students who have attended partner institutions.  This information can be found on the Graduate School Website.

Why upload unofficial transcripts to the application?

Unofficial transcripts are uploaded with your application for evaluation purposes; the faculty want to see the chemistry courses that you completed.  Unofficial transcripts, accessible through student accounts via the university website, are acceptable.  If you request an official transcript from the university, please print the transcript and re-create an electronic version before you add it to the application.  This will remove the formatting that causes the transcript to be encrypted and unable to be viewed by the faculty.

Why do I need to send official transcripts after I receive a recommendation letter from the Department of Chemistry? When does the University need the transcripts?

Official transcripts are required if the Department of Chemistry recommends that you be admitted into the graduate program. Most schools use Parchment, Escript, or Clearinghouse services to send transcripts. Check with your institution. You should choose UW-Madison Graduate School when you go into the service.  UW has agreements with these services and download transcripts in batches. If your institution does not use a transcript service, please send the transcript to

The admission staff at the Graduate School examines the official transcripts and checks your GPA.  If your GPA is above 3.0 the Graduate School will officially accept you into the program. The transcripts are needed soon after you receive the letter from the Department of Chemistry and before April 15.

Why do I have to send another official transcript after I graduate?

The Graduate School requires an official transcript with your degree and conferral date (the graduation date) to ensure that you have completed your undergraduate degree.  It is easiest if you request your university or college to send the transcript immediately after you graduate.  The Graduate School needs the final transcript by Oct.

How does your review process work? When will I know if I’ve been accepted?

We use a rolling review process due to the high number of applications we receive. For example, for Fall 2020 admission, we received 800 applications and enrolled 60 students. The committee generally starts reviewing application in December and finishes by the beginning of January. Acceptance decisions are made throughout the review process and may continue until mid-February.

Can I contact a professor in the department prior to being admitted?

If you are especially interested in a particular professor’s research, you can email him or her directly to begin to establish contact. Doing so will help you to tie the “Reasons for Graduate Study” section of your application to an area of interest and the professors working in that area.

What is the Statement of Purpose? How long should it be?

The Statement of Purpose is your opportunity to tell the committee more about you and why we should offer you admission to our program. Sell yourself; tell us why you will be an asset to the Department and the field of chemistry; show your passion for chemistry. A good statement introduces you and your interest in chemistry, your previous experience in research, ties your research interest areas/experience to the research being conducted by our professors, and mentions your career aspirations. Please keep your essay to two single-spaced pages.

Our selection committee looks at a lot of applications, so strive to be clear, complete, and concise; don’t assume we know what you’re talking about, particularly when it comes to acronyms or regional programs and awards. Don’t make us hunt for information about you. Give us a clear picture of what makes you different and separates you from other applicants.

Be sure to address any GPA or test score discrepancies or deficiencies by explaining the circumstances that affected your performance (e.g., illness, death in the family, working to support yourself).

GPA and GRE Scores

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What are the GPA and GRE test score requirements?

The Graduate School requires a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. The Chemistry Department typically looks for GPAs of 3.5 or higher, however the grading reputation of the school attended is also taken into account.

The general and subject GRE exams are NOT required.  There is no need to submit these scores.

My GPA is a little low. Can I still apply?

When we evaluate a candidate for our graduate program, we look at the entire package: GPA, presentations, papers, research experience, honors and awards, recommendations, reasons for graduate study, writing ability, and outside activities. Undergraduate work should include satisfactory completion of coursework in the fundamentals of chemistry, physics, and calculus. The scores listed on the Typical Qualifications for Graduate Program Admission page are guidelines rather than set criteria. A lower score, especially a slightly lower one, will not automatically exclude you from consideration.

Visiting The Department

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Can I come for a department visit before I apply to the program?

Due to scheduling difficulties, our professors are not generally available to visit with future graduate students prior to their admission to the graduate program.

Can I come for a department visit after I'm accepted to the program?

If you are admitted, you will receive information about our spring graduate student recruitment weekends.

Applying for Spring Semester Admission

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I’m graduating in December. Do you have a spring program?

We do not generally admit students in the spring; however, there are exceptions. Our coursework sequences and offerings, our student funding budgeting and planning, and the openings for new members in the research groups are tied to the academic calendar. We are open to reviewing a limited number of applications, and we may make a recommendation for a spring admission. We may also defer admission until the fall semester.

The general application process is the same: same application, same supplemental forms, same requirements for consideration. The difference is that spring is not listed as an option on the Graduate School’s online application form. Therefore you will need to email to notify the graduate student services coordinator of your application for spring admission so that we can coordinate with the Graduate School to get your application listed in the proper semester. If your application is deferred for consideration for fall admission, you will need to file a new application (without all the supplemental materials) in order to have your application period updated to the fall semester.

Applying for a Master's-only Program

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Does the department offer a master’s program?

The UW-Madison graduate program is primarily to obtain the Ph.D. degree. Due to funding, the limited number of spaces we have available each year, and the limited time during which master’s students would conduct research, we do not often admit master’s students. However, we do make exceptions for U.S. students with special circumstances. For instance, if the master’s is for career advancement with a local employer, if it is a military assignment, or if the applicant has other funding via scholarships (government or private), then we will consider admitting a student to the master’s program.

Information for International Students

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How many international students does the department admit each year?

As a public university, most of our offers of admission are to U.S. citizens. About 25-30 percent of our graduate students are international students. We do not have an established number of international students that we will admit each year.

Does the department conduct phone interviews with international students?

Phone interviews are usually conducted with students to whom we are considering offering admission. The review committee does these interviews, and we will contact you directly if they wish to speak with you once you have applied.

What are the language requirements for International Students?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or its equivalent is required for applicants whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate education was not at an institution where English was the exclusive language of instruction.

A score of 105+ is preferred; however, if you are a strong candidate, it is likely someone from the Admissions Committee will contact you to schedule a phone interview. Additionally, UW-Madison has courses designed to assist accepted students with English proficiency.

Is the TOEFL required? How recent must my score be? Does the department grant TOEFL waivers?

TOEFL scores are required for applicants whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate education was not at an institution where English was the exclusive language of instruction. The date of the TOEFL scores you submit must be within the two years of your anticipated enrollment date.

A TOEFL waiver may be granted based upon the language of instruction at the college or university level and how recently you completed your education at the institution rather than the country of origin/citizenship or current residence. If you earned a degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university within the last five years; or if English was the exclusive language of instruction at your undergraduate institution; or if you have completed two semesters of graded coursework at a U.S. college or university or an institution outside of the U.S. where English is the exclusive language of instruction within the last five years, you will not need to submit a TOEFL score.

How do I submit my TOEFL test scores?

TOEFL scores must be submitted electronically via ETS. IELTS scores can be submitted electronically or by paper. Electronic test score submissions should be sumitted using the institution code 1846. Paper submissions should be sent to Graduate Admissions using the following address:

Graduate Admissions
232 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Dr
Madison, WI  53706

Acceptance & Deferrals

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Accept the Offer

To let us know your decision about which graduate school that you will attend, please respond by April 15.

If I’m accepted, can I defer my admission for a year?

Yes, we have granted deferrals to several students over the past few years for a variety of reasons – participation in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and Fulbright Program to name a few. We will also consider deferrals for personal reasons.

Please keep in mind we make no guarantee of admission for the deferral year. However, to date, we have not denied admission to someone who deferred from the previous year.

I deferred last year, what do I need to do to be considered for this year?

You will need to re-apply to the Graduate School in order to activate your application. Please mark that you are re-applying. Also, send an email to to notify the graduate coordinator that you are reactivating your application after a deferral. In some cases the Chemistry Department will pay for reactivation of your application particularly if your deferral is for participation in the Peace Corps or Teach for America. You will not need to submit transcripts, recommendations, or any of the supplemental information; we will use what you had previously submitted. If you have other information or updates you would like in your file, please send the information to