8 Steps to a Complete Admissions Application
Thank you for your interest in applying for graduate school in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. This page will provide you with details on how to apply and what the admissions committee is looking for in potential applicants.
Your application will be reviewed by a team of faculty members for evidence of the following dimensions:
- Academic Potential
- Research Potential
- How Interests Align with Department Research
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Self-evaluation/long-term goals
Your application as a whole should contain evidence useful in evaluating each dimension. It may be useful to highlight a dimension (e.g., Research Potential) in more than one application component (listed below). We will provide general advice on each application component below. The components required to apply for graduate study at UW Madison are:
- A Curriculum Vitae
- A Statement of Purpose
- Supplemental Application
- Unofficial transcripts
- Three letters of recommendation
- Official TOEFL or IELTS scores if your native language is not English
Note that the GRE will not be considered in evaluating potential applicants for admission to the chemistry graduate program at UW – Madison. Please do not send scores to our graduate program, as they will not be reviewed.
Note: when applying to the chemistry Ph.D. program, you are applying to the Graduate School at UW-Madison. See the Graduate School’s Admissions FAQ for more information. The specific components of the application are described in detail below.
Step 2: Complete the “Supplemental Application”
This is available with the online Graduate School Application in Step 1. You must select “Save” after you complete this section or it will not be transmitted.
Step 3: Upload unofficial transcripts as PDFs for each institution attended in the Supplemental Application.
Universities attended as part of a study abroad program do not need to be included if the coursework is reflected on your current institution transcripts. 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 supplemental application. This will remove the formatting that causes the transcript to be encrypted and unable to be viewed by the faculty.
Official transcripts are only required if you are accepted into the chemistry Ph.D. graduate program. The Graduate School will send you information about how to submit an official transcript.
Step 4: Submit official TOEFL test scores if native language is not English.
Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. TOEFL scores may be submitted electronically via ETS (institution code: 1846). You may leave the department code blank. IELTS scores may be submitted electronically or by mailing them to the graduate school at the following address: UW-Madison Graduate School, Office of Admissions, 232 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706. Your score will not be accepted if it is more than two years old from the start of your admission term. Further details on the graduate school’s English proficiency requirement, including exemptions, can be found at the following link: https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/.
Step 5: Upload a PDF attachment of your “Reasons for Graduate Study/Statement of Purpose” essay.
To help you ensure that your Statement of Purpose addresses all of the dimensions the admissions committee will be evaluating, it may be helpful for you to answer the following questions at some point in your document:
- Describe how you affected the trajectory of any research program (including course-based research) that you were involved in. Emphasize your personal intellectual and creative contributions to any projects you participated in.
- What research programs in chemistry are you interested in pursuing in graduate school? How do the research programs of our faculty align with your interests? Please be specific in your response (e.g., describe how your interests intersect with ongoing research programs of individual faculty).
- Please describe how you contributed to enriching communities to which you belong. Community involvement may involve working toward increasing diversity and inclusion, engagement in outreach, and/or other equity work. Please also share with us any leadership roles or responsibilities you have held outside of chemistry.
- What do you consider to be a strength of your application? What do you consider to be a weakness of your application? How have you built on your strengths and worked to improve areas of weakness? How have you shown persistence and resilience in the face of challenges? Please address any gaps or weaknesses in your transcript or CV and share any circumstances that affected your performance (e.g., illness, death in the family, working to support yourself).
- Please describe your long-term goals and how a Ph.D. in chemistry will help you achieve them.
Note that these should not be addressed via stand-alone paragraphs – your answers should be woven into a coherent 2 page narrative. We suggest that your statement of purpose not exceed 2 pages in length and that you abide by the following formatting requirements:
- Single spaced
- 1” margins
- Font 11pt Arial or 12pt Times New Roman
Step 6: Upload a PDF attachment of your CV.
Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) should help the admissions committee evaluate your academic potential, research potential, and whether you were involved with diversity, equity and/or inclusion initiatives. A CV should provide a summary of your experience and skills.
All CVs submitted as part of an application should contain sections dedicated to:
- Research experience
- This section should include the location and duration of each research experience as well as the name of your faculty mentor
- Research experience can include summer internships, industrial experience, and/or course-based research projects
- Work experience
- This section should list any jobs you have held through your undergraduate years and beyond – include the name of the job, place of employment, and duration of employment
- List the approximate number of hours worked per week in each job
- Please include teaching experiences (e.g., Teaching Assistant positions, tutoring) as a type of work experience
- Volunteer experience
- This list should include the names of initiatives you were involved in that were dedicated to enriching the communities to which you below. The duration of your involvement with these initiatives should be explicitly stated. Initiatives may include volunteer experience, outreach initiatives and/or extracurricular activities
- Publications and/or presentations
- Publications contributed to should be listed using a citation format commonly used in chemistry (e.g., Am. Chem. Soc., Cell, Nature)
- A list of presentations should include the presentation title, whether the presentation was a poster or talk, all author(s) who contributed to the work, the year of the presentation, and which conference the presentation occurred at
- Papers under review or in preparation can also be included, though this status should be noted explicitly
- Honors and awards
- This section should include the date each honor/award was received as well as whether it is a local or national honor/award
We provide two example CVs that meet the requirements specified above. The first sample represents an individual whose alma mater is a fictional primarily undergraduate institution. The second sample represents a fictional student who attended a peer institution of UW – Madison. These examples are meant as generic templates – please feel free to include additional sections in your CV.
Step 7: Submit contact information for three letters of recommendation.
You should select recommenders who can comment in detail on why you are a great candidate for graduate study. Research supervisors who can attest to how you have advanced independent scholarly projects often write compelling letters of recommendation for prospective students. The path to the PhD is highly research-intensive. Accordingly, letters that help us understand your preparedness and drive toward research are particularly useful. Excellent letters can also arise from any individual who has worked with you closely and can attest to your creativity, work-ethic, scientific ambition, etc. Such individuals might include a coach, job-supervisor or peer leader. For students who intend graduate work in a math-intensive chemistry sub-discipline, it may be useful to have a letter writer who can attest to mathematical aptitude. Instructors of large-enrollment courses with whom you have minimally interacted will thus often not write the most compelling of letters – they can often say little beyond “student X earned a grade of Y in my course”. When considering who to ask to be a recommender, remember that letters of recommendation are meant to support inferences as to your academic potential, research potential, and involvement in your community.
Step 8: Complete payment of the $75 application fee via credit card.
International students have an added $6 fee for the additional processing, for a total of $81. Information about Graduate School fee waivers can be found here or at chemistry admissions FAQ.