Twenty years ago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison was hardly a hot-ticket destination for stellar students from all over the country/world. While always a popular and sound choice for locals, only 17,727 teens applied for a chance to become Badgers back in 2001 and 12,791, or 72%, were ultimately accepted. That year, the 75th percentile standardized test scores among attending freshmen were 1350 on the SAT and 29 on the ACT. Today, those scores, while strong, would barely place you in the average range of admitted students–a select group that is chosen from a pool of almost 54,000 highly-qualified seniors. This complicates the question of how to get into the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2022-23.

In 2015, the state legislature increased the university’s allowable cap on out-of-state enrollment, which had previously limited nonresidents to a maximum of 27.5% of the undergraduate population. By the start of the 2021-22 school year, just 45% of freshmen were Wisconsin residents, with thousands flocking to Madison from all 50 U.S. states and 82 countries from around the globe.

Given this increased desirability and selectivity at UW-Madison, the intent of this article is to give those considering applying to the university an understanding of the following topics:

  • UW-Madison’s acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Wisconsin applicants
  • Admissions trends
  • UW-Madison’s system for rating applicants
  • A look at the demographics of current UW-Madison undergraduates
  • The percent of accepted students that attend UW-Madison (yield rate)
  • Tips for applying to the University of Wisconsin
  • UW-Madison essay prompts and tips
  • How to assess whether applying to UW-Madison is even worth the $60 application fee (for you)

Students applying to UW Madison may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

How to Get Into:

UW-Madison Acceptance Rate 

There were an all-time high of 53,829 applications for admission into the Badger Class of 2025. Overall, the acceptance rate was 60%. Traditionally, it is much easier to gain acceptance as a Wisconsin resident.

UW-Madison Admissions – SAT, ACT, GPA, and Class Rank

According to the most recent statistics available (Class of 2025), the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled freshmen was 1350-1480; the ACT range was 28-32. Only 15% of applicants submitted an SAT score while 46% included an ACT result in their application. An impressive 49% of freshmen hailed from the top 10%, while 86% earned a place in the top 25%. The average high school GPA was 3.88; an astonishing 45% of entering freshmen possessed above a 4.0. Only 5% of the Class of 2025 earned lower than a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

Admissions Trends & Notes 

  • Firstly, the Class of 2025 was made-up of 8,465 freshmen, down from 7,306 the prior year.
  • The number of applicants to the Class of 2025 rose 17% from the previous cycle.
  • New students included 3,859 Wisconsin residents.
  • The 1,251 underrepresented domestic students in the Class of 2025 was up from 989 the prior year.
  • The number of National Merit Scholars enrolled has increased by 175% in the last five years.
  • Lastly, the university has extended its test-optional policy through 2024-25.

How UW-Madison Rates Applicants

UW-Madison considers only two factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load and application essays. Further, items that are “important” as part of the admissions process are: GPA, recommendations, and state residency. “Considered” factors are: test scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, talent/ability, first-generation status, and work/volunteer experience.

The UW-Madison admission staff reads every application carefully and, in their own words, “We don’t use formulas or charts. We read each application thoroughly, one by one.” In reviewing each applicant, they focus first on “academic excellence and preparation.” Straight from the admissions office: “Beyond academics, we look for qualities such as leadership, contributions to your community, and achievement in the arts, athletics, and other areas. We’re also seeking diversity in personal background and experience and your potential for positive contribution to the Wisconsin community.”

It is also worth highlighting that recruited athletes enjoy a huge edge. This is because UW-Madison takes great pride in their 23 NCAA Division I sports teams. Overall, approximately 900 student-athletes are presently attending the university.

For advice about how to stand out on the extracurricular front, check out our previous blog entitled How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?

Who Gets Into UW-Madison?

Let’s look at the demographics of current freshmen (2021-22)

  • In-State: 50%
  • Out-of-State: 50%

The greatest number of 2021-22 freshmen hail from the following states:

  • Wisconsin: 2,856
  • Illinois: 695
  • Minnesota: 449
  • California: 368
  • New York: 217

Among non-residents, competition is stiffest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). However, if you hail from the Deep South like Alabama (1 current freshman) or Mississippi (1 current freshman) or a less-populated state like Wyoming (2 current freshmen) or North Dakota (0 current freshmen), your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances at UW-Madison.

Within the state, the high schools producing the most current Badger first-years are:

  • Middleton High School: 105
  • James Madison Memorial High School: 90
  • Arrowhead High School: 84
  • Madison East High School: 61
  • Brookfield East High School: 58
  • Homestead High School: 56
  • West High School: 55
  • Waunakee Community High School: 55

Shifting to ethnic identity, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Caucasian/White: 68%
  • Asian American: 8%
  • Hispanic: 6%
  • African American: 2%
  • International: 9%

Current international students are citizens of the following countries:

  • China: 61%
  • India: 11%
  • South Korea: 7%
  • Malaysia: 4%
  • Saudi Arabia: 2%

Looking at the gender breakdown, the university presently enrolls more women than men:

  • Men: 48%
  • Women: 52%

UW-Madison’s “Yield Rate”

UW-Madison’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 26%. This figure is significantly lower than other powerhouse state universities like the University of Michigan (41%), UVA (43%), and UCLA (44%).

Tips for Applying to UW-Madison

If you plan on joining the 54,000 UW-Madison hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • You can apply using either the Common Application or the UW System Application.
  • UW-Madison does not use interviews as part of their evaluation process.
  • The university does not officially grant any favor to children of alumni, however, recent data reveals that legacy students enjoy an acceptance rate 20% higher than non-legacies.
  • UW-Madison does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
  • Lastly, make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay required by UW-Madison. In the 2021-22 cycle, the prompt for those applying through the Common App was as follows:

1) 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.

For detailed advice on how to write a winning essay, visit our blog: University of Wisconsin-Madison Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips

Should I Apply to UW-Madison?

Those with SAT/ACT scores within the mid-50% mark for UW-Madison who are also at the very top of their respective high school class are absolutely viable candidates to UW-Madison. If you live in Wisconsin, your road to acceptance will be much smoother than if you are an out-of-state or international applicant. Therefore, you will need to bring forward even better academic credentials if you do not hail from the Badger State. Of course, it goes without saying that all teens applying to a school of the University of Wisconsin’s ilk also need to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.

Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).