How to Write the University of Wisconsin-Madison Supplement 2019-2020

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public research university. Roughly 30,000 undergraduate students attend the school and campus is set on 936 acres. It’s a Big Ten school and Badger pride runs deep. The acceptance rate hovers around 51%.

Wisconsin’s supplement is below: 

Tell us why you decided to apply to 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. (650 words)

First things first: ignore the last sentence. You can’t write that you’re undecided; you absolutely must pick a major. Colleges care a lot about their four-year graduation rate, so while in reality you might be unsure of what you plan to study (which is completely fine), writing that you’re undecided is a no go. When you write about a specific major that you want to study, it tells them that you’ll graduate in four years. Also, they are trying to build a well-rounded class. Knowing what you intend to major in will help ensure that there aren’t 20,000 english majors. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss what you should write about.

Wisconsin’s supplement is long. It’s the same length as your common app essay, so definitely don’t wait until the last minute to starting writing it. Simply because of it’s length, it’s an easy supplement to mess up. It’s a classic “Why Us” question, but this one is about three times the length of most of them. Here’s the hard part: this essay still needs to tell a story about you. And that story should seamless weave your interests and background with Wisconsin’s offerings. There should be an obvious connection between what Wisconsin has to offer and your interests, and you have more than enough room to make a case for yourself.

Start by asking yourself what you might like to major in. Make a list of the classes you love, the classes you hate, the books you read for fun, and the projects you’ve enjoyed working on. Wisconsin has 232 majors to choose from, and going through them alphabetically is not the move. Identifying what you know you’re not interested in will save you a ton of time. The major that you choose should be related to what you did in high school, so look closely at classes you’ve taken and done well in.

If you already know what you want to study, you probably have a reason why. We call this an origin story. Let us not forget that Wisconsin asks WHY you’re interested in the major you select. You don’t need to write them a novel about why you’re destined to be a neurosurgeon, but with 650 words to work with you’re going to need to rely on some personal details. Remember that at it’s core, this essay is still about you. If you don’t have an origin story, don’t make one up. It will come off as disingenuous.  

Once you’ve selected your major, find a few upper level courses that you’re dying to take. Let’s say you plan to major in horticulture because you built your own greenhouse in your backyard as a side project (that’s your origin story) and you’re interested in plant genetics. You would then look at the major requirements and find 200-300 level classes you’re interested in. Plant Anatomy and Soil Science might be of interest to this fictional character. Simply picking a class and saying you want take it won’t cut it. Rather, you should look at the syllabus (it pops up on the website) and read about the class and include exactly why you’re interested in the subject matter.

Closing out the academic portion of the essay, fall deeper into the rabbit hole and try to find a professor whose work grabs your attention. If something really excites you, include that in your essay.

Your essay should also give Wisconsin an idea of how you plan to spend your time outside of the classroom. There are 900 student organizations on campus, and surely you can find one that interest you. The clubs can be sorted by category and you should find one that again, is related to something you did in high school so that it makes sense within the context of your application. Write about why you want to join the club and how what you’ve done in the past makes you a good fit.

There might also be something related to the student culture at Wisconsin that draws you to the school. If so, you should include it but don’t write anything cheesy about how you came home from the hospital in a Wisconsin onesie.

While it’s important to include all of the topics discussed above, your supplement shouldn’t read like a book report on Wisconsin. Your essay won’t resonate if you don’t back up your interests with information about yourself. We suggest doing all of your research first and making a list of reasons why you want to go to Wisconsin, and then drafting a story around those findings.


We know this supplement is a lot. Contact us here if you want help.