Frequently Asked Questions


Can I apply online or should I use a paper application?

The Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin - Madison requires an online application. Please make note of the list of the supporting documents required to complement the standard application form.

How will I know if you got my application and it is complete?

When the Graduate School acknowledges receipt of your application, their email message will give you a secure URL to an application status page. Check this page periodically to see what documents have been received by the department.

What is the deadline to apply?

It is better to think of it as the date by which all supporting documents must be received by us. An applicant's file must be complete by December 15 in order to be included in the initial review and considered for financial aid. It is a postmark deadline, but remember that this is the busiest season of the year for the US Post Office. Why tempt fate and risk a possible black mark against your name for failure to comply with a deadline? Be on the safe side and aim for December 1st.

What supporting documents do you require?

See the list of required supporting documents. Your application cannot be reviewed until all of the items are in your file. Be sure to start the process far enough in advance (say mid-October) to be sure that everything gets here on time.

Can I send published articles, my senior honors thesis, or a video/DVD for my writing sample?

No to all. The best writing sample is an academic paper you wrote for a class related to the area in which you apply. It should have citations and footnotes. Videotapes, DVDs, newspaper articles and film reviews, as well as any bound works will not be used for your application file and will be discarded. You may send a portion of a longer thesis if you wish, but please select a representative sample no longer than 20 pages. Include a cover page identifying it as a chapter or section of a longer work.

Where can I find a form to use for my letters of recommendation?

We have found that most professors now like using the electronic method of sending letters of recommendation. When you list the names of your recommenders, be sure to add their email address and check the box at the bottom of the page that says "Send email request now." They will then receive a message directly from our Graduate School with instructions for submitting the recommendation. There is a standard form included from the Graduate School for the online recommendation.

If your recommenders prefer to send a hard copy of their letter, no specific form is necessary. The best letters are from academic sources written on school letterhead with the writer's name and title clearly printed at the bottom. The recommendation should speak to your potential for success in graduate school; they are not an assessment of your character or work history.

Please also use only one method of sending recommendations: Either a hard copy sent to the department address, or an online recommendation. If a recommender prefers to send a hard copy of a letter, simply refrain from adding his or her email address when you list their name on the recommender page.

Do I send the application fee to the Department of Communication Arts or the UW-Madison Graduate School?

The application fee goes to the UW-Madison Graduate School. It is best to pay the application fee online (credit card or debit card) at the same time you file the application. If you wish to mail a check to pay the application fee, please be sure to write your student ID number on it (assigned to you when you file the online application) and mail it directly to:

Graduate School Admissions Office
228 Bascom Hall
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706-1380

Do you require a resume as part of the application?

We do not require one at this time but if you wish, there is a place to upload one in the online application or you can email it to, after completing the rest of your application.

Do I have to send all supporting documents in one envelope at the same time?

No. You can have transcripts and letters of recommendation mailed directly to:

Comm Arts Graduate Program Office
6114 Vilas Hall
821 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1497

If you choose to collect everything and mail it all together, please be sure the transcripts and recommendations are in sealed envelopes with a signature or tamper-proof seal across the flap to ensure confidentiality.

What happens if my transcripts or letters of recommendation are mailed separately and arrive before I file the application?

All documents are date-stamped when received and kept alphabetically in a general file until they can be matched to an applicant.

If I am applying to more than one department at UW-Madison, can I send just one copy of everything to the Graduate School and ask the departments to get copies of what they need?

No. It is your responsibility to know which documents each individual department requires and then send those documents to the correct department. Departments will not ask each other for copies of any application materials for applicants they have in common, nor can the Graduate School supply them to departments.

What is your minimum GPA and GRE scores for admission?

The Graduate School minimum GPA is 3.0 but we like to see at least a 3.25 in courses relevant to the area in which you apply. As for GRE scores, we don't set absolute numbers because each year's applicants are judged against all others in that year only. Given that our programs are very competitive and highly selective, you will want to be sure that you do the best you can on all areas of the Graduate Record Examination.

What is the most important part of the application?

Each student's file is considered as a whole. There is no single thing that will either get you into our program or keep you out. Be most careful, however, when crafting your "Statement of Purpose" so we know what you want to study and why you think you can do it here. Although it cannot be said to be the most important part of your application, the "Statement of Purpose" is certainly our introduction to you as a student and as such, you will want it to be as professional and persuasive as possible to put your application in the best light.

Is a visit to the Madison campus recommended prior to application?

It is neither recommended nor discouraged, but you are welcome to visit UW-Madison any time. Some faculty may be available for a personal visit. Please email or call the Graduate Program Coordinator prior to your anticipated visit. We will do our best to ensure that your experience is informative.

Financial Aid & "Good Standing"

I will need financial assistance to continue my education. Do you have financial aid, and what form does it take?

Yes. Our principal means of financial assistance is in the form of teaching assistantships. Some students may get a fellowship or project assistantship for part of their graduate career, but the balance of the support guarantee would then be a teaching assistantship. Be sure to complete the "Funding Form" that is part of the online application and get all supporting documents to the Graduate Program office by December 15.

How do I stay "In Good Standing" if admitted?

Please see the Graduate Student Handbook. 

International Students

I am an international student who requires financial assistance. Am I eligible for a teaching assistantship?

Yes, if your English is good enough by our standards. Eligibility is contingent on faculty evaluation of your English speaking skills. If you are admissible by all other criteria, a faculty member will make phone contact for an initial evaluation of your ability. Before you assume your teaching duties, we will also require that you take the UW-administered SPEAK test once you arrive on campus. You may also be subject to further interview by appropriate course faculty.

Your first semester of teaching will be probationary. If you perform your teaching responsibilities in a satisfactory manner and maintain at least a 3.75 GPA in your coursework here, support will be guaranteed at the level specified in your offer of admission.

I am an international student. Do you require the TOEFL exam? Is there a minimum score? Do you waive the TOEFL requirement if I have an advanced degree from an English-speaking institution?

An official TOEFL or IELTS result is required for all non-native English speaking applicants and our minimum score is:

  • 580 on a paper based examination
  • 237 on a computer-based exam
  • 92 on an internet-based exam
  • IELTS minimum of 7

We will waive the TOEFL requirement if you have a BA or MA from an English-speaking institution. In order to hold a teaching assistantship, you will still be subject to the terms and conditions of all non-native English speaking graduate students.