University of Wisconsin–Madison

Graduate Application Process

Please note: The following information pertains to applications to the MS-Geography, MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option), and PhD-Geography programs. Please see the GIS Professional Program webpage for information on applying to the professional programs.

Application Deadline

December 15

Please note that there are no spring/summer admissions.

Application Process

  • Read our program overview.
  • Visit faculty webpages to identify potential shared research interests and contact faculty to discuss your interests.
  • Make a visit to UW-Madison, if possible. (You are welcome to contact our Graduate Program Director if you want to visit.)
  • Complete the Graduate School online application.
    • When specifying “Intended Field Study,” select:
      • “Cartogr & Geog Info Sys MS” for Master of Science in Cartography and GIS
      • “Geography MS” for Master of Science in Geography
      • “Geography Ph.D.” for Degree of Philosophy in Geography
        • If you are applying to the MS-Geography or MS-Cartography/GIS program and intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Geography, we recommend that you indicate that by checking the appropriate box on the application form. Some funding opportunities are only available to students who are Ph.D.-bound.
        • If you are applying for the master’s program and your primary area of interest is Cartography/GIS, you should specify “Cartogr & Geog Info Sys MS” as your Intended Field of Study. Please do NOT apply to BOTH the MS-Geography and MS-Cartography/GIS programs!
        • You must have, or be in process of completing, a Master’s degree to apply directly to the Ph.D. program. (The degree does not have to be in Geography.) Students with a Bachelor’s degree who plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Geography should apply to the MS-Geography or MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option) and indicate their intent to continue to the Ph.D. in their statement of purpose and by checking the appropriate box on the application form.
    • Three (3) letters of recommendation from recent employers or faculty are required.
      • Letters of Recommendation are submitted online by your references. Each recommender will receive an electronic invitation to submit a letter on the applicant’s behalf. You can check to see if your recommendations have been submitted in the online application status system.
    • GRE scores are not required.
      • Effective Fall Semester, 2020, the Department of Geography at UW-Madison no longer requires (nor considers) the GRE for admission to all Geography and Cartography/GIS MS and PhD programs. 
    • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores.
      • TOEFL/IELTS scores are required of all applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. TOEFL scores are sent electronically from ETS. Use ETS institution code 1846
    • Submit a one or two page “statement of purpose” or “reason for graduate study.” This document should be uploaded as a PDF directly into the online application.
      • It is extremely important to clearly identify your topical or methodological interest within the field of geography. If you know your research topic, please state it in the document. Also see the graduate school’s guidelines on preparing a statement of purpose.
    • Submit transcripts for all post-secondary coursework to the Dept. of Geography.
      • Unofficial copies of these documents should be uploaded electronically as PDFs directly into the online application. Please include the issuing institution in the file name of each transcript you upload.(e.g., UWMadisonTranscr.pdf). Official transcripts or academic records from each institution attended will be requested from applicants who are recommended for admission. Please do NOT send official documents until requested.
      • International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and an official signature.
    • Complete the supplemental application form to indicate your primary and secondary area of interest within Geography. This form is contained within the online application for MS-Geography and PhD-Geography applicants.
    • Upload a CV/resume. Please include your name in the file name of the document.
    • Application fee paid to the Graduate School ($75) – Note that an additional fee is required of international applicants due to the additional processing required.

    For more information visit the UW Graduate School’s Frequently Asked Questions.


The University of Wisconsin-Madison is widely regarded as one of the best public universities in the country, and the Geography Department is considered strong, not only on campus, but also within the discipline. The minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission required by the Graduate School is 3.00 (4.00 scale). Because of strong competition within the Geography Department, our standards are somewhat higher. Applicants with less than a 3.25 GPA should have particularly impressive letters of recommendation; other types of excellence may also help a student who lacks a high GPA.

Geography is broad and we welcome students with different backgrounds into our graduate programs. We have found that students from different backgrounds do very well in our graduate programs once they have completed breadth requirements in geography.

Proficiency with the English language is vital to functioning in the University classroom. Students whose native language is other than English need to submit the TOEFL scores along with the application. The TOEFL score for students admitted into this department is much higher than that required by the Graduate School, typically over 615 (paper based test), 260 (computer-based test), or 105 (iTOEFL). An international student whose native language is not English but wishes to be considered for teaching assistantships will need to have taken the speaking part of the TOEFL test and have the score reported on the application. See the UW Graduate School Policy on English language proficiency as well as university policies related to TA spoken English proficiency.

Prospective graduate students who have thought about the details of their graduate study, such as the names of individual faculty members with whom they might want to work, courses they might take, and research that they might pursue, are often at an advantage over students who have not given these matters any thought.

The University has special funds for fellowships for U.S. students from minority groups and we encourage such individuals to apply to our program. Applications from international students are also welcome.

More Information

For more information about admission or the application process, please contact the Graduate Program Director by email ( or at (608) 262-3861.


See Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Study Applications Process.