Graduate Programs FAQ

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What if my application is submitted after the December 15 deadline?

We cannot guarantee that we will fully consider applications received after the December 15 deadline. This is true for both admission and financial aid. Faculty begin reviewing applications very soon after the deadline so it is critical that your application reach us by the deadline in order to be considered.

What if my application is submitted on time, but some of my supplementary materials (e.g., transcript, test scores, recommendation letters, etc.) arrive after the December 15 deadline?

We’ll do our best to consider your application, however it is difficult to consider an incomplete application. We recommend that you take standardized tests (TOEFL, etc) early enough in the fall to ensure that your scores reach us by early December. Be sure to give your recommenders enough time to submit letters on your behalf and request your transcripts from your previous institutions early enough so that they will reach us. Faculty begin reviewing applications very soon after the deadline, so it is critical that your application be complete to be fairly considered.

I’d like to visit. How should I arrange it?

If you’re interested in arranging a visit, contact the Graduate Program Director. We’re happy to meet with you while you’re here, arrange for departmental tours and answer any questions you may have. We encourage you to work independently to set up meetings with faculty and students, but are happy to assist in making those arrangements. Each spring, once admissions and funding decisions are made, the department makes special arrangements for admitted applicants to visit in late March or early April. Ask our Graduate Program Director about these visit opportunities.

Do you require the GRE?

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.

Do you require a minimum GPA?

The minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission required by the Graduate School is 3.00 (4.00 scale), however, applicants with less than a 3.25 GPA should have particularly impressive letters of recommendation; other types of excellence may also help students who lack a high GPA.

I do not have enough money for the application fee. Can it be waived for me?

The Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee grants. More information about these grants can be found here.

Do I need to have a degree in geography to be considered for admission?

No. We regularly admit students who have an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than geography.

When are decisions made about admissions?

Admissions and funding decisions are typically made by late February / early March. You are welcome, at any time, to check on the status of your application by contacting our Graduate Program Director by email ( or phone (608-262-3861).

What should go into my statement of purpose?

There is no required or standard content for this statement. However, in your statement, you should describe the specific area of interests. If you can, describe the specific research questions you would like to pursue during your graduate studies here. The more specific you are in this statement, the easier it is for us to assess your application. Description of how a long history of family interest in geography impacts you to pursue research in geography IS NOT useful at all. Ask a peer or professor to review your statement for you. Also see the Graduate School’s guidelines on purpose statements.

Can I send my statement of purpose with my online application?

Yes, please upload your statement of purpose as part of your online application.

Can I send articles, papers, resumes, etc. to supplement my application?

Yes, you can upload additional materials as part of your application or by sending them either by email or by mail to our Graduate Program Director. We advise, however, that you be selective with your choices.

Can you email me when different parts of my application arrive?

No, but you can track the arrival of your application materials online by using the email link you received after you submitted your online application or by logging onto your online application and scrolling to the bottom of the page to find your personal web link.

Whom should I use as references?

Professors and current or recent employers make the best referees. It is important that you use at least one person who can testify to your present situation, especially if you have been out of school for some time. You should choose people who can best attest to your capacity for graduate-level work, and, if possible, your facility within the discipline of geography. References will receive a request by email from the Grad School to submit a Letter of Recommendation online.

Can I apply to the Ph.D. program without a master's degree?

We require our Ph.D. students to first obtain a master’s degree, although the master’s need not be in Geography.

How does funding work?

We consider all applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages. This funding, however, is not plentiful and it is competitive. Decisions about funding are typically made by late February / early March. These funding guarantees (typically 2 years for MS students and 3 years for PhD students) are most commonly in the form of teaching assistantships and are guaranteed at a level such that students are eligible for health insurance and tuition remission.

If I'm offered funding, when do I have to decide?

We adhere to the Council of Graduate Schools’ Resolution regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees and Assistants that dictates we cannot ask for a reply to a financial aid offer before April 15.

Where can I find tuition and fee information?

Tuition and fee information is handled by the Registrar’s Office and can be found online:

What are the dollar amounts for fellowships, RA, TA, and PA positions?

See the Graduate School web site for this year’s stipends:

Is there an application for TA or PA funding?

We consider all applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages. This funding, however, is not plentiful and it is competitive. Decisions about funding are typically made by late February / early March.

Where can I find out about other funding courses?

The Graduate School maintains a website with information about other funding.

Can I send my International Financial Aid Statement separately?

International applicant financial information is provided by the Graduate School.

Are all international students required to take the TOEFL exam?

The Graduate School sets the policy concerning English proficiency.

As an international student, what are my chances of full financial support from the department?

We consider all applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages. This funding, however, is not plentiful and it is competitive. Decisions about funding are typically made by late February / early March.

I am currently a UW-Madison graduate student in a different department. How do I add or change to a Geography major?

You will need to complete a “Change of Program” form available online here. In addition, you will need to submit a Statement of Purpose, transcripts and three letters of recommendation. We recommend that you contact the Geography Graduate Program Director to discuss your situation as it is possible that some materials might be obtained from your current department.