Graduate Programs FAQ

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

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

No. We regularly admit students who have a degree in a discipline other than Geography.

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

No. We require our Ph.D. applicants to first obtain, or be in process of completing, a master’s degree, although the master’s need not be in Geography. Applicants who do not have, or are not in process of completing, a master’s degree, should apply to the Geography-MS or Cartography/GIS-MS (Thesis) program and can indicate their intent to continue to the Ph.D. by checking a box on the application and including this information in their statement of purpose.

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

If you’re interested in arranging a visit, contact the Graduate Program Manager by email ( or phone (608-262-3861). We’re happy to meet with you while you’re here, arrange for departmental tours and answer 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 decisions are made, the department makes arrangements for admitted applicants to visit, typically in March.

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

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 (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS) early enough 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.

When are decisions made about admissions?

Admissions decisions are typically made by mid-February.

What should go into my statement of purpose?

Please see the statement of purpose section in “Completing the Online Application.” Also see the Graduate School’s guidelines on purpose statements.

Whom should I use as references?

You should choose people who can best attest to your capacity for graduate-level work. If you’ve been out of academia for some time, it might be helpful to include a recent employer if they can speak to your academic potential and interests. References will receive a request by email from the Graduate School to submit a Letter of Recommendation online.

Do you require the GRE?

Effective Fall semester 2020, the department does not require or consider the GRE for admission to the Geography-MS, Cartography/GIS-MS (Thesis), or Geography-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).

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

Yes, you can include additional materials as part of your application. Please send them by email to our Graduate Program Manager, who can upload them with your application (pdf format, no larger than 4MB). We advise, however, that you be very selective with your choices. We cannot guarantee that all faculty will read all additional materials.

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. If you are not eligible for the Graduate School fee grants, the department may be able to assist, as we may have a limited number of fee grants (availability varies by year). Please contact the Graduate Program Manager to inquire, if you cannot receive a fee grant from the Graduate School.

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.

How does funding work?

All applicants, domestic and international, are considered for multi-year guaranteed funding packages as part of the application and admissions process. There is no separate application for this.

These funding guarantees are typically 2 years for MS students and 3 years for PhD students (5 years for PhD-bound MS students). They are most commonly in the form of teaching assistantships that are guaranteed at a level such that students receive a stipend and are eligible for benefits (including health insurance) and tuition remission. Currently, Geography Department TA positions are 50% appointments (please see the Graduate School website for information on graduate assistantship appointment levels and current stipends:

In addition to teaching assistantships, the department regularly has research assistantships and program assistantships associated with individual faculty members (e.g., funded through research grants), as well as a limited number of UW-sponsored fellowships that we can award to admitted students. The latter include “University Fellowships” (available for PhD-bound students) and “GRS/AOF Fellowships” (available for underrepresented students).

Decisions about funding are typically made together with admissions decisions, by mid-February.

Please see the UW Graduate School for additional information about funding resources.

Please contact our Graduate Program Manager at or by phone 608-262-3861 if you have additional questions.

Is there a separate application for TA or PA or RA funding?

There is no separate application for TA / PA / RA funding. It is part of the application and admissions process.

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

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 website for this year’s stipends:

Where can I find out about other funding sources?

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

Are all international students required to take the TOEFL exam?

Please see the Graduate School policy concerning English proficiency.

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

We consider all applicants, domestic and international, for multi-year guaranteed funding packages.

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, CV, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. Please contact the Geography Graduate Program Manager at or by phone 608-262-3861 to discuss your situation and coordinate submission of materials.