Imagine this: you’ve just finished putting the final touches on your Common App essay. Those 650 words put you through the ringer, but you emerged victorious. You’re so relieved that all of your supplemental essays will be shorter than this monster… but wait. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is asking for another mega personal statement of 650 words! Before you hyperventilate, look again. Admissions has done you a huge favor by outlining exactly what they want from you in your essay. Your biggest challenge will be fitting everything into one cohesive structure, and luckily, we’re here to help.
The Requirements: 1 essay of 650 words (or less)
Supplemental Essay Type(s):Why, Additional Info
University of Wisconsin-Madison 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanation
Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, share with us the academic, extracurricular, or research opportunities you would take advantage of as a student. If applicable, provide details of any circumstance that could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular involvement.
The maximum word count is 650, but U-W recommends planning for 300-500 words.
This sneaky prompt is a twofer. The first part covers classic why essay territory: admissions wants to know just what appeals to you about the University of Wisconsin-Madison. So, take a moment to look inside: what exactly do you want out of your college experience? Research opportunities? Weekend football games? To dip your toe into city life? Now, if you were to imagine a Venn diagram of your expectations and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s offerings, what would land in the overlap? The only way to know for sure is to do your research! As you dig through the school website, you’ll naturally uncover “academic, extracurricular, or research opportunities” to describe how you’ll turn your vision into a reality in Madison.
The goal is to show admissions that you’ve done your homework. Pick out classes, majors, professors, research projects, internships, sports leagues, clubs, events, and residences that appeal to you. Make sure Admissions Officers know that you’ve already thought about what you want to do when you get there and that you’re ready to act on those hopes and dreams and so forth. Bonus points if you can honestly say that the pizza in their dining hall is not abysmal.
But there’s more! The final sentence of the prompt gives you the opportunity to include information that many schools tend to relegate to a separate “additional info” essay. If there’s a blip on your transcript or school record that you need to explain – a slip in grades due to a misunderstood learning disability or a long absence as the result of an injury – take the opportunity to explain what happened. The challenge here is to find the appropriate transition between your past scholastic struggles and future goals; there’s a reason these two essay types are usually separated. That said, there’s also potential for you to turn this essay into a powerful personal story of resilience and hope. We’d recommend starting out by describing any personal issues that affected you in high school, how you dealt with them, and how your journey to Madison will provide a natural continuation for your personal growth!
In the long essay prompt, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking for a modified version of the “why us” supplement. Even if Wisconsin isn’t your top choice, for the purposes of this essay, you should put yourself in the shoes of a student that’s wanted to attend Wisconsin for the past few years. If you have family ties to the university, or live in Wisconsin and have grown up rooting for the Badgers in sporting events, don’t hesitate to mention it! The admissions committee wants to see commitment and genuine interest in the school—they should instantly feel your passion for Wisconsin as they read through your essay.
While the prompt appears to pose two questions: “Why Us?,” and “What opportunities would you take advantage of as a student?” you should be blending the two questions together throughout your supplement. Show your passion by mentioning specific courses, clubs, or programs that you are interested in. The university website will be your greatest resource for this — there’s a wealth of information available!
Explain how your experiences throughout high school qualify you for admission to the University of Wisconsin. Articulate how those experiences demonstrate, in the words of the admissions website, “leadership, concern for others and the community, and achievement in the arts, athletics, and other areas.”
Try to provide an example of each of those three areas (or, better yet, find an activity that combines multiple). Serving as the captain of a school athletic team demonstrates both leadership and athletic achievement while selling handmade crafts at charity auctions demonstrates concern for community and artistic achievement. Don’t try to make the entire essay just about these three facets of your personality, but do make sure that you adequately explain how your activities exemplify each character trait.
Also, don’t be afraid to talk about experiences unrelated to your major: If you’re applying to the School of Education, you can absolutely bring up an organization in the School of Business that focuses on entrepreneurship, like the WAVE or WEB program, or a research opportunity, like the Grainger Institute in the School of Engineering — the more well-rounded your interests are at Wisconsin, the more likely you are to be accepted.
The last, and optional, component of the prompt asks you to explain any “circumstance that could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular involvement.” Be very careful with what you write here, and remember that it’s completely optional. If you choose not to include it, there’s really no harm done (and, if anything, it eliminates the possibility of writing something that could decrease your chances of admission). If there was a situation throughout high school that was thrust upon you (think family/personal medical emergency or moving schools), you can absolutely write about that, as it will help to establish sympathy with the reader.
If you’ve had any experiences that could reflect negatively on you, including them in the essay may not be wise. Writing about depression, drug/alcohol use, or criminal activity could raise red flags and prevent you from being accepted. If you feel strongly about including one of these topics (or something similar), definitely reach out to a guidance counselor, teacher, or trusted adult to ensure that you’re crafting your message in the best possible way.
We hope our analysis of the two supplemental essay prompts has helped you to fine-tune your plans for your Wisconsin-Madison application!
Best of luck with your application, and GO BADGERS!
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