What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

UW-Madison Essay Example from an Accepted Student

With over 30,000 undergraduates, the flagship university of the Wisconsin public system is known for its top-tier academics, high-achieving sports teams, party life. The University of Wisconsin Madison is considered one of the best 50 schools in the nation, thus making gaining admission a difficult task. You’ll need more than good grades to get into this school—your essays will have to shine as well. 


In this post, we will share a real essay an accepted UW Madison student submitted. We will also go over what this essay did well, and where there is room for improvement.


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Read our UW Madison essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.


Essay Example – Why UW Madison, and Why This Major? 


Prompt: Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (600 words)


As a student from Wisconsin, I have grown up with a high degree of exposure to discussions surrounding the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a result of the assortment of compliments I frequently heard describing its academics, I have always held the university in high regard.


Additionally, I have heard of the stellar location and value that comes along with the university being in the state capital. Through the combination of the two previous factors, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has become the center of my search for my ideal college experience.
While exploring further, however, I have found that there is more about the university that causes my desire to attend. From the array of libraries and study spaces, a large student body in which I can find like-minded people, to the excellent campus I saw during a visit, there are countless aspects about the university that I find alluring. However, one element of the university stands out from the rest— the Wisconsin Idea.


I would describe myself as curious due to my constant attempts to learn new information; the more knowledge about current or former events I can achieve, the better. When a person has consistent access to accurate, unbiased information, I believe they can grow as a person, academically or socially. As new information is gathered and shared, new ideas can develop.

These novel ideas can lead to innovation and problem-solving. Unbiased and unpersuasive reports allow for thinking for oneself, forcing originality. I am interested in entering the field of journalism because of its capacity to prompt these thoughts. Beyond any encouragement of self- reliance, journalism can be an agent of change. Through reporting on issues afflicting society, widespread awareness is created. A society’s recognition of its problems enables attempts to fix them through methods such as civic engagement. Through these characteristics of journalism, better people and communities develop, showing its connection to the Wisconsin Idea. A bettering of society is something meaningful to me, and I believe journalism is the pathway to do so. The University of Wisconsin-Madison will allow me to explore all my interests involving journalism.


Growing up, I appreciated the coverage of sportswriters, from national writers such as ESPN’s Jeff Passan to local writers such as University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus Curt Hogg with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The work of these sportswriters is also valuable to society, helping provide moments of respite from the stresses of life. Through the sports communication certificate program, I will be able to discover if this branch of journalism is the niche meant for me.


Additionally, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has the resources that will allow me to succeed in journalism. Being in the journalism program with a focus on reporting and multimedia journalism, I will be able to strengthen my ability to inform the public in conjunction with the Wisconsin Idea. Education on how to vet sources and how to properly engage with audiences will allow for the merging of reporting with the mentioned principles and values. Through the university, I am confident that I will be able to leave a positive mark on the world.


I know that the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be able to cultivate my interests and help me grow as a person. Through the totality of its resources and classes, I will be well-prepared for my career as a journalist and ready to contribute positively to society.


What the Essay Did Well


Since this essay combines the “Why School?” and “Why Major?” supplements, it’s important to answer both questions while still ensuring the essay feels like one cohesive unit. This student has done exactly that, by highlighting the Wisconsin Idea and using that thread to tie his ideas together throughout the essay. That anchor also allows for a smooth transition between the student’s interest in the school and their interest in the major.


In addition to doing an excellent job crafting a unified essay, the student gives a lot of background on their decision to major in journalism, which shows that they are a thoughtful, dedicated student who is prepared to get the most out of a Wisconsin education. They start off by telling us why they see journalism as important in the big picture: “Through these characteristics of journalism, better people and communities develop, showing its connection to the Wisconsin Idea.” 


But in the next paragraph, they zoom in from the abstract ideals of journalism, to their personal interest in sports journalism specifically. By mentioning particular sportswriters they find inspiring, plus the “focus on reporting and multimedia journalism” they aspire towards, we get a more detailed picture of how they will contribute to the world of journalism, which is further evidence that this is a motivated student who is prepared to hit the ground running in college.


Although this essay is more detailed when answering the “Why Major?” question than the “Why School?” one, that isn’t a huge issue because they bring in school-specific programs while discussing their major. That, in effect, answers the “Why School?” question, because this student would not be able to get the same education in journalism at a different school. As highlighted at the beginning of this section, this essay’s biggest strength is that seamless blend of school opportunities and the student’s interest in journalism as a major.


What Could Be Improved


There are two weaknesses to this essay: the response to the “Why School?” half of the prompt, and the lack of personal details.


As noted above, the student does a good job of addressing “Why School?” in the part of their essay that focuses on “Why Major?” but the essay would be even stronger if they took some time to answer “Why School?” directly.


The first two paragraphs are in theory doing that, but they are wildly vague and provide few substantive examples of why UW Madison is a good fit for this student. As a rule of thumb, the school’s reputation and location, generic resources like libraries, and general campus aesthetic are not valid answers for why you want to attend, because lots of other schools have strong reputations, good locations, beautiful libraries, etc.


Instead, when answering this prompt you want to hone in on opportunities that can only be found at that school and explain how they connect to your current interests or will help you accomplish your goals. That shows admissions officers that you want to attend their school specifically, rather than that you’d be happy at any college in a state capital.


A better response would have looked something like this: “I look forward to sitting in on panel discussions hosted by UW’s Center for Journalism Ethics and working under Professor Culver to broaden my perspectives when I report on difficult topics like racial injustice, a topic which has particularly contentious in Wisconsin since the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.


This version shows that the student already has a clear, concrete vision of how they would fit into UW Madison’s campus community, which in turn gives admissions officers a more detailed sense of what this student would bring to their school. 


This version also shows how the student being from Wisconsin makes them a stronger applicant than someone from another state, as they have a personal understanding of the same issues that have affected UW Madison. The original essay, in contrast, only showed that being from Wisconsin has helped the student know the school better, not how them being from Wisconsin would benefit UW Madison.


The other issue with this essay is that the reader learns very little about the student’s background and personality. Broad statements like “A bettering of society is something meaningful to me,” and “Growing up, I appreciated the coverage of sportswriters,” don’t have enough detail for the reader to understand this student, as these two statements could be true of thousands of other applicants. Remember, the whole point of the essay is to distinguish yourself from students whose more objective metrics, like grades and extracurriculars, are similar to yours.


A stronger essay would accomplish that by providing insight into the emotional connection this student has to journalism. Rather than vaguely stating that sports journalism “help[s] provide moments of respite from the stresses of life,” it would describe how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s riveting coverage of the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship season gave the student something joyful to think about even as their grandfather’s dementia was worsening. 


Without that personal connection, even if admissions officers know what the student is interested in and even some of their beliefs about the world, they won’t know who the student truly is at their core. That deeper layer of understanding is what would take this essay from good to great.


Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay


Do you want feedback on your University of Wisconsin essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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