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Overview of the UW-Madison

Three characteristics strike almost all observers who attempt to label the University of Wisconsin-Madison: rigorous academic quality, plenty of socializing and community life, and a tradition of community involvement known as “The Wisconsin Idea.”

The Wisconsin Idea, that “the boundaries of the University are the boundaries of the state” promotes statewide campus involvement, from outreach and individual consulting by professors, to providing practical advice to farmers through the Cooperative Extension Service and a network of county agents, or spreading the University’s research findings to businesses through the University-Industry Research Program.

A public college of over 41,000 students and 2,060 faculty, UW-Madison was founded in 1848. Since 1910 it has ranked among the top 10 academic universities in the United States in every study of scholarly reputation. Currently it is eighth academically among all public U.S. universities.

The strength of the University’s research program is reflected by a National Science Foundation survey that listed Wisconsin’s $554 million in research and development spending (fiscal year 2000) as second highest in the nation and first among universities supported by public funds. UW-Madison also attracts one of the largest concentrations of Fulbright scholars of any U.S. university. Seventeen UW-Madison scholars have won Nobel Prizes.

Students at UW-Madison have opportunities for a broad, basic education. Over 4,300 courses with 13,690 sections are offered in 177 departments. Majors are offered in 137 baccalaureate, 157 master’s, and 113 doctoral degree programs. Over 3,300 foreign students representing 102 nations attend UW-Madison.

The University’s recreational and intramural sports program is extensive, offering opportunities to participate in both team and individual sports. Collegiate teams include nationally ranked football, basketball, hockey and soccer–both men’s and women’s–squads, with reduced admission rates for student spectators, or free student admission for non-income sports.

The UW-Madison Armory, Natatorium and SERF facilities offer swimming pools, diving wells, handball, racquetball and squash courts, basketball, volleyball and badminton courts, weight-lifting and exercise machines for all students’ recreational use.

On campus, the UW-Madison general library system has over 40 libraries and is the 14th largest university library collection in the United States. The State Historical Society library and the Madison and Dane County public library systems have additional resources. University collections include monographs, documents, U.S. patents, most major national and international journals and magazines, and more, all accessible online. The Steenbock Library which houses the agricultural sciences collection, is only half a block away from the Soils buildings.

The Community

Madison has often been selected as one of the nation’s ideal cities. As the area population nears 250,000 Madison is large enough to offer excellent shopping and cultural opportunities, but you can still be in the country within a few minutes to enjoy the scenic beauty of farmland, biking, hiking and nature trails, and county and state parks.

The campus is centrally located in Madison on 933 acres spread over two miles of Lake Mendota shoreline. The campus is at the entrance to Madison’s famous State Street–the heart of downtown. And just one mile from the State Capitol. The Memorial Library Mall, the Memorial Union Terrace, the beautiful grounds surrounding the capitol, the Monona Terrace, the Henry Vilas Zoo, and many public parks, beaches, and golf courses offer gathering places for popular university and community events, picnicking, fun and relaxation. The farmer’s market, outdoor concerts, and annual art and food fairs are long-standing Madison traditions.

Madison is a major cultural center, with activities to satisfy virtually any taste, language or culture. Permanent and special art displays can be viewed at the UW-Madison Art Department, the Wisconsin Union Art Galleries, the Elvehjem Museum of Art, and many local public and private galleries. Natural-history collections are on display at UW-Madison’s Geology Museum, Herbarium, and Zoology Museum. The Wisconsin Union Theater presents annual series of virtuoso performances, travelogs, concerts and ballets. The Music School is home to the internationally renowned Pro Arte Quartet and offers recitals and concerts by faculty and students, in addition to modern and classical operas in the old Music Hall. The community also houses the Madison Repertory Theater, the Madison Opera, and the Kanopy modern dance troupe. Madison offers a variety of presentations in its Civic Center’s Oscar Mayer and Isthmus Playhouse Theaters on State Street, 1/2 block from the Capitol.

Outdoor activity lovers thrive in Wisconsin. Nearby Devil’s Lake is a popular choice for swimming, picnicking, and hiking. Canoeists can enjoy a day’s outing nearby on the Baraboo or Wisconsin Rivers or at home on the Madison lakes. Whitewater canoeing enthusiasts will want to try one of many other wild scenic Wisconsin rivers. Sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing are also popular on Lake Mendota and other Wisconsin lakes. The fall brings ample opportunities for duck, wild turkey and goose hunting, as well as bow and rifle seasons for deer hunting. Winter sports are plentiful with cross-country skiing in the UW-Madison Arboretum and some local golf courses, as well as opportunities for skating and hockey at several local outdoor facilities and ice rinks.

The culture, museums, restaurants, and professional sports of the greater Milwaukee area and Chicago are also only a few hours away by car or bus. The convenient Dane County Airport on Madison’s northeast side is served by several major airlines and commuter services to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Bus services commute to O’Hare, Chicago and Milwaukee several times daily with campus stops and downtown terminals.



We appreciate your interest in graduate work in Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  If you have access to the World Wide Web, please refer to the Soil Science home page for our department information.

Competition for the assistantships and fellowships we have open each year is quite keen and a properly prepared application greatly aids our decision process.  Your application will be given full consideration by the Department Admissions Committee and the professors conducting research in your area of interest.  You should prepare a Statement of Interest carefully, including your major area of study, so your application can be brought to the attention of the appropriate professors.  When you apply online, you can download unofficial copies of all transcripts to your application.  However, official transcripts must be sent electronically directly to the UW Graduate School by all universities you have attended.  As a precaution, we do not accept nor open any attachments sent to the Department of Soil Science.  We require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores; your scores must be sent by the testing agency directly to the UW Graduate School.  We will also need letters of recommendation from at least three people capable of judging your ability to succeed in graduate school; the letter writers should attach their letters electronically to your application. Letters of reference or anything else sent by applicant will not be accepted.

You can apply on-line at The application requires a $75.00 fee. Applications will not be processed by the Graduate School nor will we act on your application until this fee has been paid.  All international students requesting admission are required to submit a financial statement with the application.  Applications for summer session should be submitted by April 15, fall semester by June 15, and spring semester by November 15.

The Department of Soil Science has a very limited number of research assistantships available.  If you are not a United States citizen, we recommend that you try to obtain funding for your studies from your government or from other sources.  Funding should be available for 3 years for an MS program, 4 years for a PhD program, or 5 years for a combined MS-PhD.  We require results of the TOEFL or IELTS examination if your native language is not English; the score should be sent to UW-Madison Graduate School by the testing agency. Depending on your score, you may be required to take additional English courses and a reduced load of graduate courses.

Following the above instructions very carefully will insure that your application will be reviewed in a timely fashion.  In addition to the Soil Science home page, you may want to check out the Graduate School admissions page at

Carol Duffy
Dept. of Soil Science Graduate Admissions
1525 Observatory Drive
Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI  53706
Phone: 608-262-0485
Fax:  608-265-2595