1. What are my chances of getting into the Botany Department at UW-Madison?

Statistically, the question is easy to handle: We receive about 100 applications each year and accept about 5 to 9 new students. The problem with numbers, however, is that they do not deal with individual people, which we try very hard to do. In approximate order of importance (i.e., most important first), the factors that seem to influence admissions decisions the most are (1) the academic record and capabilities of the student, as assessed by courses taken, where taken, grades received, GRE scores, and comments by referees; (2) the ability of the student to articulate a specific area of research interest; (3) the availability of space in the section of the department appropriate to that interest; and (4) evidence of experience at or proclivity toward research. This department is committed to providing opportunities for qualified underrepresented students and will give every consideration to such applicants. We consider it very important for applicants to communicate with faculty members with whom they are interested in working. This is essential for determining whether this department and faculty will be a good match for you.

2. What sort of grades or GRE scores do you require?

We do not have rigid requirements or specific cut-offs, but in general we look for a GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and GRE scores above the 70th percentile. We weigh the quantitative, verbal and analytical GRE scores more heavily than the biology subject test. Teaching assistants need an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, as required by university regulation. Admission to the Botany graduate program and provision for financial support (in the form of fellowships, research, project or teaching assistantships) are very competitive. The GRE subject test in Biology or in Cell and Molecular Biology is not required but, if available, will be considered in the admissions process and in awarding assistantships. The Botany Department will use available subject test scores as a criterion when making nominations for university fellowships and in awarding teaching assistantships. GRE Codes are: Institution 1846, Department 0205.

3. What sorts of prior coursework do you require?

Recommended prior college-level coursework includes:

  • Mathematics: up to and including one semester of calculus
  • Statistics: at least one semester
  • Biology: strong background in the biological sciences, typically including coursework in cell biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, and systematics
  • Chemistry: general chemistry and organic chemistry
  • Physics: at least one course that included electricity and light
  • Foreign Language: two years at High School or two semesters at college

Incoming graduate students who have not taken the recommended prior coursework may be directed to make up deficiencies that are deemed sufficiently important to the student’s graduate program by the department’s Academic Advisory Committee and/or the student’s major professor and graduate committee.

4. What factors make it necessary to restrict your admissions to only 5-9 students per year?

Two main factors: Money and Space! Money, because we focus on admitting students whom we can support as teaching assistants, research assistants, project assistants, fellows, or trainees. If you do not need financial support, clearly indicate that on your application because it is a factor about which we need to be aware. Space, because graduate students require office and research space of which only finite amounts are available. Because space is essentially the "Property" of the various sections within the department, it becomes important to know where your interests lie.

5. Am I expected to specify an area of interest within Botany at the time I apply for admission?

Yes, if at all possible. Admissions decisions are to some extent linked to the available space within sections of the department. We also depend in part upon faculty members with areas of specified interests to evaluate prospective students. You will indicate areas within Botany that best approximate your research interests from the following list in the Supplemental Application: anatomy/morphology; cellular & molecular biology; developmental biology; ecology; ethnobotany; evolution; phycology/mycology; plant physiology; restoration ecology; structural plant biology; and systematics. You will also have an opportunity to elaborate on your specific interests. If you are genuinely unable to identify an area of interest, be honest about it, but it remains true that such applications are not as easy for us to evaluate.

6. Do you require incoming bachelor degree students to complete a master's degree before obtaining a PhD?

No. Certain professors may require an incoming student to obtain a master's degree before going on to the PhD, but the department does not. Please do not check the MS box if your goal is a PhD in the department.

7. What about financial support?

Most of our graduate students receive financial support as teaching, research or project assistantships. Students may wish to indicate in their statement of purpose any preferences or interests concerning financial support (e.g., are you seeking a rotational research assistantship?). The Botany Department may also nominate applicants for Advanced Opportunity Fellowships. Nominations and appointments depend upon the student’s qualifications and positions that are available.


To receive information from the UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Services about loans, check the “loans/work study” box in the “application information” section of the online application.

8. When should I have my application in?

To be considered for departmental assistance, all on-line applications are due by December 1st however, applications may be reviewed until April 15th. Make sure that all supporting documentation, including GRE's, reference letters and transcripts, are submitted by December 1st.

9. When can I expect to hear from you concerning my application?

Shortly after you submit your online application to the Graduate School, you will receive an email containing a unique URL and campus ID number to track the progress of your application, receipt of your application fee and test scores, and demographic information. Then you will probably hear nothing for a while. The Botany Department’s Graduate Program Committee will review all complete applications. Typically, fellowship decisions are made in February, assistantship offers are made in March, and all other admissions decisions are completed by mid-April. In any case, we try to inform you of the deposition of your application as soon as possible.

10. Is there anything I can do to aid my cause?

Yes, several things in fact. Make sure your application is in early and that all supporting materials are sent promptly. In your personal statement, be as specific as you can in identifying your particular interests within botany. Reference to specific sections of the department or to specific staff members is especially helpful. Avoid long, rambling or florid prose that might sound lovely but says little; we are not running a writing competition. We just want to know as matter-of-factly as possible who you are, what your degree goals are, what you are interested in, and why, specifically, you want to pursue that interest in Madison. Make it clear that you understand the research orientation of an advanced degree and indicate any research experience you have had or any evidence that suggests such an inclination. Finally, direct contact with professors is probably the single most useful way of advancing your cause and will give you quick feedback as to admission possibilities in your areas of interest.

11. Is it worthwhile to actually visit Madison?

A personal visit is not necessary and does not influence admission decisions directly, but it is an excellent way to facilitate department assessment of your candidacy and at the same time it allows you an opportunity to look firsthand at the place where you are considering committing four or more years of your life. We will try to arrange for you to meet faculty and staff members from the appropriate section(s) of the department and to see that your questions are answered. Please contact us if you are interested in arranging a visit.

12. What sorts of jobs are your Ph.D.'s getting, and how does it look for the future?

Wisconsin Ph.D.'s have fared well in obtaining professional positions. However, tenure-track positions are becoming increasingly scarce and are likely to be even scarcer in the future due to decreasing undergraduate enrollments. On the other hand, industrial positions in the plant sciences, particularly in the areas of molecular biology and genetic engineering, are increasing in number. Prospective graduate students should be aware of these trends since they may affect prospects for employment, even for Wisconsin graduates.

13. What should I do if I still have questions about my application and/or admission to the UW Botany graduate program?

Get in touch with Carmela Diosana, Graduate Program Coordinator by E-Mail at ccdiosana@wisc.edu, phone (608) 262-0476 Monday - Friday from 9 AM - 4 PM CST or letter (Dept. of Botany, University of Wisconsin, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1381). All inquiries will be answered as promptly as possible.

14. What is an official transcript?

What makes it official? If the transcript is in hard copy form, it is sent directly from the institution to the Botany department sealed and either has a stamp or signature from the institution’s registrar. If it is an electronic version, it is sent directly from the institution to the Botany department graduate coordinator at ccdiosana@wisc.edu.