Admissions Requirements

The FMS Program offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, and many of our students complete an M.S. before embarking on their Ph.D. As part of the admissions process, we strongly encourage prospective students to contact prospective faculty advisors to ensure that your interests are compatible with work currently being undertaken by the faculty, and that the faculty member has opportunities in their group for new students.

The current chair of FMS is Trina McMahon. Please contact Kelin Boldiis for questions about applying to the program.

On average, the FMS Program receives over 50 applications each year, and less than 5 applicants matriculate. Successful applicants typically have an excellent undergraduate GPA, outstanding letters of recommendation, and undergraduate or graduate research experience. More information and an overview of the FMS Program is available on the Graduate School website.

The target date for fall admission is January 1. Applications are reviewed in January and selected applicants are invited to campus for an interview weekend in February. Final admission decisions are made by the end of March, and in accordance with the Council of Graduate Schools Resolution, applicants have until April 15 to respond to an offer of admission.

Applicant Support for the Application Process (ASAP)

ASAP Initiative

Applicant Support for the Application Process (ASAP) provides support to individuals from underrepresented groups and to international students during their application to the Freshwater and Marine Science graduate program. This initiative connects applicants with a volunteer graduate student who will serve as a mentor to help navigate the application process. ASAP participation is optional and does not influence the decision process for admission to the program. If interested, please complete the google form.

Application Checklist

1. Graduate School Requirements. Before applying, please consult the UW-Madison Graduate School website to verify that you have met the minimum requirements for admission.

2. Online Application. Applications must be submitted electronically. To access the UW-Madison Graduate School online application: Click Here

3. Reasons for Graduate Study. A personal statement (one to two pages) that includes areas of research interest and names of prospective faculty advisors must be uploaded in the online application.

4. Transcripts. Transcripts must be uploaded in the online application from each institution that you have attended (undergraduate and graduate), even if no degree was received. Unofficial transcripts are accepted for the application process, but upon acceptance to the FMS Program, official transcripts will be required. Please note that international academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Do not send hard copies of your transcripts to the UW-Madison Graduate Admissions Office — we will not receive them by January 1 and your application will be incomplete.

5. Three Letters of Recommendation. Letters should be from persons familiar with your academic and research abilities. Instructions for letters of recommendation are on the UW-Madison Graduate School website. Please track your application status through MyUW to see if letters of recommendation have been submitted on your behalf. You may send reminders to your recommenders to ensure the letters are submitted by January 1.

6. GREs: The GRE general and subject matter tests are NOT required by the FMS program.

7. English Proficiency Requirement. International degree-seeking applications are required to prove English proficiency. See the Graduate School requirements webpage for more information.

8. Resume or CV. A resume or CV is required and must be uploaded in the online application.

9. Application Fee. UW-Madison charges a non-refundable $75 application fee that must be paid by credit card (Visa or MasterCard) in the online application system. The online system doesn’t allow debit/ATM cards. In addition to the $75 application fee, non-U.S. citizens will be charged a $6 international document processing fee. Both fees will be processed during the submission of your application.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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What is the fall admission deadline?

January 1

Can I use my unofficial transcript for the application process?

Unofficial transcripts are accepted for the application process, but upon acceptance to the Freshwater and Marine Science graduate Program, official transcripts will be required.

I'm an international student, do I need an English proficiency test for admission?

International degree-seeking applications are required to prove English proficiency. See the Graduate School requirements webpage for more information.

What type of English proficiency exams do you all accept?

The graduate school accepts TOEFL, IELTS, IELTS Indicator, and Duolingo English test. Check out the site for each test’s minimum requirement scores.

Graduate School requirements webpage

I think I might be exempt from the English proficiency exam. How will I know?

On the graduate school site they include various reasons why you might have English proficiency already. You can even use their drop down tool. You can look up your institution’s country from the drop-down list for specific information about English Proficiency. It will let you know if you need the English proficiency test.

Graduate School requirements webpage

Does the Freshwater and Marine Science graduate program require the GRE?

No, our program does not require you to take the GRE.

Does the Program do lab rotations?

No, we are a direct admit program. We highly recommend you contact the lab or labs you are interested in working with and see if they are looking for graduate students for the term you are interested in applying for.

Do I need to look for funding to join the program?

No, the program guarantees funding. Usually it’s a combination of Research Assistantships and Teaching Assistantships. But every funding plan varies depending on the research lab. However, it doesn’t hurt if you do already have funding.

How much does a Freshwater and Marine Science graduate student make?

Within the past few years the Freshwater and Marine Science grad program’s graduate assistantship salaries keep increasing. Below is a link to the graduate school with our assistantship rates as well as other graduate program rates.

Program Rates:

I'm interested in a faculty member not listed on the Freshwater and Marine Science website. Can I be advised by that person while being in the Freshwater and Marine Science graduate program.

If the faculty member isn’t listed as a member of the graduate program, that person cannot take you in our graduate program. You’ll want to find a program that the faculty member is affiliated with.

FMS Faculty:

Do I need to secure/look for a faculty member before applying?

It is strongly recommended you contact faculty members that you are interested in working with and see if they are looking for students for the semester you are applying for.

FMS Faculty:


For questions or if you have trouble uploading any of the required documents, contact:

Kelin Boldiis
Graduate Program Coordinator
B154 Birge Hall
430 Lincoln Dr.
Madison, WI 53706