Resources for Prospective Students

The Department of Political Science offers graduate study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science. The Ph.D. is earned through a combination of coursework and dissertation. The program is designed to provide students with both a general training in political science and the opportunity to specialize in their areas of interest. Our Department is one of the most highly rated Political Science departments in the United States. A University of Wisconsin-Madison Ph.D. is a qualification that has high standing.

The subfields of political science found in our department are American politicscomparative politicspolitical theory and philosophyinternational relations, and political methodology. The department has a national and international reputation for the high quality of its faculty and the diversity of their approaches and interests. It has long been recognized for an acceptance of varied approaches to the study of politics and for its collegiality. The Political Science Department shares faculty with the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Law School, and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. The presence of programs and centers such as the African Studies Program, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA)Integrated Liberal Studies, the International Studies major (B.A. and B.S.), Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies, and others is also beneficial to our graduate students, providing opportunities for the advancement of interdisciplinary approaches in student research.

Please note: the department admits students only for the Ph.D. program, but a master’s degree may be obtained en route to the Ph.D.

The application deadline for the Fall 2023-Spring 2024 academic year is December 15, 2022. The application will be available in early September 2022. Late applicants will not be considered for admission. Applicants are required to submit all application materials through the Graduate School’s online application. You can review the Graduate School’s website Application Process at a Glance for an overview of the application process.

Admissions Requirements

The Graduate School sets the minimum admission requirements for all applicants. All elements of the application are reviewed holistically, but it may be useful to know that students admitted to our program in 2022 had the following average scores:

  • GPA of 3.84
  • TOEFL exam (if required) iBT score of 110. Applicants required to submit a TOEFL score will be admitted only if they have a TOEFL score of 100 or more.

Application Materials Checklist

  • Statement of Purpose for Graduate Study (no more than 2 pages in length). Click here for more guidelines for the statement of purpose.
  • Curriculum vitae (c.v.) or resume
  • Three letters of recommendation, submitted electronically. The references identified in your online application will be sent a recommendation request by email. This email will include your name and a link to the electronic recommendation form. Contact your references in advance so that they can expect your request for recommendation. The request can be sent at any time providing you meet the December 15th deadline. You are able to change references or send a reminder through your application.
  • Writing sample with an abstract (a research paper or thesis chapter that demonstrates your research, writing, and analytical skills. The document should also include a research abstract of no more than 600 words that indicates the central question, arguments, data sources, methods, and conclusions of the research paper or thesis chapter being submitted)
  • Copies of transcripts or academic records from each institution attended. *For international applicants: your school should provide an official translation of your documents, or you must have a translation done by your school or an official translator. Do not submit an evaluation from a credential evaluation service, such as WES, in lieu of a translation.
  • TOEFL scores (if required; applicants required to submit a TOEFL score will be admitted only if they have a TOEFL score of 100 or more)

GRE scores are not required.

All materials must be submitted electronically through the Graduate School application. If you have questions about the application process, please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator, Erin Pankow (

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for the Fall 2023-Spring 2024 academic year is December 15, 2022.

When is the application available?

The application for the Fall 2023-Spring 2024 academic year will be available in early September 2022.

Are GRE scores required?

GRE scores are not required.

Can the application fee be waived?

The Graduate School offers application fee grants to U.S. citizens, permanent resident applicants and students with DACA status who can document that they:

  1. participated in selected pipeline programs designed to prepare students for graduate studies (for example, McNair Scholars and SROP participants at Big-1o institutions), or
  2. grew up in a low-income family.

For more information and to apply for the Graduate School’s application fee grant, click here. Our Department also provides application fee grants for participants in APSA’s Ralph Bunche Summer Institute and Minority Student Recruitment Program. If you have participated in either of these programs, please contact Erin Pankow to request an application fee grant (

Is a resume or C.V. required?

Yes. Our supplemental application requires a resume or a curriculum vitae (C.V.).

How do I submit letters of recommendation?

All letters of recommendation are submitted electronically through the admission application.

Can I request recommendations before I submit my application?

You may send the request to your recommenders at any time during the application process. The recommendation section of the application remains accessible after you submit your application.

My recommender has not responded. Can I send them another request?

Yes. To send another request to your recommender, you should go back into the recommendation section of your application and click the “Send Reminder” button. An email should be sent within 24 hours. You should contact your recommender to let them know to watch for the new message to arrive.

How long should the statement of purpose be?

The statement of purpose should be no longer than two pages, single-spaced.

What should go into my statement of purpose?

There is no required content for this statement. Questions to consider as a part of your statement could include: Why do you want to study political science? Why at Wisconsin? Do you see your research interests as well-defined or fairly open at this point? What research problem(s) would you hope to pursue while here? Click here for more guidelines for the statement of purpose.

Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation?

Yes, you can submit more than three letters of recommendation.

Am I required to take the TOEFL exam?

Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. TOEFL scores must be submitted electronically via ETS. Your score will not be accepted if it is more than two years old from the start of your admission term. Country of citizenship does not exempt applicants from this requirement. Language of instruction at the college or university level and how recent the language instruction was taken are the determining factors in meeting this requirement.

Applicants are exempt if:

  • English is the exclusive language of instruction at the undergraduate institution; or
  • you have earned a degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment; or
  • you have completed at least two full-time semesters of graded course work, exclusive of ESL courses, in a U.S. college or university, or at an institution outside the U.S. where English is the exclusive language of instruction. Completion of graded course work cannot be more than five years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment.

Can I submit IELTS or MELAB results instead TOEFL?

No, our program only accepts TOEFL scores.

How do I apply for funding?

We consider all applicants for funding, and you do not need to submit any additional materials to be considered for funding. We guarantee five years of funding for every admitted student. This support may come as a combination fellowships, teaching assistantships (TA), project assistantships (PA), or lectureship for one of our undergraduate courses. Our funding package includes a stipend, tuition, and excellent healthcare coverage.

What should I know about the writing sample requirement?

The writing sample should be a research paper or thesis chapter that demonstrates your research, writing, and analytical skills. The document should also include a research abstract of no more than 600 words that indicates the central question, arguments, data sources, methods, and conclusions of the research paper or thesis chapter being submitted.

How do I check the status of my application?

The submission of your application is a 2-step process. First, you get your submission confirmation. Within a few days you will receive an email with directions to activate your NetID through MyUW. It is very important that you set up your MyUW account to check your application status. If you have further questions, please contact

Can I transfer credits that I’ve taken in another graduate program?

The Graduate School’s minimum credit requirement can be satisfied only with courses taken as a graduate student at UW-Madison. Courses from a master’s degree from another institution may, at the discretion of the associate chair, be used to satisfy the department’s minor requirement.

I already have a Master’s degree. Do I have to complete another one?

Yes. You will earn an additional master’s degree as you pursue your Ph.D.

Is there a separate program for those who want to just earn a master’s degree?

No, we only admit to the doctoral program.

Do you admit for spring or summer terms?

No, we only admit for fall terms.

Do I need an undergraduate degree in political science to be considered for admissions?

No. While a bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution or a comparable degree from an international institution is one of the requirements to apply to our graduate program, we regularly admit students who have completed an undergraduate degree in other disciplines.

How long does it take to earn a Ph.D.?

For detailed program data, click here.

For more FAQs, click here.

The Political Science Department and Law School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison invite students to enroll in a Dual-Degree Program (“the Program”) whereby students can earn both a PhD and a JD with a course of study and writing requiring approximately seven years to complete.

The Program involves meeting the individual requirements for each of the two degrees, but also allows work taken in Political Science to count toward the JD program and the JD program to fulfill some requirements of the PhD program.

I. Admission

Students in the Program must be admitted independently by the Political Science Department and the Law School, each of which will use their normal admissions criteria and procedures. Students need not be admitted to the Law School and Political Science Department simultaneously, although concurrent admission will be the normal procedure. Students interested in joining the Program are strongly encouraged to discuss their individual plans and goals with a member of the Advisory Committee before applying and to maintain contact during the application process.

II. Course of Study

This course of study is flexible, permitting a student, in consultation with their faculty advisors, to develop a personalized program meeting the student’s individual educational needs. Under this course, a student is encouraged or expected to undertake specified actions but may decline to do so if the student’s advisors approve of the decision. Program rules are stated in the absolute. Students may seek waiver of these rules as well as the general rules of the Law School or Political Science Department by following the normal procedures for those entities. All law students may petition the faculty Petitions Committee from relief from law school rules. When students plan their 75 law credits, they must keep in mind that the course requirements for students seeking only the J.D. degree are different from the course requirements for those seeking the J.D. degree with “diploma privilege” (admission to the State Bar of Wisconsin without taking the state bar examination).

A. General Rules

All students in the Program must participate in activities of the Institute of Legal Studies at the Law School, including scheduled lectures, seminars, and fellows’ workshops throughout their residency in Madison.

During the first three years, students must complete one full academic year of study in the Law School and two full academic years of study in the Political Science Department. The normal sequence is described below.

1. First Year in Political Science Department (Year 1)

A student’s first-year program must be approved by their advisors. During the first year in the Political Science Department, a student is expected to take courses only in the Political Science Department, including Political Science 800. During the second semester of the first year in the Political Science Department, a student may take law-related course outside the Law School (including courses cross-listed with the Law School).

2. First Year in Law School (Year 2)

The first year of the Law School’s curriculum has little flexibility. During the second semester, students may choose from a designated set of electives, and students in the dual-degree program should, if possible, choose an elective that maximizes the students’ educational progress in both programs. For example, a dual degree student might take a Political Science course during the second semester in place of one of the designated set of electives. Students who opt to substitute a Political Science course for a second-semester elective may need to take the missed elective in their third year to conform with the Law School’s requirement that the first year curriculum be completed within two years from matriculation in law school.

3. Second Year in Political Science Department (Year 3)

Year 3 will focus on the course work necessary to complete preparation for the preliminary examinations in Political Science. Students in the Program will normally complete these examinations during the winter break of the fourth year.

In January of Year 4, students must complete the standard Political Science Department preliminary examinations in a first and second field (drawn from among American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, and methodology). Students must meet the requirements of any of these fields they choose, including methods requirements. Dual degree students will normally have American politics as one of their fields, and include within that area one subfield that is law-related (most often, law and judicial process, but also possibly subfields such as policy or national institutions). Students who have another field as their primary field should have one subfield within that field be law-related. This deadline may be extended according to standard Political Science Department policies for students who undertake extensive foreign language or political methodology study (when methods is not one of the student’s fields).

4. Year 4 and thereafter

After the successful completion of the preliminary examinations, the student will complete additional coursework in political science in preparation for the dissertation research, and complete the law school curriculum for the JD. The student’s advisors will work with the student and the Law School administration to ensure as much of the Political Science course work as possible counts toward the Law degree; final determination of what does count will be decided by the Law School. The coursework in the Law School will fulfill the Graduate School’s PhD minor requirement.

A graduate student may receive up to 15, but not more than 15, advanced standing credits for courses in the Political Science Department and other University of Wisconsin departments to apply toward the JD degree under Law School Rule 3.16 or its successor. These credits will not be credited toward the JD until the student has successfully completed the preliminary examinations. As provided by this Rule, a student may receive advanced standing credits for courses taken before or after the student completed the master’s degree. Courses offered for advanced standing must be relevant to interdisciplinary legal studies but need not specifically have a law or Political Science content. Reading, research, or dissertation credits are eligible for advanced standing credits.

Note: Rule 3.16 permits a student in a dual program in law and other graduate fields to receive up to 15 advanced standing credits under certain conditions. These conditions include that the courses be of substantial relevance to the legal aspects of the student’s dual program and taken under a plan approved by the student’s law school faculty advisor. The credits will not be accepted by the Law School until the students has been formally admitted to the PhD program. See also section C.3 of this program statement.

A student may participate in all activities available to law students following the normal rules. These activities include, but are not limited to, participation in a law journal, moot court, clinical programs, study abroad, and directed reading, or research. However, because students in the Program already have 15 credits of electives waived under paragraph (5), if they wish to take advantage of the “diploma privilege,” their ability to pursue the electives just mentioned will be limited.

Political Science requires that students complete a research paper by the end of the second year and give an oral presentation of a research paper during the first semester of year 3; students in the dual degree program will normally complete these requirements at the end of the third year and during the first semester of year 4, respectively.

5. “Normal Progress” Requirements in Political Science

Only students making “normal progress” are considered for financial aid or are nominated for fellowships and awards. Students not making normal progress may be dropped from the program. In general, to make normal progress through the dual degree program you need to:

i) meet with your advisor to discuss your First-Year Assessment and submit the First-Year Assessment form

ii) take an appropriate course load and achieve satisfactory average grades (B or better). If you are not a TA or PA you should be taking a minimum of three courses (9 credits) a semester; most students in this situation take four courses. If you are a TA or PA you may take a minimum of two courses (six credits); most students in this situation take three courses. You should take as many as courses as possible at the graduate level (courses numbered 700 and above).

iii) take and pass the two general prelims before the end of the eighth semester. Students requiring extensive language or methodological training may be granted an extension, as determined by the associate chair. Three or more courses in foreign language or statistics (not including the required research design course or the required additional three methods credits) constitute extensive training and qualify a student for this extension of normal progress. If a student takes the Methods prelim, methods courses are considered part of general prelim preparation and do not qualify him/her for an extra semester.

iv) submit and defend an acceptable dissertation proposal by the beginning of the ninth semester. Before the proposal may be defended, the student must have satisfied the Graduate School’s requirement for the minor, cleared all incompletes, fulfilled the Department’s methods requirements, and fulfilled any field-specific requirements.

v) complete the dissertation in a reasonable time after prelims and the proposal.

B. Financial Support

Students admitted to the program will be guaranteed five years of financial support from the Political Science department; however, Political Science Department funding may not be used during the first year of law school study. Outstanding students admitted to the dual degree program will be eligible for possible scholarship funding for one year from the Law School, as part of the Law School’s normal merit-based financial aid program, to assist during year 2 of the overall program. While neither Law nor Political Science is able to guarantee funding beyond year 6, the high demand for teaching assistantships and empirical research skills related to law make it highly likely that funding will be possible for these years.

C. Students Entering the Law School and Political Science Department at Different Times

1. A student entering the Law School and Political Science Department at different times must comply with and may take advantage of the general rules described above except as otherwise provided in this section.

2. The Advisory Committee may approve waivers of the rules regarding the first two years of the program.

3. Law School Rule 3.16(7)(a)(2) authorizes advance standing credits for graduate work done prior to students becoming dual degree candidates. Under Rule 3.16(7)(a), a student may receive advanced standing credit when they have successfully completed the first year of Law School, has been formally admitted to the Ph.D. portion of a graduate program, has a Law School faculty advisor, and if the course work was of substantial relevance to the legal aspects of the student’s dual program and has been approved as such by the student’s law school faculty advisor. As noted in A.4 above, a maximum of 15 advanced standing credits will be granted for graduate work taken at the University of Wisconsin. The student may not receive advanced standing credits for course work taken at institutions other than the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Credits are granted upon approval of a petition to the Law School’s Petition Committee with the written support of the Dean or the Dean’s designee and the student’s law school faculty advisor.

Note: While students in dual JD-Masters programs may not use masters credits for advanced standing if the masters has been completed before entering law school, that rule does not apply to JD-PhD students.

III. Administrative Provisions

A. Each student must have a faculty advisor in the Law School and the Political Science Department. A single member of the faculty who has a dual tenure or tenure-track appointment in the Law School and Political Science Department may serve both functions. If the student has separate advisors, the advisors shall coordinate their advice.

B. Although a student may take courses exclusively in the Law School or the Political Science Department in any given semester, the student shall be considered a “continuing student” in both programs. Hence, it is not necessary for the student to take a leave of absence or make a request for re-entry, as long as they are enrolled in courses in one of the two departments.

C. The Law School and the Political Science Department will work together to develop a method of identifying dual-degree candidates, coordinating information about admission to the programs, etc. When it is determined that a student is admitted to both programs and that matriculation in one will be deferred, the Admissions Committee of the deferred program will be notified. However, the affected student is strongly encouraged to check with a member of the Advisory Committee to confirm that all necessary procedures have been completed.

D. The Advisory Committee shall take responsibility for seeing that the student’s program is well integrated and pedagogically sound.

E. A student shall be graded under the respective grading systems and criteria for permitting students to continue in the degree programs that the Law School and Political Science Department normally use.

F. Tuition and fees for most semesters will be billed according to a combined fee schedule set by the UW Registrar’s Office.

IV. Advisory Committee

The Program shall have a Law and Political Science Dual Degree Advisory Committee composed of two faculty members and one student in the Program (when there are advanced students in the Program). The Dean of the Law School and the Chair of the Political Science Department shall each appoint at least one member of the Advisory Committee, and the faculty members will jointly select one student to serve on the Committee. In addition, the Law School’s faculty coordinator of dual-degree programs shall be an ex officio member of the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee shall develop policies governing the Program. If experience with the Program reveals any problems requiring rule changes, the Committee shall make appropriate proposals. These proposals require the approval of the Law School and the Associate Chair of Political Science; major changes require the approval of the Political Science Graduate Program Committee and the department faculty.

Students can contact the Graduate Program Coordinator for a list of the current members of the Advisory Committee.

Department of Political Science Ph.D. students are encouraged to participate in our weekly workshops and colloquia. The workshops and colloquia offered in the Department are the American Politics WorkshopComparative Politics ColloquiumInternational Relations ColloquiumPolitical Economy ColloquiumMEAD – Models, Experiments, and Data Workshop, and the Political Theory Workshop.Workshops are one of the most important intellectual spaces in the department, providing an opportunity to become exposed to cutting-edge research and a chance to meet with scholars from other universities. In addition to featuring faculty papers and outside speakers, the workshops are an integral part of graduate training, serving as a place for students to present papers as well as dissertation prospectuses, grant proposals, dissertation chapters, and practice job talks.The following are a few examples of recent presentations by outside speakers at our workshops:

  • Chris Karpowitz (BYU), “Race in the Jury: Does Racial Representation Matter?”
  • Mary McGrath (Northwestern), “Voter bias and the partisan gender-gap in office”
  • Manny Teodoro (UW-Madison – LaFollette), “Centripetal Force: bureaucratic ideology and the mainstays of American democracy”
  • Robert Braun (UC Berkeley), “Bloodlines: National Border Crossings and Antisemitism in Weimar Germany”
  • Ken Opalo (Georgetown), “The Cyclical Electoral Effects of Programmatic Policies: Evidence from Tanzania”
  • Ellen Lust (University of Gothenburg), “Gender Composition and Procedural Legitimacy: Insights from a Multi-Country Survey Experiment”
  • Lizhi Liu (Georgetown University), “A China Shock or a Multinational Shock? A Reappraisal of the China Shock in Trade”
  • Carly Wayne (Washington University St. Louis), “Risk or Retribution: How Citizens Respond to Terrorism”
  • Molly Melin (Loyola University-Chicago), “The Building and Breaking of Peace: Understanding Corporate Effects on Conflict Prevention and Resolution”
  • Arthur Spirling (NYU), “Embedding Regression: Models for Context-Specific Description and Inference”
  • Eddy Malesky (Duke), “Facilitating Development: Evidence from a National-Level Experiment on Improving Bureaucratic Performance in Myanmar”
  • Kaiping Chen (UW-Madison – Life Sciences Communication), “Believing and Sharing Misinformation and Accurate Information about Outgroups: An Experiment to Study the Role of Intergroup Message Framing and Source Cues in the Context of Sino-US Vaccine Development”
  • Soledad Artiz Prillaman (Stanford University), “Strength in Numbers: Breaking the Patriarchal Household through Collective Action”
  • Alan Kahan (Université de Versailles/St. Quentin), “Liberalism – An Incomplete History”
  • Denise Walsh (University of Virginia), “When Culture Versus Women’s Rights is Imperialist“
  • Torrey Shanks (University of Toronto Scarborough), “Giving Voice to the Objects and Relations of Property”

Intellectual Life Across Campus & Our Campus Partners:

We guarantee five years of funding for every admitted student. This support may come as a combination fellowships, teaching assistantships (TA), project assistantships (PA), or lectureship for one of our undergraduate courses. Our funding package includes a stipend, tuition, and excellent healthcare coverage.

Teaching assistant (TA) duties vary from course to course, but they generally involve attending lectures, leading discussion sections, meeting with students outside of class, and grading class assignments and examinations. Project assistant (PA) positions give you a chance to work closely with a faculty member on his or her research. Your duties would depend on the nature of the specific research project, but we try to match incoming students with faculty working in their areas of interest.

All appointments include two valuable benefits. First, you qualify for complete remission of the cost of tuition. Second, you receive a fringe benefit package that includes single or family health care coverage at little cost.

Students are also eligible for a number of internal awards in the department and at the university. These include awards through the Department’s Summer Initiative, which supports research and training during the summer; the Graduate School, which supports research and conference travel; a number of area and thematic research centers on campus; the Election Research Center, which supports research on elections; and a variety of other sources.

Department of Political Science Ph.D. students are encouraged to participate in our weekly workshops and colloquia. The workshops and colloquia offered in the department are the American Politics Workshop, Comparative Politics Colloquium, International Relations Colloquium, Political Economy Colloquium, MEAD – Models and Data Workshop, and the Political Theory Workshop.

Workshops are one of the most important intellectual spaces in the department, providing an opportunity to become exposed to cutting-edge research and a chance to meet with scholars from other universities. In addition to featuring faculty papers and outside speakers, the workshops are an integral part of graduate training, serving as a place for students to present papers, as well as dissertation prospectuses, grant proposals, dissertation chapters, and practice job talks.

The department also hosts the Political Science Graduate Workshop (PSGW), which focuses on personal and professional development for graduate students in the department. The PSGW’s mission is to “foster communication and information-sharing among the grad students and faculty members of the political science department and to promote professional development opportunities for the grad students.” The topics covered in PSGW range from topics in graduate life (health and balance, financial life) to discipline professional development (publishing, communications). This workshop convenes several times per semester each academic year.

The department also actively supports our students throughout their job search. The Director of Graduate Studies and the major advisors review all job market materials such as CVs, writing samples, and diversity and teaching statements.  In addition, the department arranges special informational sessions, “mock” interviews, and practice job talks to prepare students for the kinds of questions they will face from potential employers. This support complements other departmental activities designed to professionalize graduate students, including brown bag discussions about attending professional conferences, publishing opportunities, and seeking grant funding.

As part of our commitment to your success as a scholar, the department provides a number of complementary mentoring structures to support you in your first year and beyond.

Faculty advisors

All first year students are matched with a faculty member who serves as their first year advisor. This is your first point of contact for questions regarding courses, requirements, and anything else that comes up during your first year. Although your first year advisor is likely to be someone whose interests align with yours, you may switch your advisor at any time.

Peer mentorship program

During your first year you will also be matched with a more advanced graduate student who will serve as your peer mentor. For information about the qualities of a good mentor see here.

Semi-annual meeting requirement

What you need from an advisor will change at different stages of the program. To ensure that you are getting the advising you need, mentors and mentees are required to meet at least once each semester (virtually or in person). For a list of recommended topics to be discussed, please see the Advisor-Advisee Meeting Guidelines.

Graduate Program Coordinator

The graduate program coordinator is your source for all administrative questions. If your question begins “How do I…?”, start with the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Director of Graduate Studies

The Director of Graduate Studies oversees the graduate program from admissions to placement.

Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for the department of political science at UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals.

The political science department fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background — people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world. We commit ourselves to maintain a welcoming and inclusive environment in our learning spaces and workspaces.

As part of that commitment, we encourage members of historically under-represented groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and first-generation college students to apply. Fellowships are available to assist historically under-represented applicants, as well as those from any background that might have made educational achievement more difficult. The Graduate School offers admissions fee grants for low-income students and those who participate in selected pipeline programs designed to prepare students for graduate studies (e.g., McNair Scholars and SROP participants). As part of its commitment to the diversity of the graduate program, the Political Science department also provides admission fee grants for participants in APSA’s Ralph Bunche Summer Institute and Minority Student Recruitment Program.

Our department is an active member of APSA’s Minority Student Recruitment Program. To enhance the diversity and inclusiveness of its graduate program (and of the discipline as a whole), the department hosts an annual Diversity Recruitment Conference for undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds with the interest and ability to pursue graduate study in political science. Unfortunately, last year’s conference was cancelled due to the pandemic. We hope to resume our outreach and recruitment efforts as soon as we can.

We strive to create a climate where every student can feel supported and thrive regardless of their background. There are a number of initiatives on campus that help foster this environment at UW, including the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding and First Generation Student Success network. These programs are part of the way we show that we value diversity together with colleagues across the University.

Built on an isthmus between lakes Monona and Mendota, Madison is renowned for its beautiful scenery. Urban culture, natural beauty, small-town charm – the greater Madison area offers it all. There’s also plenty to explore beyond the boundaries of the city, whether you get to know a favorite spot in one of Madison’s neighboring communities, or find a new hiking destination elsewhere in the state.

The Capital

Madison is not only home to the University of Wisconsin, it is also the state capital. There are many active organizations involved in local government in and around the City of Madison. It’s easy to get involved, whether you’re interested in attending proceedings of the state legislature, county board, or city council – all of which are open to the public – or want to be active in your local neighborhood association.


The Overture Center is the crown jewel of the Madison arts community and easily accessible on State Street. A wide variety of events, ranging from concerts to Broadway shows, are presented by local arts groups and traveling performers. The Wisconsin Union Theater on campus is a multipurpose performing arts facility offering a varied, quality program of dance, music, theater, film, and cultural events. The city also boasts the Madison Museum of Modern Art and the Chazen Museum of Art, both of which are free to students.

Outdoor activities

In Madison, people appreciate the weather and take advantage of it. In general, Madisonians are very active, participating in winter sports like skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing. Once the weather gets warmer, outdoor activities abound. From sailing on the lakes (or sitting lakeside at the Memorial Union Terrace), to biking through the Arboretum, to participating in the numerous local festivals each year, people are out enjoying the spring and summer. The Wisconsin Hoofers club is one of the oldest and largest outdoor recreational organizations in the country. Founded in 1931 as an outing club, Hoofers has grown from a single club to having over 3,000 members in its six separate clubs: Mountaineering, Outing, Riding, Sailing, Scuba, and Ski & Snowboard.

There are always fun things to do and events to attend on and around campus. A few great ideas:

  • See the university’s collection of artwork at the Chazen Museum of Art.
  • Tour our beautiful State Capitol.
  • Discover the Arboretum, one of the campus’s most celebrated features. Take in the scenery on the rooftop of Monona Terrace.
  • Visit beautiful Allen Centennial Gardens.
  • Walk the Lakeshore Path to Picnic Point.
  • Visit a state park.Wisconsin is a beautiful state and maintains a state park system with modern facilities for camping and hiking. There are four great parks within easy driving distance of Madison: Lake Kegonsa State Park, Devil’s Lake State Park, Governor Nelson State Park, and Blue Mounds State Park.
  • Catch a (free) movie on campus.The university is also home to a number of groups that bring films to campus. Most active and diverse is the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Film Committee which presents four to five different series each week, from recent releases to international cinema.
  • Catch a Madison Mallards game
  • Attend the Taste of Madison, where local restaurants showcase tastes of their fare in this Labor Day weekend event on Capitol Square.

Adapted from Graduate Student Life: A guide to the graduate experience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You can check out more fun things to do in Madison here, and check out great examples of events around town here

Madison, Wisconsin Rankings & Accolades

 #3 Best State Capitals to Live In February 2020

#3 Top 100 Best Places to Live February 2019

One of the Best Small Cities in America
National Geographic, January 2018

#1 Nicest Cities in America, June 2018

Biking and Walkability

#1 Surprisingly Bike-Friendly Cities, August 2018

#2 Most Walkable Cities, May 2018


#1 Best Places in the U.S. for Raising Children, January 2020

Food & Drink

#2 Best Cities for Farmers’ Markets
Better Homes & Gardens, June 2019

#1/#2 Best Cheese Curds in Wisconsin, June 2019

Each spring we welcome admitted students to Madison for our Prospective Student Visit Days. During these two days we will have a number of sessions to introduce students to our program in greater detail and opportunities to interact with our faculty and current graduate students. We also schedule one-on-one meetings between admitted students and faculty in their areas of interest. The visit is a terrific opportunity to talk with faculty, meet future classmates, and learn more about our program and Madison. You can learn more about our Visit Days here.