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University of Wisconsin-Madison

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What are the academics like at your school?

The academics at UW Madison are extremely top-knotch. The administration as well as the student body recognize the standards of excellence and intelligence that they are held to and strive to achieve. While the lecture sizes may appear intimidating, it is equally stimulating, and it is easy to seek help when needed with material. The discussions for classes are much smaller and allow for one on one time with about 15-20 students and a knowledgeable teaching assistant. The teaching assistants are highly qualified, and are usually doctorate students that can make time available for you if you need it. There are also many different resources on campus that can provide further assistance like tutoring programs, study groups, and the Writing Center; it's really up to you to make the most of your resources and seek out what help you need. And don't think that using these resources is discouraged because everyone does it, and in such a competitive atmosphere it is encouraged for you to do whatever fits your personal needs to achieve the most you can. Most professors don't know your names because the lectures are so large in many classes, but if you make the effort to attend their office hours, most really reciprocate the effort by remembering your name and providing as much help as they can give. It also helps establish yourself and make some useful connections. I remember how scared I was to go to my first office hours with a very prestigious english professor I had freshman year, but the payoff was insurmountable. In a 350 student lecture the professor now knew my name, and I felt that I had established myself as a dedicated student, and from then on I was encouraged to come to him for any further questions. My first year, I took mostly general classes, and I was very happy with my decisions to get a taste of different types of classes so I could narrow down what career I would like to pursue in my future. I specifically remember taking general chemistry, and while my high school course prepared me well for it, I realized that at the college level, chemistry is definitely not something I want to pursue. My first year was a huge change from high school, because classes demand so much more, but it really helped me realize what my strengths are and where my true interests lie. I recently declared myself an english major, and I couldn't be happier with the decision because I discovered that my strengths lie in reading and writing, and I truly enjoy the challenge of english classes. At such a competitive and large university, it is essential to stand out from the crowd, and while it is completely up to you to establish yourself, there are so many resources at UW Madison that can help you discover your strengths and how to shine.

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very hard school.. but do-able if you work hard. you can get a lot out of it.. i think my freshman year doubled my knowledge of the world. i had a 4.0 in high school (as did a ton of the people who go here) and getting an A in a class here was almost out of the picture. it's hard.. and i study a lot. to answer the "suggested topics"...: 1) professors will know you by name if you go to their office hours. in my classes of 20 or 30 they obviously did... and in discussion sections the TAs knew our names.. but as for the 300 person lectures--they couldn't pick you out of a crowd. I kind of liked this aspect of it.. but i know a lot of kids who did go to professor's office hours to be on a first name basis with them.. it all depends on what you want to get from it. 2) favorite class was BY FAR women's studies 103. grrrrrrrreat class and i'm not even a feminazi. plus.. it counts as a science credit! PLUS I'D RECOMMEND IT TO BOYS TOO. this is your chance to understand women.. ...plus if you can answer the question "T or F.. women have been oppressed throughout history" correctly... you've got an A. 3) lord. wisconsin students DO have intellectual conversations outside of class. it's kind of sickening how many really smart people there are here. but then.. at the same time they are balanced with the conversations of "DUUUUDE.. did you see the COORS girls promotion outside the grocery store?! lets go get some beer and pizza" 4) studnets are very very competative. almost every school within UW-Madison (school of business... school of journalism... school of education.. etc) is really hard to get into.. so the best of the best are competing once we're in still! 5) most unique classes i've taken? human sexuality, anthropology of religion, career strategies and development, eat for credit (food sciences/tasting), geography of the city.. or geography "power of place"... scandinavian studies- life and civilization 6) i'd say it's split down the middle on whether education at wisconsin is geared toward meeting requirements and getting a job.. or just learning for its own sake. for example.. you might have to write a paper that's 30% of your grade... but you'll get to pick a topic that interests you and actually find the project somewhat beneficial. also a lot of people go to the academic speakers that aren't required for them. and stuff.

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Once again, in a university this large, it is difficult to group all academic areas together. As an underclassman focused on getting general requirements out of the way, you often find yourself in massive lectures, accompanied by weekly small discussion groups, for subjects that you often don't care about and will never have to use in the future. Common example: a future lawyer sits in a 200 student biology lecture, searching Facebook for an hour. Another common example: that future lawyers skips most of the lectures rather than sitting there and searching Facebook for an hour. There is no way to choose whether students are learning for education's sake or for a career, a lot of us are here for both, some for neither, and everything in between. Beyond the gen-eds, I mostly only know about my own major, the English department. Our English department is a mixed bag. As you move through the ranks, you quickly advance from large 75ish person lectures to small 15-or-so person direct interactive discussions with the professors. These more advanced classes are far more enjoyable for the student inclined towards open and intellectual conversation. However, some of the professors are a joy to interact with while an equal amount are conceited, egotistical, blowhards -- it's up to you to check out Ratemyprofessor.com thoroughly while choosing classes. The requirements are very fair, the only extraneous one being a slight over abundance in medieval and pre-1800 literature. You can only read Beowulf so many times before you realize it's a just an old comic book without pictures. That being said, once you're into the advanced classes, it isn't such a struggle to wake up for Dissent in 20th Century American Literature or Vietnam: Music, Madness, and Mayhem. The Vietnam class I referenced actually comes out of the Integrated Liberal Studies department -- an institution unique to UW Madison. Essentially, ILS combines the best aspects of science, philosophy, history, English, humanities, and pop culture to create classes that attack their subjects from every interesting perspective. I'm earning a certificate in this program and it has been my most enjoyable academic experience thus far.

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The academics here are rigorous but you leave each class truly learning a great deal. My favorite class so far has been History 120, or Modern European History from 1815 On. It gave an in depth look at the events that shaped Europe and has given me great insight into the continent both in the past and also has influenced how I understand it today (European politics and events have become fascinating to me now). While I am an English major and love studying that field, I enjoy taking a diverse range of electives such as this history class and find them just as worth-while as the classes I'm taking for my major. Students here study ALL the time. It's not uncommon to find people in the library at 3 or 4 in the morning. Students' dedication here is admirable, and with it comes a sense of competitiveness. Everyone studying here is striving for their best, and it shows. People here excited to learn, and I often have my friends sending me links about things they're learning or telling me about projects/experiments/studies they're conducting. Not only is it great that they're excited about learning, but it keeps me motivated too. In large classes, the professor won't know your name unless you introduce yourself. But that is not to say that they do not care about each student--they do, but its impossible to get to know 300 new students every semester. Class participation is common, although there is the occasional silence when the class is asked a question. One thing I especially like that a good deal of my professors and TA's have been doing recently is connecting what we are learning or discussing to the real world. Applying what seems to be just "material" to real life provides a good context and shows that what we're studying really matters! The education at this university is geared in equal parts to getting a job and for learning for the sake of it--people here are realists and know that everyone is going to need a job in life, but they also understand that learning can (and should) be engaging and rewarding. It's a great balance and I believe every university should be this way. It makes for the best experience.

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If UW-Madison has its faults, academics are not one of them. I can't imagine many improvements that could be made to the system. It does require some effort on the student's part to seek out opportunities such as research jobs and internships, but there are many readily available. In the intro-level classes, the professor will likely not know your name unless you frequent their office hours. However, there is a great remedy to this problem, teaching assistants! The TAs at Madison are top-notch. My British Lit professor said that 4 people were chosen out of 200 applicants to be the TAs for our class. TAs are always on your side and often do everything they can to help you succeed, including offering advice for the future. Students at Madison have a reputations for "work hard, play hard", so studying is often intensive. Class curves make competition necessary, but I have found many study groups that ensure my success in college. In addition, the university hires tutors in various subjects for free. Well, free is a relative term. Let's face it, you're still paying tuition. Being a Zoology and English major, I've had a variety of classes from Physics to Ecology to Native American Literature. My favorite class so far has probably been Intro to Psychology. The professor, a practicing psychologist, was extremely personable and approachable. The class, though not in my primary field of interest, taught me a lot about the human psyche and even took a look at what happens every year on State Street during Halloween! Both of my major departments have been great. My advisors have helped me choose great classes, and I will be graduating a year early due the classes being very easy to organize. The school also accepting many of my AP and high school/community college credits. I have found both my departments to be more geared towards learning for its own sake than job preparation, but that is predominately what I came to school for. Madison's School of Business and engineering departments are more for the ambitious, go-getter types. Overall, I couldn't ask for two better departments to be involved in.

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None of my professors know my name, not a single one. However, I have close relationships with every single one of my T/As, who run the discussion sections we have complementing our lectures. Freshman year is mostly a year of large, basic intro courses, so while I do have some friends that go out of their way to introduce themselves to each professor, I don’t really see the point. If there is a particular class that you have a passion in, I would say make sure to speak to your professor about it, but other that you making an effort there is little interaction between students and professors. Study habits of students vary a lot. Some people easily spent their nights at the library, still feeling as if they have not put enough time in to their academics that day. Others will never open a book until the night before an exam. It really is what works for the individual. I will say that a lot of students skip lectures. I personally find that simply sitting in lectures reduces your workload and increases your understanding of the subject greatly, but everyone has their own style. I have not really taken any odd classes yet, but I have heard of a lot of crazy classes in the foreign language department – which is one of the best in the country. From the basics of French and Spanish, to Swahili and the Star Trek language of Klingon, you can literally take any language you can think of. I am not actually a Journalism major yet. You apply into the competitive journalism school once you have taken 40 credits at the university, which tends to be around the end of first semester your sophomore year. It kind of sucks that if I do not get into the school I have to major in something else, but there are various related majors such as communication arts that will work well for me, and applicants understand that the difficult process to enter the school is only to keep to the prestigious name high.

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At Madison, there can be competition within majors, but that is not always the case. Its different from high school in the sense that everyone is not vying for the Valedictorian position, but rather they are trying to succeed to better themselves. As an English major, I did find my first semester as a college student fairly comforting in the sense that it was not nearly as overwhelming as I was led to believe. However, that first English class had around 500 students in it, and the professor read from a script for 50 minutes, twice a week. I was expecting the rest of my English classes to be this way, as well--but the truth is, that was an exception. Every other professor I've had (not limited to English ones) are vibrant and ready to explore the class content with you. In my current English class, if I don't meet with my Teaching Assistant at least once a week, I must not be doing enough work! The TAs and professors are still learning, just as you begin to learn. The academics and its leaders at Madison are definitely striving to get their students careers in the field of their choice. There are hundreds of academic clubs ranging from the Actuarial Science Club to the Health Occupations Students of America. Even for majors that have no formal academic club, the skills and education you will find at Madison will translate into any career, especially considering the many required "breadth of knowledge" courses for all majors. Though it might seem stressful to receive lower grades than you did in high school, college life is all about finding out who you are and what you want to do with your life, so trying really hard but doing a little less stellar in some classes has come to be expected. This is your chance to make mistakes and then learn to follow the path that appeals to you the most.

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At the University of Wisconsin, every student has the chance to get a first-class education. There is an incredible range of schools and departments, all of which aspire to achieve national prominence. The faculty is among the best in the world and the resources are phenomenal. The Helen C. White and Memorial Libraries are two major hot spots on campus which are frequented on a consistent basis throughout course of the year. Students use these libraries to rent books for research assignments, read between classes, discuss ideas with classmates, and to access online resources. The student attendance at the libraries is telling of the academic culture at the university, as students have passionate investment in their coursework. My classes have mostly been in the humanities, as I am a History and English major. During my first and second year at the school, the courses I took in these departments were mostly surveys. English surveys tend to cover about a century of literature in a given country or region, and aim to explicate the thematic progression of these works over time. In History, each survey would also cover about a century and focus on how the social and political context of different countries affected and related to one another. These classes were crucial in providing me with a fundamental basis of knowledge in each major. Additionally, they helped to direct my interests towards more specific course topics in later years. As I entered my junior year, the classes in each major became smaller and had more distinct topics. These classes provided a more intimate basis for interacting with my professors and provided a class atmosphere of freer discussion. Overall, at the University of Wisconsin, academically the sky is the limit.

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Academics at the University of Wisconsin definitely vary. There are programs that are stronger than others. From what I see, the sciences, education, business, and school of agriculture are the true strong fields that this school serves, but any degree from UW Madison will look great on a resume to be honest. Students DO study here. It's a big boy school and the degrees don't come without a little bit of elbow grease. Libraries are ALWAYS brimming with students studying and working. Just a tip: College Library is cool, but it is also overrated. Memorial library is a great place to study, and most large buildings (chemistry, education, business) have libraries of their own. The Grainger (business) library is fantastic. Although there is (somewhat of) an academic vibe at UW, students tend to be laid-back and encouraging rather than cutthroat and competitive. My FAVORITE thing about the University of Wisconsin is that students do have intellectual and meaningful discussions outside of the classroom. Hearing conversations about agricultural techniques and quantum mechanics on the way to class is great. Above all, when I talk to a current student of alumnus of this institution, they always sound, and are, educated. Even our athletes, an academic gray-area for a lot of big schools, sound educated. Current Badger star running-back Montee Ball is always well spoken and polite during interviews; however, I can't say the same of all of this year's Heinemann candidates.

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Academics at Madison are diverse and, for the most part, challenging. You are among peers who were, for the most part, all in the top 5% of their graduating high school classes. Because of that level of competition and intelligence, classes are demanding and exceed what you've been used to at high school. However, it's not all bad- the overwhelming majority of professors are happy to help you however possible, and there are tons of resources available to help you improve any subject in which you might be struggling. There are lots of opportunities to explore areas outside your major- as a Neurobiology student, I also had the time to learn Italian, dabble in Shakespeare, take multiple dance classes, and become an expert on how to make 3D protein models on top of my required courses. One of my Global Health classes even included a week-long trip to Mexico! Your fellow students are competitive but, for the most part, are happy to work together and improve each others' knowledge. The ease of finding study buddies ranges with class size; some lectures include over 300 people and friends are made by proximity, while other smaller classes facilitate great discussions and you become friends with your 20 other classmates. There is also a major for everyone here. While Madison is touted for its accomplishments in science, engineering, and politics, many other departments on campus contain some of the world's experts on their respective subject matter.

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