The academics are rigorous. You can expect to be challenged academically. Those of us who easily got a 4.0 in high school found that it is not that easy at UW Madison. Professors challenge you to critically think about yourself and the world around you. Expectations are steep and graduating from UW Madison is quite an accomplishment.
Academics as I mentioned are very challenging. I can't speak for everyone, but as a business student its very difficult to get an A. I would say that the hardest courses require 30+ hours per week of studying outside of normal lecture.
The academic life at UW-Madison is perfect for me. If you want to get to know your professors, most are open to creating a first-name basis with you but if you prefer to sit back and take in lectures without personal attention, you can have that too. The TAs are usually great as well, and sometimes I like my TAs much better than my professors.
I enjoy most of my classes probably because there are so many to choose from, you can pick the class and professor you want to enjoy your class. Most classes are time consuming and require A LOT of work but it is so worth it and definitely a part of going to this University. The work load is easy to accustom to and once you have, it seems awkward to not have homework or studying to do. If you manage your time well, you will have plenty of time for fun as well.
There is a distinct difference between discussions or labs and lectures. Most participation is done in discussion where there is minimal participation in lectures. Although some professors make a strong effort to increase participation or at least encourage questions in lecture.
Students are generally not competitive and many grab opportunities to work in groups UNLESS there is a class curve. If the class has a bell curve where a certain percent of students get an A and a certain percent has to fail. This is not very common anymore.
The most unique class I have taken was Human Sexuality (Psych/soc 160). Many people fight to get enrolled in this class and it is VERY VERY interesting!!
Personally, I am a psychology major and am also working towards a business certificate. The psych department is going through a curriculum change but the department offers many awesome opportunities such as research experience as a research assistant.
I currently work in an Infant Learning Lab that studies how infants and toddlers aged 7-28 months learn language. This is one way to interact with a professor outside of class.
Otherwise many students find it very helpful to go to office hours!!
Overall, I can tell I have learned a lot and my education seems to be useful for applying to graduate school for my future. Not really sure if it is preparing me for the career world but I am only a sophomore!
The classes are generally large, so there is not a lot of personal contact with the professors. I have had many inspiring professors, especially later on in my undergraduate years. I am majoring in zoology and have minors in both environmental studies and German. Zoology is really interesting; you get to learn about animals! The environmental studies program is great--I wish I had taken more of these classes when I was a freshman and sophomore. The department changed my perspective of the world and how we use it. I highly recommend students take at least one environmental studies course. Madison has many opportunities for studying abroad and ensuring your credits transfer back correctly. I studied abroad in Germany and had an amazing time! Classes at Madison are challenging and require many hours a week studying, but all the students are in the same situation, so you won't be the only one spending late nights at the library!
I really enjoy going to class and learninnbg at UW Madison. We have some brilliant professors many of whom are world renowned. Ttghere are many academic resources available to us and we have a over a 90 percent retention and graduation rate.
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.
Often at Madison, as a freshman/sophomore you just have a number of large lecture classes, with 300 students and complete anonymity. Some people love this, some hate it, but it's a very different atmosphere from a small class. Students study every weeknight, and also in between classes. There are over 50 libraries on campus, and they're always filled with students studying. I'm a Psychology major, and Madison's undergraduate psychology program is one of the best in the country. As a senior, nearly all of my classes are small in nature, and you get really good face time with professors. People tend to form friendships within their major a lot of the time, because you end up taking classes with the same group of people over the years. Academic requirements are strict and difficult, but as long as you choose a major you're passionate about, the work will be interesting and you'll be motivated to do well.
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.
Since Madison is a large school with hundreds of majors, classes vary greatly depending on what you study and the amount of coursework you choose to do each semester. This being said, I think that classes in general are challenging, but also rewarding. Introductory and survey classes usually consist of lectures, taught by professors, and a discussion or lab led by a TA. I've never had a TA teach a lecture; professors lecture, answer questions, and even administer tests. In discussions and labs, TAs help us understand lecture material, and we often do exercises and activities to expand upon the material we learned that week.
This is true for most of the classes I have taken for my English and psychology majors thus far. In my literature classes, discussion is a time for closer examination of text, advice about writing essays and taking exams, and group discussion of things we touched on in lecture. The same is true for many of my psych discussions, in which we discuss possible social implications of lecture topics, TAs answer questions and give advice about the material, and students work together to thoroughly understand tough concepts. As you get increasingly specialized within your major, classes generally get smaller and more specific--which provides ample opportunity to interact more with professors.
Psychology is the biggest department on campus, with more students choosing to study how the mind works than anything else. One of my favorite classes was Introductory Psychology, the basic class required for all psych and business majors. It was a lecture of about 200, and a discussion of 15 students and 2 TAs. Discussion was helpful because we did hands-on activities to understand things the professor said in lecture, and I remember giving and listening to presentations about specific topics. In this way, you get the professor's lecture, which usually matches the textbook and emphasizes material on the test, and you also get help from your peers and TAs in a more concentrated environment.
Class participation is central to discussions and labs, in which group discussions are the main focus of the 50-minute classes. Professors encourage student questions in lecture as well. For psychology in particular, students discuss topics outside of class all the time. We see things that we study at work in real life, and it's fun to be able to talk about it with a friend in your class and see that your work has paid off.
Overall, classes are challenging yet interesting, and I have found professors and TAs to be very helpful and available. Students are not overly competitive, and we get through tough classes by utilizing the resources available to us and by working together.
Class sizes are generally pretty big at UW-Madison, but certain majors have small class sizes or else you can make these large classrooms feel small. This, however, requires that you be proactive in your education (sitting in the front of the class, talking to professors after lecture or at office hours). When you show initiative the professors love it, but the responsibility is YOURS.
As an English major, I can testify to some of the shortcomings of these large class sizes. It is difficult to get a professor to critically review your writing in a class 300, and often the TAs simply cannot offer the same perspective. There are venues such as the Writing Center where you can bring your work for good critique, but again this requires that YOU make the first step.
Competitiveness is not much of an issue here, mostly the students want to help each other, compare notes, and get good grades together. Quite often, we get together for study groups, which also is a good place to make friend with people who share your academic interests--the community at UW-Madison is one that will keep you afloat when you fall on a particularly hard semester.
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.
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.
Academics are rigorous here. My experience in the English Department has been a difficult but rewarding one. Sometimes classes are small, but even when they are too big for the professor to know everybody, their Teaching Assistants always do. They have been a great help to me in honing my writing style and argument skills. I liked how they would prompt us with questions in discussion and then sit back for a while and let us discuss. Some of the most insightful discussions I have had are the ones where the TA says the least. In lecture, the Professors always incorporated a wide range of knowledge and resources, giving us background and history of authors and their works, as well as presenting different interpretations. Nothing was ever set in stone, but we were encouraged to make our own observations and question the validity of what we were taught based on what we learned in lecture as well as what we saw in the text ourselves. I elaborate here because I feel that it is demonstrative of the learning environment of the whole campus- we are not told what to think, but how to think and judge for ourselves, which is pertinent to both getting a job after school as well as pursuing learning for its own sake. UW Madison encourages learning for its own sake but doesn't leave students to pursue whatever willy-nilly. There are many resources for helping students find a career path and keep on track with it. There are advisers and resource centers and aptitude tests, whatever you need to plan out your academic career.
Depending on your major, some of the classrooms may be very large in size, over 100 people even. Although it seems very impersonal, many classes have an added discussion class that runs during the week after lecture by a teaching assistant who is majority of the time a grad student. They help to go over key points and students are able to ask questions and get that intimate classroom feeling. Being an English major myself, many of my classes are small and intimate and we always sit in a circle so we can have a great open discussion. Teachers are always helpful to facilitate discussions and never pressure you to participate or answer if you do not want to. I have found many teachers to be extremely helpful and open to meeting outside of class, to discuss grades, essays, etc. Students all over campus take pride in their school not only because of the football team but also because of how great of a school it is academically. We are all fortunate enough to get into this school and it seems that students all try to study and work hard. Yes we like to party and celebrate, but we also study and do what we have to do, you can see that throughout state street in the coffee shops, at the union and of course at the library.
The academics at UW Madison are challenging and competitive, but also entertaining and relaxed in many aspects. Large lecture halls for general classes focus less on each student individually and more on teaching the information accurately and concisely. Professors are treated with respect, and will not learn individual students' names unless they show up to office hours routinely. Smaller discussions contrast this atmosphere with a more relaxed, personal feel. Almost all TA's are friendly and run informal discussions. They request to be called by their first names and encourage all comments, no matter how outlandish your ideas may seem. Speaking with TA's out of class is just as rewarding. They are always keen on discussing your thoughts and never refuse to offer their help and guidance. Students at Madison are generally very passionate about their studies. Conversations on campus are often focused around concepts learned in class, politics, or environmental concerns. However, intellectual conversations usually end up as discussions about weekend parties and sporting events. As an English major, I have been content with every class I have taken in the English realm. Professors offer an equal emphasis on the content in literature covered in class and your writing needs individually. Over all, I am very pleased with the challenging academic feel on campus and the classes I have taken.
The coolest thing about Madison is it truly has an academic culture. I'm sure it's not quite like, say, Amherst, but for a public university of its size, it really is impressive. In my favorite classes, it was easy to forget that you were taking a class for a grade, ostensibly to help you get a job in the future, etc. etc.-- in short, I often felt that the classes were fulfilling in themselves. Individual professors are probably the biggest factor in this-- I think simply by virtue of truly caring about what they study, this sort of culture kind of comes about organically. And the students play a huge part in it too. I can't help but laugh, very empathetically, when I see a tentattive freshman who clearly wants to say something but is nervous about how to say it. It's a natural self-consciousness that everyone seems to get over very quickly.
This extends beyond the classrooom as well. I've gone so far as to get drinks with TAs and professors (always after the class had ended, of course), along with fellow classmates. Scholastic pursuits aren't really considered separate, it's just part of life. I suspect it has something to do with the water (of which there is plenty-- seriously though, it is a very picturesque campus, and I think that just does something to your brain). This is definitely one of Madison's strengths.
The academics at UW Madison are of the highest quality. You have to be dedicated to working hard in order to do well at this prestigious university.
Classes are tough.
And that's understating the matter.
It falls on you to get stuff done. You have to take responsibility for getting your homework and your reading done, and for asking the professor or the TA for help. They won't baby you.
There's a lot of reading to do. At least for me, anyways. I'm an English & Classical Humanities major. Science/Math majors will probably read less, but have more homework.
A lot of the classes work like this:
There's the professor, who teaches a large lecture two or three times a week. Then, you have a discussion section with a TA once a week. In lecture, you take notes and listen to what the professor has to tell you. Sometimes they'll take questions, but it depends on the professor. Then, in section you go over readings in more detail and you can ask your TA questions. TA's are also the ones who grade exams and papers, so a lot of your grade is dependent on them.
That's usually how the lower level classes, in the 100s or 200s work. As you get to more advanced classes, the professor will teach smaller classes of 20-40 students, and there won't be a TA.
I think this system works pretty well, but it sucks when you get a TA who is a really harsh grader - your grade is really dependent on them.
Wisconsin is a big school so it is to be expected that at least your introductory courses will be big lectures. In these big classes, the professors will only learn your name if you make an effort to ensure that they do. They want to know the students and love when you come visit them in office hours. The more advanced level classes get smaller and the classes start to not have teaching assistants. In these classes the professors always know your name and they are usually very approachable and often fun to talk to.
Class participation is fairly common but it depends on the type of class. In lectures, participation usually only involves clarifying questions. In small classes participation is often required and included in the structure of the class. Classes are usually either twice a week for 75 minutes or three times a week for 50 minutes. Many classes also have discussion sections that meet for 50 minutes once a week.
My favorite class I ever took was History 345, Europe from 1945-Present. I should say that I am a History major and I am obsessed with the cold war but the professor (Professor Boswell) was an incredible lecturer and the made the time go fast. My least favorite class was Calculus mostly because the math classes move quickly and expect you to apply the examples they teach with little or no further explanation. This is not necessarily true with the lower level maths and even the lower level calc classes but it is true for 221 and 222 (first and second semester calc).
Students are not generally competitive but some of the specialized schools have stronger competitive atmospheres. The business and journalism schools are competitive for admission and probably have the highest reputation for being competitive. While the specialized schools are targeted towards certain careers and openings for specific job opportunities, most of the liberal arts majors are targeted towards focusing in on your interests more than preparing you for a specific job. We do, however, have a career services center that will help students figure out good career options for them based on their interests and skills.
The general "breath" or core graduation requirements are well balanced and require you to take an appropriate number of science and liberal arts classes in order to balance out each student's education. individual major requirements vary based upon the major but generally they are well planned out and easy to complete in a 4 year period.
Wisconsin students are smart and learning occurs both in and outside of the classroom. Many students study in the library (we have about 42 on campus and 3-5 major libraries that students study at) and many others go to one of the various coffee shops located all around campus and the surrounding area. No matter how you like to study, there are many options to fit your style and location around campus.
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.
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.
While many classes tend to large, they are usually broken up into discussion classes once a week. However, the large classes usually general education requirement. I personally enjoyed having the experience of being in a large lecture hall with many students. Of course, it can be a drawback for some. Classes for a student’s major are usually smaller. My current favorite class is English 270: Asian American Literature. It is discussion based and rather diverse. The most unique class I’ve ever taken was Vampire Literature in Translation. I would have never thought there would be a class on vampires! It is very easy to find something that interests you here. The options are incredible.
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.
Because our school is ranked so high nationally for academics, there is quite a bit of competition between students. Pit lectures can get pretty large, having as many as 350 students in them, but there are smaller classes too and most large lectures come with a discussion section. That being said, it is still possible to form relationships with your professors even though there is not much class participation in lecture and most of your one-on-one communication time will be in discussion sections with your TA. Both professors and TAs will hold office hours a few times per week so you can go in and ask questions or just talk about class content. Professors really appreciate it when students go in and talk to them during office hours and it's a great opportunity to talk to some of the most interesting and brilliant people you will ever get the chance to meet. I am an English major in my sophomore year and this year my professors include a man that recently joined the UW-Madison staff after teaching at Princeton, men who have written award-winning articles, and even a woman who has been knighted! Classes are demanding and many times you will find yourself spending hours in the library, but what you get out of your four years at Madison will be well worth it.
Two words: Rigorous and competetive. This not to say that there isn't a huge amount of support for struggling students, but it is not a school where one can simply "breeze by" by any means.
Although partying is popular, schoolwork is everyone's priority. People are dedicated to their education and that's clear by how crowded the libraries can be. Most of the lectures are pretty big, but by going into professors' office hours you can easily make a connection with them. There is a competitive feel here because people care about their classes, but it's manageable, and the pressure from others helps push students to succeed.
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.
Madison has two approaches here. There are many who, like myself, have accepted the GPA hits that go along with truly taking classes you like; while I knew that perhaps Latin wouldn't be my strongest subject, taking it Freshman year (and getting one of my first B's EVER) was a wonderful choice. This articulates well much of what people will say to you about difficult classes here - they are immensely rewarding.
Obviously, there will always be the OChems of the world, waiting for us sinisterly at Junior year, but it's surmountable.
The other approach is the "D equals degree" train of thought, and that is alive and well on campus. There is a natural track that can be taken towards many, many degrees that will never bring you face-to-face with one of these behemoths. Thus, you become slowly aware here that a 4.0 chem major has complete bragging rights on a 4.0 english major.
The academics are absolutely fantastic in almost every department, particularly in all the sciences. If you want to do science of ANY kind, this is the school for you, and the research options are unparalleled. I participated in university research in my first semester, which is unheard of in most schools. Outside of required classes, most lectures are reasonably small, if not very small, and most professors are actively involved with their students and very accessible. The TAs have been at least good in every class I've had, but they are usually great - they definitely go above and beyond to help you learn. However, it's not a very "academic" campus overall - the vast majority of students are too busy drinking to open a textbook. If you really want to do well, I recommend avoiding the dorms at all costs and living in the quietest place you can find (which is very difficult).
Most classes are huge lectures and unless you make it your prerogative to get to know your professors, it's not going to happen. Along with the large lectures are the small discussion sections. The quality of TAs is a shot in the dark, but if you get a good one, they are absolutely superb and make class worthwhile. Some discussions are pointless, but I would say political science discussions are a perfect complement to the large lecture. I have yet to have a bad professor, but they are out there. If you ask around, you find the great professors and you just have to sign up for those classes.
Another great thing about such a large student body, there is every class imaginable, especially when it comes to language classes, there are so many to choose from.
And of course, like I said, UW students may party hard, but they study harder.
Despite the size, the majority of proffessors are quite helpful and willing to assist students. The majority of Wisconsin students are quite intelligent and have a strong desire to learn, even outside of class.
The profs at UW are awesome! All of my profs that I have had really seem to care about me as a student and want to help in any way they can, even though their lecture hall holds about 350 students. If you voice your concerns and tell your prof what you are having trouble with, then he/she tries to help. No questions and judging. It's awesome.
The caliber of student varies depending on your area of study and many programs are highly competitive. There is not doubt that students work very hard and the library is always packed.
If you are going into the sciences, look no further, because UW is top notch. There is more research going on at the school than one can even fathom. They are even in the process of building numerous new centers for research.
If you go in to office hours, professors will know your name. My favorite class so far would either be Sociology, Philosophy, or Journalism. My least favorite were science courses. I study pretty much when i'm not in class, eating, or playing water polo. Yes, class participation is common but there are always those students that dont say anything. People are intellectual both in and out of class, and its cool to know that almost everyone is smart, even when they are the craziest drunks on the weekends. Students are very competitive. The most unique class i've taken was Nutritional Sciences. I am applying to the School of Journalism, where I will be studying P.R. and Advertising. Wisconsin's academic requirements, while tedious at times, will help you with basic knowledge and a wide range of areas to know a little bit of everything. Education is both towards getting a job and learning along the way. Work hard play hard...
Class sizes vary from huge to tiny - some lectures have 600 kids, while others are in small groups of 20. In particular, many of the general-ed classes are large, as many students take them. But as you become more specialized in your major, the classes get much smaller and personal. Also, many of the large classes are supplemented with small discussion sections that allow for more individualized learning. It is nice to have a variety between big classes and smaller ones.
Academics are challenging at UW, especially since so many students at UW were from the top 10% of their high school class. However, while I may not have gotten A's in every class, I have never come across a class that I felt was too tough to handle. Lectures can be large during the first year or two of college (many introductory classes are 100-500 students), but these classes are always taught by professors and then broken down into additional discussion sections of 20-25 students. Teaching assistants often lead the discussion sections, but they do not teach new material. In my experience I have had wonderful TA's, and discussion sections are a great chance to ask questions if you don't want to ask during lecture or go to the professor's office hours. As you choose a major and your classes become more specified, class size decreases significantly. My smallest class was 8 people (French), and my typical class size for the last 3 years of college was probably 25 (Kinesiology department).
There is ALOT of lecture hall classroooms, and I need more one to one attention, I dont really like that whole lecture feel. My favorite class was soc 125 (Contemporary American Society) but only b/c i liked the professor alot (he is by far my favorite prof.). Students study FAR much than i do, its not so much of a big deal for me. Class participation is not so much common. I find that im like the only one participating sometimes. lol. Some kids talk about that but not much do (about intellectual stuff). It is pretty competitive (since everyone's like busy studying and what not). Im majoring in Economics and International Studies (w/ a concentration in political and economic policy). I dont spend time with prof. unless i REALLY need it. the requirements are stupid. what the hell is like a quzzillion science requirements when i HATE science. Yeah, im not really a fan for that.
Classes are really big and it's hard to get to know the professors. You have to either be ok with that or go to office hours. Personally, I like the anonymity of classes because its not a big deal if i miss a lecture here and there.
I'm actually an Apparel Design major - that's not an option select on the survey. My profs and TAs all know my name, but I'm in a pretty small program. For example, if you're going into Psychology, no one will know you exist because every class has like 7 zillion people. (Exaggeration much? You decide.) Most large lectures have discussion sections that have about 15 people, so your TAs *should* know your name. I didn't have to take a lot of the classes Frosh/Sophs have to take - Chem, Calc, nonsense like that, so I can't say too much on those topics. Some people live in the libraries and some people hardly ever study.
I feel like students are pretty competitive, but in a passive-aggressive way. Like I said before, UW-Mad is the most academically competitive school to get into in Wisconsin, so a lot of people who go here are pretty high and mighty on themselves because they got a 3.7 GPA in High School. Honestly, I think there's a lot of people here who skimped by in High School because HS is easy. Then, they came to Madison and realized that classes could be hard and that you might have to study.
Since Wisconsin is such a big school the professors do not really get to know you during your first few years. All of the discussions are taught by TAs but they are very knowledgeable and I have not had any trouble; they are definitely less intimidating than the professors are. The classes are tough and the professors expect you to be prepared when you come to lectures. Students usually spend 25-40 hours a week studying outside of class.
Academics at WI mostly depend on who you are. Its a rigorous program, and you have to stay on top of things or you won't make it. (Well, to an extent. You can miss a few classes and be fine. Miss more than that and you're completely screwed, even with your notes.)
I'm a Legal Studies and Journalism and Mass Comm major, and both of my programs require that you stay on top of things, especially in the law. You don't have much contact with Professors outside of class, other than through email, but your TA's are always available for contact both through office hours or email, and are always helpful. I've only had two semesters here, but I transferred in from a year at another college, and I haven't had any problems with TA's yet.
Class sizes range from 400 students (then split into discussions with 16-18 students), to about 16-20 for a language class. Students aren't necessarily academically competitive, but good grades are an intrinsic part of UW, because the programs require a lot of effort. You are trained on how things would and will work in the real world, though, and classes are usually updated every semester so that you will know what's going on outside the college when you graduate.
For me personally the academics haven't been a problem. You do need to study and work hard, but at the same time you can definitely go out on the weekends more often than you stay in and still get things done.
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.
Whatever program you'd like to go into Wisconsin is most likely in the top ten, if not leading the nation. You'll be surrounded by the smartest people from all around the globe in an exciting atmosphere. Nothing rivals the beauty of this college campus.
My favorite class is Theatre 150. I'm far from being a good actress and I still got an A in the class. You just have to try your best and do the work. You also have to put yourself out there and take risks which in the long run really benefit you. The only downside of the class was that it was early in the morning, but getting up was so worth it because the class was su much fun!
Academics at wisconsin are first rate. to quote a friend of mine that transfered from UW Green Bay, man, i never had to study so much for a chemistry class there. Our national rankings speak for themselves, as we have very few programs come in below the top fifteen in their catagory. The classes are challenging and taught by capable professors. Much of our faculty is first rate, and offer much to students outside the class room. One of their best features is being available to students for office hours. Professors at Madison are always available to talk about class issues or otherwise, and do so readily. One thing i worry about with academics is the topic of professor salaries. Being a public university, we cannot offer salaries or increases comparable to smaller, better funded private universities. As a result, we are experiencing something of a brain drain, losing professors to universities such as princeton and chicago. An example of this would be when our poli sci department lost one fifth of its professors last year, many to other universities. There needs to be some comprehensive program in place to bring salaries up and target those professors who are at risk of being poached. Unless this gradual loss of quality educators is stopped, academic standards at wisconsins will not be able to be maintained at the high levels that we have become acustomed to.
From my experiences, many professors to try to know people's names. It's hard sometimes because 400 people can fit in a lecture hall, but TA's generally do a good job knowing their students by name. My favorite class so far would have to be Bio 152 with Prof. Abbott. He's so nice, funny, and he has a great Scottish accent. My least favorite classes have been organic chemistry, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has ever taken it. People here study a lot... I usually spend about 6-7 hours a day during the week studying, and it seems like other students do the same. Academics are important here, and its very competitive. The requirements are reasonable. A Wisconsin education ensures that a graduate will have had experience in MANY fields... we have requirements to complete ethnic studies courses, quantitative reasoning courses, literature courses, social sciences courses.... the list goes on. It's a very well-rounded education that's geared toward bettering students on more broad level than just job-readiness.
The professors are usually very involved, though you get a dud once in awhile. I used to hate the general education requirements (there are so many), but I honestly wouldn't have realized what I want to do with my life if I hadn't had to take classes outside of my comfort level.
Academics here are top notch, with many many many majors to choose from (some departments will even let you make up you own or do a hybrid major). Most classes are really challenging while remaining possible, but every now and then you run in to the piece of cake classes (What else would the athletes take?). On average people are really smart (the all campus GPA is something like a 3.15!) and everyone is really helpful and willing to collaborate, after all we are all in this together.
With the large school comes large class sizes for the most part of the first 2 years. After that things will get smaller and the average junior/senior level course probably has 20-30 students in it. Most students do not get to know their professors (I admit, I am one of these students), but the few I have gotten to know have been great and they are always looking to meet their students.
My only beef with this university is that advising basically sucks. If you know what you are doing from day 1 great, and even if you do not you have some time to experiment. To get out in four years though you basically have to make up your mind by the end of freshmen year (that's why the fifth year 'victory lap' has become more popular, among other things). Even after you decide on your major however, most advisers just refer you to the university's degree tracking system called DARS to figure out what you need to take, which is really lame.
I have been in a lot of large lectures, but many professors do encourage students to come in and talk to them because they do want to get to know you. Students do study a lot, but they also party a lot. No one is made fun of or looked down upon because they study. I'm actually a retailing major (it wasn't offered as an option above) in the School of Human Ecology.
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