Doctoral Program FAQs

Frequently asked questions about admission to the Economics Ph.D. program

General Program Questions:

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Do I need to have a Bachelor's degree in economics to apply to the program?

A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S institution or a comparable degree from an international institution is one of the requirements to apply to the graduate program in Economics. You do not need to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics to apply to the program. Applicants have Bachelor’s Degrees in Mathematics, Statistics, and other disciplines. For specific information on what is considered a comparable degree from an international institution please refer to the Graduate School Admission Requirements page.

Do you have a Master's Program?

Yes, we have two master’s programs affiliated with the Economics Department.  We have a Master of Science in Economics and new for 2021 admission, we have a Master of Science in Financial Economics.

Can I apply to the Ph.D. and Master's programs on the same application?

Yes, the graduate school electronic application allows you to list up to three programs per application. To apply to the economics Ph.D. and our either of our master’s programs, please list the Economics Ph.D. program and the Economics MS -Graduate Foundations program and/or the MS-Financial Economics on your application.

You may upload the same materials for both the Ph.D. and the MS-Graduate Foundations supplemental applications. Please note you will need to meet the earlier application deadline (Ph.D.) and will be first considered for the Ph.D. program.

How long does it take to complete the Ph.D.?

The program is designed to be completed in five years. It is not uncommon, however, for students to complete the program in six years. To learn about the goals and structure of the Economics Graduate Program visit our Program Overview web page.

What kind of jobs do your students pursue upon graduation?

Our graduates pursue research careers at colleges or universities and work for government agencies or private firms after graduation. You can find more detailed information on our placement web page.

What is the cultural makeup of your current student body?

There are students in the program from around the world. Our domestic students are from all areas in the US.

Who do I contact if I cannot find an answer to my question on the web page?

If you cannot find the answer to your question above, you can read the Graduate School frequently asked questions (FAQs) for more information. You can also contact us at gradpro@ssc.wisc.edu.

Application Questions:

For questions regarding the graduate school application system, please see the graduate school FAQs at https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/.

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Can I make changes to my application after I hit the final submit button?

Yes, you can reenter the graduate school electronic application to make changes.

How do I check my application status?

After you submit your application, you will be sent a link to set up your MyUW account and net ID. The submission process is an overnight process, so expect your email within 24 hours. It is very important that you set up your MyUW account to check your application status. If you do not receive this link, please contact the graduate school at admissions@grad.wisc.edu

How many applications do you receive each year?

The Department receives more than 500 applications for the Ph.D. program each year.

How many admissions are going to be offered this year?

It is not possible for us to tell you how many recommendations of admission are going to be offered this year. We have an Admissions and Aid Committee that makes all admissions and funding decisions. In February, the committee will evaluate the applications. Once the applications have been reviewed, the committee will decide on the number of students recommended for admission. In the past, the committee planned on an entering class of 25-30 students. To achieve this class size, the number of students admitted the past three years was 146, 110, and 93.

From all the components of my admission file, are there any elements that are more important than others? Is there anything I can do to help improve my chances?

All aspects of your application are reviewed by one or two faculty members. Academic preparation is important; the committee likes to see good grades in hard courses (especially math courses or advanced economics courses). Reference letters are very important; ideally they should be written by people who know you well, and who know what it takes to succeed in a good PhD program.

The Statement of Purpose (SOP) is one of the components of your application packet. Among other things, the SOP can highlight the aspect of your application which is strong and, if you feel it is important, you can explain the reason for any weakness in the application

When will I know if I have been admitted?

The Economics program’s Admission and Aid Committee will inform you of its decision in March.

Can I consult with faculty so I can get further input as to how I could strengthen my application?

Every year the Department receives more than 500 applications for the Ph.D. program. Admission and funding is competitive and it depends on a number of variables including all aspects of your application and the applicant pool. In February, the Admissions and Aid Committee will decide on the number of students recommended for admission. Given the volume of applications, it is not possible to respond to inquiries about the chances of admission, or to provide information about the strengths and weaknesses in individual applications.

Transcripts and Test Scores

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Do I have to submit an official paper transcript with my application?

No, paper transcripts are not required to submit with your application. However, it is required that you upload electronic copies of your transcripts or academic record with your application.

If you are recommended for admission, the Graduate School will request an official electronic transcript for domestic institutions and official paper transcripts for international institutions.

What are the transcript requirements for applicants who have attended institutions in countries where English was not the primary language?

If you are recommended for admission, the Graduate School will send you the transcript requirements. You will need to submit the transcript in the original language as well as an official English translation. You school should provide an official translation of your documents; otherwise have a translation done by your school or an official translator. In some countries, these people are also notaries. Do not submit an evaluation from a credential evaluation service in lieu of a translation.

Can I send high school transcripts in addition to University transcripts?

No, please do not send or upload high school transcripts.

Can I submit GMAT scores in lieu of the GRE?

No. GMAT scores will not be accepted in place of GRE scores.

How do I submit my GRE scores to the Economics Department?

The UW-Madison institutional code is 1846. It is very important you use the same name and spelling on the application as you used on the test form to avoid delays on the arrival of scores on your file. The format of the date of birth is very important too. Please use month/day/year to avoid delays.

GRE scores are accepted if they are within five years of the start of the admission term.

Can I send paper copies of my GRE or TOEFL scores rather than having ETS send the official scores directly to UW-Madison?

Students must have official scores sent by ETS before admission is finalized. You may upload unofficial PDF copies of your GRE or TOEFL results on your application portal. The UW-Madison institutional code is 1846.

What do I need to prove my English proficiency?

Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score (TOEFL, IELTS, or MELAB). 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 of university level and how recent the language instruction was taken are the determining factors in meeting this requirement.

To see if you are exempt from the English proficiency requirement, please see the Graduate School’s requirements page: http://grad.wisc.edu/admissions/requirements.

What is the profile of the average admitted applicant?

The average Quantitative GRE score for applicants admitted to the program has been 93rd percentile on the exam. The average Writing Analysis score has been 4.3. The average GPA has been 3.79.

Writing Sample and Mathematics Preparation

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Is there a page limit on the writing sample?

No, there is no page limit and the topic is not restricted to economics. However, the average submission runs from 2 to 7 pages.

Is the writing sample required?

Yes, a writing sample is part of the required application materials.

Can I apply if I have not met the math requirements?

Students entering the graduate program are required to have taken at least a three-course sequence in calculus, a course in linear algebra, and a course in mathematical statistics. You can apply if you have not met all the math requirements. However, all math prerequisites must be completed by the time you plan to start the program. The admissions committee will be able to evaluate your math ability more thoroughly if you have completed your math requirements at the time of application. Please remember that graduate work in economics demands mathematical sophistication of a higher order than the requirements of most U.S. undergraduate economics programs would suggest. The prerequisites above are a bare minimum, and additional background in mathematics and in graduate-level economics courses can ease the transition into the program.

How can I know whether my courses are equal to the required courses?

The Math Requirements for Incoming Graduate Students page lists some key topics and some useful references.

Funding and Financial Documentation

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What is the deadline for admissions and for funding?

The application fee, math prep form, writing sample, statement of purpose, and transcripts must be received by December 5 to be considered for funding. We will start processing applications after the December 5th due date, so admissions materials need to be in, in order to guarantee consideration for funding. Letters of recommendation must be submitted by December 31. If you are interested in admissions without funding, the final admissions deadline is February 1.

How is funding awarded?

Funding is awarded to applicants on a competitive basis. Please see our funding page for additional information.

How do I apply for funding?

If your application is paid and necessary materials received by December 5th, you will automatically be considered for funding for the first year of study. Please see our funding page for more detailed information and the funding packets you would be automatically considered for if you apply on time.

There are other sources of funding such as loans through the Office of Student Financial Aid, as well as sources that are external to the university (e.g. grants, fellowships). However, the application process for those financial sources is not related to the process of admission to the Department of Economics. For more information, visit the Graduate Student Funding Resources page and the Office of Fellowships & Funding Resources (OFFR). Those pages will contain basic information detailing the funding resources available at UW-Madison, as well as contact information for initiating a search for other sources of funding.

I am an international student. Do I need to send financial documentation with my application?

No. If you are recommended for admission by the Economics Department, the Graduate School will ask you to submit financial documentation. Information on financial documentation can be found on the Graduate School website: http://grad.wisc.edu/admissions/internationalfinancial/.

After international applicants are recommended for admission by the department, the Graduate School will request financial documentation through the MyUW application status. It is very important that you save and refer to the original e-mail message you will receive from the Graduate School after you submit your application so you can access MyUW and respond to the request for financial documentation.

Admitted Prospective Students

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I received an admissions packet from the department indicating that I have been recommended for admission by the Economics Department. What does recommended for admission mean? Have I been admitted to UW-Madison?

The admission to the graduate program in economics is a shared process at UW-Madison between the department and the Graduate School. When applicants receive an admission packet from the Economics Department indicating that they have been recommended for admission, this recommendation does NOT mean that they have been fully admitted. The applicant will have to finish the last steps of the admission process with the Graduate School. This includes sending the official transcripts requested by the Graduate School. The Economics Department sends admissions recommendations to the Graduate School with supporting materials. The Graduate School reviews the application and materials to ensure that the Graduate School minimum requirements are met (including financial support requirements for International Students).

It is important for applicants to continue monitoring their admission progress. Each applicant can check his/her status in MYUW so the applicant can submit any final documents the Graduate School may request.

Do you have a Visit Day?

Yes, we invite all students who have been recommended for admission for a scheduled Visit Day in late March or early April. If you have been recommended for admission, please contact us at gradpro@ssc.wisc.edu if you would like to arrange for a visit at a different time.

I have been admitted to the Ph.D. program at UW. Can I defer my admissions for one year?

It is not possible for students to defer admission. You will need to apply again. We’ll keep your files and the fact that you were admitted the previous year may be considered.

What is the reapplication process?

To reapply, you must follow the current process of admission. If you are required to submit a TOEFL score, please be sure the score has not expired. Scores are accepted if they are within two years of the start of the admission term for which you are applying. GRE scores are accepted up to 5 years after the test date.