University of Wisconsin–Madison

Graduate Admissions

Following are guidelines for application to the MS and PhD programs in Kinesiology. Applicants to the Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy program (MS-OT) or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) use different procedures and should visit the Occupational Therapy website to learn more.

The numbered preview below summarizes What You’ll Need if you apply for the MS or PhD in the Department of Kinesiology at UW-Madison. Then more detailed information follows about each of the numbered application items. We urge you to read the detail information carefully. If you have questions, you should feel free to contact us.

  1. Online Application. The UW Graduate School Online Application, including its “supplemental apps” section (to name your Kinesiology “track”), must all be submitted at the Grad School web site.
  2. GRE. Kinesiology requires Graduate Record Exam scores for the general test, transmitted as detailed below
  3. Statement (of purpose). Kinesiology needs your personal statement of reasons for graduate study, preferably included (see details) within your online application to the UW Graduate School
  4. Letters of Reference. Identify at least three persons who can recommend you as qualified for grad study (use the Grad School online application system to request online input, where feasible)
  5. Transcripts. All university-level educational transcripts should be provided; submit them  as detailed below
  6. TOEFL (or similar). Test results for English proficiency if applicable, see below

Numbers 1 and 6, above, must be submitted online (via the internet/ world wide web). You may do online submittal of numbers 2 through 5, and in Kinesiology we strongly prefer online materials, although we allow you to submit e-mail attachments or paper copies to us if your circumstances require that. Number 2, GRE scores, may be a self-report when you apply, but if we admit you, then we will require an online report. Number 5, post-secondary-level (college/ university) educational transcripts also will be required in official, printed paper format if you are admitted by UW Graduate School. Meantime, at the Kines. Dept. application stage, you may upload electronic transcript(s), and we hope you will. Your unofficial transcript(s), if legible and complete, will likely suffice for the Kines. Dept. review.


Mailing Address:
Kinesiology Grad Office, Rm. 1013
University of Wisconsin-Madison
2000 Observatory Dr.
Madison, WI  53706


The Kinesiology Department reviews applicants and has the right to recommend an applicant’s admission to the UW-Madison Graduate School. The Graduate School retains the right to make the final admission decision. To apply for admission, you must submit, via the UW Grad School, your online graduate admission application. The Kinesiology Dept. reviews your application after you complete and submit it online to Grad School. Kinesiology decides whether to ask Grad School to certify your official admission.

In addition to clicking the prior link, you can scroll to find and begin a grad school online application at the UW Graduate School web site or on the UW-Madison homepage “admissions” tab.

The Grad School requests specific items in its online application. Please submit to the Grad School only its requested online application items, consistent with the rest of the instructions on this page.  If you are in doubt, contact the Kinesiology graduate office.

Please NOTE that there is usually substantial time, sometimes months, between application completion and notice-of-outcome. During this time our faculty members do their review. For further discussion, see “deadlines,” below.


Your Kinesiology graduate admission requires scores, with percentile, from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). For general information on taking the Exam, please visit the exam provider’s website.

  • Kinesiology doesn’t set any GRE minimum scores (or minimum total score) for admission. Faculty will evaluate your GRE scores as one factor among all factors in an admission decision.
  • We do require scores for the GRE General Test that has three scored components: Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing.
  • We don’t require a “subject” test for a Kinesiology grad application.

HOW TO PROVIDE GRE SCORES. We will take your GRE scores and percentiles (verbal, quantitative, analytical writing) in either or both of two ways when you apply.

A) You may self-report your scores and percentiles in the online application’s “education” section. That section has spaces for you to report scores and percentiles for the three GRE components. (Note that the Analytical Writing component of the GRE isn’t computer-scored, so that score takes longer than Verbal and Quantitative. Plan to allow enough time to receive your Analytical Writing percentile before you finalize your online admission application.) Faculty reviewers will accept self-reported GRE scores for their admission reviews. If they agree to admit you, then we will ask you to have your GRE scores officially transmitted, as described under B, following.

B) You may instruct the exam provider to submit your official scores online to UW Grad School’s web-based student-information system. The exam provider, ETS, sends official scores directly to UW-Madison. You may give ETS the “institution code 1846” for UW-Madison. You won’t need a “department code” because the UW Graduate School online admission system is centralized, so any department(s) that you apply to will access your scores centrally. Any department(s) to which you apply will see your official GRE scores via your online application. This means you must complete and submit your application to the UW Graduate School before a department can see your official GRE scores. Historically, official scores have taken from two weeks to eight weeks to become visible to departments.

Why do we allow a GRE self-report initially? The main answer is: possible cost savings for you. The GRE provider will officially report for free your scores to a limited number of recipients you specify, i.e. some reports are included in your exam registration. After that, you face a fee for each additional score report. We feel this could be a significant cost for applicants who apply to several graduate schools, so we accept unofficial scores to lower barriers to application.

Why do we require an official GRE report for admitted students? We ultimately require an official score report because the exam provider sometimes revises percentiles (slightly) depending on exam cohort; and because GRE results become a significant factor in a student’s record, often being requested by scholarship committees, outside accrediting bodies, internal reviewers, or others. If you are not applying to a large number of schools, or if cost is not a factor, then of course we accept official GRE scores at the time you apply for admission.


Your statement is your formal application’s most consolidated, direct, intensive and personal communication with Kinesiology faculty. It tells them why you think they should admit you for graduate study. We recommend that you prepare your statement before beginning an online application. Your statement is a significant intellectual exercise, so we hope you will use considerable care and thought in making it compelling and persuasive.

If you are admitted to the Kinesiology Grad Program, your admission is to a specific Graduate Program Area, often called a “specialization” or “track”. This can be either a research specialization (e.g., Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Psychology, etc.) or the Non-thesis MS track.

The Department allows you to apply to as many specializations as you feel you are interested in and qualified for. Consider, however, that a broad range of general interests likely isn’t consistent with the focus demanded in a research specialization. In a research track, you eventually must develop and apply an experimental methodology in which you hypothesize results about a narrow experimental question in consultation with your faculty advisor. You then evaluate and report actual experimental results in an effort to contribute new knowledge to the expertise in that research area (or to develop new hypotheses for further research).

This means that undifferentiated general interest, or a large number of specific interests across many areas, might diminish your chances of acceptance into a highly focused research track. We encourage you, instead, to carefully review the prerequisites and the existing (or planned) research focus of your specialization(s) of interest, and then be highly selective. Apply only to the specialization(s) with which your own background, interests, and goals are highly compatible.

Note that we consider broad general interest in graduate-level study to be fully consistent and compatible with the Kinesiology Non-thesis MS track.

Given the breadth of the field of Kinesiology and its integrative approach to the study of movement, activity, health and wellness at a variety of levels, adequate preparation for graduate study can be attained in a variety of ways. For grad study that is primarily classroom based (i.e. MS-Non-thesis track), the Kinesiology Department expects certain courses to be in the background of every grad student. For research based tracks, some professors in some Kinesiology specializations also expect background courses. We highly encourage you to contact the professor(s) of greatest interest to you and ask about course expectations. Prerequisite courses, if any, are listed in the specialization descriptions. Your specific, personal prerequisites will  depend on the specialization(s) that you select.

Applicants who lack some prerequisite courses may still be considered for admission. These students would be admitted with “deficiencies”, so-called. The deficiencies must be made up before a graduate degree will be granted. Often the deficiencies are made up during graduate study, but early applicants with few deficiencies and access to an institution of higher education can sometimes take and document their deficient courses prior to graduate matriculation.

To assure strong mentoring from the outset of studies, all Kinesiology grad students who intend to focus on research must have an individual advisor (major professor). The advisor is a graduate faculty member (professor) who supervises and evaluates the student’s research. An advisor must agree, while reviewing a graduate application, to be the advisor. If nobody agrees to be the advisor, then an applicant can’t be admitted to a research specialization within the Kinesiology Grad Program. Your application doesn’t need to name any specific professor(s) with whom you wish to work. If you wish, however, you may name your specific professor(s) of interest. Doing this would suggest that you feel an especially strong research compatibility with the named person(s). If you do not name your prospective advisor(s), then all graduate faculty within the specialization(s) that you name will review your application and will draw inferences about your research compatibility from the way you describe your grad study goals.

Applicants for the Non-thesis MS degree don’t require a faculty advisor for admission. An advisor will be assigned subsequently for record-keeping purposes and for general academic advising.

You aren’t required to contact any professor(s) before applying, but we believe it’s often highly valuable if you do have some pre-application interaction with your potential advisor(s).

The Kinesiology website includes brief research profiles of the Grad Program Areas and brief professional biographies of professors. We urge applicants to examine the Grad Program Area(s) and to look carefully at relevant professor biographies. We urge you to read some publications by any professor(s) whose research appears to be compatible with your grad study goals, and who, therefore, could potentially become your advisor. Representative publications are cited in each professor’s bio, often with a link to an online version of the publication. We highly encourage you, after examining the profiles, and before applying, to contact the professor(s) whose interests best match your own. Most professors will make themselves available to exchange emails or talk with you on the phone (or in person, circumstances permitting) if you respect their schedules and if you present the kinds of questions and interests that a future scholar might be likely to have.

Prior communication doesn’t (necessarily) pertain for Non-thesis MS applicants, because they typically won’t conduct research or (co-)author publications during their studies. Non-thesis applicants who do have research-related questions are welcome to contact faculty before starting an application.

All applicants should consider directing administrative and procedural questions to the Kinesiology Grad Program Office (graduate secretary),

EXPRESSLY NAME YOUR SPECIALIZATION INTEREST(S) in your Statement (even though you also name it (them) in the Online Application’s “Supplement Apps” section). You should write your personal statement of reasons for grad study (statement of purpose) to persuasively explain to your Kinesiology faculty reviewer(s) why you want them to consider you for the program area(s), specialization(s), or track(s) that you named.

Beyond your statement of reasons for grad study, please use the online application’s “supplemental apps” section to select from a drop-down menu that expressly tells us your specialization interest(s). If you sense any redundancy between your personal statement and the supplemental application, then decide whether a) that may be acceptable to emphasize a choice that will be vital to your progress, or b) you can edit your statement to be less redundant or more focused on other matters that would persuade a reviewer to admit you.

For Spring 2017 or later admission, the online application won’t allow drop-down menu-choices of: multipleresearch tracks; or both a research specialization AND the Non-thesis MS. The default expectation will be that you commit to:  either Non-thesis study;  or Research in a single research track. If this isn’t consistent with your goals – if you consciously choose to name multiple tracks – then you may use your statement to expand beyond the online application’s drop-down menu and name your multiple specialization interests in your statement-of-purpose. If you do this, please clearly express that you are selecting multiple tracks, and explain why you are doing it.

The Grad School online application section called “Statements” allows you to upload your final statement.


At least three letters of recommendation (references) are required for an application to the Kinesiology graduate program. The UW-Madison Graduate School accepts online letters of recommendation, and the online application includes a section that you may use to request online recommendations. The Grad School considers online submittal of references to be standard. The Department of Kinesiology strongly prefers online recommendations, but we will accept letters on paper or via e-mail if your circumstances require that.

If your recommendation letters will be sent on paper, please be sure to have them sent directly to the Kinesiology Graduate Program Office (mailing address noted above).

Do not submit paper letters or other paper application materials to the Graduate School or to any office or address other than the Kinesiology Grad Program. If you do, they are likely to be delayed, sometimes substantially; or lost/ unidentified. If you are in doubt, contact the Kinesiology graduate office.


All university-level educational transcripts are required for an application to the Kinesiology graduate program. The Kinesiology graduate program strongly prefers online uploads of transcripts at the application stage. This facilitates online application review. We hope that it is also cheaper, easier, faster and more efficient for applicants, especially those applying to multiple institutions.

If you are able to scan a personal copy of your official transcript, or if you can obtain an unofficial electronic transcript, you may upload it to your online admission application. The “education” section of the UW Graduate School’s online application includes an upload “field” for transcripts.

Please note that unofficial transcripts (if legible and complete) are acceptable to Kinesiology faculty reviewers. They are, however, not currently accepted by Graduate School admissions officials. If the Kinesiology Department ultimately recommends your Grad School admission, then we will need your official transcript(s) so we can send them to the Grad School for their final review. When we require official transcripts, we will notify you.

If you must (or choose to) submit official (or unofficial) transcripts on paper when you apply, then be sure to send them directly to the Kinesiology Graduate Program Office, not to the Graduate School. Paper transcripts (or any mailings) sent to any office other than the Kinesiology Grad Program Office will be delayed, sometimes substantially.

The UW Graduate School requires all graduate students to have a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent, or higher) prior to entry into “Grad” status at UW-Madison. Applications may be submitted while the bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree is still in progress, but the undergraduate degree will need to be completed by the start of graduate study (classes). If the bachelor’s or equivalent degree will be conferred (officially granted, listed on transcript) after graduate study begins, the UW Graduate School will allow a short grace period for proof-of-degree.

All applicants must meet a minimum undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA). The Graduate School’s official minimum GPA is 3.0 (if the grading scale was A=4.0 as a maximum). A department may seek a waiver of the GPA minimum if it feels that the applicant has a particularly compelling qualitative background.

Applicants whose undergraduate work was evaluated on a grading scale other than A=4.0 may submit transcripts with the original institution’s grades, marks, or scores, and UW will do its own conversion. A private transcript evaluation service isn’t required.


Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide evidence of English competence on the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) or accepted alternate assessment. Please see the page on Graduate School Admission Requirements for more information.

International students must comply with United States law that requires a showing of adequate funds to cover all expenses, including tuition, for the expected duration of studies here. The Graduate School enforces this requirement. See, the international applicant financial information page for details. If you are an international student (required to make a showing of funds), please do NOT submit financial documentation until the Graduate School specifically instructs you on when, where, and how to do so. That will occur: a) after you complete your application; and b) only if you are recommended by a department for admission. A showing of funds is unnecessary when you first apply. It can be counter-productive to submit funding information too soon. The amount of funding that an international student must prove is offset by any offer-of-support that the department might make (for example, a teaching assistantship). In the past, applicants who sent financial documentation before the Graduate School requested it were often required to re-submit fresh documentation after the Graduate School request. That can be time-consuming and expensive for the student.


The online application includes a “supplement” section with a field at the bottom for the upload of miscellaneous additional items. While Kinesiology does not prevent applicants from including optional materials with their applications, generally these materials are unnecessary to full admission consideration. Required items, as listed and described above, and particularly a carefully written personal statement can normally provide faculty reviewers with a reasonable basis for making an informed admission decision.

The Department of Kinesiology sets no formal deadline for applications. If you feel you need a “target” for a Fall admissions application, then our recommendation is that you aim to have all materials, including test scores and letters of reference, completely submitted (delivered) by February 15. This is particularly applicable to Non-thesis MS applicants. Applicants for “research” degrees work directly with an individual professor, so that individual has wide discretion on admission timing. In general, for all applicants, the Program will review applications until we have no further openings.

The Kinesiology grad program can admit for the Fall semester (primary) or for the Spring semester. (Exception: The professional MS-OT Program admits only for the Summer Semester; if you are interested in the MS-OT, please immediately re-read the first paragraph on this web page.)

You may apply as early as you wish, if the online application is available for that “term of admission.” Some applicants apply up to a year before their desired admission date. Most applications arrive five to ten months before the desired admission date. Faculty may review individual applications as they become complete, or they may consolidate several applications for “batched” review. Non-thesis MS applications will always be reviewed in batches by a committee. Application completion by Feb. 15 facilitates this Non-thesis committee process.

Sometimes faculty can reach a decision within a few weeks of an individual application being completed. Most of the time, faculty review will take several months.

You should plan to apply well in advance of the date that you wish to begin your graduate studies. While the Kinesiology Graduate Program does not have a firm application deadline, please be aware that the UW Graduate School does have some deadlines. The Grad School may refuse to consider  a department’s admission recommendation if it arrives at Grad School too late before the start of classes  for the applicant’s desired term-of-admission. As a working “definition” of “too-late”, you may use, roughly:   a) for domestic applicants, less than two weeks; and b) for international applicants outside the U.S., less than six weeks before the start of classes. Exact calendar-date varies year-to-year. We urge you NOT to risk being “too late.” Don’t delay your completion of an admission application. In the Kinesiology Department, most admissions decisions are reached four to eight months before the start of classes (roughly between January and April of the calendar year of a Fall admission, although earlier or later decisions are possible).

If you won’t be able to complete your application by Feb. 15, we might still be able to consider you, but the later your application, the greater your benefit in checking in advance with a graduate faculty member of interest about specific circumstances. For general information on timing, see the Graduate School website.

In addition, while there are no departmental deadlines for admission, there are deadlines for applications for competitively awarded scholarships/fellowships. These applications are generally due in January or February. Graduate students who have been admitted to a program are eligible to compete for scholarship/ fellowship awards for their first year of graduate study (as well as for subsequent years). Scholarships and fellowships are competitive, and there is never any assurance of an award. Applicants to the graduate program who wish to be accepted by January should plan to complete their graduate application a minimum of several weeks prior to January of the calendar year they wish to begin graduate study.