Admission Requirements

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Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis
School of Education
253 Education Building
1000 Bascom Mall
MadisonWI  53706-1326

Tel: 608/262-3106
Fax: 608/265-3135

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Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. —Nelson Mandela

New Program

Master of Science Degree in Global Higher Education

Application deadline March 1 for fall admission.
If applying for this program, please indicate "Global Higher Education" at the top of your essay.

Admission Requirements and Application Procedures

Revised 12/12/2012

The mission of the Department is to create, integrate, exchange and apply knowledge about leadership, learning and organizational performance to advance educational quality and opportunity.

Many varied educational constituencies need to be able to analyze and to inform debate on educational issues, and to lead and develop learning communities that meet the diverse learning needs of students and society. We believe effective educational leadership in any institution embodies three values; inquiry, equity and reflection. (Strategic Action Plan 2004)

We expect our graduates and the recipients of our instruction to reflect the knowledge, skills, and personal qualities that will be successful in promoting, producing, and improving learning and increasing public trust in our educational institutions.

The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis offers the M.S. degree, the Ph.D. degree, and a Specialist Certificate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. All three of these degrees are intended to increase professional knowledge and skills essential for educational leadership, and to prepare persons for leadership positions at all levels of education: preschool, elementary, secondary, special education, vocational and technical schools, and colleges and universities, both public and private.

In keeping with this mission, the department has four specialties or emphases: Higher, Postsecondary and Continuing Education, focused on the effective administration of post-secondary institutions; K-12 Leadership, emphasizing the effective administration of primary and secondary institutions; Educational Policy, stressing effective formation and analysis of policies governing the administration of all educational institutions; and Administrator Certification. Students in each specialty will focus their course work within the emphasis, although students are encouraged to learn about other areas as well. Many students in the department also pursue the course work for the Wisconsin certification for K-12 leadership. All of the course work for Administrator Certification can be applied later to the doctoral program.

Students may also apply to the department for the Administrator Certification only program. Certification-only students are not eligible for any degree without first applying for the specific degree program desired.

Admissions – Application Deadlines

The department adheres to the deadlines listed below.  No exceptions!

For domestic and international applicants, all materials must be recieved by the application deadline, not postmarked by the deadline.

  • December 1 (for summer or fall admission of the following year)
  • March 1 (for summer or fall admission)
  • July 1 (2nd opportunity for fall admission)  International students not eligible for July 1 admission consideration because of the time it takes to process visa information.
  • November 1 (for spring admission)   International students not eligible for November 1 admission consideration because of the time it takes to process visa information.

Educational Specialist Certificate 

  • March 1 (for summer or fall admission)
  • July 1 (2nd opportunity for fall admission)  International students not eligible for July 1 admission consideration because of the time it takes to process visa information
  • November 1 (for spring admission)
Certification Only
  • March 1 (for summer or fall admission)
  • July 1 (2nd opportunity for fall admission)  International students not eligible for July 1 admission consideration because of the time it takes to process visa information
  • November 1 (for spring admission)

Admission Decisions to Candidates

  • Ph.D. - late February
  • Master's - (March applicants/late March; July applicants/mid-July; November applicants/late November)
  • Educational Specialist Certificate - (March applicants/late March; July applicants/mid-July; November applicants/late November)
  • Certification Only - (March applicants/late March; July applicants/mid-July; November applicants/late November)

The Application Process and Description of Application Materials

All documents must be uploaded to your application.  This includes:
  • transcripts
  • resume/CV
  • letters of recommendation (if not submitted electronically) 
  • essay (reason for study)
  • supporting documentation (if required)

None of the above documents will be accepted via mail or email.  


The applicant must meet both the Department's and the Graduate School's criteria for admission. Admission to the Department is the first step and does not guarantee admission to the Graduate School. Exceptions to the Graduate School's requirement of at least a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average are limited. Applicants must submit an on-line application to the Graduate School. The Department will obtain your application from the Graduate School.  There is one application fee paid to the Graduate School.The Graduate School is not permitted to waive the application fee but does offer a limited number of "fee grants" for eligible U.S. and Permanent Resident applicants. The guidelines for eligibility are similar to those for the GRE few waiver. Forms may be obtained from Graduate School Admissions Office by calling 608/262-2433 or by writing to 228 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Drive. Madison 53706.

On the application under SUPPLEMENTARY APPLICATION, indicate the strand within the Department that is your area of interest:  K12 Leadership; Higher, Postsecondary and Continuing Education; Educational Policy.


Upload copies of unofficial transcripts to application.  You will need to send official transcripts should you be recommended for admission to our program. International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation.

Transcripts are analyzed to determine both undergraduate and graduate grade point averages (UGPA and GGPA). In addition, transcripts are examined to determine past academic concentrations, the pattern of courses taken, and the trend of grades received. No GPA renders an applicant automatically admissible or inadmissible. However, applicants who have a UGPA below 3.25 or a GGPA below 3.5 must submit supporting documentation as noted in section D below.

C. Graduate Record Exam SCORES

The institution code is 1846.

GRE scores are required for Ph.D. admission and educational specialist certificate admission only, not Master's degree or certification only admission. 

GRE scores must be received by the department by the application deadline. For Ph.D. admission the application deadline is December 1.  For the educational specialist certificate program the application deadlines are March 1, July 1, and November 1.  No exceptions!

Results of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) must be submitted to the Department. The institution code is 1846. The Department code is 3001. No GRE score renders an applicant automatically admissible or inadmissible. Candidates should be aware that the GRE web site indicates that the average combined verbal and quantitative combined score for those entering the field of educational administration is approximately 1100 points (maximum possible 1600) for those who completed the GRE prior to August 2011 and 305 (maximum possible 340) points for those taking the revised GRE beginning in August 2011. Applicants who score below 1100 points (old format) and 305 (revised format) must submit supporting documentation as noted in section D below.

McNair GRE Fee Waivers

A limited number of GRE fee waivers are available for McNair Scholars. Fee waivers are limited to three tests (i.e., General test, Subject test, and/or Writing assessment). Contact the McNair assistant director or director for more information.

Non-McNair GRE Fee Waiver

Contact your financial aid office to see if you qualify. Once your eligibility is established, the financial aid office will issue you a fee waiver and a copy of your financial analysis report. You must register by mail using the registration materials. If registering for more than one test, all registration materials must be received together with the fee waiver and financial need analysis report. Letter requests or photocopies and faxes of fee waivers will not be accepted.


Upload (if required) to application.

Applicants who earned an UGPA below 3.25 or a GGPA below 3.5 or a GRE score below 1100 points (old format) or 305 (new format)  (verbal and quantitative combined score) should provide additional explanation/documentation to support his/her admission (e.g. an explanation as to why scores do not accurately reflect potential, documentation of high potential for leadership, relevant experiences that affect their abilities to serve in leadership roles).


We require recommendations from three (3) people who are qualified to evaluate the academic and professional competence of the applicant.  When completing your online application to the Graduate School, you will submit the names and emails of those you wish to submit letters of recommendation for you.  The recommendations will then be submitted electronically.  


Upload to application.


Upload to application.

Each applicant must submit a "Reasons for Study" essay. (As you prepare your responses, we invite you to review the information on our web site[], to review the program literature, to talk with our alumni and current students, and to interact with members of the faculty and staff.)

There are three strands within the department.  At the top of your essay indicate the strand you are applying to.

  1. K12 Leadership
  2. Higher, Postsecondary and Continuing Education
  3. Educational Policy

Master's Degree applicants, Educational Specialist Certificate applicants, and certification applicants: Your essay should address the following issues in a typed, one-page, well developed, specific response:

  1. Your area of interest (task or functional area of administration)
  2. Your career goals (i.e., why the applicant is interested in pursuing a degree in educational administration)
  3. Your professional objectives and how the UW-Madison program will contribute toward the applicant's role as a school/institution leader (If seeking certification, be sure to explicitly state what certification or certifications are being sought.)

Doctoral applicants should address the following questions in an essay that does not exceed three pages: The Reasons for Study essay

  1. What are the primary personal and career goals you have identified as important for your intellectual and professional advancement over the next 5-10 years?
  2. In what ways will these goals be advanced through a doctoral program at UW-Madison?
  3. As you will note, we are interested in developing and maintaining a diverse and engaged learning community. Please identify any unique or special contributions you will bring to this community.

"Strong" essay is characterized by:

  1. A clear, thorough, well-organized essay that expresses ideas in a detailed and engaging manner.
  2. Addresses all components of the instructions.
  3. Paragraphs signal the divisions of thought and sentences flow with ideas in a logical sequence.
  4. No (or very few) noticeable errors in composition.
  5. The articulation of clear scholarly interests that are consistent with the department's mission and that may expand knowledge within the field.

A "Satisfactory" essay is characterized by:

  1. A detailed, well-organized essay.
  2. Addresses all components of the instructions.
  3. Paragraphs signal the major divisions of thought and sequence.
  4. Few errors in composition.
  5. The articulation of scholarly interests that are consistent with the department's mission.

A "Weak" essay is characterized by:

  1. A well-organized but insufficiently detailed essay.
  2. Addresses some, but not all, of the components of the instructions.
  3. Paragraphs do not contain main topics.
  4. A distracting number of errors in composition or spelling (i.e. > 2-3 per page).
  5. No articulation of scholarly interests.

WARNING: If all application materials are not received by the application deadline, your application will not be considered. (No exceptions)

H. Special Note on International Student Admissions:

English Proficiency

All test scores should be submitted to University code 1846. 

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

Applicants are exempt if:

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

Minimum TOEFL requirement: 92 internet (iBT); 580 paper-based test (PBT)
Minimum IELTS requirement: 7.0
Minimum MELAB requirement: 82

Under certain circumstances, with program approval, admission may be granted with the following scores. However, in order to be admitted, an English assessment test (ESLAT) will be required upon arrival, and any recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) course must be completed successfully in your first semester. Below are the ranges in which an ESLAT will be required:

TOEFL (iBT) 80-91
TOEFL paper based 550-579
MELAB 77-81

International students must provide documentation of one year of funding to the Graduate School to be eligible for admission (see Graduate School policy regarding funding).  Information on adequate financial resources is available at the Graduate School's International Applicant Financial Information page.

The Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis does not provide funding to first year graduate students, and funding opportunities after the first year are limited and competitive.

International Student Visa Information.

The Admissions Process

In keeping with the department's mission and strategic plan, admissions will be based on a holistic view of each candidate with special attention to the potential for success in the desired program of study evidenced in the documentation provided. 

Please be aware that:

All admissions decisions are made by the department faculty as a whole at the Department Meeting following the application deadline. Accordingly, students are admitted to the certification program three times a year; students are admitted to the Masters and Education Specialist Programs three times each year; and students are admitted to the doctoral program only once each calendar year.

No application will be considered for admission to any program unless all documentation listed in A through G above is on file. Applicants with incomplete files will not be considered.

A favorable vote of the Department faculty is required for the Department to recommend admission to the Graduate School. Upon admission, a member of the faculty of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis will be assigned to serve as your initial advisor. Because of the volume of applications received by the department, qualified students must sometimes be denied admission. Those denied admission are welcome to reapply during the next admissions cycle.

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