View from the Memorial Union Terrace (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

Thank you for your interest in applying to the Cellular & Molecular Biology (CMB) Program! The CMB Admissions deadline is December 1. All application materials, including letters of recommendation, must be received by the December 1 deadline. Only complete applications will be reviewed.

Information about the program can be found on the About CMB page. Admissions information can be found in the tabs above and the Admissions Frequently Asked Questions page. To start your application, scroll down and select “Online Application.”

Join us during one of our virtual open houses this fall! Representatives from the CMB program including the faculty chair, student services coordinator, and a current student will be available to answer your questions and tell you about the program. Feel free to drop in at any time during the allotted times. Topics to be discussed include but are not limited to: advice on applying to the program, what sets us apart from other programs, and living in Madison. The dates and connection info of the open houses will be updated here when the details are finalized.

Admissions application fee waivers

CMB has updated its fee waiver policy and fee waivers are now available for all students who are a member of one of the following groups: African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide fee waivers to international students or other domestic students who are not a member of one of the groups listed above.

GRE scores

CMB no longer requires GRE scores, nor will the Admissions Committee use any GRE scores submitted as part of its review. This decision was made following a careful review of data indicating that the GRE significantly disadvantages certain groups, such as women, students from underrepresented minority groups, and students of lower socioeconomic status.

Course Recommendations

  • Math through Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular & Molecular Biology

The UW-Madison Graduate School requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 out of 4.0 from the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate work or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0; however, a lower GPA might be acceptable for applicants who have strong research experience.

Prior laboratory research experience

Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited US institution, or a comparable degree from an international institution

English proficiency tests: see the UW-Madison Graduate School Admission Requirements for grades, degree, and specifics of the English proficiency requirements

Note: the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is no longer required

We often receive questions about the letters of recommendation and the personal statement.  Please see the suggestions below from the CMB Program in regards to these topics or search online for helpful hints about letters of recommendation and personal statements.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Three letters are required, and all letters must be received by December 1.
  • Request letters through the online application system. You will have the chance to add a note, and we strongly recommend that you note that the strict deadline for receiving all letters of recommendation is December 1.
  • Letters should be from those who can attest to your research abilities, problem solving skills, scientific creativity, work ethic, data interpretation, maturity, etc. Ideal references would be from the faculty member/PI in whose laboratory you performed research. Letters from postdoc or graduate student mentors are not appropriate on their own, but can be used to supplement.
  • Letters from course instructors (laboratory courses or otherwise) are generally not useful, and should be avoided when possible.
  • Please keep in mind that submitting more letters than required may be detrimental to your application.

Personal Statement (also known as Reason for Graduate Study / Statement of Purpose)

  • Should be about 2 pages (~1000-1200 words).
  • Persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant who should be selected for an interview by telling them about yourself, your motivations, and how you have prepared for entering a PhD program.
  • Only include information that is relevant to your application; focus on professional and academic preparation for graduate school.
  • Describe your previous research experiences, including summer and intern positions. Focus should be on the general description of the project, its scientific/clinical relevance, and your role in it. Specific details should be avoided unless they are critical to understanding the big picture.
  • Be concise and clear about why you are applying to graduate school in CMB at UW-Madison as opposed to other programs/universities. Show the admissions committee that you understand why CMB at UW-Madison is a good fit for you. Explain your professional goals and how admission to CMB at UW-Madison will help you accomplish them.
  • Proofread your essay, share it with others, have your faculty mentors, letter of recommendation writers, and friends read it to make sure it conveys your story, and that it is free of grammatical errors. A well-written statement demonstrates attention to detail and maturity.


  • Please attach your CV to the application as well (can be uploaded into the online application separate from the personal statement).

The admission application opens in early September. The CMB Program’s application deadline is December 1. All application materials, including letters of recommendation, must be received by the December 1 deadline. Only complete applications will be reviewed. The CMB Admissions Committee uses a holistic review process and reviews both international and domestic applications.

Submit the UW-Madison Graduate School Application online

  • Program Select: choose “Cellular and Molecular Biology PhD”
  • Complete the application as instructed
  • Supplemental Apps: submit your answer to this supplemental application question: “Briefly describe why you are interested in the CMB Program, UW-Madison, and living in Madison.” (400 words or less) Note: We encourage applicants to address their interest in the CMB Program in their personal statement as well, but this supplemental app section is a chance to elaborate on that interest.
  • Education: Please note that under the Education tab of the application you will be asked to submit test scores. Only international students who are required to submit TOEFL/IELTS scores must enter scores here. GRE scores are not required; please do NOT submit any GRE scores.
  • Upload unofficial transcript(s) from EACH post-secondary institution attended (undergraduate and graduate), even if no degree was received
    • If accepted to the program, final official transcripts will be required by the Graduate School
    • Note: International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation
  • Statements & CV: Upload Personal Statement/Reasons for Graduate Study and current CV/Resume (PDF)
  • Recommendations: List names and emails of three references who will submit electronic letters of recommendation. Letters should be from people familiar with your research and scholastic qualifications. Using this option, references will automatically receive an email prompt to submit a letter of recommendation electronically.
  • Submit the $75 application fee payment through the online application.
    • The UW Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee grants to eligible students. If you are not eligible for a fee grant from the UW Graduate School, but you participated in a pipeline program designed to prepare students for graduate studies, please contact at least two weeks before the application deadline to inquire about the possibility of obtaining a fee waiver from the CMB Program.

Submit OFFICIAL TOEFL or IELTS Scores, if applicable, from ETS

  • We will accept either TOEFL or IELTS scores
  • Scores are sent electronically from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to the Graduate School at UW-Madison
  • Institution code: 1846, no department code required
  • TOEFL/IELTS scores are not accepted if more than 2 years old
  • See the ETS website for more information to obtain additional TOEFL score reports
  • International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement if: the official language of instruction at the undergraduate institution is exclusively English; they have completed two full-time semesters of work in a U.S. institution; or if they have a degree from an accredited U.S. institution
  • See the UW-Madison Graduate School Admission Requirements for grades, degree, and specifics of the English proficiency requirements

Note: GRE Scores are no longer required

  • Even if you took the GRE, please do NOT enter your scores into the application. The CMB Admissions Committee will not consider any GRE scores as part of your application, even if they are submitted.

Number of Applications (5 year average)

  • Total applications per year: 423
  • 53% Female, 47% Male
  • 12% Targeted Minority (Domestic); 49% Non-Targeted (Domestic); 37% International; 2% Unknown

Scores of Admitted Students (5 year average)

  • GPA: 3.66/4.0
  • TOEFL: 104/120

Admissions (5 year average)

  • In person student interview visits (domestic and international): 52 per year
  • International student phone interviews (for students living outside of the country): 4 per year
  • Final international and domestic offers of admission: 55 per year
  • Incoming rotating class size: 13 per year
  • Incoming direct admit students: 1 per year

Final Offers (5 year average)

  • 13.1% (276/2113) of all applicants received admissions offers
    • 17.4% (218/1254) of domestic applicants received admissions offers, and 3.7% (20/542) of international applicants received admissions offers
  • 14.5% (36/249) of underrepresented minority applicants received admissions offers

New Entrants (5 Year Average)

  • Total new entrants per year: 20 (includes MD/PhD and direct admit students)
  • 53% Female, 47% Male
  • 13% Targeted Minority (Domestic), 72% Non-Targeted (Domestic), 15% International

Current Enrollment

  • Faculty Trainers: 197
  • Graduate Students: 105
    • 57% Female, 43% Male
    • 10% (11 students) Targeted Minority (Domestic), 68% (71 students) Non-Targeted (Domestic), 22% (23 students) International

How to Apply

Prepare your Application Materials

Three letters of recommendation, personal statement, supplemental question, CV, TOEFL Scores (if required), electronic transcripts, and application fee. Note: GRE scores are no longer required.

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Submit the UW-Madison Graduate School Application

Applications are due December 1. Indicate Major Field of Study: “Cellular and Molecular Biology 147, ALS."

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