Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We’ve gathered our most frequently asked questions about the Environmental Conservation (EC) and Environmental Observation and Informatics (EOI) programs. Know that we are always available to answer your questions directly. Please contact us if you have a question or want to introduce yourself. We would love to connect with you!

Admissions and Applications

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What are the program admissions requirements?

Information about admissions requirements is on the How to Apply page. Applicants must meet the requirements for the UW-Madison Graduate School and the EC/EOI program.

What if I don’t meet the admissions requirements?

Talk to us! The potential to join the programs is based on each individual. We can help figure out if graduate school at UW-Madison is right for you. Contact the program coordinators directly for the program you are interested in, or email

What are the application requirements?

See the How to Apply page for full information on what is needed for an application to our programs.

Why can’t I find the EC or EOI programs in the online application?

You first need to select the summer term. The EC and EOI programs will not show up if you have selected fall or spring. Both program options fall under the Environmental Conservation MS, with an option for either Environmental Conservation or Environmental Observation and Informatics.

When is the application deadline?

The priority deadline is December 1. You must submit all your application materials and ensure your letters of recommendation have been submitted by this date. Please see the secondary deadlines on the How to Apply page.

When will I hear if I have been admitted?

If you have applied by December 1, you will hear about admission to the program by mid to late January.

What if I missed the December 1 application deadline?

We still accept applications on a rolling basis after the December 1 deadline. Applicants are highly encouraged to apply by the December 1 deadline to secure a spot in the program if admitted. Please see the secondary deadlines on the How to Apply page and contact the program coordinator.

I just learned about your programs, but already submitted my UW application for a different program. Do I have to submit a new application?

Yes. There is no ability to add a program to an application that has already been submitted. Please contact the program coordinator in this situation.

Do you require the GRE?

UW-Madison and the EC and EOI programs do not require the GRE for all applicants, but you may need to take it depending on your experience and undergraduate degree. Look at the How to Apply page for full information.

What is your admissions rate?

The rate is highly variable by year and the number of people who apply. We often connect with prospective applicants in advance to determine if a program is the right fit. For the past five years, the average admission rate has been about 80 percent. View additional data about the cohorts

How do I submit letters of recommendation?

The letters are submitted through the online application. You enter contact information for two or three people into the system and they are automatically sent an email with instructions to upload their letter. On your end, we suggest you contact these individuals prior to entering their information and tell them they will receive an email from the UW-Madison application with instructions.

You will be able to see if your letters have been submitted before and after you submit your application. Recommenders can submit their letters even after you have submitted your application.

When do you need official transcripts?

The UW-Madison Graduate School requires official transcripts only once you have been admitted to a program. If you have been admitted to the program, the Graduate School will send you a message requesting official transcripts. Please follow the instructions in an email from the Graduate School for how to submit your official transcript. For the online application, you can submit a PDF file of an unofficial transcript.

What information should be in the statement of interest?

Your statement of interest should tell a story of why you are interested in the EC or EOI program, how you would benefit from the program, and why you will be successful in the program.

We generally advise people to answer the following questions:

  • Why are you interested in this program?
  • Why will you be successful?

You don’t have to explicitly answer those questions, but your statement should clearly articulate responses to those questions.

For the first, focus on why this program. We know graduate school is an investment, and there are numerous programs out there. So why EOI/EC? What about this program do you like, and why do you think it will help you in reaching your goals? You can talk about skills you have seen that are in demand, or a desire to grow your knowledge in a certain area, or even that you need a MS degree to move up in your position.

For the second, focus on what makes you academically and professionally prepared for this program. You can talk about your undergraduate degree, and the experiences you had or the classes you did well in that you feel are relevant. You can also talk about your professional experience and how you can bring that training to the program.

Finally, the statement is also a place to address any places where you feel your application doesn’t represent you as a prospective graduate student. For example, some people would like to explain potentially a low GPA, or experiences that don’t represent you as a strong applicant to the program.

Many graduate programs will recommend that your statement of interest describe the type of research you want to do and to identify a faculty advisor. This is not a requirement for the Nelson Institute Professional Programs.

We suggest the statement of interest should be one to 1½ pages, no more than two pages, double-spaced. The tone should be professional and you should have somebody else proofread it. There are no specific formatting requirements like font, spacing, or formal headings.

What should I include in my EOI professional portfolio?

See the How to Apply page for information about the purpose of the portfolio and examples of what to include.

We recommend selecting three to five examples of your work to include in the portfolio. A strong portfolio supports your resume and your statement of interest, so choose examples and write descriptions that highlight your experience and your skills. Examples are best shown with a visual and a short description that includes information about the data used, analyses performed, the software program used, and the purpose.

Examples should be combined into a single PDF document that is less than 4 megabytes (MB) in size. Because portfolios contain images, you may need to use a program to save images or the PDF document as a reduced size. If you are having issues loading your portfolio or need help reducing the file size, please email the coordinator.

Do I qualify as a Wisconsin resident?

Residency is determined by the Office of the Registrar. Learn more about the qualifications for residence for tuition purposes

Can I defer admissions in EC and EOI?

Deferrals may be granted to the following summer start date for emergency medical or personal reasons. If you choose to defer for other reasons, you will be required to resubmit an application for the summer you want to start the program and your application will be considered for admissions along with the rest of the applicants for that year.

Program Costs and Tuition Assistance

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Are there scholarships or assistantships to cover the cost of tuition and provide a living stipend?

The Environmental Professional Programs offer tuition assistance awards. You can read about these awards and find the online application on the Costs and Funding page. These are competitive awards based on your application. If awarded, the tuition assistance would reduce the amount you pay in tuition, but does not pay for your living expenses while in Madison. All students, including international students, can work while in the program.

We encourage you to spend some time thinking and researching how you will fund your education. The deadline for the tuition assistance application is December 1. As they are accelerated programs, EC/EOI students are not eligible for teaching, program, or research assistantships on campus.

How much can we expect, and how is tuition assistance awarded?

The amount awarded is strongly dependent on the strength of the application (both to the program itself and for the tuition assistance). We inform applicants of their tuition assistance award at the same time we notify them about acceptance to the program. Do not let the cost of tuition deter you from applying! We strongly recommend all applicants explore and apply for other sources of funding to support your studies.

Do you have funding? What are options for funding? I need funding.

We do not offer full-funding packages through teaching or research assistantships. Students fund themselves through the following ways:

  • Environmental Professional Programs Tuition Assistance: Apply using the online application found on our Costs and Funding page
  • Federal grants and loans (U.S. students only): Apply through the Office of Student Financial Aid.
  • Part-time work: Please note that international students are eligible for on-campus jobs only.
  • External grants and scholarships: Because there are many different types of scholarships and grants and many have specific qualification requirements, the best way to find opportunities is through online searches.

Additional resources are provided by the UW-Madison Graduate School. Please note that EC/EOI students may not accept funding through graduate assistantships.

What does tuition cost each semester and when is it due?

The tuition rate for the EC and EOI programs is $1,000 per credit for all students, or $32,000 total in tuition for the entire 32-credit, 15-month MS program. Student segregated fees are in addition to the $1,000 per credit rate. Student segregated fees are approximately $2,203 for the entire program. Please see the Costs and Funding page for additional information on program costs and financial support. Tuition is due in the first two weeks of each semester. Please see the Bursar’s Office webpage on tuition due dates.

What are the expected non-tuition costs?

Please visit the Office of Student Financial Aid website for estimates of the cost of attendance.

Program Structure and Schedule

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When does the program start, and what are the semester dates?

We follow the UW-Madison academic calendar. View the calendar with the start and end dates for each semester.

The semester dates are approximately:

  • First summer: First week of June to early August
  • Fall: September to mid-December
  • Spring: Mid-January to early May
  • Final summer: Late May to early August

Can I be anywhere for the remote-learning semester?

You do not have to be in Madison during the remote-learning spring semester. Spring courses are offered entirely online, with most courses having a synchronous meeting requirement. Students who choose to stay in Madison can attend this synchronous meeting time in person. While much of the course content is asynchronous, all classes have regular weekly assignments and are not go at your own pace. This means you must have reliable internet access throughout the spring semester.

International students must either be in Madison or return to their country of residence. If in Madison, students must attend the in-person meeting time to satisfy visa requirements as set by the U.S. State Department.

How much time can I expect to spend on coursework?

It is expected that students perform just over three hours of total coursework per credit per week, which includes completing all readings, participating in class discussions, and completing all course assignments. This translates to about 45 total hours per credit over the entire semester.

The fall and spring semesters have 10-11 credits, therefore, you can expect to spend at least 30 hours a week on coursework for 14 weeks. Some weeks/projects may require more/fewer hours. The first summer semester has eight to nine credits over 10 weeks. The final summer semester has four credits of independent study and carries an expectation of 40 hours per week of project work over the condensed eight-week timeline.

You can find details on the UW-Madison Course Credit Information page.

What do summer projects look like and how are they developed?

The summer project is a unique opportunity to develop a specific skillset, expand your content knowledge and network, and apply what you have learned in the program. Projects are in a real-life professional setting with a fitting organization for your goals and with the support of a host supervisor.

The process to secure a project is unique for each student: A student may tap into our expansive network of conservation professionals and organizations; a student may wish to connect with a project opportunity through their own network or employer; or the program coordinators could reach out to an organization with the student to make a new connection.

The program coordinators support the process to develop a project that is a match between the student’s professional goals and the ongoing work, mission, and needs of the partnering organization. To do so, coordinators go through a thorough process of professional development exploration with each student. They identify what is most important for the student professionally and distill previous experience and strengths that can be applied to the project. Through meaningful conversations they reflect on what is most important for the project experience and guide the student in developing a project they can manage and successfully accomplish in eight to 10 weeks.

We know students bring unique experience, goals, and passions to grad school, and the final project should reflect that. We explore this together at length!

Can I take additional courses outside of the EC and EOI curriculum?

No, as per campus policy, students enrolled in the EC and EOI programs are not allowed to take (or audit) courses outside of the set curriculum in each program.