Understanding the Funding Process

Small group discussions in a graduate-level research methods course

Admissions and Funding Decisions

At UW–Madison, admissions and funding decisions are made by the specific graduate program(s) to which you apply rather than by a centralized cross-campus process.  Because of the diversity of graduate programs available on campus, graduate programs differ in how they make admissions and funding decisions.  For example, some graduate programs only admit students if they can support them financially with assistantships, traineeships, or fellowships, while other graduate programs admit students without a funding offer.

Graduate programs at UW–Madison also differ in the timing of their admissions and funding decisions.  Some graduate programs make admissions and funding decisions at the same time while other programs make admissions decisions first and funding decisions later.  As a result, you should always start your search for information about funding by contacting your intended program(s).  Program staff will be able to tell you how, when, and to what level funding is typically awarded to incoming students.  Likewise, if you have been admitted to a program, but have not received an offer of funding, you should contact the program to inquire about the timing of their funding decisions.

Funding Packages

You may receive a funding offer from your graduate program.  A funding package is an offer of financial support put together by your program for a specified number of years.  A funding package may include a combination of different types of appointments (e.g.,  TA positions, program assistantships, fellowships).

The terms and conditions of those appointments, including your stipend, may vary from year to year or from term to term.  Remember that fellowships do not require you to work, but graduate assistantship and student hourly appointments do.  Therefore, it is very important that you take the time to understand the funding package you are offered.  The funding letter sent to you by the program should outline all the components of the package being offered.  For each appointment, you should ask for the following information:

  • type of position (e.g., research assistantship, teaching assistantship, fellowship);
  • start and end dates;
  • percentage of the appointment/number of work hours required (e.g., a 50% appointment is 20 hours);
  • stipend amount;
  • tuition coverage;
  • payment of segregated fees, if applicable;
  • eligibility for health insurance; and
  • additional benefits, if any (e.g., travel funds, professional development funds, priority for graduate student housing, etc).

If you have any questions about your funding package or about the information in your funding letter, you should contact your graduate program.

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