frequently asked questions:
Question: How will I know whether I got in? How many students are admitted?
The admissions committee notifies students of their admission status by letter prior to spring registration in April. Some students who are admitted decide not to register. In that case, additional students are admitted from the waiting list, even as late as the first week of class. If you are on the waiting list, it pays to keep checking back with the Biocore office. Approximately 150 students begin Biocore each fall.
Question: Can I take Biocore as a freshman?
Introductory college level chemistry is a prerequisite for all students prior to entering the Biocore sequence. It is very unusual that students have completed introductory college chemistry (Chem 104, 109 or 115) in the fall (when Biocore starts) of their freshman year, but it is not unprecedented. Contact us if you would like to discuss your situation.
Question: As a student in the Biocore Program, do I have to take all 4 semesters?
Biocore is a sequence to be taken in series. The Biocore sequence includes 4 lecture courses and 3 laboratory courses. Some majors require only 3 of the 4 semesters or only 2 of the 3 laboratory courses. Please consult with your advisor. The number of course requirements varies among majors.
Question: How is Biocore different from Biol/Bot/Zoo 151/152 or Zoo 101/102/ Bot130?
Biocore courses cover material that is covered in Biol/Bot/Zoo 151/152 and Zoo 101/102, but are taught at the intermediate level. Therefore the courses go into greater depth and at a more challenging pace. As a result, the courses are not equivalent (i.e. Biocore 301 is not equivalent to Biol 151). Therefore, students would not be able to jump back and forth between the sequences (e.g. take Biol 151 and then Biocore 303). Students who take Biocore are introduced to genetics through the four-semester curriculum, therefore, students who complete Biocore are usually not required to take Genetics 466. In addition, Biocore 323/324 is an intermediate level physiology lecture/lab course fulfilling physiology course and advanced lab requirement for some majors. Students in Biol 151/152 or Zoo101/102/Bot130 often require Genetics 466 and Phys 335 for their major.
Because we limit enrollment, we have high instructor / student ratio that results in a high quality learning environment. All lab sections are team taught by a permanent academic staff and a TA. Since we see the same relatively small group of students over 4 semesters, we have the unique opportunity to get to know each student individually and help them progress as a scientist. We try to integrate the curriculum with long-term experiments, curricular threads, and use of model systems continually applying concepts in new, more sophisticated ways as students progress through their coursework. Finally, we find that many Biocore students form tight peer groups that continue to meet and study together throughout the 4 semesters resulting in a rich learning community.
Question: Can I take Biocore if I plan to study abroad?
Yes. Many Biocore students do this and we encourage it as an outstanding experience. While Biocore courses should be taken in order, many students take the first 2 semesters as sophomores, go abroad for one or two semesters as juniors, and then complete Biocore their senior year. Going abroad does take some advanced planning to fit in all the necessary course requirements, however, many come back with a more worldly perspective ready to re-engage in their studies their senior year.
Question: Do graduate or medical schools other than UW-Madison recognize Biocore?
With a long history and over 6,500 Biocore alumni, many schools (particularly those in WI) know about Biocore as a challenging honors sequence. Furthermore, Biocore faculty and staff who write letters of recommendation for students always describe the challenging nature of the program. If you are concerned about a particular school's admissions policy regarding honors courses, you should consult with the school directly. In addition, most schools require standard applications where courses can be described in detail as honors at intermediate level.
Question: Will my GPA suffer if I take Biocore?
All of our courses have set grading scales, not curves. This means that you are not in competition with anyone for a grade and that everyone can get an A if everyone does excellent work. Grade distributions in Biocore reflect the excellent preparation and learning of students. Our past experience has been that a large number of students do earn As. However, you will not do well in Biocore by simply attending lectures and reading the book. Assignments, class discussions, and recommended problems give you opportunities to extend your studies, deepen your understanding and apply/synthesize/integrate what you have learned to novel situations or challenging problems. This process goes way beyond mere memorization. Likewise, exams are directly related to concepts emphasized in a particular unit or course, but often ask you to deal with a new situation, not one that comes directly from the book or notes. This is a challenging process, but most rewarding when you achieve a higher level of learning. In short, you will get out of Biocore what you put into it. http://www.biology.wisc.edu/documents/Grading_in_Bio_Courses.pdf
Question: What if I have taken AP Biology in high school?
Biocore is appropriate for students who have taken AP Biology because its increased depth means that you will go far beyond what you learned in high school. The University allows you to count your AP credits toward graduation (as electives) in addition to your Biocore credits.
Question: I did not take AP Biology in high school. Will I be at a disadvantage?
No. Biocore is an introductory to intermediate biology sequence and the faculty realize that students' experience and preparation differs. We do not expect student to have had an accelerated biology course in high school, and it is not a prerequisite for doing well in our courses. We cover the basics and then go into more in-depth topics as courses and students' knowledge progress over the 4 semesters.
Question: Is Biocore a Pre-Med course sequence?
Biocore is an introductory curriculum designed for students with diverse interests in the biological sciences including environmental studies, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology and the allied health professions. Biocore welcomes premeds and has received high praise from the UW Medical School and from former Biocore students who say that Biocore provides excellent preparation. Course work in Biocore includes study at many levels of organization from molecules to the biosphere. We consider a wide range of organisms (including plants, animals, and microorganisms) in the study of ecology, evolution, genetics, cell biology, and physiology. The Biocore curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation to build on in upper-level courses for any biological science major.