I'm not sure I can answer the question as to academics except to tell you that UW is a great school. You can go to the rankings and decide for yourself. I'm an administrator at UW so I have a natural basis towards Madison. Do remember that you always don't wind up where you start off in college. I wanted business when I was an undergrad, and then I ran into accounting as a prerequisite. Goodbye to business. Hello history. That worked out great for me. The point being that if what you think you want as a 17 year old isn't what you want when you are 19 a school like UW offers you many, many more options. And don't let the large size fool you. Advanced classes in your major are not lecture halls. Also large size means that there is lots and lots of stuff going on and there are many different cultures on campus. You'll be able to find a place for yourself much easier than on a smaller campus.