Individuals who wish to enroll in UW–Madison credit courses but are not in degree status at this university may apply for admission as a University Special student. There are 15 categories of University Special students, ranging from high school students and visiting undergraduate and graduate students, to adults seeking further credits after earning a baccalaureate degree. Each category has a distinct educational goal, admission criteria, enrollment policy, and tuition/fees rate. All University Special students establish an official UW–Madison student record and are responsible for adhering to the university’s academic policies and procedures, and to the student code of conduct. The office of admissions, advising assistance, and the academic dean for University Special students is Adult Career and Special Student Services (ACSSS).

There are two steps to become a University Special student: (1) university admission and (2) course enrollment.


Admission as a University Special student is available for all terms: fall, spring, and summer. Applying at least one month before the start of the term is recommended as it can take one to three weeks to review, approve, and process an application. Timely admission is important in order to take advantage of an earliest enrollment date. Capstone certificates, programs with preselected or international students, and high school classifications will have earlier application deadlines, as an admission decision depends on input from departments or other units. Frequently asked questions about University Special student admission are posted at ACSSS.

The application has two options as listed below. However, first-time University Special students should read the details and more specific application information provided for each student type at Types of Study to prepare for the required steps.


Once admitted, students enroll following the same basic policies and online procedures as UW–Madison degree students. ACSSS provides enrollment instructions that highlight issues and specific steps for University Special students, as well as provides Enrollment FAQs and Tips. Also, it is important to review the section of policies and regulations pertaining to University Special students. 


Each summer, more than 13,000 undergraduate students enroll in summer courses offered on campus or online. They may choose from more than 1,000 credit classes in sessions lasting from one to 13 weeks. UW–Madison undergraduates enroll for summer courses the same way as for fall and spring courses. An Earliest Appointment Time in late March can be viewed through the MyUW Student Center module. Students not in degree status at UW–Madison should apply for University Special student admission in the appropriate classification by early spring in order to be eligible to enroll in April. For more information on course offerings, sessions, and summer term, see Summer Term.

Policies and Regulations

Enrollment Policies

Degree status students have priority enrollment status and times. The time assigned to a University Special student depends on the classification. For fall and spring term, it ranges from the first day of class to four weeks before the term begins. For summer term, a date in April or May is assigned. 

Most courses have prerequisites which are listed in the courses section of the Guide. In order to enroll in a course, it is necessary that students—including University Special Students—meet these prerequisites and requirements.  University Special students may have taken courses at other colleges and universities which will not be part of the UW–Madison record. Thus, it may be necessary for such students to confer with a department or course instructor to confirm a prerequisite has been met at another institution in order for enrollment to be allowed.

ACSSS provides enrollment instructions that highlight issues for University Special students, as well as provides Enrollment FAQs and Tips

Credit Load

University Special students are permitted to carry up to 18 credits in the fall and spring terms unless other limitations have been specified by their classification, advisors, or program. For most students during summer sessions, course loads are limited to a number of credits equal to the number of weeks of the session. Thus, in a three-week session, 3 credits is the maximum load; in a four-week session, 4 credits is the maximum load. One exception is that a 9-credit limit is allowed during the eight-week general session. 


Grades for each course are reported on the official UW–Madison transcript. The GPA is posted on a term-by-term basis and affects academic eligibility to continue in another term. While in University Special student status, a cumulative GPA is not calculated or displayed on the official UW–Madison student record. However, if a student becomes an undergraduate degree student earning a first UW–Madison undergraduate degree, then any grades and credits earned as a University Special student will transfer in and will be calculated in the final UW–Madison undergraduate degree GPA. (This is a common situation for high school students and visiting undergraduates taking courses prior to entry into a degree program at UW–Madison.) Also, grades earned as a Special student will not change a previous cumulative undergraduate or graduate degree GPA earned at UW–Madison, including if a course is repeated. 

A 2.0 minimum grade point average is required of University Special students in order to continue in future terms. (Capstone Certificate Program students have a higher GPA requirement.) Any University Special student who does not achieve the minimum grade point requirement will automatically receive a "must obtain permission to continue" action on the student record and will be prevented from enrolling in future terms. Such students should contact an ACSSS advisor or the academic dean regarding the policy and eligibility to continue in the future. 


Under limited circumstances a grade of Incomplete (I) may be reported for a student. As for all students, an incomplete is used only when a student due to an illness or other substantial cause is unable to take the final examination or complete some portion of course requirements. A University Special student who receives an Incomplete (I) has until the end of the next semester in which enrolled (excluding summer term) to complete the work and receive a final grade. Otherwise, the Incomplete will automatically lapse to an F. 

Pass/Fail Option

University Special students (excluding Capstone Certificate Program students) may elect to take courses under the pass/fail option following university procedure. A grade of S shall be recorded by the registrar in place of instructors' grades of A, AB, B, BC, C; the grade of U shall be recorded by the registrar in place of instructors' grades of D or F.  The deadline and process for requesting pass/fail grading is posted on the registrar's website

Auditing Courses

There are two ways to audit a course within the University Special student status. 

One—follows the process available to degree students whereby a student enrolls in a course for credit and then uses the Course Change Request in the enrollment system to change to audit. The student confirms with the instructor the attendance and required work to earn a grade of S (Satisfactory). The tuition assessment is at the credit level. 

Two—available only to University Special students who are admitted in one of two classifications: Guest Auditor or Senior Guest Auditor if age 60 or older. Per policy of the UW Board of Regents, Guest auditors may enroll in courses on an audit-only basis and pay reduced or no tuition. Permission from the instructor is required prior to enrolling in a course. Audit credit is automatically assigned based on the student classification. Guest auditors do not pay student segregated fees and have access limited to libraries and nonseg. fee activities of the Student Union. See ACSSS for further detail.

Tuition and Fees

The tuition rate and any fee assessment varies with (1) the number of credits for which enrolled, (2) the classification of University Special students, and (3) residency status (Wisconsin, Nonresident, Minnesota, or International). Many classifications pay at the undergraduate student rate, which may be viewed at the Office of the Registrar fee table. The Capstone Certificate programs have tuition rates similar to the graduate student rate. Consult with the program coordinator for current tuition numbers. 

Most University Special students pay the student segregated fees which provide full access to all university services including campus libraries, computer labs, Metro bus pass, recreational facilities, and University Health Service.  Students enrolled in at least five credit may purchase the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). If a student is in a classification or program that does not assess student segregated fees, then access is limited to the libraries and computer labs. This includes Guest auditors, Senior Guest auditors, some distance delivered Capstone Certificate programs, and off-campus classes. 

Financial aid is available on a limited basis to nondegree students. Returning adults who will enter degree programs may find a match with the scholarship and grant program administered by ACSSS and scholarship information.  More information is available at Resources

Student Privacy Rights

The university has adopted a policy statement implementing all provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is available at the Office of the Registrar, 333 East Campus Mall #10101. The university, in accordance with the act, has designated the following as "directory information," which is publicly available unless a student asks to have any or all of it withheld: name; postal address; telephone numbers; e-mail addresses; date of birth; major field(s) of study and number of academic credits earned toward degree; attendance status (including current year, credit load, and full-or part-time status); dates of attendance (matriculation and withdrawal dates); degrees and awards received (type of degree and date granted); previously attended educational agencies or institutions; participation in officially recognized activities; and participation in athletics and weight and height of athletes.

Students wishing to keep some or all of their "directory information" confidential should restrict their information in the Student Center in My UW.  Students with questions about the provisions of the act or who believe the university is not complying with the act may obtain assistance from the Office of the Registrar.

Availability of Academic Record Information to Others

A student may authorize a third party (e.g., a parent, guardian, spouse, potential employer, etc.) access to academic record information. An authorization form is available at the Office of the Registrar's website, or by visiting the Office of the Registrar, 333 East Campus Mall #10101. It permits release of specified information on a one-time basis to the specified third party. If no authorization is on file, it is assumed that the student does not give a third party access to academic record information. This policy is designed to give students specific control over the parties to whom academic record information may be released. Grade reports will not be sent by the university to parents or guardians.

Academic Integrity

UW–Madison students have the obligation to conduct their academic work in a manner consistent with high standards of academic integrity. They also have the right to expect that all students will be graded fairly, and they have the rights of due process should they be accused of academic misconduct. Students become familiar with the rules of academic misconduct (UWS Ch. 14) and consult with their instructors if they have concerns about possibly observing misconduct or whether something is acceptable.  For complete discussion of the rules regarding academic integrity, see the Dean of Students website, or contact the assistant dean for academic integrity at 608-263-5700 or Room 70 Bascom Hall.

Student Rights and Responsibilities

Every member of the University of Wisconsin–Madison community has the right to expect to conduct his or her academic and social life in an environment free from threats, danger, or harassment. Students also have the responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with membership in the university and local communities. UWS Chapters 17 and 18 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code list the university policies students are expected to uphold and describes the procedures used when students are accused of misconduct. For the complete text of UWS Chapter 17, see this link, or contact the on-call dean in the Dean of Students Office, 608-263-5700, Room 70 Bascom Hall.

No student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the [UW] system or its institutions or centers because of the student's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status.

Student Grievance Procedure

Any student at UW–Madison who feels that he or she has been treated unfairly has the right to voice a complaint and receive a prompt hearing of the grievance. The basis for a grievance can range from something as subtle as miscommunication to the extreme of harassment. For assistance in determining options, students can contact the on-call dean in the Dean of Students Office, 608-263-5700, Room 70 Bascom Hall, Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.


Advising, educational planning, and career counseling are all available to community adults and university staff, as well as to University Special students and returning adult degree students. One does not need to be enrolled or a graduate of the University of Wisconsin to use these services. The goal is to help adults make a decision regarding further education, returning to complete a degree, or envisioning a path to a more satisfying or meaningful career. ACSSS provides one-on-one appointments, workshops, and informational programs in the community. ACSSS also maintains a list serve and a Facebook page for returning adult students at UW–Madison to connect.


For personal concerns, students find the Counseling Services, a unit of University Health Services (UHS), offers a variety of individual, group and couple counseling services. UHS services are available to University Special students in credit status and paying student segregated fees. It is located at 333 East Campus Mall; 608-265-5600.

For academic problems, many places can offer help. The student should first discuss the problem with the professor or TA. If the problem is not resolved at that time, the student can speak with an academic advisor or the chair of the department. Tutoring programs, the Writing Center, and other resources assist all students. If further assistance is needed, University Special students should contact their academic dean in the Adult Career and Special Student Services office.


Many forms of financial aid, including federal financial aid, require a student to be in degree status. Therefore, such aid is not available to University Special student with the exception of those taking prerequisites for graduate or professional school admission (UNRS classification).  Students should contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to determine specific qualifications.

The Adult Career and Special Student Services office administers a scholarship and grant program specifically for returning adult students and single parent students, mostly in degree status. Grants are awarded three times each year, and scholarships on an annual basis. Details are provided at the ACSSS website Financial Assistance.


University Special students enrolled for credit and paying student segregated fees have access to the services and programs on the same terms as degree students. This includes University Health Services, Student Health Insurance Plan, McBurney Disability Resource Center, Office of Child Care and Family Resources, the Metro Bus Pass, Division of Information Technology (DoIT), UW Recreational Sports, Veterans Services and Military Assistance Center, and many more. Consult the online listing at Adult Career and Special Student Services for more information.  


Students interested in supplementing their university credit courses with noncredit classes, certificates, and programs will find hundreds of opportunities through the Division of Continuing Studies Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies. The Continuing Studies Catalog is published three times a year and may be viewed online or requested from the Division of Continuing Studies, 21 North Park Street, Madison, WI 3715-1218; 608-262-1156; fax 608-265-4555.

Academic Calendar

Establishment of the academic calendar for the University of Wisconsin–Madison falls within the authority of the faculty as set forth in Faculty Policies and Procedures. Construction of the academic calendar is subject to various rules and guidelines prescribed by the Board of Regents, the Faculty Senate and State of Wisconsin legislation. Approximately every five years, the Faculty Senate approves a new academic calendar which spans a future five-year period.
The current calendar was adopted by the Faculty Senate in September 2016.

Computer Sciences for Professionals, Capstone Certificate

November 3, 2017
Overview Text

  • Removed the statements: "Those totally new to computer sciences will begin with two introductory courses, COMP SCI 302 and COMP SCI 367, followed by four additional courses to complete the program. Those with a basic background to computer sciences will skip the introductory courses."


  • Removed the Introductory courses section, which included COMP SCI 302 and COMP SCI 367

January 5, 2018

  • Removed COMP SCI 737 from the 400 Level Course Requirement course list