Individuals who wish to enroll in a credit course, are not currently in a degree program at UW–Madison, and do not fit the other types of University Special students may have unique needs to qualify for one of the classifications below.

Preselected by a Department or Program

Students in this classification have been selected to participate by a department in a specific course, seminar, institute, or workshop for credit.  Admission requirements are established by the program or department, which makes the final admissions decision. These students are assessed tuition at the undergraduate student rate (Wisconsin resident or nonresident) unless a course has a nonstandard tuition rate.  Enrollment is for one term only for the specific course or program.  Students who wish to be considered for enrollment in a subsequent term must contact the Adult Career and Special Student Services office to request a change of classification based on their academic plans or goals. 


University Special students typically require one of the following: (1) hold a baccalaureate degree, (2) are currently a degree student in good standing at another college, (3) are selected for a course, program, institute, or Capstone Certificate, or (4) are a high school student in the early college credit program.  There may be unique needs or circumstances that allow a student to qualify for admission without satisfying any of these requirements.  For consideration, a conversation with an advisor who approves admission is necessary. Note: Individuals who have  been denied admission or missed the deadline to apply by undergraduate admissions are not eligible for admission as a University Special student.

Full-time ESL Program

The Intensive English Program (IEP) at UW-Madison provides quality academic instruction to adults who wish to improve their proficiency in English. IEP offers full-time, 15-week programs in the Fall and Spring semesters and an 8-week Summer program. The classes range from lower-intermediate (A2) to advanced level (C1).  Beginning-level instruction (A1) is not offered.  When you join IEP, you are a UW–Madison student in University Special student status, with full access to all UW-Madison student facilities.

 As a student in IEP you will learn to:

  • Speak accurately and fluently
  • Express your ideas in writing
  • Understand lectures and informal speech
  • Read efficiently and quickly
  • Become confident in your English
Part-time enrollment is available to adults who already in Madison to live, work, or study. 

How to Get in

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

Preselected by a Department or Program

Admission requirements are established by the department and program, which screens prospective students and provides information regarding the steps to complete an application for admission.  The steps will include completion of a University Special student application, in addition to any specific program or department requirements. UNPS is the designation on the admissions application and course roster. 

Once admitted to the university, enrollment instructions which are customized for the department or program with specific course numbers are provided to the student.


Prospective students who have consulted with an advisor and received support for admission in this classification, apply using the University Special students application - indicating their academic goal and name of the advisor.  Applying at least one month before the start of the term (early August for fall; early December for spring) is recommended as it takes 1-2 weeks to review and process an application. Enrollment for summer term usually begins in early April, so applying by early March is recommended.  UNOS is the designation on the admissions application and course roster. 

There are two options for submitting a University Special Student application:

  1. First-time students use Applying via the University Special Student application
  2. Returning students may use the application above or apply as a reentry student via the Reentry application in the Student Center/My UW using a NetID. 

Admitted students receive enrollment information.  University Special students enroll via MyUW/Student Center at an earliest enrollment time - which is assigned at a date after degree students have enrolled.  For students in this classification, enrollment is typically 2-3 days before the beginning of a term, except in April for summer term.  More detailed instruction is provided at the ACSSS enrollment page.  The most common enrollment questions and issues facing University Special students are addressed on the ACSSS FAQ page

Full-time ESL Program

IEP considers applicants for admission each term: fall, spring, or summer.  By the application deadline, applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate, and
  • have a minimum of low-intermediate English speaking competency (A1). (Levels A1–C2 refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR).)
  • provide official documentation of the source of funds for tuition and living expenses (such as a letter from the applicant's bank, scholarship board, or funding agency).
  • provide a scan of the photo page of a valid passport.

Applicants must view the IEP website for the current amount of tuition and living expenses, health insurance requirements, and application deadlines.

Applicants use the University Special student admissions form, selecting UNES for the Full-time Study of English as a Second Language program.

After evaluating the application and documents, IES notifies the applicant of program acceptance and issues the Form I-20 which is required to request the student visa.

Admitted students receive detailed enrollment instructions from IEP.