Content in the Nondegree/Visiting Student Guide applies to all University Special (nondegree) students. University Special students enroll in UW–Madison credit courses but are not in degree status.

There are several categories of Special students, each with distinct educational goals, admission criteria, enrollment policy, and fee structures. 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.

Adult Career and Special Student Services (ACSSS), a unit in the Division of Continuing Studies, is the admitting, advising, and academic dean's office for University Special students.


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 the student's 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. Additional information about University Special student admission can be found at ACSSS.

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.


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. 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

Enrollment times assigned to University Special students depend on the classification. For fall and spring terms, 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. 

In order to enroll in a course, students—including University Special students— must meet course prerequisites and requirements which are listed in the courses section of the Guide. Courses taken at other colleges and universities will not be part of the UW–Madison record. Students should confer with a department or course instructor to confirm a prerequisite has been met.

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. Summer term course loads are limited to one credit per week of session (3 credits in a 3-week session, 4 credits in a 4-week session, etc) with the exception of the eight-week general session which allows for 9 credits over the 8-week period. 


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 be calculated in the final undergraduate degree GPA. 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 GPA 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 term of enrollment (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 computer labs. See ACSSS for further detail.

Tuition and Fees

The tuition rate and any fee assessment varies with the number of credits enrolled in, the classification of University Special students, and residency status (Wisconsin, Nonresident, Minnesota, or International). Many classifications pay at the undergraduate student rate which may be viewed on the Bursar's Office webpage. For Capstone Certificate programs consult with the program coordinator for current tuition rates which are similar to the graduate student rate.

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 credits 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 online Capstone Certificate programs, and off-campus classes.

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 #11101. The university, in accordance with FERPA, designated specific information as "directory information," which is publicly available unless a student asks to have any or all of it withheld.

Students may elect to keep some or all of their "directory information" confidential by restricting their information via the Student Center tile 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 #11101. 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 should 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 Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.

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. View the complete text of UWS Chapter 17, or contact the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, 608-263-5701 or

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 Dean of Students Office, 608-263-5700, Room 70 Bascom Hall.


Advising and education planning are available to community adults and university employees, as well as to University Special students and returning adult degree students. The goal is to help adults make a decision regarding further education.


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 students with the exception of those enrolled in Capstone certificates (UNCS classification) and those taking prerequisites for graduate or professional school admission (UNRS classification). These students must meet the eligibility criteria outlined at:

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 Financing Your Education.


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 Madison Metro Bus Pass, Division of Information Technology (DoIT), University Recreation & WellBeing, Veterans Services and Military Assistance Center, and many more. Consult the 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.

Noncredit Continuing Education is also offered through the following Schools and Colleges:

PLACE: Professional Leaning and Community Education (School of Education)

Interdisciplinary Professional Programs (College of Engineering)

The Information School

Interprofessional Continuing Education Partnership (School of Medicine)

Nursing Professional Development

Continuing Legal Education at Wisconsin

Division of Pharmacy Professional Development

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. The Faculty Senate approves an academic calendar which spans a future five-year period.