Youth Options and Traditional Programs for High School Students

Qualified high school juniors or seniors may apply to take one University course each term through either the Traditional or Youth Options Programs. Adult Career and Special Student Services serves as the admitting and dean's office for students who are enrolled in either of these programs.

Regardless of which program you pursue, you must meet the Eligibility requirements and adhere to the Course selection guidelines outlined below.

Eligibility requirements

  • High school juniors or seniors with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.000 (overall and in the most recent semester).
  • Youth Options Program applicants must be Wisconsin public high school students.  Traditional program applicants can be either private or public high school students.
  • Students must have met prerequisites for UW-Madison courses and have exhausted their high school curriculum in the subject.
  • Students planning to take courses in subsequent terms must maintain a 3.000 GPA at their high school and a 2.000 GPA in UW-Madison coursework.

Course selection guidelines

Students admitted for either the Youth Options or Traditional programs must follow these guidelines when selecting potential UW-Madison courses. 

  • Only courses at the 100-200 (elementary) level with no prerequisites and open to college freshmen are allowed unless prerequisites or placement requirements have been met.
  • Students must have exhausted the high school curriculum in the subject area and have proven academic need to take the course - students should meet with his/her school counselor for endorsement of course choices.
  • Courses numbered x90 and x99 are NOT available for high school students to take.
  • Only one course per term is allowed (for Youth Options students this is regardless of how many courses your school district approved.)
  • Youth Options and Traditional program students are the last to enroll and priority is always given to degree-seeking students (including when enrolling from a waitlist).

Note: Certain courses are rarely available to high school students due to high demand from degree-seeking students.

Important considerations

When considering whether taking a UW-Madison course is right for you, keep in mind:

  • Transportation time: How long it will take to commute between your school and the UW-Madison campus - remember that most courses involve both lecture and discussion and/or lab sections which may not meet at the same time of day.
  • Meetings outside of class: Some courses will require student group meetings outside of class time (this may include evening hours).
  • Final exams: Final exams are scheduled at a time other than the regular course meeting time.  To make sure you are available for the final exam, check course details in the Schedule of Classes
  • UW-Madison transcript: All participating students are establishing a permanent UW-Madison record and will earn university credit.  Youth Options students will also gain high school credits and should talk with their guidance counselors about the potential impact of UW-Madison course grades on their high school GPA. 

Getting started

If you meet the Eligibility requirements and the course you hope to take meets the Course selection guidelines, start by talking with your high school guidance counselor about participation in either the Youth Options Program or Traditional program.  Both programs are described below.

Youth Options Program

The Youth Options Program (YOP) was created by the Wisconsin State Legislature and allows junior and senior public high school students to enroll in courses at institutions of higher education with fees and tuition for preapproved courses paid by local school boards.  YOP students enrolling at UW-Madison are allowed to take only one course per term and are expected to adhere to all the Course selection guidelines

To be considered for participation in YOP:

  • Talk with your high school guidance counselor to determine if taking a UW-Madison course fits your academic plans.
  • Obtain the Youth Options Program Plan and Report Form PI-8700-A from your high school guidance counselor.
  • Complete and submit the YOP Plan and Report Form to your local school board no later than March 1 for fall term or October 1 for spring term.  Identify each course by the department name and course number as it appears in the Schedule of Classes.  Please keep in mind the UW-Madison Course selection guidelines when listing courses on this form.
  • Apply for admission to UW-Madison as a University Special student following the steps under the Application and enrollment procedures section.

Your district school board determines whether high school credit and/or tuition and fee payment will be granted for the course (and/or alternatives) specified on the Youth Options Program form.  If approval is granted, the school board must send the original approved form to UW-Madison Adult Career and Special Student Services.  

Traditional Program

This program is available to qualified high school juniors and seniors who want to take a UW-Madison class while still in high school.  High school students enrolling at UW-Madison under the Traditional program are allowed to take only one class per term and are expected to adhere to all the Course selection guidelines. Students enrolling under the Traditional program are responsible for all tuition and fees.

To be considered for participation in the Traditional program:

  • Talk with your high school guidance counselor to determine if this program fits your academic plans. 
  • With your counselor, refer to the Course selection guidelines when considering if the class you hope to take at UW-Madison is right for you. 
  • Apply for admission to UW-Madison as a University Special student following the steps under the Application and enrollment procedures section. You will need to submit a letter of recommendation from either your guidance counselor or principal when you apply.     

Application and enrollment procedure for new and returning students

High school students who wish to participate in either the Youth Options or Traditional programs should first read the Eligibility requirements, Course selection guidelines, and Important considerations sections above.  If you have met with your guidance counselor and taking a UW-Madison course seems right for you, follow the steps below. There are slight differences in application procedures for Youth Options and Traditional students so please read the instructions carefully.

  1. Apply by submitting (new students):
    • The UW System application by July 15 for fall, Dec 1 for spring, and 3 weeks before the start of summer term (only the Traditional program is available for summer term).
      • On the application:
        • Select High School Special/Youth Option Program as your Reason for Applying
        • Respond to all items to avoid delays in processing your application
    • UW-Madison Enrollment Plan Form - required each term, this form must be completed entirely for your application to be considered as a new student and to get approval from UW-Madison to enroll as a continuing student.  Students should list up to 5 of their top course choices in order of priority and include any course prerequisites and how they have been met along with how the course fits their academic plans.
    • Your recent high school transcript with a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.000 (B). Continuing students must maintain a GPA of 3.000 at his/her high school in addition to a GPA of 2.000 at UW-Madison. 
    • AP B/C Calculus exam score (unofficial copy is fine) if planning to take Math 234.  A score of 4 or higher is necessary to place into Math 234.
    • Letter of recommendation from high school counselor or principal (Traditional program only unless requested by our office for Youth Options) each term you wish to enroll.
  2. Wait for notification of admission decision via email or USPS. If admitted you will receive:
    • Letter of admission and enrollment instructions from Adult Career and Special Student Services.
    • Enrollment invitation with earliest enrollment time via email from the Registrar's Office - be sure to provide us with an email you check regularly.
  3. Attend orientation - all new high shool students are required to attend an orientation.  More information about the orientation will be included with your letter of admission but generally it is held in late August for fall and early January for spring.
  4. Enroll beginning at your earliest enrollment date and time (check your MyUW Student Center).
    • Enroll via the MyUW Student Center - instructions are included with your letter of admission or can be viewed here.
      • Being admitted does not guarantee that you will be able to enroll.  University Special students admitted in the high school classification (UNHS) enroll only when all other students have enrolled and have been accommodated on waitlists.
      • If you are on a waitlist for a course, any degree seeking students also on the waitlist are given priority for enrollment in that course.
      • Final enrollment may not be determined until after the first week of classes in some cases.

Tuition and fees

Youth Options Program

Your school district will be billed directly by the Bursar's Office if you have enrolled in a course approved by your school board.

  • You are responsible for the purchase of books and should contact your school board about reimbursement.
  • If you are enrolled in a course not approved by the school board you are responsible for tuition and fees as well as any penalties for late enrollment or late payment. Note: Paper bills are not mailed. Watch your WiscMail for your eBill notification email.
  • Only the school board can approve a course for payment under the Youth Options Program.  Substitutions or additions to your original list of apporved courses must be submitted in writing to Adult Career and Special Student Services by the school district.  It is your responsibility to obtain all clearances for your enrollment from your school district.   

Traditional program

Shortly after you enroll in a class, the Bursar's Office will generate your eBill which you can view in your MyUW Student Center.  Your bill will indicate your tuition due date, typically four weeks after you enroll. Note: You will not receive a paper bill in the mail.  Watch your WiscMail for your eBill notification email.

Your letter of admission will indicate whether you are a Wisconsin resident for tuition purposes.  If you have questions about your residency status contact the Residency Office at  or 608-262-1355. To check current per credit rates visit the Registrar's fee page.

Rights and responsibilities of enrolled students

Once enrolled, you have all the rights of University students as well as the responsibilities including meeting deadlines for enrollment, adding and dropping courses, and withdrawing. The current Schedule of Classes has deadline information. For questions regarding University Special student policy see our FAQs or contact ACSSS.

Courses taken as a University Special student become part of the permanent University record and may affect subsequent admission to postsecondary institutions. A poor grade could have a negative impact on a future admission decision.

Student Privacy Rights (FERPA) rules apply to ALL University students.  Therefore communication is expected from students (not parents), and is restricted by law in regards to student record, including course schedule.  

Students are required to follow campus policy of using and checking WiscMail for all correspondence with UW-Madison staff, faculty and offices.


For advising or to discuss requirements and options for either program call or email the advisor:

Helpful Links

Youth Options Program - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's website

UW-Madison Schedule of Classes and Course Guide  

UW-Madison Undergraduate Catalog

Noncredit classes for youth - academic and athletic programs