VISP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions from our Visiting International Student Program participants. Here, you will find FAQs on the following topics (click on a topic to jump to it):

About VISP
Application Deadlines
Admissions Requirements
Visa Questions
Health Insurance
Courses and Credit Requirements
Enrollment Questions
Technology Questions
Degree Plans
Student Life
Housing
Employment

 

About VISP

Q: Can VISP students earn an undergraduate or graduate degree while participating in VISP?
A: No, VISP is a non-degree program. VISP students receive a transcript of record showing the courses they took and grades received while at UW. If you are interested in receiving a degree from UW, you should apply to our Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions Offices

Q: Do VISP participants earn academic credit?
A: Yes, you will earn academic credit for the classes you take as a VISP student. At the end of your time at UW, you can request a transcript of record showing the classes you took and the grades you received. 

Q: How do I apply to become a VISP student?
A: Visit our How to Apply website for more information. 

Q: How long can a student participate in VISP?
A: VISP students can come for one or more terms (summer, fall and/or summer), with a maximum length of two years. You can apply to begin your studies during any of the terms. 

Q: Do I need to purchase health insurance while at UW-Madison?
A: Yes, UW-Madison and the federal government require that you have acceptable health insurance while a student. It is not sufficient to have coverage from your home country. See FAQ section on the Health Insurance Requirement below. 

Q: How much does it cost to participate in VISP?
A: VISP students pay tuition and segregated fees for their time here at UW-Madison. In addition to these expenses, you should also factor in the cost of living to be here in Madison when looking at the cost of attendance. Our cost of living estimates include the mandatory SHIP health insurance, room, board, and other estimated expenses. More information can be found on our Financial Requirements page. 

Q: Will I have the same access to student services as a regular degree-seeking student while participating in VISP?
A: Yes, as a fee-paying student, you will be able to use the libraries, health and counseling services, fitness centers, unions, and other student services available to degree students. You can find more information about Student Life at UW-Madison on their website. 

Q: Will I have a WiscMail (@wisc.edu) email address while participating in VISP?
A: Yes, you can set up your email account after you active your NetID. The university will use your WiscMail account to send you important information, so please check it frequently even if you have your messages forwarded to another account. You can read more about WiscMail on the DoIT WiscMail page. 

Application Deadlines 

Q: What is the application deadline to become a VISP student?
A: There are a limited number of spots available each semester. Applications will be taken on a rolling basis after the priority deadline for each term has passed. Please contact the VISP coordinator if you have any questions about available spots. The priority deadlines are as follows:

Academic Term Priority Deadline 
Fall Semester (September - December) May 1; applications accepted on a rolling basis after deadline has passed. 
Spring Semester (January - May) September 1; applications accepted on a rolling basis after deadline has passed.
Summer (Different sessions offered between May - August) February 1; applications accepted on a rolling basis after deadline has passed.

Q: How do I apply to become a VISP student?
A: Visit our How to Apply website for more information. 

Q: Why are the priority deadlines so early for VISP?
A: It takes time for UW-Madison to process visa requests for VISP Students. In addition, it is best to start looking into housing and course registration in advance of the term you wish to come.

Q: It's late July and I just now found out about VISP. Can I still apply for Fall semester even though the priority deadline was in May?
A: Yes you can still apply, but please contact the VISP coordinator to talk about your situation.  

Admission Requirements

Q: Where can I find information about the VISP Admission Requirements?
A: We have information on our Admission Requirements page. 

Q: English is not my native language, and I have not taken an English placement exam. Do I need to do so to apply for VISP?
A: You may start your VISP application before your exam has taken place. There are only a small number of exemptions to the English placement exam requirement, so you will most likely need to take the test. For example, if you recently received a degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction, this requirement may be waived. Please contact the VISP coordinator with questions regarding your specific situation. 

Q: What if I do not meet the minimum English requirements?
A: If you do not meet the minimum English admission requirement at this point, you may wish to apply for our full-time English as a Second Language program. The semester after you meet the minimum English admission requirement, you may be able to join VISP to take academic courses.

Visa Questions

Q: I already have an F-1 or J-1 visa from another U.S. university and I wish to study at your school in the summer. Do I need new visa paperwork (I-20 or DS-2019) from UW-Madison?
A: No, you are free to take classes on our campus in the summer on your home school’s visa as long as you will be returning to that university in the fall.

Q: Can I stay for an additional semester once I am already at UW-Madison?
A: Yes, as long as you are maintaining at least a “C” grade point average (2.00 GPA) on our campus, you may continue enrolling for the next semester as long as you can show adequate financial support for the next term. You must meet with an advisor to extend your visa documents.

Q: What if I cannot show the total financial amount needed to study at UW-Madison?
A: You must show the minimum amount for at least the one semester you wish to study on the campus. Total costs are lower if you choose to study only for the summer term or if you decide you can only afford to stay one term.

You may also decide to explore scholarship opportunities from outside sources. UW-Madison does not provide any financial support for visiting international students at present.

Q: How long may I study as part of the visiting program?
A: You must be able to study at UW-Madison for at least one semester/term but you may continue in nondegree status for up to two full years. 

Health Insurance Requirement

Q: Do I need to purchase health insurance while at UW-Madison?
A: UW-Madison requires health insurance for international students and their dependents. Since you are a student who will come to UW-Madison on an F or J visa, you must meet these requirements for yourself and for any dependents accompanying you. It is not sufficient to have coverage from your home country.

Q: What kind of health insurance should I purchase?
A: The Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) is UW-Madison's approved health insurance plan. It is required for all international students and visa dependents. At the international student orientation, SHIP representatives will provide details about the program, forms to complete, and payment information. In addition, benefits and cost information for the SHIP policy are listed on the SHIP website.

Q: How do I enroll in the Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP)?
A: You can enroll online on the SHIP website or by visiting the SHIP office at 333 East Campus Mall.

Q: Do I have to enroll in SHIP before I arrive in the United States?
A: No, you will be covered retroactively from the start date on your policy even if it takes you a few days to officially enroll. Just be sure to follow the instructions for enrolling before the deadline.

Q: I already have health insurance at home. Do I still need to purchase SHIP?
A: It is possible (although not guaranteed) to obtain an exemption from purchasing SHIP. To do so, you must meet all the requirements established by UW-Madison. Please refer to the SHIP Waiver (see page 2 for a list of approved alternatives to the SHIP plan). To obtain a waiver and for more information about SHIP, please visit the SHIP website.

Courses and Credit Requirements

Q: Do I have any requirements as to how many classes I must take?
A: Unless you are in a special visa situation (currently on an F-2 or J-2 visa, on OPT, or another special case), you will be required to enroll full-time in course work during the semester. You can read more about the Full-Time Enrollment Requirement on our website. Most classes on campus are worth between 1-5 credits (or "units").

Q: Where can I find information about how to find courses?
A: We have information on our Class and Enrollment Information page. 

Q: What classes can I take as a VISP participant?
A: VISP students can enroll in courses in many different academic areas. There are a few departments and courses at UW that have limited access for non-degree students. You can find out about some of those limitations on our Class and Enrollment Information page. When you apply to VISP, you will list your areas of academic interest. When we review your application, we will contact you if we know of any limitations in those areas that might impact your enrollment. 

Q: I am a _________ student at my home university (chemistry, chemical engineering, mathematics, history, etc.). Does that mean I can only take _________ courses at Madison?
A: No, in fact, you are encouraged not to do so. The American higher education model is one of a liberal arts education: creating well-rounded students who are versed in a variety of academic disciplines. Undergraduate students are required to take general education requirements during their 4-year degree, and most students have two majors. This means that even among students in their last semester of their Industrial Engineering major (for example), they are taking courses in a variety of different departments. It is very rare to find an undergraduate degree student enrolling exclusively in their major coursework. We encourage you to look for courses in a variety of academic disciplines during your time as a VISP student.

Enrollment Questions

Q: Does my enrollment have to be finalized before I arrive in the US?
A: No, you will have time at the beginning of the semester to add, drop and swap courses to make sure that your schedule meets your academic needs. It is recommended that you be flexible with your enrollment and let the VISP coordinator know if you are having problems. Be sure to know and understand the registration Deadlines at a Glance for each term you will be at UW (see red sidebar).  

Q: I attended my first class and the course is not at my level / doesn't seem like a good fit. Do I have to keep it in my schedule?
A: No! The first week of class is a great time to try out other courses to find the appropriate fit for you. If a course is not working and it's before the drop/add deadlines, you can swap it out for another course instead. Be sure to know and understand the registration Deadlines at a Glance for each term you will be at UW (see red sidebar).  

Q: I am a _________ student at my home university (chemistry, chemical engineering, mathematics, history, etc.). Does that mean I can only take _________ courses at Madison?
A: No, in fact, you are encouraged not to do so. The American higher education model is one of a liberal arts education: creating well-rounded students who are versed in a variety of academic disciplines. Undergraduate students are required to take general education requirements during their 4-year degree, and most students have two majors. This means that even among students in their last semester of their Industrial Engineering major (for example), they are taking courses in a variety of different departments. It is very rare to find an undergraduate degree student enrolling exclusively in their major coursework. We encourage you to look for courses in a variety of academic disciplines during your time as a VISP student.  

Q: I tried to enroll in a course and I received an error message. What's wrong?
A: There could be a few different issues that would cause this. Step 1: Check to make sure that your enrollment time for the semester has already passed. Step 2: Check to make sure that there are still open spaces in the course. When you search for the class and click on "Enrollment Packages", you should see a green circle next to the Status that indicates the course is "open" or that there are still spots available. If your enrollment time has passed and the course is still open, then it most likely has to do with needing permission to enroll. 

Step 3: As you are a visiting student, our online system cannot check your academic records to verify that you have met the stated pre-requisites for a course. You might get an error message saying that you do not meet the pre-requisites or that your class standing is not sufficient to enroll in the course. In this case, please contact the faculty member teaching the course and introduce yourself. Explain that you are a VISP student and your academic background that makes you a good candidate for taking the course. You can then ask for permission to enroll. Below, you can find a sample email template:
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Dear Professor ___________, 
 
My name is ________ __________ (campus ID# ____________) and I will be participating in the Visiting International Student Program (VISP) next semester. I am currently a 3rd (4th, etc.) year student at Home University studying ___________. 
I am interested in taking your class next semester, MATH 999 - ______________. Because I am a visiting student, I received an error message when I tried to register for this course because the system cannot see my previous enrollment. At Home Institution, I have taken the following courses that I feel prepared me to take a course like yours: (include list of relevant course titles taken at home university). 
Could I have your permission to enroll in your class? 
If so, a permission will need to be entered in ISIS to allow me to register. If you have any questions about the VISP program, please feel free to contact the VISP Coordinator, Anna Seidel-Quast by emailing her at aseidelquast@dcs.wisc.edu.  
Thank you for your assistance. I hope to hear from you soon. 
 
Sincerely, 
Student Name
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Q: I have emailed the professor to ask for permission, but I still do not have a response. What should I do?
A: Professors receive a high volume of email over the course of the semester. It is preferable that you wait at least one week before contacting the professor again. It is important to note that most professors have nine-month appointments and conduct research over the summer months (May - August). If you are trying to contact them at that time, understand that some faculty do not check their email while they are working off campus. 
If you have waited more than two weeks and still have not heard anything, you can contact the academic advisor within the academic department and send a similar email to him/her. Explain that you contacted the professor already, and ask if he/she is able to give you permission OR if they have any suggestions on how to contact the professor. 

Especially over the summer months, it is possible that you will not hear from the professor before classes begin. In this case, simply attend the first class and ask for permission at that point. 
 
 

Technology Questions

Q: I'm an admitted student and I lost my NetID. What do I do?
A: Contact the DoIT Help Desk by visiting their DoIT New Student page. 
 
Q: I am having trouble accessing my Student Center. What do I do?
A: Contact the DoIT Help Desk by visiting their DoIT New Student page. 

Q: Will I have a WiscMail (@wisc.edu) email address while participating in VISP?
A: Yes, you can set up your email account after you active your NetID. The university will use your WiscMail account to send you important information, so please check it frequently even if you have your messages forwarded to another account. You can read more about WiscMail on the DoIT WiscMail page. 

Q: How long will my WiscMail (@wisc.edu) address stay valid?
A: Your WiscMail account will be inactivated one semester after you stop enrolling as a VISP student.

Degree Plans

Q: Can I be a visiting international student and then apply for undergraduate or graduate school admission in the future?
A: If your main goal is to complete a degree from UW-Madison, you should be applying directly to the degree admission offices. While a visitor, however, you may apply for regular admission through other UW-Madison programs. You must meet all admission requirements, and your University Special student visiting status does not guarantee future admission to a degree program.

Q: Can VISP students earn an undergraduate or graduate degree while participating in VISP?
A: No, VISP is a non-degree program. VISP students receive a transcript of record showing the courses they took and grades received while at UW. If you are interested in receiving a degree from UW, you should apply to our Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions Offices.  

Student Life

Q: I'm worried that I will not be able to meet people while at UW. Are there ways for me to get involved while on campus?
A: Yes, there are many ways of getting involved while participating in VISP. UW-Madison has hundreds of Student Organizations that you can join while studying here. A searchable database of groups is available on the Center for Leadership & Involvement website. Hoofers also has many events going on each semester. International Student Services (ISS) organizes many events and programs each semester. Watch for announcements in the e-newsletters you will receive for information on how to participate. ISS also organizes the Building Relationships in Diverse Global Environments (BRIDGE) Program each semester. BRIDGE is an international friendship organization partnering undergraduate international students with U.S. students. It's a great way to expand your network of friends while participating in great social activities. 

Housing

Q: Who is responsible for arranging my housing?
A: You are! Unless you are participating in a special group and you have been informed already that your housing will be secured for you, it is up to you to find your housing for your time at UW-Madison. If you are having trouble locating housing for your time at UW, please contact the VISP coordinator. 

Q: Where can I find information about my housing options?
A: Housing information including temporary housing options can be found on our Housing page. If you are having trouble locating housing for your time at UW, please contact the VISP coordinator. 

Employment while Participating in VISP

Q: Can I work in the United States while I’m studying at UW-Madison?
A: Yes, you can work at an on-campus job, although you might need permission from ISS to do so. For more information, see the ISS Employment page.