Frequently Asked Questions for University Special students

Questions about:

Class search
Financial aid
The Wiscard and Special student privileges

Application FAQs

When is the deadline for submitting an application to become a University Special student?
We recommend applying at least one month before the start of the term (early August for fall; early December for spring) as it can take 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.  There are multiple summer sessions so if you are applying after early April, our recommendation is that you apply at least 3 weeks before the start of the session you wish to attend. 

While applying early for any term does not ensure you space in a class, it will allow you time to prepare for enrollment by using the Wish List to verify you have met prerequisites and obtain any necessary permission. See our Enrolling FAQs for more information on how to use the Wish List.

What will I pay for tuition and fees?
Tuition is based on three factors: a) the number of credits for which one is enrolled; b) one’s student status; c) one’s Wisconsin residency status.  See our Tuition FAQs for additional information.

I will finish my UW-Madison degree this term, but would like to take another course next term. Can I do this as a Special or Guest student?
Yes, you may become a Special or Guest student for the next term. You will need to complete a Special student application, and Adult Career and Special Students Services (ACSSS) will verify that you will have completed your program before we admit you as a nondegree student. Please make sure you have taken all the steps necessary to obtain your degree from your current program. Indicate your expected graduation date on the Special student application as well.

You will use your existing MyUW Student Center to enroll in classes. Do not enroll for the next term until you have received an admission letter from our office.

How long does it take to process my application as a Special or Guest student?
You should receive an admission letter from Adult Career and Special Student Services within two weeks of your application if you have submitted everything required for your nondegree program (e.g. transcripts for UNVS undergraduate visitors) and responded to any subsequent correspondence from the Office of the Registrar, Residence for Tuition Purposes or from ACSSS. If not, please contact us to check on your application (608-263-6960 or email

Can I fax you my official transcripts?
Yes, if you need to submit a transcript (e.g., you are applying as a visiting undergraduate student: UNVS), you may fax us a copy of the required current official transcript at 608-265-2901. Your transcript should show at least a 2.00 cumulative GPA and 2.00 the last term of your enrollment.

I was enrolled at UW-Madison long ago but never completed my degree. I want to do so now. Should I apply as a Special student?
No, you will need to apply as a re-entry student either through the UW-Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment or, for graduate students, to graduate admissions.

I missed the deadline for graduate admissions but really want to get started on my degree. Can I start as a University Special student?
You need to discuss your situation with an advisor in the graduate or professional program you are interested in before applying as a Special student. We have created a graduate/professional school advising form, which we suggest you take to an advisor to see if it makes sense for you to enroll as a Special student.

In many cases students need prerequisite courses before they can apply to graduate or professional programs. In some cases students with degree interests are able to begin as Special students, but you should research critical issues involving the transfer of credits prior to enrollment. (See Course FAQs below.)

I've been out of school for several years. Should I apply as a Special student or as an undergraduate student?
Please contact Adult Career and Special Student Services: phone 608-263-6960, email, or stop in and we will be happy to help you connect with the educational and career opportunities you seek.

Course FAQs

I need to take a course(s) to earn undergraduate or graduate credit. Can I earn these credits as a Special student?
As a Special student you may be able to enroll in both undergraduate and graduate level courses if you meet the prerequisites for the course and if there is space available. Undergraduate courses at UW-Madison are numbered 100 to 699. Graduate level courses number 300 to 999. There is an overlap; sometimes undergraduate and graduate students are expected to do different assignments in these overlap courses. If you consult the undergraduate and graduate catalogs for UW-Madison you will find course descriptions. You can find syllabi for courses on department websites.

If you enroll in any level of course at UW-Madison as a Special student you will be graded for the course and the credit will appear on an official UW-Madison transcript, indicating you took the course as a Special, nondegree student. If you need to prove to another college or institution that you have taken an undergraduate level course you will most likely need to show them a copy of your UW-Madison transcript as well as descriptions and syllabi of the course. It is in your best interest to check with the other institutions about credit transferability of courses before you enroll in a course here.

Can I transfer courses taken as a Special student toward degree programs at UW-Madison?
The degree program you apply to must decide whether credits taken as a Special student will count toward a future degree at UW-Madison.

For undergraduates earning their first degree here, the credits and grade points will be included in the undergraduate GPA credits and grade points. The official student record will reflect this action by the Office of Admissions and Recruitment.   

For graduate students there is no university-wide policy on whether credits taken as a Special will count toward a graduate degree. Some departments do not accept any credits, and others take only a limited number of credits. You must check with the graduate coordinator of the program you are interested in to discuss these issues. If later you are able to apply Special credits toward a graduate degree, you will be required to pay the difference between the cost of the Special credits and graduate credits. Graduate credits are currently twice as costly as Special credits.

I want to enroll in a math or foreign language course as but I’m not sure which level I should take. What should I do?
Placement tests are available for math and foreign language to help you determine what level course is appropriate for you. For math placement testing, see Testing and Evaluation. For language placement testing, see Languages at UW-Madison. You may also need to work with advisors in the math or foreign language departments to determine the correct placement based upon previous coursework you may have had. In most cases math and foreign language departments will need to enter permissions in the enrollment system before you can enroll in a class (see enrollment FAQs below).

There are so many different introduction to biology options, where should I start?
Biocommons is a great resource to help you sort out the options. 

Class Search FAQ's

How do I search for classes?
The UW-Madison Schedule of Classes includes all UW-Madison credit courses.  Using Class Search in your MyUW Student Center (or Public Class Search) you can enter various criteria to find classes that work for your needs.

  • Click on the green "Search for Classes" button from your MyUW Student Center. (The instructions below are the same for the Public Class Search.) 
  • Select the appropriate term from the Term dropdown menu.
  • Select the Course Subject from the alphabetic dropdown menu of all UW-Madison departments; enter a course number or other search criteria for a narrow search, or just use the department for a broader search. (Use the School or College dropdown menu to select departments within a specific school or college).
  • Search for online classes: To find online classes, use the Mode of Instruction field.  Here you can select from three options: Classroom instruction, Online (some classroom), or Online Only.
  • Search for late day/evening classes: If you are looking for a course at a certain day of the week or time of day, under the Class Meeting/Instructor section, use Days of Week and/or Meeting Start and End Time fields.  Narrow your search by limiting it to specific departments, course numbers, etc.
  • Once you have selected all desired criteria, click Search or just hit enter.
  • From the resulting list of courses, select View Sections to get a list of sections for each course.
  • For more detailed information about each course, click on the course section number (ie 001-Lecture 59201)
  • Be sure to review course prerequisites, department notes, and course footnotes.
  • Click on Enrollment Packages to learn about how many seats are open and how discussion sections (DIS) and/or labs (LAB) connect with the main lectures (LEC). 

Enrollment FAQs and Tips

How do I activate my NetID?
Students activating a NetID go to the following link: On this page you will be prompted to enter information to verify your eligibility—specifically your Campus ID number found in your admissions materials, and your date of birth. Follow the step by step activation instructions to finish activating. For assistance, contact the Help Desk at 608-264-HELP(4357).  Your email account should be automatically activated when you activate your NetID.

Your NetID is typically some variation of your name and is used as logon to access MyUW and other secure sites at UW-Madison. 

How do I find out my enrollment appointment time?
Go to your Student Center in MyUW. Enrollment dates and times for each semester are on the upper right-hand side of the screen.

How can I use the Wish List to plan my classes?
Wish List, located and accessed through your MyUW Student Center can help you with course planning and enrollment. Add courses to your Wish List now and enroll when your enrollment time arrives. Courses will appear on a printable grid which may help you with scheduling.

Add courses to your Wish List now then click on Validate, to find out whether you will have trouble adding the course(s) at your earliest enrollment time.

If you receive a message such as Requisites not met for class, contact the department offering the class for permission to add that class at your enrollment time. Many classes such as math, foreign language and business cannot be added until you have been cleared in the enrollment system.

See a demonstration of the Wish List feature and other enrollment functions.

I put several courses on my Wish List prior to my earliest enrollment appointment time.  How do I enroll in those courses once I am eligible to enroll?
On or after your earliest enrollment time you can enroll directly from your wish list:

  • Select course in which you wish to enroll.
  • Click “begin enrolling”
  • Follow steps from here to enroll in the course.

The class I want is full. What should I do?
This is a common issue, especially given the late enrollment windows for Special, nondegree students. You may only add the class if someone drops it and a seat becomes available. Keep checking the online Schedule of Classes and try to add the class if there is not a Wait List option available for the course in the Student Center. If there are still no spaces in the class and the term is about to start, check with the department to ask for any suggestions they might have about getting into the class. It is permissible to attend class the first day and talk with the professor about the chances of a seat opening up.

What if I get an error message when trying to add my class?

There are three typical error messages. Here is what they look like and what to do you get any of these messages:

  • Class is full message: Error: This Class (number) is full, class not added. The enrollment limit for the specified class has been reached. If a wait list is available, click on the class link, select the wait list option and resubmit your request.
    • Contact the department or use online Wait List for those classes which have it available.
  • Prerequisites not met message: Error: Requisites Not Met for Class, Not Enrolled. Requirements have not been met to enroll in the specified class. Review Enrollment Requirements and footnotes before contacting the department offering the class.
  • Class requires permission to enroll message: Error: Class Requires Permission to Enroll, Class Not Added. Department or Instructor Consent is needed to enroll in the class.
    • Contact the professor or the department regarding permission to enroll in classes.

Some of my courses give me the option of being on the Wait List because the courses are full. How does the Wait List work?
If a course is full and the Wait List option is available, it will display with a yellow triangle. Placement on wait list does not guarantee enrollment and you cannot be on the Wait List until on or after your enrollment time. You will receive an email if a spot opens in the class. Once you receive an email enroll in the class through your MyUW Student Center. The email you receive will include a deadline by which you need to enroll to avoid losing the spot (make sure you are checking your email account).

What are the deadlines for adding and dropping classes and for refunds?
Go to the Registrar’s Enrollment Information page to find “Deadlines at a Glance” for the current term.

Web enrollment tips

  • You can enroll anytime after your earliest enrollment time
  • Check back often if your class is full and there is not a Wait List option for the course
  • Consult with departments about:
    • Closed classes
    • Prerequisites
    • Obtaining permission if needed
  • Remember to confirm your course enrollment in the Student Center. Your enrolled courses will appear in the top, center portion of your Student Center.

Still need help?

  • NetID and email problems: 608-264-4357
  • Enrollment assistance: 608-262-0920
  • Course questions and access issues (e.g. permissions or waiting lists) contact the department curricular representative or office 
  • General questions—contact ACSSS; phone: 608-263-6960, email: 

Tuition FAQs

How much is tuition?
Tuition and fees vary depending on your student classification which is referred to as Student Career on the Registrar's Tuition and Fees webpage.  To find the tuition amount for your student career and the semester you plan to enroll, select the appropriate information from the drop down menus at:  Note: Tuition may be different for some professional programs (for example: Engineering Professional Development and Education Outreach).  Check with your department regarding specific prices for classes in your area of professional study.

How do I view my tuition bill?
After you enroll in your first class, an eBill will be generated by the Bursar's Office. You will receive an email notification when your final eBill is ready to view in your MyUW Student Center, typically about a week before classes begin for student with earlier enrollment times. Please make sure that you view your eBill and check the due date.  

When is my tuition due?
The due date for your tuition depends on when you successfully enroll for your first class. Some Special students who enroll earlier (such as Capstone Certificate students) will have a tuition due date similar to that for degree students. If you are a Special or Guest student enrolling just prior to the start of the term or later, your tuition due date will be later. Students typically have two weeks to pay their tuition in full; see MyUW for exact dates.  Payments received after the deadline will be assessed an additional $100 late payment fee.

How do I pay my tuition?
You can pay your tuition by either a mailed check or via eCheck from within your MyUW Student Center. Credit cards are not accepted for tuition.

You will be assessed a $100 late fee by the Bursar’s Office if you don’t pay your bill by the due date. A hold will also be placed on your record until your bill is paid. This hold will block future enrollment and your ability to obtain a transcript. If you feel there are mitigating circumstances involving your late payment, you must appeal your fee using the Bursar’s appeal form.

Am I affected by the tuition increase and/or new fees that began in fall 2015?
Learn more about tuition and fee changes on our Tuition and Fees webpage.

Financial Aid FAQs

Can I receive financial aid as a Special or Guest student?
There are only two classifications of Special students who may be eligible for financial aid: UNVS (visiting undergraduate students) and UNRS (preparation for graduate or professional school).

UNVS: If you are admitted as a visiting undergraduate student, you may be able to obtain financial aid through your home institution to cover your expenses while you are at UW-Madison. Check with your home institution’s financial aid office to explore this possibility as there will need to be a consortium agreement between your school and the UW. UW-Madison does not provide financial aid to students admitted in the UNVS-9 category.

UNRS: Students who are taking courses that are designated prerequisites for admission into a graduate or professional program (UNRS) may be eligible to receive aid for a single 12 month period. The following conditions must be met to be eligible to receive aid:

  1. You must be taking at least 6 credits in courses that are required in order to be admitted to a future graduate program and you must be studying at UW-Madison in the UNRS Special student program. (You may need to contact Adult Career and Special Student Services to change your program to “UNRS” if you were admitted under a different category. Phone: 608-263-6960 or email
  2. The courses you take as a UNRS Special student may not be counted toward meeting future graduate program degree requirements.
  3. The admitting graduate or professional school program or department must provide the UW Financial Aid office with a letter indicating that the student is required to complete certain courses to meet admission prerequisites for the particular program. This letter does not guarantee admission to that program, and it cannot be written by Adult Career and Special Student Services.

If you feel you meet the above criteria, contact the Office of Student Financial Aid (333 East Campus Mall, Madison, WI 53715; phone 608-262-3060; or email to discuss your situation and to obtain the necessary forms.

Grade FAQs

Is my grade point average (GPA) for courses taken as a Special student calculated on my UW-Madison transcript?
Grades for each course you take are reported on your official UW-Madison transcript.  The GPA for the term is posted and affects your academic eligibility to continue in another semester. While you are in Special student status, a cumulative GPA is not displayed on your official UW-Madison transcript. However, if you later become an undergraduate degree student earning your first UW-Madison undergraduate degree, then any grades earned on credits which transfer in as part of your undergraduate degree will be calculated in your 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.) If you are not in this specific situation then any grades earned on credits taken as a Special student will not be calculated in a cumulative grade point average. Grades earned as a Special student will also not change a previous cumulative undergraduate or graduate GPA earned while at UW-Madison, even if you are repeating a class.

How do I find out my grade at the end of the semester?
Grades are typically posted in MyUW Student Center within 2 weeks of the end of each term.

What happens if my grade-point average for the term is below a 2.0?
A 2.0 minimum grade-point average is required of University Special students in order to continue in future terms. Any University Special student who does not achieve the minimum grade-point requirement will automatically receive a "must obtain permission to continue" action on their student record which will prevent them from enrolling in future terms. Please contact an ACSSS advisor with questions regarding this policy.   

What if I have a question about my grade?
You will need to start by contacting the professor about any grade questions you have.

The Wiscard and Special student privileges

How do I obtain a Wiscard photo ID to access campus facilities and services?
University Special students and Guest auditors can obtain Wiscards (official UW-Madison campus ID cards) at the Wiscard office in room 149 Union South.  You must be enrolled in classes and present some form of personal photo identification such as a valid driver's license, passport, state or federal ID.

Note: While both can obtain a Wiscard, Special students and Guest auditors have different privileges.  See table comparing Special and Guest student privileges and requirements.

If I already have a Wiscard from when I was a student previously, do I need to get a new one?
It depends on the expiration date on the card, as a Wiscard is valid for only 5 years.  If it has not past the expiration date, the card will become valid again after you enroll.  Otherwise, you need to obtain a new one.

I already have a Wiscard as a faculty/staff member.  Do I need to get a new one?
No, you do not if still within the expiration date.  However, it is important to check out the 10 digit ID# on the card and compare it with 10 digit student ID# provided in your admissions materials.  If this is your first time in student status, the numbers are probably different.

Your student ID# is provided at the time you’re admitted.  If the numbers are different, your multiple roles (faculty/staff and student) are linked within the university identity system by your national ID#.  The status of faculty/staff must be featured on the Wiscard despite the student role.  When you present your faculty/staff Wiscard, any campus service or facility will determine you also have student status and provide access or benefits to you accordingly.  For example, if enrolled in credit status, you will have access to Rec Sports facilities and UHS as a student and may receive a Metro Bus Pass although your Wiscard reads “faculty/staff.” 

If your roles change and you become only a student (so not a faculty/staff member nor with retiree emeritus status), you may obtain a new Wiscard with your student 10 digit ID# and “student” role designated.  The new card will be provided for free as long as you surrender the previous faculty/staff card.

My Wiscard indicates “faculty/staff,” but I want to provide evidence that I am also a student to an off campus business.  How can I do that?
Go to your Student Center via MyUW.  At the My Academics tab, click on “request enrollment verification.”  You will be linked to the National Student Clearinghouse and generate a very official “Enrollment Verification Certificate” with your name and enrollment status at UW-Madison.  You may print it out immediately.

What privileges do I have as a University Special student?
University Special students pay segregated fees so they have full access to ALL university services including: University Health Services, free Madison Metro bus pass, recreational facilities, campus libraries, and computer labs. You must be enrolled for the semester to gain access to services. 

Note: Guest auditors have access to only campus libraries and computer labs but not other services covered by segregated fees.  Guest auditors may pay the Recreation Membership Fee to use recreational facilities. 

Will I still have access to university services if I don't take a summer class?
If you were enrolled for the spring term and are eligible to enroll again in fall you should be able to use your Wiscard to access all libraries and computer labs during the summer even if you don't enroll in summer classes.  Check with Recreational Sports and University Health Services for summer fees charged to non-enrolled students.