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Most Memorable Experience

I travelled in four different countries, climbed Machu Picchu and Glacier Perito Moreno, took classes in a different language, made new friends and found my way around the chaotic city of Buenos Aires. However, some of the best days abroad involved getting on and off the right bus or providing an Argentine with accurate directions. The sense of accomplishment from those little things made the whole experience that much better.

Julie-Ann Spatz

Legal Studies, Criminal Justice Certificate
IAP Buenos Aires, Argentina

Incoming Exchange Students

Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions? Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions about exchange at UW-Madison.

Application FAQs
Academic Calendar FAQs
Coursework FAQs
Housing FAQs
Insurance FAQs
Visa FAQs
Orientation FAQs
While You're Here FAQs
Transcript FAQs

Application FAQs

When can I apply for the exchange program at UW-Madison?
You will typically apply to the exchange through your home university first. When you have been nominated and it's time to apply to the UW-Madison exchange, your home university exchange coordinator will give you the web link to the application page.

My university does not have an exchange agreement with UW-Madison. Can I apply anyway?
You can't apply to us an exchange student without an inter-institutional exchange agreement. Sorry! However, look into the Visiting International Student Program (VISP). VISP students are fees-paying students, but their student status and course availability is very similar to exchange students. Find out more about VISP here:

The term I intend to study at UW-Madison in is not listed in the online application. What should I do?
If you can't select the proper term in our online application, you are applying too early! Check back later.

My name contains a non-English character. How should I write it?
The IAP online application does not accept non-English characters. You will need to write your name in the English language character set.

The name I usually use for myself is not the same as the name that appears on my passport. What name should I use in the IAP Exchange Application?
Use the name that appears on your passport on all application materials. This way we can be sure your visa application documents match your passport.

Who is my Home University Exchange Coordinator?
Your Home School Coordinator is the staff member at your home university who is working with you through the exchange process. We ask you for this information so we know who to contact at your home university if we have any questions. We will also send your final UW-Madison transcript to this individual.

What is the USGS application? Why do I need the ID number?
The USGS application is the "University Special and Guest Student" application. You are actually completing two applications when you apply for exchange at UW-Madison; one to the IAP office for exchange, and another for admission to the university as a non-degree student. We ask you to input your Campus ID number into the IAP exchange application to confirm that you have completed both applications.

What is the Financial Certification form and why do I need it?
The Financial Certification form is required by the U.S. government at the time of your visa application to show that you have the funds available to support yourself during your exchange program at UW-Madison. Since the U.S. government understands that not every student has these funds available in their own bank account, a parent or guardian's bank account may be used to show the minimum required funds instead. If using a parent/guardian's funds, the family relationship between you and your parent/guardian MUST be established in the documents you submit. Further details about the financial certification requirement can be found in the IAP Online Application.

How long after I submit my application will I hear whether I have been accepted?
IAP has two deadlines- August 15 and February 15. After the deadline date passes, if IAP has no follow-up questions concerning your application materials, you can anticipate receiving notice of whether you've been accepted within 4 weeks after the deadline.

Another student from my school received their acceptance email. Is there a problem with my application?
No. We have a lot of students and a lot of applications to read! If there is a problem with your application, we will tell you.

I received the email notification that I was accepted to the exchange program. When will I receive the acceptance packet in the mail?
For students applying by August 15, you should anticipate receiving your acceptance packet by Mid-November. For students applying by February 15, you should anticipate receiving your acceptance packet by end of April. We will communicate with you by email before this. The acceptance packet has the materials you need to apply for the visa, but housing and course registration can all be handled online.

Academic Calendar FAQs

What are the dates of the exchange program?
The UW-Madison Fall semester runs from September to the middle of December. The Spring semester runs from the middle of January to the middle of May. Here's a link to the Academic Calendar:

When am I required to be at UW-Madison to start the program?
You must arrive before the date of exchange orientation. This varies by semester, but it is typically a few days before the first day of class. The orientation date will be posted on our website in the Orientation section once it is determined.

When can I leave campus at the end of the semester?
UW-Madison has a very short exam period compared to many universities across the world. It is seven days long and occurs immediately at the end of the semester. You are not required to stay for the entire exam period as long as all of your work is complete. So, if all of your exams are in the first 3 days, you are finished and free to leave.

Coursework FAQs

I am studying X at my home university. That means I must take all of my courses in the X Department while at UW-Madison, right?
Not at all! UW-Madison offers an American liberal arts education in many different subject fields. This means that UW-Madison students have a great amount of flexibility to take courses outside of their subject of choice (known as a major). You will also have the same flexibility. We encourage you to explore the many academic choices you have at UW-Madison.

What course restrictions are there?
Exchange students are rarely, if ever, allowed to enroll in courses from UW-Madison professional schools (Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Education, etc). Economics courses are available to exchange students, but are very popular and fill quickly during enrollment time. Some courses in Journalism are also not open to exchange students.

I want to take Economics/Journalism/Business courses but the online application says that might not be possible. What should I do?
Economics: These courses are available to exchange students, but fill quickly. Many of them have pre-requisite courses. It is in your best interest to examine the requirements for each course carefully and contact the advisors in the Economics Department in advance of your enrollment to clear any pre-requisite barriers. Once enrollment begins, the courses will fill quickly. If you wait to do this until your enrollment time, the courses may close before you are able to gain permission to enroll.

Journalism: The School of Journalism has a competitive major program. Demand is so high for the program that they cannot accommodate all students, and so students must apply to be in the program. As such, in the 300 and 400 level courses, which are required for graduation, Journalism has a strict policy that they do not admit students that are not in the program, such as exchange students. It may be possible to get into one of the 500 or 600 level courses, as non-majors can take those courses. You will have to receive permission from the instructor of the specific class or classes that you want to take. Students interested in taking these courses should contact the instructor of the course after online enrollment begins to request permission to enroll.

Business: The Wisconsin School of Business has school/college-level (rather than university-wide) exchange agreements with high-quality business schools across the world. Therefore, you will not receive priority enrollment for courses in the Wisconsin School of Business (unless you are a Business student coming from the University of Lancaster or the University of Warwick). You may have to wait until after priority enrollment is complete or until you arrive in Madison to enroll in these courses. You are not guaranteed to be able to enroll in any Business coursework. Exchange students studying Business should carefully consider this in deciding whether to attend UW-Madison through the IAP exchange program.

Can I take ESL classes?
ESL courses are mainly for degree-seeking UW-Madison students. If you are interested in an ESL course, it may be possible to get special administrative permission from the instructor after enrollment begins. Students are placed into ESL coursework based on their ability. Therefore, students interested in taking an ESL class will also have to take the ESL Assessment Test (ESLAT) once they arrive in Madison. Enrollment permission is not guaranteed and students may be asked to wait until shortly before classes begin before they are granted permission to join the class. ESLAT testing dates, times, and locations can be found here:

How do I enroll?
You will enroll in courses through the MyUW Student Center before you arrive in Madison. You will be sent instructions by email. Instructions are also posted to our website in the Coursework section. The Office of the Registrar will send you an "Invitation to Enroll" email when your enrollment date and time are listed in your Student Center.

I'm having problems logging into MyUW. Can you help me?
Unfortunately, we can't reset your password for you. You should contact the Division of Information Technology (DoIT). Their contact information is listed here:

Am I stuck with the classes I choose before I arrive?
Not at all. Though we encourage you to choose classes at enrollment time, you are not locked into your choices. After the semester begins, there will be a short period (about one week) where you can add and drop classes as needed with no penalty. After this period, it's still possible to drop classes as long as you will still be taking enough credits after the drop (12 for undergrads, 8 for grad students). During this period, a "dropped" notation will appear on your transcript. This is not a failed grade. Once this period closes (dates listed here: you will be unable to drop any more classes.

I would like to take a course that has a "pre-requisite". I've taken an intro class on this subject already. What do I do?
Try using the "validate" function to see if the Student Center will allow you to enroll. Some pre-requisites do not lock you out of enrolling in the course, and are only recommended. If the Student Center will not allow you to enroll due to pre-requisites, please email the instructor directly requesting permission to enroll. Explain that you are an exchange student and let them know the prior coursework you have taken that would give you the needed background knowledge for the course. Include your Campus ID number, the department name, the course number, and 5-digit section "class number" of the class you are asking for permission for (which is found in the Student Center). Some instructors may ask you to email a copy of your home university transcript to them, so be prepared to do so if they ask for it.

I haven't heard from the instructor I emailed. What do I do?
Instructors receive a high volume of email over the course of the semester. We suggest that you wait at least one week before contacting the individual again. Many professors have nine-month appointments, or conduct research over the summer months (May - August). If you are trying to contact them at that time, understand that some 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 instructor already, and ask if he/she is able to give you permission OR if they have any suggestions on how to contact the instructor.

Is it possible to do research while at UW-Madison?
Yes! Our exchange students have conducted research under the supervision of UW-Madison professors while here on exchange. If this interests you, it is up to you to review the information and interests of UW faculty and to contact them yourself. We suggest choosing a faculty member whose interests line up with your own, or who is doing research that you are interested in learning more about. When you email them, explain your background and why you're interested in working with them, as well as what knowledge or skills you might be able to bring to their group. In some cases, it's possible to receive academic credit for assisting a professor with research or working in their lab.

Housing FAQs

How do I apply for housing?
Once you are accepted to the UW-Madison exchange program, you will be contacted by University Housing. If you are accepted to UW-Madison on our regular timeline (that is, you submitted your application on time) you should receive a contract offer to stay in the residence halls. This offer will be sent to you by email, so be sure to monitor your personal and UW email addresses. If you complete this contract, a place will be reserved for you in housing. Depending on when you complete your contract, it might be possible to select a room from what is available. If you are not able to select your room, a room will be selected for you based off a ranking list that you provide to housing.

Should I stay in the residence halls?
That is your choice. It can be difficult to choose an apartment in Madison if you have never seen it before. That isn't a major concern with the residence halls. While each building is a little different, you can depend on them to be secure, clean, and convenient to campus. All buildings have internet access included and students staying in the residence halls can add money to a debit-style card for use in the residence halls' dining facilities. Learn more about the residence halls here:

I'm not interested in staying in the residence halls. What other options are available?
If you plan to live in off-campus housing, it is up to you to find and arrange appropriate accommodations. Many students at UW-Madison live in apartments, rental houses, and co-ops near campus. UW-Madison's Campus Area Housing Listing Service has information and FAQs about renting in the Madison area, as well as rental listings for housing that is currently available.

Can I stay for a single semester in the residence halls?
Yes. If you stay at UW-Madison for just the Fall semester, you will lose your $300 Housing deposit because you are breaking your contract. Many of our Fall students do this. In the Spring, less space is available in the residence halls (because most students continue on from Fall), but the deposit is not an issue because housing contracts end in May.

Insurance FAQs

Do I need to purchase insurance?
Yes. All students are required to purchase insurance through the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).

I have insurance through my home country or home university. Do I need to purchase the UW-Madison insurance as well?
Typically, yes. There are a few cases where you may not have to also purchase SHIP. There is more information about this waiver process on the SHIP website. The waiver is given on the university level (to all students coming from a particular university) and not to individual students.

Visa FAQs

How do I apply for the J-1 visa?
Check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your visa. The documents necessary may vary depending on your location, and the application submission method might also differ. When we mail your DS-2019 form, we will send you a tip sheet for the visa process as well.

What is my SEVIS ID?
Your SEVIS ID begins with the letter "N" and is printed above the bar code on your DS-2019 form.

What is UW-Madison's J-1 program number?
This number is printed in Box 2 of your DS-2019 form.

What should I list as my address?
If you are not sure of your address in the United States, you can list UW-Madison's address. This is listed in the "Primary Site of Activity" section on your DS-2019 form. Once you are in Madison, you will need to update your address.

Who is the contact person from UW-Madison that I should list?
This person is listed in Box 7 of your DS-2019 form.

When can I enter the United States?
You can enter the United States up to 30 days prior to the start date on your DS-2019 form. You are required to leave the United States no later than 30 days after the end date on your DS-2019 form.

When should I buy my plane ticket?
That's up to you, but we suggest waiting until after you are officially notified by our office of your acceptance to UW-Madison. Your visa is issued at the discretion of U.S. consular officers in your home country, and our office can't guarantee that you will receive one, though typically this is not a problem. You must arrive before our orientation day.

Orientation FAQs

My home university's semester ends right before the UW-Madison semester begins. Is it okay to miss orientation?
No. You will be given a lot of important information at orientation. It's also the only time that we will have everyone together as a group at the beginning of the semester, so your attendance is important. If your university's semester prevents you from arriving on time, you will need to come on exchange during a different semester.

I think I know a lot about UW-Madison and American culture already. Is it okay to miss orientation?
No! Orientation is not optional. You will also complete your visa check-in with the U.S. government at orientation, so all students are required to attend.

What should I bring to orientation?
You should bring a pen and your DS-2019 and travel documents. We'll give you a number of different papers and handouts. Lunch is provided.

How should I dress for orientation?
Orientation is not a formal event. Please come dressed comfortably.

While You're Here FAQs

What's the difference between a class and a course?
No difference! In American English, you can use these interchangeably. However, you would say "I'm going to class" and not "I'm going to my course". Each class/course is made up of meetings that are called lectures, discussions, and labs, depending on what type of class it is. The word class is a little more informal.

What are classes like at UW-Madison?
Classes might be different from what you are used to. In general, we hear that students are surprised at the amount of work that is necessary to complete during the semester. Many exchange students come from university systems where a student's entire grade is calculated off a single exam or paper that is submitted at the end of the semester. At UW-Madison, you might have several exams across the course of the semester. You will probably have a variety of assignment, papers, and exams that will all contribute to your final grade. Don't fall behind! If readings are assigned on a weekly basis, read them each week.

You might also have a "participation grade", which is how instructors grade you for your contributions to discussions in the class. Your attendance in class might also play role in your participation grade. American university courses are highly participatory and instructors will expect you to speak up, at least in courses with lower enrollment. It's okay to disagree with your instructor (and to say that you disagree!) during a class discussion but be prepared to be asked about your views.

UW-Madison has many large lecture courses, sometimes with several hundred people in them. These courses often have a "discussion section" associated with them, where a group of 20 or fewer students meet weekly to talk about the materials from the lecture. UW-Madison also has many courses will small class sizes. Typically introductory courses are larger, but this is not always the case.

Instructors at UW-Madison usually love to talk about their subject. We encourage you to go in to office hours and talk with your instructors if you have questions about your coursework. If you are nervous about speaking in class, it also might help to get better acquainted with your instructor during office hours.

How do I address my instructors?
This varies! Some will prefer "Professor" and some might ask to be addressed as "Doctor". Some instructors will tell you to call them by their given/first name. If they tell you this, go ahead and use it. We suggest that you start off more formal and use titles until you get a sense for your instructor. Instructors will call you by your given name in most cases, even if you're used to being called by your family name in your home country.

Do I need to attend class?
Yes, you do! It's important to attend class in the United States. Class meetings are not "optional" unless the instructor specifically says a certain one is. Besides, don't forget that you might have a participation grade!

Do I need to buy the books for my classes?
Usually. Instructors will note if a book is optional and not required.

Is it okay to take two classes that have overlapping meeting times?
No. Since you need to attend all of your classes, taking two classes that overlap is a problem. You can sign up temporarily for overlapping classes while registering, if you plan to make changes to your schedule. However, be sure you have no course conflicts by the beginning of the semester.

Do you have an exam period?
Yes. There is a single "study day" at the end of the semester, and the exam period begins immediately after the study day. The exam week is 7 days long and exams are given on the weekend as well.

Can I work while at UW-Madison?
Yes. It's possible to work part-time on campus while here on exchange. Talk to International Student Services about getting authorized to work on campus.

I am currently an exchange student here and want to stay for another semester! What should I do?
It might be possible for you to stay another semester. You should first speak with your home university about whether they can allot another exchange semester placement to you. If this is possible, then have them notify our office. If this is not possible, you could stay on through the Visiting International Student Program (VISP) as a fees-paying student. Find out more information about VISP here:

Transcript FAQs

I just finished my exchange program at UW-Madison. When will my transcript be sent to my home university?
It takes a while for us to send the transcript to you, because our office first requests the transcript from the Office of the Registrar, receives the transcript, and then mails it to your home university. For students finishing the program in May, we will plan to mail your transcripts by mid to late June. For students finishing the program in December, we will plan to mail your transcripts by the beginning of February.