This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

I'm interested in majoring in International Studies. What do I do now?

As soon as you think you are interested in majoring in IS, you should begin working toward the prerequisites in the major. The IS Major offers several workshops about the major every semester. Check out the Intro to IS Major workshop schedule and plan to attend (see News and Events tab) – they are required for all IS Majors!  Make sure to take the time to read through this website, which will answer many questions about Options, the curriculum, etc. You are welcome to meet with an IS Major advisor, after you have attended the Intro to IS Major workshop.

Which track/option should I choose?

Students find it helpful to read through the descriptions of the Tracks/Options and to look through the course lists to get a better idea about each Option’s basic theme. Considering a general career direction also helps narrow down your choices as well as looking at courses you’ve already taken. Think about which courses you’ve enjoyed the most and why.

What do you mean by "5th semester college-level language" course?

Students must complete the 5th semester of one language to satisfy this requirement. Do not be confused by the requirement for the BA which allows students to fulfill the four-semester language requirement with a combination of two languages (3 of one language, 2 of another). Following the 3-2 combination will not satisfy the IS Major requirement. For example, a student studying Spanish will have to take Spanish 226 or higher.

For international students, ESL 118 will satisfy this requirement.

I'm struggling with the economics requirement. What are my options?

Students may continue to take economics at the UW-Madison and solicit help from a tutor in the Economics department. You can find the list of available tutors here. Many students have also experienced success by utilizing the tutoring services of the Business Learning Center.

Alternatively, students opt to take Econ 101 and 102 at another school, such as MATC, over the summer. The UW System has a Transfer Information System which helps students navigating transferring between Wisconsin colleges and universities. As with any transfer course, students should work closely with the Office of Admissions to make sure they understand the transfer process and to assure that courses transfer properly.

May I take courses in the major while I am completing the prerequisites?

Yes you may, though keep in mind that the prerequisites are in place to prepare you for more advanced coursework.

When can I declare the major?

You may declare the major as long as you show good progress towards completing the prerequisites. This means you have taken or registered for IS 101, Econ 101 and Econ 102. The language prerequisite will take time and students must show good progress towards completing the language requirement in order to declare.  L&S students must declare a major before they reach 86 credits.  If you are approaching the 86 credit limit and have not yet declared the IS Major, we will work with you on an individual basis.

To declare the IS Major you must first attend an Intro to IS Major workshop.  The peer advisor works with individual students to declare at the end of the workshop.  If you have already attended an Intro to IS Major workshop, you are also able to declare using walk-in peer advising, or by scheduling an appointment with the Peer Advisor.  Please do not schedule an appointment to declare until AFTER you have attended an Intro to IS Major workshop.

How many credits are in the major?

The major requires 35 credits in addition to the 11-14 credits of prerequisite coursework.

How do I choose my courses?

Once you have chosen your Track/Option in the major, you may select courses from our semester course lists. You should choose courses from the list in order to fulfill the different requirements in the major. Note that many upper-level courses have prerequisites of their own. You should be aware of whether you meet the requirements for a course before you enroll. Meeting with an IS advisor annually will help students stay on track with a plan to complete the major in a timely fashion. Students should make sure to plan in advance of registration to see an advisor.

What are elective classes in the IS Major?

The IS Major has 4 parts:
1) Area studies – this component is satisfied with 1 class and asks you to focus on a particular geographic region (e.g., Europe).
2) Track core – this component is satisfied with 2 classes.  Usually these courses are upper level and taken in your Junior or Senior year.  Please note, students are not able to take Track Core classes during study abroad or transfer them in from a different college. 
3) Issues – this component is satisfied with 15 credits taken from the Issues list in your track.
4) Electives – this component is the flexible space within the major that allows students several opportunities to take classes from the issues list of a different track, have classes taken during study abroad count towards the major, pursue independent research or study with a faculty member, or continue taking issues credits beyond the required 15 credits.  Generally most students will need between 3-4 elective classes; the specific number is dependent on how many credits the student takes within their Track Core and Area studies components.  Students who take 4 credit Track Core classes will most likely only need 3 elective classes; whereas students who take 3 credit Track Core classes will most likely need 4 elective classes.

What is the Four Course Rule? Which courses count toward it?

The four course rule is in place to prevent too much overlap between majors. As a result, no more than four courses from any one department that can count towards the IS Major(e.g., four courses from the Spanish department). Cross-listed departments will also count toward the four course rule. For example, African 277 is cross-listed with many departments. If you are concerned with the number of Poli Sci courses you are taking, you should be aware that African 277, because it’s crosslisted with Poli Sci, will also count toward the four course limit of courses taken in the Poli Sci department. Students should note that the IS Major prerequisites are not counted toward the four course rule.

I noticed some courses exist on multiple lists. Can a course count twice in the major?

Courses may appear on multiple lists. For example all of the Track Core courses for an Option will also appear on that Option’s Issues list. The course will not count for both Track Cores and Issues, rather it’ll fulfill one requirement or the other. Track Cores will fill first, then when the Track Core requirement has been fulfilled, the course will appear under your Issues requirement in the DARS. The reason for the duplication is so you may take more than two Track Cores if you wish.

Can I use IS Major classes to satisfy University General Education Requirements? (e.g. Com B, Quant B, or Science)

Yes, the IS Major course lists can be used to meet University General Education Requirements (e.g., Com B).  You will want to look at the letters on the course lists to determine which classes meet university requirements.  For example, the b next to some classes, usually on the Culture or Global Security list, indicates that the course is a Com b class.  You will want to verify this during enrollment and make sure to select the correct section of a class as indicated by the b in course guide.  Science classes are labeled with a BP, or N and generally found on the Extra Electives course list.  Currently, Econ 101 (an IS Major pre-rec) counts as Quant. Reasoning B.  You can read more about General Education Requirements in the Undergraduate Guide and on the FAQ L&S Breadth requirements in the Undergraduate Guide.

I would like to take a class, but it is closed. What can I do?

Because the IS Major is an interdisciplinary program, we do not control access to courses unless they are offered through International Studies (i.e., INTL ST). If you meet the prerequisites for the course, you may contact the department and/or professor about their wait list policy. If you are still not able to get into the course, you may plan to show up to the course on the first day of class. If you do not meet the prerequisites, you should not contact the department or professor unless you can prove that you have the required background to prepare you to complete the course successfully. Prerequisites are put in place to ensure your success in the course.

I would like to take a class in a different department (e.g., Sociology) but I do not have the prerequisites. What should I do?

Every department on this campus has different policies regarding prerequisites.  The IS Major advisor is not able to waive prerequisites and cannot give permission to enroll in a course that is taught or administered by a different department. If you would like to take a class and do not meet the prerequisites, you need to:
1) contact the faculty member teaching the class and ask for permission to enroll.
2) If permission is granted, you need to contact the appropriate administrator within that specific department to enroll.  Please or ask the faculty member to direct you to the timetable administrator or the department advisor. 

I would like to take a course in the Poli Sci department, and it requires that I take PS 103 as a prerequisite. Is this course the same as IS 101?

No, IS 101 is a different course than PS 103: International Relations.

Students must contact the instructor or the Political Science department directly to discuss their eligibility for Poli Sci courses with prerequisites.

I found a course that seems like it should count in the major, but it doesn't. How do I know for sure?

You may come across a course with international content which is not listed on the IS course lists. If you think a particular course might be relevant to the International Studies major, you may bring a copy of the syllabus and consult with the Advisor. The content of “topics” courses (e.g., Poli Sci 401) and seminars offered in many departments may have relevant topics in any given semester. Check these with the advisor. However, keep in mind not all courses you take—internationally related or not—will count in the major.

Can I take a course pass/fail?

Students may not take any course in the major pass/fail, even if they have completed the major. Pass/fail is an option for students who want to try out a course outside of their area of specialization. You can read more about the pass/fail policy on the website for Student Academic Affairs.

I have questions about Natural Science credits.

The College of Letters & Science outlines Natural Science requirements for the BA and BS degrees here.

Can the IS Major Advisor help me find an "easy" science class to take?

No, that is not the role of an advisor. Further, what is “easy” for one student may not be “easy” for another student.

What is the difference in requirements between a BA and a BS?

The College of Letters & Science outlines the differences in requirements for a BA and BS degree here.

What do the funny letters on the IS course lists mean?

Divisional designation and course level for each course are indicated in the Course Guide. For L&S, the following symbols indicate how courses count toward satisfying the breadth requirements:

B—Biological Science
I— Interdivisional. Does not satisfy any breadth requirement.
N—Natural Science. Satisfies the Natural Science requirement but not the Biological or Physical Science requirement.
P—Physical Science
S—Social Science
W—Either Social Science or Natural Science
X—Either Humanities or Natural Science
Y—Either Biological Science or Social Science
Z—Either Humanities or Social Science
e– Ethnic Studies
b– Com B


Click here for an easy guide to the course abbreviations!

I am thinking about switching from a full-time student to a part-time student, what should I consider?

International students are not allowed to go below 12 credits without prior approval from International Student Services.

Domestic students generally need to consider:
1) If you have student loans, please consult with your provider regarding deferment process for part-time status.  Odds are, you will probably start paying your loans back sooner if you become a part-time student.
2) If you have grants or scholarships, please consult the Office of Financial aid as being a part-time student might affect your eligibility for those.
3) If you have health insurance under your parents, please have them consult their policy to see how / why you are qualified- is this age related or is it student status dependent?  You will also need to consider how US political changes to the Affordable Care Act might affect your coverage.
4) If you use any of the UW-Madison facilities (e.g., rec center) please consider if they charge a pro-rated cost for students who are not full time as you might not be paying a full student activity fee.
5) If you have access to extra benefits as a full time student (e.g., the ability to purchase football tickets) please calculate if that is meaningful or important to you and research if those benefits are still available to part-time students.

The fiscal decision to switch from a full-time to a part-time student status is highly dependent on your individual situation and you will need to do some additional research.

I'm a CALS student wanting to declare IS as an additional major, how do I do that?

Please visit the CALS website here and their policy page to learn more about their policies and expectations for declaring majors across colleges.

Some of my courses aren't showing up in the major on my DARS. What's wrong? What should I do?

Occasionally courses that have been approved to count in the major and appear in our course lists do not show up in th IS Major section of the DARS. If this has happened to you, email the IS Advisor with the following information:

Your name,
Student ID number,
Track in the major,
Which course is missing or problematic.

The IS Major advisor will look into the problem and address your concerns.

I would like to take a directed study. How does that work?

A directed study is an independent research project that you will do under the guidance of a professor. You will need a professor’s permission to register for a directed study with him/her, you will also need to fill out the directed study permission form for this class to count for the IS Major.

There are a couple different ways in which students seek out a directed study. Most commonly, students develop a brief research proposal and request the help of a professor whose research focuses on that area. Other students might assist a professor with a larger, ongoing research project that s/he has been working on already.

A few tips: when you set up the directed study with a professor, make sure it is clear to you what your requirements are, when your deadlines are, how often you will meet, and how you will be graded.

May I double major or earn a certificate?

Whether or not to double major is a personal decision you should seriously consider before either declaring another major or dismissing the idea. If you find it intellectually desirable to pursue two majors, do so. While some students believe that double or triple majoring will dramatically improve their employment opportunities or provide other benefits for the employment market, this is not necessarily the case. You should not double major unless you are confident that you can do well in both majors. A spotty record with two majors will not impress in the same way as a solid academic record with one major. You can supplement your major with extra-curricular activities such as: interning, participating in performance groups, writing for one of the campus newspapers, leadership positions in student organizations, tutoring, volunteering, shadowing a professional in your potential career field, or working.

How do I un-declare (or cancel) the IS Major?

To cancel the major, you will need e-mail the IS Major advisor with a request to cancel and your campus ID.  You can also come to walk-in advising; however, e-mail is probably faster.

Can I get credit for an internship?

L&S Career Services offers a way for you to combine your internship with a credit-bearing course at UW-Madison. The course, INTER-LS 260 is taught for one credit online and is open to all students. This course is offered all three semesters. Click here for more information regarding LS-260.

Another alternative to INTER-LS 260 is to conduct a research project in conjunction with your internship. In this case, you would work with a professor in a one-on-one independent study or directed study.  Finally, if you are participating in an internship abroad, you may potentially enroll in IS 320 as part of your experience via the International Internship Program.

If you would like your internship credit to count towards the IS Major requirements you must arrange this in advance with your IS Major Advisor and the Faculty Member teaching the class.  You will need to fill out an internship credit petition form and clearly outline your academic work. Please note: the IS Major does not offer academic credit for internship work; it provides academic credit for academic work (e.g., papers, projects, and readings).

I am studying abroad, how do I figure out if my classes taken abroad will count for the IS Major?

Please read the detailed information found on the IS Major website regarding study abroad, watch the video, and fill out the study abroad worksheet. Also, make sure to meet with your IS Major advisor.

Does IS 320 International Internship count towards the Major? Does it matter if I take the 1 credit version or the 3 credit version?

In some cases, students who take the 3 credit version of IS 320 as an internship class may apply to have those credits count within the major. Please review the petition process on our website.  Please note, the 1 credit version of IS 320 as an internship class does NOT have enough academic content to count towards the IS Major.  You are still welcome to take the 1 credit version (and in the summer it might cost less); this class will count toward the 120 credits you need for your degree, but it will not fit within the IS Major.

Do International Learning Community courses count towards the Major?

No, the one credit learning community classes  do not count towards the IS Major. Rather, this class is a course used to encourage a broader understanding of international issues within the UW-Madison community.

I am a graduate student, can I take IS Major courses?

The International Studies Major is focused on undergraduate education in a liberal arts tradition.  We value undergraduate teaching and learning; as such graduate students are not permitted in International Studies courses.