As an exchange student, you will enroll in courses with degree-seeking UW-Madison students. UW-Madison does not offer any courses meant only for exchange students. This will give you the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a student at a U.S. university, as well as get to know students in your classes and build friendships and connections. It may also be a challenge to take courses exclusively in English for the first time in your life.
UW-Madison offers a huge amount of courses in many different fields of study. UW-Madison students frequently take courses outside of their subject/department of choice (known as a major). As an exchange student, you will also have the ability to enroll in courses in a variety of departments. We encourage you to take advantage of the flexibility of the American university structure and to explore the many academic choices you have at UW-Madison. Try taking something new and interesting!
It’s important for you to be as flexible as possible when it comes to your course selections. Some courses at UW-Madison are in higher demand than others, which results in them reaching enrollment capacity quickly. UW-Madison degree-seeking students receive enrollment priority for certain classes. We are not able to guarantee you a space in any particular course.
As an exchange student, you will be required to be enrolled full-time. Full-time enrollment depends on whether you were nominated as and applied as an undergraduate exchange or graduate exchange student.
Undergraduate: 12-18 credits
Graduate/Postgraduate: 8-15 credits
Most courses are 3 or 4 credits, though UW-Madison offers courses of many different credit amounts. The number assigned to a course gives an indication of the level of difficulty and indicates for whom the course is intended. Courses numbered under 300 (100-299) are undergraduate-level courses. Courses in the 300-699 range may be taken for credit by both undergraduate and graduate students; courses in the 300-499 range are generally considered intermediate level and courses in the 500-699 range are generally considered advanced level. Graduate students taking courses numbered 300-699 are expected to do graduate-level work, though they are enrolled in an undergraduate level course. Courses in the 700-999 range are open only to graduate students.
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What’s the difference between a class and a course?
In American English, these words generally mean the same thing. Each class/course is made up of meetings that are called lectures, discussions, and labs, depending on the subject matter. Though they can be used interchangeably, sometimes “class” refers to an individual daily/weekly meeting of a “course”.
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 assignments, papers, presentations, 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 will appreciate this advice later.)
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 a role in your participation grade. American university courses are highly participatory and instructors will expect you to speak up 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 explain your reasoning.
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 with small class sizes. Introductory courses are often larger, but this is not always the case.
Instructors at UW-Madison usually love to talk about the subject that they teach. We encourage you to go in to office hours and talk with your instructors if you have questions about your course content or assignments. 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 Smith” and some might ask to be addressed as “Dr. Smith”. 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 meeting 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. Students typically buy their books at the University Book Store or online. Some courses will have a packet of readings you can buy from a campus or local copy shop.
Together, your online and on-site orientation will set you up for success at UW-Madison. We recommend that you watch our online orientation video modules a few weeks prior to your arrival on campus.