This page addresses many of the Frequently Asked Questions about the International Studies Major.  After reading the response, please contact an Academic Advisor if you have follow up questions.

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 – 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.

Can you help me decide which Track or Option to choose?

Students find it helpful to read through the descriptions of the Options and to look through the course lists to get a better idea about the Options basic theme. Considering a general career direction also helps narrow down your choices as well as looking at the courses you’ve taken and thinking about which ones 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, 2 of another). Following the 3-2 combination will not satisfy the IS requirement. For example, a student studying Spanish will have to take Spanish 226 or higher.

For international students, the advisor will waive the foreign language requirement as long as the student has had formal education through the high school level in their native language.

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 courses, students should work closely with the Office of Admissions to make sure you 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. Keep in mind that the prerequistes are in place to prepare you for more advanced coursework. You should aim to complete the prerequisites first and then the major.

When can I declare the major?

Students may declare the major as long as they show good progress towards completing the prerequisites.  This means that students have registered for or taken IS 101 and Econ 101 or Econ 102.  We understand the language prerequisite will take time and students only need to show concurrent enrollment.  Also, starting in Spring 2016, all L&S students will need to declare a major before 86 credits.  If you are approaching the credit limit, the IS Major will work with you on an individual basis.

To declare, the IS Major you must first attend an Intro to IS Major workshop.  The 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 and  “Declare Me!” workshops.  Please do not schedule a WiscCal appointment with Kirsten 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 courses.

How do I choose my courses?

Once you have chosen your Option in the major, you may select courses from our semester course lists. Students should choose courses from the list in order to fulfill the different requirements in the major. Note that many of the upper-level courses have prerequisites. Students should be aware whether they meet those requisites before registration. 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 off the issues list in 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. The rule states the a student may take up to four courses from any one department (e.g., four courses from the Spanish department). Cross-listed departments will also count toward the four 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. Student should note that the 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 B, P, 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 Catalog and on this FAQ; L&S Breadth requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog. 

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 our 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 the 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 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 (and students within the major) must follow those rules.  The IS Major advisor is not able to “help you” waive prerequisites.  In general, prerequisites exists for good reasons- mainly to make sure you have the correct knowledge in order to do well in a class.  If you would like to take a class and do not have the prerequisites, you need to: 1) contact the faculty member teaching the class and ask for a waiver.  2) If this waiver is granted, you need to contact the appropriate administrator within that specific department (not IS) to gain permission to enroll.  Please use the departmental website to determine who the timetable administrator or undergraduate advisor is for the specific department (e.g., Sociology) or ask the faculty member to direct you.  Again, the IS Major is not able to assist in waiving prerequisites and cannot give permission to enroll in a course that is taught or administered by a different department.

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?

IS 101 is a different course than both PS 103: International Relations and PS 106: Comparative Politics. PS 103 is about global actors and how they act on the international stage. PS 106 compares how nation states deal with each other.

In contrast, IS 101 considers all of these and places special emphasis on “bottom-up, inside-out, context-sensitive approaches” to global challenges. Therefore IS 101 takes a much broader spectrum of international issues and actors into its consideration. This course provides a broad, interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving, training IS Majors to excel within an interdiscplinary framework, allowing them to build their personal program of study from courses from many different departments and to employ methodologies and draw conclusions across disciplines.

Given this background, occasionally students have been granted permission from professors to register for upper-level Political Science courses. This permission is granted on a case-by-case basis. Students must make the argument to the course instructor that they have the necessary background to activity contribute and to successfully complete the coursework.

We strongly encourage students the Global Security or Politics & Policy Options in the IS Major to take either PS 103 or PS 106. Students should seriously consider the difference between and the analytic tools provided by PS 103 and PS 106 as compared to IS 101.

I found a class that I want to take and I think is International Studies but it is not on the IS Major Course List or DARS, what do I do?

There are a variety of classes, particularly topics courses, that might be considered within the International Studies major curriculum, but are not on the course list for several reasons.  First, we do not list classes that are primarily open to graduate students or require several advanced per-requisites as many students are not eligible to take these classes.  Second, although you might think a class fits within International Studies, our curriculum has very specific guidelines — and in reality the course probably does not meet those.  Please note, simply because a course covers issues outside of the United States or you took the class in a different country, does not mean this class meets the substantive academic content associated with International Studies.  If you find a class that you would like reviewed for consideration within your International Studies major curriculum, you need to submit a syllabus for the course to the IS Major advisor via email.  Syllabi need to be submitted prior to enrollment in the course and evaluation takes up to two weeks to process.

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 Undergraduate Academic Services website.

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 List or found in the Course Guide 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

You can read more about L&S Breadth requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog

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

The answer to this question is really individual depending on your fiscal background, age, goals, and if you are an international student or not.  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?

New this fall, workshops about the double major/dual degree application process will not be offered. Instead, students are expected to watch a (quick!) 15 minute video explaining the process. The video and all necessary links can be found here, or on the CALS website under “Additional Major/Degree Application”.

Completed application packets can be submitted to 116 Agricultural Hall while classes are in session, and students will be given a response within 3 weeks of submission to Academic Affairs. Decisions cannot be guaranteed any sooner than 3 weeks, so students must plan accordingly.

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 advisor will investigate the problem and correct the error for you.

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.

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.

Many IS majors choose to double major and/or pursue a certificate in a specialized area of knowledge. Ideally the choice of an appropriate additional major or certificate should be based on more than just the convenience or the way it overlaps with the IS major. As you are reviewing your options, keep in mind your career goals and ask yourself if the major you are considering will be a useful addition in terms of knowledge and/or skills.
You can find a list of majors here and a list of certificates here.

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 attend a “Declare Me!” workshop or come to walk-in advising; however, e-mail is probably faster.

When do I apply to graduate? How do I apply to graduate?

“Graduation” is the completion of all of your requirements. First, review your DARS to assess whether you have completed your requirements. Then, you must apply to graduate through your Student Center. This process notifies the Registrar’s Office about your plan. Your course work with be audited for errors, and you and all of your academic advisors will be notified if there is a problem. Students can apply to graduate from the same time you register for your last semester of courses.

At the time you apply for graduation, you can indicate whether you intend to participate in the commencement ceremonies. General information about commencement can be found here.  Further information about graduation is available here.

Where can I find information about getting involved in extra-curricular activities, such as internships, student organizations, and volunteer organizations?

There are numerous resources on campus that can assist you with extra-curricular activities. L&S Career Services offers a service called BuckyNet which is an online resource for internship and job postings and career workshops. The International Internship Program also offers resources for internships. The Center for Leadership and Involvement has a list of registered student organizations on campus. Finally, the Morgridge Center for Public Service connects UW students with local non-profit organizations who need volunteers.

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 took a class at a different college or university, how do I transfer it to UW-Madison?

After you have taken your class at a different institution, please read the directions on the process of sending your transcripts to the Office of Admissions.

I want to take summer classes at a community college or other university close to my home, how do figure out which classes will transfer back to UW-Madison?

For students taking classes within the University of Wisconsin System, the  Transfer Information System  helps students navigating transferring between Wisconsin colleges and universities. This link also has information for students taking classes at private institutions or out-of-state schools, however that data is limited. As with any transfer courses, students should work closely with the Office of Admissions to make sure you understand the transfer process and to assure that courses transfer properly. After you complete your class at the different institution you will need to send your transcript to the Office of Admissions at UW-Madison.

How do I figure out what class to take at MATC or my community college back home?  For example,  Econ 101, Econ 102, and General Education requirements like Com B, Science, or Literature classes.

Students taking classes within the Wisconsin state system (e.g., MATC) will need to use the Transfer Information System.  Students taking classes outside Wisconsin will need to use the Transfer Equivalency Database or the Course Equivalency Service.  This video walks you through the steps and how to use both systems.

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.

The jobs I’m applying for require that I know how to write a grant proposal, but I’ve never done that before.  How can I learn?

Memorial Library’s Grants Information Collection is located in room 262 D/E of Memorial Library. It is a collection of electronic and print resources available to the public. The GIC provides information about finding and applying to grants, and writing grant proposals.  Websites, books, and workshop materials about writing grant proposals are available both online and at Memorial Library. For more information, email grants-t@library.wisc.edu.

Can you tell me what IS Major classes are taught online?

The IS Major does not keep track of how classes are taught- as the instructional mode frequently changes and our classes are spread across over 20 departments. Given the limited staffing for the IS Major, there are simply more important things for our advisors to do. We suggest that students interested in taking an online class can quickly locate this information by using the course guide to look up the classes you are interested in and using the search function (located on the left side of course guide) to only seek out online classes.

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.

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