Welcome to Parents & Guardians

Welcome to a proud tradition of UW-Madison parents whose students are involved in the International Studies Major! College is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming time in a young person’s life. This page is intended to serve as a resource to help answer questions you, as a parent, may have about the IS Major and the transition to UW-Madison.


UW students and their families take part in a Parents' Weekend football tailgate party at Union South at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 20, 2014. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

UW students and their families take part in a Parents’ Weekend. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

There are several resources on this page including the IS Major FAQ and links to other programs at UW-Madison.

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Parent Program provides connects parents with the institution and provides resources to address many questions.

The Office of Financial Aid provides an overview of financial options.

The College of Letters & Science provides scholarship information.

International Academic Programs (Study Abroad) has resources for parents and students can access Internships Abroad via the International Internship Program.

Good News Liberal-Arts Majors: Your Peers Probably Won’t Outearn You Forever
(A Washington Post Article, posted here)

IS Major FAQ for Parents

What sets UW-Madison apart from other schools with International Studies Programs?

UW-Madison offers around 80 different languages, with roughly 40 languages offered each semester, giving your student the chance to study a wide variety of languages such as Spanish and Urdu. This is more languages than any other university in the US. In addition, UW-Madison is home to many scholars who specialize in international topics within departments such as history, language, literature, law, sociology, anthropology, geography, film, political science, and more. As an interdisciplinary major, students will have the chance to work with a broad number of departments and professors.

Can you help me arrange a campus tour?

You are able to schedule a campus tour yourself via the Office of Admissions.

My student is interested in studying abroad, is it required for the major, and is it expensive?

UW-Madison offers over 140 study abroad programs in various countries, some with prerequisite requirements such as language study, and some without. Study abroad is not required for the IS major, although it is highly encouraged. Students can bring back up to 20 credits for the Issues and Electives requirement within the major. Please note that the two Track courses cannot be completed abroad and plan accordingly. International Academic Programs (IAP) offers many resources regarding funding study abroad programs which can be found here.

What resources within the major will my student have access to in addition to meeting with an advisor?

The advisors in the International Studies Major offer numerous workshops to help guide your student through their time in college in order to help them be well rounded students and better prepared for the job market after college. These workshops include topics such as: International Studies career advice, general information and advice about the major, study abroad, working abroad, and language acquisition skills. All workshops are free and open to any student in the IS major. In addition information about internships is frequently disseminated to students through newsletters, the department Facebook page, as well as emails.

My student is interested in another major as well- is it possible for them to have two majors?

Absolutely! Many students in the International Studies Major have a second major, or a certificate. Common second majors include history, political science, and languages.

What is a certificate? Can my student choose a minor?

Certificates are similar to minors. For example, students can pursue a certificate in global health if they fulfill class requirements. UW-Madison does not offer any minors.

My student is transferring to UW-Madison from another institution, will they be able to complete this major without having started their freshman year?

Students transferring in can complete this major without having started their freshman year due to the fact that many general education requirements were met at the first institution. Additionally, some classes transfer in as Issues or Electives credits.

Does the International Studies Major require students to complete an internship before graduating?

No, the IS Major does not require an internship, although it is highly encouraged.

My student wants to find an internship, can you help them?

The International Studies Major frequently shares information about internships with students through social media, emails, and announcements. Additionally, the UW-Madison International Internship Program (IIP) maintains an internship database, which can be found here.

I’m afraid my student will not be able to get into the classes they need, do required classes have spots held for IS students?

Unfortunately, as our major is in partnership with over forty departments, we cannot guarantee that students will get a seat. If the student meets the prerequisites they should contact the professor and ask to be placed on the wait list if the class is full. IS 101, the introductory class, often has seats held for incoming transfer students. If the student cannot get into the courses they want, they should come talk to an advisor about alternative options that will still fulfill requirements.

What should my student do if they have a question or enrollment problem over breaks?

Generally the IS advisors are still available during all school breaks to meet or answer questions. Students can contact advisors directly or email Often times Skype meetings can be held instead of face to face meetings to accommodate students.

I’m concerned that my student’s intended major won’t get him/her a job. What should I do?

There doesn’t always appear to be a direct link between a college major and a career. This shouldn’t, however, raise any alarms. A college degree in the liberal arts teaches learners how to think critically and broadly about a variety of issues — something employers value. Moreover, it is common for individuals to find work in a field that is not directly related to their degree once they graduate. A liberal arts degree helps students become well-versed in numerous areas, which prepares them for many career options.

I have concerns about my student’s grades and/or course selection. Can I speak with an advisor?

Due to FERPA regulations (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974), we cannot provide information about your student’s private academic records (such as grades, course schedules, and items discussed at advising appointments). If you have concerns about your student, the best course of action is to have an open discussion with him or her.

How many International Studies courses should my student take each semester?

In order to graduate with and IS Major, a student needs to take a minimum of 35 course credits. Over the course of a four-year degree, that amounts to roughly one or two courses per semester. This is only an average, however, and it is quite common for students to take no IS courses one semester and two or three IS courses during another. For more information about specific International Studies requirements, please click here.

My student wants to major in pre-med. What does that entail?

At UW-Madison, pre-medicine is an intended path of coursework — not a major. Therefore, your student can major in whatever he or she chooses as long as he or she fulfills the admission requirements for medical school. For more information on pre-med requirements, please visit the L&S Center for Pre-Health Advising.

Why is my student registered for an atypical language?

UW-Madison prides itself in offering a wide variety of foreign languages, and we encourage students to continue to study a foreign language even if they have met the minimum university foreign language requirements due to previous coursework in high school or at a local college. Studying a foreign language helps develop cross-cultural skills that are increasingly helpful in our global society. Furthermore, students who choose to study a unique language in college often “stand out” during scholarship application reviews, job / internship reviews, or pre-professional school applications. It shows that the student is open-minded and willing to try new things.

When I went to college, I took math, English, history and a foreign language. What are these bizarre courses that are being offered, and why isn’t my student taking math?

University requirements may have changed since you or your student’s family members attended college. In addition, degree requirements vary among different departments and schools on campus, as well as between other colleges and universities. Our academic advisors are here to help provide students with basic guidelines for meeting degree requirements; this gives students room to meet requirements, yet tailors their academic experience to suit their individual needs and preferences. Academic advisors aren’t here to tell your student what courses to take or to create his or her schedule, but they will work with your student to give him or her information and knowledge to select courses that best suit his or her needs, interests and abilities.

Where can I go to get more information about how to support my student throughout his/her college career?

The UW-Madison Parent Program is a great resource, offering student support information as well as a listing of campus events and links to important campus resources. To sign up to receive the parent newsletter and stay up-to-date on campus happenings, click here.