Undergraduate major FAQs

When should I see an advisor?

We encourage you to meet with an advisor anytime you have questions. For information on meeting with an advisor in the Department of Computer Sciences, see the Undergraduate Advising page. For information about general advising across campus, see Undergraduate Advising: Resources for Students.

Where do I find an advisor?

After you have declared the computer sciences major or certificate, you will be assigned to a computer sciences advisor. However, you do not need to be formally assigned to a CS advisor in order to meet with one. For information on meeting with a Computer Sciences advisor, see the Undergraduate Advising page.

What does it take to major in computer sciences?

If you are a student in the College of Letters and Science (L&S), you can graduate with a major in CS by taking 11 computer sciences courses and 4 mathematics courses. Students in other colleges, particularly the College of Engineering or School of Business, can get a second major in CS (see the FAQ "What about second majors?").

What is required to declare a major in CS?
Before you can officially declare CS as your major, you must complete at least one CS course at UW-Madison (of at least two credits) and earn a grade of C or better in that course.  (If more than one CS course has been taken, any one may be used to fulfill this requirement.)

How do I declare a major in CS?

See the page, "How to declare the CS major."

Can I take any courses for the Computer Sciences major Pass/Fail?

You cannot take a course that counts for the Computer Sciences major pass/fail.

When should I declare my major?
You should declare the major once you have completed at least one CS course at UW-Madison with a grade of C or better.  Being a declared major means that you will be given priority to get into CS courses, receive invitations to departmental events, and be eligible for departmental scholarships and awards.

How do I change my degree program (from BA to BS or vice versa)?

To make a change in your degree program (switching from BA to BS or vice versa), you must fill out an online form from the College of Letters & Science.  Find the form here.

What do I need to do before I graduate?

Students must apply for graduation well in advance of completing graduation requirements. See the Registrar’s Office website for information on applying to graduate. In addition, we advise students to do the following: 

1. Look at your DARS report via MyUW. Read it over carefully to find deficiencies.  Be aware that each major (if you have more than one) will have its own DARS report.

2. Check to make sure your major(s) is/are declared correctly. That is, make sure you have officially added and/or dropped majors so that the list of majors on record is exactly what you want for graduation. If not, go to the individual departments to add or drop a major. This also applies if you have declared Honors in the Liberal Arts (L&S students) or Honors in the Major.

3. Talk to a CS advisor about questions you have about meeting requirements.

What about the Honors Program?

If you are in the College of Letters & Science, you have the option to apply to complete Honors in the Liberal Arts (HLA). HLA students complete honors-level coursework in the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. Students typically apply for HLA once they are admitted to UW-Madison, or early on during their academic careers. Students interested in HLA should contact the L&S Honors Program.

Students in the computer sciences major have the option to apply for Honors in the Major. To earn Honors in the Major, students must meet GPA requirements, write a year-long honors senior thesis, and complete at least one advanced, honors-level computer sciences course.  For detailed information on completing Honors in the Major, see the section on “Requirements for Computer Sciences Major with Honors” at the CS major requirements page.

What about non-CS degree requirements?

Students in the College of Letters & Science are required to complete all L&S requirements in additional to their Computer Science major. Current students can also find these requirements by running a BA or BS degree DARS report. Students in another school or college (College of Engineering or School of Business, for example) do not need to complete the L&S general requirements and should work with their school or college advisor to discuss general degree requirements.

How much Computer Sciences credit does one get for various CS AP test scores?

Please consult this chart from the Office of Admissions and Recruitment.

I'm an incoming student. Which classes should I take?

Your advisor at SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising and Registration) will help you determine the best course(s) for your first semester here.

What if I have substantial programming experience but no college credit?

Substantial means:

  • You have written programs that have dozens to hundreds of lines over multiple files
  • You have defined your own object types (classes)
  • You have experience reading data from a file or writing data to a file
  • You have experience handling exceptions
  • You are confident in your development skills: testing, code tracing and debugging

If you can say yes to all of these, enroll in CS 200 and contact Computer Sciences advising at advising@cs.wisc.edu for permission to enroll in CS 300.

What about transfer credit?

  • Students enrolled in a UW System or Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) can look up equivalencies in the Transfer Information System (TIS) using the credit transfer wizard. Some two-year schools in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin are in the Transfer Equivalency Database.
  • If you are a student at Madison College (MATC) please refer to the Transfer Tips PDF for course planning.
  • For courses taken before admission or before re-entry to the University: Submit all transcripts along with your admission application to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment, 702 W. Johnson St., Suite 1101, Madison, WI 53715-1007. They will attempt to determine all transfer credits and equivalent courses at UW-Madison.
  • For courses to be taken during the summer at another university: Use the Summer Course Equivalency Service offered by the Office of Admission. They will then determine, BEFORE you go, how these courses will be transferred here.
  • For courses to be taken during study abroad: Contact the UW Study Abroad Office you are participating with. For non-UW programs, or if you will be taking courses abroad that are not affiliated with study abroad programs, see information on the International Academic Programs website. They will then determine, BEFORE you go, how these courses will be transferred here.
  • For courses taken after you have been admitted and AFTER you have completed them: Submit a copy of your transcript to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. They will attempt to determine the credits and the equivalent courses here, if any.
  • In the event that the above offices cannot determine transfer credits for CS-type courses, they will ask the student to see an advisor in CS. Find information on how to contact a CS advisor.
  • Transfer credits for math courses are handled similarly, but through a Department of Mathematics undergraduate advisor.

What about second majors for students in other colleges?
Acceptance of the major may be contingent on approval of a dean of your home college. When you declare the CS major, make sure the CS advisor knows you are in another college.

Can I get a second degree?
A students should consult with a dean in the College of Letters & Science Division of Student Academic Affairs (SAA) if he or she wishes to earn a second undergraduate degree. Students admitted as candidates for a second undergraduate degree are subject to the L&S Academic Probation and Drop system. A second undergraduate degree must be substantially different from the first degree. Students are not permitted to earn two undergraduate liberal arts degrees.

Requirements for admission to candidacy for a second degree are:
1) An undergraduate degree earned at UW-Madison or elsewhere
2) Satisfaction of all basic admissions requirements to UW-Madison
3) Submission of transcripts from all schools attended
4) Minimum of 3.0 GPA on first undergraduate degree program
5) Admission to the proposed major (completed major/certificate declaration form or departmental letter)
6) Written permission from an L&S academic dean

To earn a second undergraduate degree from UW-Madison, students must:
1) Satisfy all Letters & Science degree requirements
2) Satisfy all quality of work requirements
3) Complete at least 30 credits in Letters & Science at UW-Madison after the first degree has been awarded, regardless of whether or not the first degree was an L&S degree. Note that the second degree's major must be significantly different from the first degree
4) Complete a minimum of 108 credits in L&S courses, which may include courses completed during the student's first degree program

See an L&S advisor in room 101 of Ingraham Hall, located at 1155 Observatory Drive, for more information.

How do I find on-campus jobs related to computer science?
You can start by browsing this website's listings of computer science-related jobs (which includes both on- and off-campus positions.)  You may also want to search other departments' listings for research-related jobs, which are often announced by the faculty member whose grant is going to support the position.  Other resources include the UW Student Job Center listing of computer-related jobs and the Letters & Science Career Services office. There are also jobs posted outside the Department of Computer Sciences main offices (5th floor, CS Building), both on the bulletin board and in a notebook.

Where can I get more information?
Peruse the CS Undergraduate Program pages.