Undergraduate FAQs

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How can I meet with a Computer Sciences advisor?

After you have declared the Computer Sciences major or certificate, you will be assigned to the team of Computer Sciences advisors. For information on meeting with a Computer Sciences advisor, see the Undergraduate Advising page.

Non-declared students with quick CS-related questions can email advisors at advising@cs.wisc.edu. We are unable to accommodate drop-in meetings or scheduled appointments with non-declared students.

How do I declare the Computer Sciences major?

Before you can officially declare CS as your major, you must satisfy the major declaration requirements. See the Guide for more details.

Once you are eligible to declare the major, you can declare by completing the online major declaration form. To access this form, you must be logged in to Google with your UW-Madison NetID and password. Please make sure you are not logged in with a personal Gmail account. Please allow 7–10 business days for processing. Students in schools/colleges outside of L&S will also need a secondary approval from their home school/college.

Being a declared major has many benefits. You will be eligible to schedule appointments with the computer sciences advisors, you will be given priority to enroll in upper-level CS courses, you will receive important emails and invitations to departmental events, and you will be eligible for departmental scholarships and awards.

Can I declare the Computer Sciences major if I am not in the College of Letters and Science?

Students in schools/colleges outside of the College of Letters and Science are eligible to declare an additional major in Computer Sciences upon approval from an academic dean in their home school/college. When you declare the Computer Sciences major, you will receive an email with instructions about obtaining this approval.

What is required to complete the Computer Sciences major?

The Computer Sciences major is comprised of 11 computer sciences courses and 4 mathematics courses. For information about the specific major requirements, see the major’s Guide page.

Is there an honors option?

If you are in the College of Letters and 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 CS course. For more information about the Honors in the Major requirements, please see the Guide.

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 and Science.

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. For more information about the pass/fail policy, please see the L&S policies page.

Outside of the CS major requirements, what else is required to complete my degree?

Students in the College of Letters and Science are required to complete all L&S requirements in addition to their major requirements. Current students can also find these requirements by running a DARS report. Students in schools/colleges outside of L&S will have different degree requirements from L&S students. These students should work with their school or college advisor(s) to discuss their degree requirements.

What do I need to do before I graduate?

Students must apply for graduation via their Student Center to indicate that they are nearing completion of their degree. See the Office of the Registrar’s website for information and instructions about this process. 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 an advisor about questions you have about meeting requirements.

I am an incoming student. What kind of computer should I buy?

Students are not required to own a computer, as it is possible to complete all work in on-campus computer labs. However, most students find it convenient to have a laptop. The Department of Computer Sciences does not recommend any specific manufacturer or model, though we do suggest you consider the following when making your purchase:

Weight – A computer that is less that 3-4 pounds will be less burdensome to carry around.

Display – For programming, a larger screen makes it possible to see more of the code at once. A screen that is at least 12 inches diagonally is ideal.

Storage – Speed can be important, so consider a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD). Laptops with only a hard drive, while they may store more files, can feel very slow. While 128GB is a common size, many students find it helpful to have more space. As an alternative to a larger drive, consider purchasing an external hard drive with a 1TB capacity or larger.

Memory – Consider at least 8GB. Some students find that a laptop with only 4GB of memory feels slow, and it can be very difficult to add memory later.

Processor – Consider a Core i3, i5, or i7 processor from Intel or AMD Ryzen 3, 5, or 7. Some students find that Intel Pentium and Celeron processors feel slow.

WiFi – Make sure your laptop has a built-in wireless network so you can be mobile and access WiFi from anywhere on campus.

Operating System – Windows, Mac OS, and Linux will offer the most flexibility. Some students find that they are unable to run specialized software for their courses on ChromeBooks/ChromeOS.

Longevity – Some laptops at the lower end of these recommendations may start to feel slow after a few years. Computers that exceed these recommendations are likely to be usable for longer.

Optional Features – Depending on how you plan to use your computer, you may find a touch screen, enhanced graphics (for gaming), or support for a pen input (for note taking) particularly useful.

Cost – Most computers that meet these recommendations will cost between $600 and $1500. We suggest that all students consider what is important to them, shop around for a good price, and find a balance between cost and features that you are comfortable with.

I am an incoming student. Which classes should I take?

Most first-semester students who intend to major in Computer Sciences will take one programming course and one mathematics course. Because all students enter UW-Madison with different academic backgrounds, your advisor at SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration) will help you determine the best courses for your first semester here.

How will I receive credit for AP or IB tests I took?

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

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, you should enroll in CS 200 and contact Computer Sciences advising at advising@cs.wisc.edu for details about enrolling in CS 300.

What if I have transfer credit or plan on completing coursework outside of UW-Madison?

Students enrolled in a UW System or Wisconsin Technical College System can look up equivalencies in the Transfer Information System 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), ask an undergraduate advisor about transfer tips.

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 and Recruitment. 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 computer sciences courses, credit can be evaluated by the Department of Computer Sciences’ Undergraduate Advising Committee. Students should email full syllabi (that include a list of weekly topics) for the CS courses they have taken to advising@cs.wisc.edu. Be sure to also tell us which course(s) at UW–Madison you believe you should earn transfer credit for.

Transfer credits for math courses are handled similarly, but through a Department of Mathematics undergraduate advisor. Please contact placement@math.wisc.edu for more details.

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. There are also jobs posted outside the Department of Computer Sciences main offices (5th floor, Computer Sciences Building), both on the bulletin board and in a notebook.

I need help with finding an internship or job. What should I do?

The Computer Sciences advisors here in the department are not trained to help students find internships or jobs. Thankfully, UW-Madison has a strong community of career advisors who can help!

Students in the College of Letters and Science should meet with a career advisor in SuccessWorks. SuccessWorks has a designated career advisor specifically for students interested in technology, data, and analytics.

Students in the College of Engineering should visit Engineering Career Services.

I am an undergraduate student who needs to apply for CPT (curricular practical training). What is the procedure?

To apply for CPT in the Computer Sciences department, you must be a declared Computer Sciences major. Then you may follow the steps below.

  1. Complete the CPT application through Terra Dotta and assign to Mollie Stolbov (stolbov@wisc.edu).
  2. Email the following to ugrads-cpt@cs.wisc.edu:
    • Employment letter, signed and issued on company letterhead for your internship
    • Position description
    • Whether the internship is part-time or full-time
    • Start and end dates
    • Full work location address
    • Supervisor name and contact information
    • Brief paragraph describing how this internship directly relates to your degree.

It will take up to 10 business days before the signed advisor form is returned to you. If your form is approved, you will receive a copy by email, as well as notification of permission to enroll in CS 699 with the current CPT professor.

At the end of the term, send the professor (ugrads-cpt@cs.wisc.edu) a summary of your work experience and accomplishments (1 – 1.5 pages). You can also send an update in the middle of the internship, but the end summary is required.

At the end of CS 699, have your work supervisor send the professor a short email with your job title, a paragraph describing what you have accomplished, and whether or not your work was satisfactory. This is required to pass the course.