SOAR Resources

Welcome! This website is meant to accompany the SOAR Canvas course for CCAS students

We don’t want you to get too hung up on the details; the goal is to provide you, as an incoming student, with some basic information on what you need to know for these various interest areas. Each of these have their own website with more in depth information; your advisor can help connect you with these resources when you’re ready.

Using this website

Below, you will find some common interest areas that may have specific requirements or recommendations for courses to take, application processes, or other pertinent information. This is not an all-encompassing list; for that, check out the Guide to explore by interest area or major. 


Interest Areas

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Pre-Health & Pre-Vet


Students who indicate an interest in exploring and/or intention to pursue careers in a healthcare field are considered “pre-health.” UW-Madison does not offer pre-health as a major, as students can complete any major on our campus alongside completing prerequisite courses or exams required for admission to those professional schools. Examples include careers in Dentistry, Medicine, Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT), Physician Assistant (PA), Public Health, and Veterinary Medicine – just to name a few. 

The Center for Pre-Health Advising (CPHA) offers a variety of advising resources available on their website, which include prerequisite coursework, healthcare-focused student organizations, volunteer opportunities, research opportunities, health shadowing programs, and of course, how to get advising specific to pre-health planning and the application process. Students interested in health-related careers should sign up for the CPHA newsletter and complete the CPHA orientation Canvas course.

Why does this matter to me

There are certain requirements and considerations to be aware of if intending to apply to a pre-health program. These include taking required courses (like math, chemistry, biology, and social sciences), gaining patient care experience (like volunteering at a hospital), and pursuing other campus or community involvement. It is essential for students to work with their CCAS advisor, as well as advising staff and programming in CPHA to be as prepared as possible in this process. 

Students considering healthcare professional programs do not need to declare their major any sooner than their peers. Students pursuing a major in English while completing the pre-health requirements are as competitive as students pursuing majors in Neurobiology or Biochemistry in professional program applicant pools.

What do I need to know for SOAR?

When planning for courses for the fall semester, it’s important you let your CCAS advisor know if you are exploring a pre-health interest (i.e., Medicine, PA, Dentistry, Vet).

  • Pre-health students often enroll in general chemistry in the fall or spring semester of their freshman year. 
  • Placement test scores in math determine if more is needed and if students can enroll in Chemistry 103 (General Chemistry). Your advisor will help you determine when to start chemistry and if you should continue with math. 
  • Other course options (pending AP, transfer coursework, and placement test scores) include Psychology 202, a 100-level Sociology course, Communications Part A, Humanities/Literature, and, of course, other areas students are interested in exploring. 
  • In most cases, pre-health students will take introductory biology courses after completing general chemistry. This is because two of the introductory biology course sequences recommend or require the completion of Chemistry 104. There are many other bioscience courses a student could take in their first year to explore this area. This is a great topic to discuss with your advisor.


Marta is a first-year student who is undecided about her major, but is interested in pursuing medical school. For Marta’s first semester, she enrolled in Math 112 (College Algebra, a prerequisite for Chemistry 103), Life Sciences Communication 100 (for Communication Part A), Sociology 134 (Social Science and Ethnic Studies), and History 105 (Humanities or Social Science breadth). This allows Marta the ability to prepare for her pre-health intention, while also exploring areas in the Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Matt is interested in helping others and has started to look into Nursing and Physical Therapy. He is not sure about medical school because of the many years of schooling, but wants to keep it as an option. For the fall semester he decided to enroll in Chemistry 103, Spanish 204, Communication Arts 100, and Religious Studies 102, Exploring Religion in Sickness and Health. These courses allow Matt to explore interests related to health, develop language skills, and work on requirements for health-related majors.



Students who are pre-business are considering and likely planning to apply to the Wisconsin School of Business (WSoB). Students pursuing a Bachelor’s of Business Administration have the choice of a variety of majors, including Marketing, Management and Human Resources, Finance, Real Estate, and more. 

The WSoB is a competitive, limited-enrollment program that offers a once-a-year admission process each March for fall admission. Students must have completed or be in the process of completing prerequisite coursework in order to be eligible to apply. The WSoB offers multiple pre-business advising events, open to all interested students, to help them prepare their application. 

Other business-related majors can also be found in the College of Letters and Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and School of Human Ecology. The WSoB also offers certificate options to complement majors students may be pursuing outside of the Wisconsin School of Business.

Why does this matter to me?

Since admission to the WSoB is competitive, we encourage students to explore other business-related options, while also preparing to apply. Your CCAS advisor can help you with this parallel planning/exploration process. In addition, you may also work with the Pre-Business advising team and attend Pre-Business events. While there’s not an “Intro to Business” course, attending these events, meeting with advisors, and connecting with other Business students through clubs, student organizations, or jobs will help you determine if this is a direction you would like to pursue.

What do I need to know for SOAR?

If you are considering pursuing a major within the Wisconsin School of Business and would like to keep the option to apply open, then there are four requirements you must complete during your first year to be eligible. These requirements are: Communications Part A, calculus, microeconomics economics, and introductory psychology. Some students will complete them through placement testing, Advanced Placement (AP), or transfer coursework. Be sure to talk with your advisor about any credits you may be bringing with you to UW. 

We generally recommend that you spread the four pre-business courses across your first year at UW.  Pending placement test results, many students may need to take a Math course in the fall semester prior to enrolling in Calculus.  Similarly, non-native English speakers may need to take other English as a Second Language (ESL) courses before being eligible to enroll in ESL 118.  It is recommended to discuss this with your advisor when planning for your fall schedule. 

In addition to coursework, there are also a few other considerations Business applicants should keep in mind prior to applying. The WSoB admissions committee will review cumulative grades, essays, and a resume for each applicant to determine admission, so it will be important for students to think about ways in which they are involved in their community. This can be through jobs, student organizations, clubs, etc.  An opportunity to develop leadership skills through these involvements will also be important. In the fall, please connect with your CCAS advisor about these requirements, the various Pre-Business events that will take place, and how to connect with Pre-Business advisors.  


Terrance is an incoming first-year student who is interested in exploring majors in the Wisconsin School of Business, but also is considering majors in the College of Letters and Science and the School of Human Ecology.  For his first semester, Terrance enrolls in Economics 101, English 100, Spanish 204, and History 160.  These courses allow him to explore many of his interests and keep him on track for pursuing any of these degree options. 



“Engineering” at UW-Madison is typically in reference to one of the programs that prepares students for pursuing engineering careers after graduation. There are many engineering programs on campus and include majors like Electrical, Industrial, and Biological Systems Engineering. Most of the Engineering majors on campus are in the College of Engineering, with the exception of Biological Systems Engineering, which is in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Why does this matter to me?

All engineering-related majors have rigorous math and science curricula, and it is important to get started on those if you are interested in pursuing an engineering field. Most also have an application process, which you’ll want to start learning about to help plan your future semesters.

What do I need to know for SOAR?

The most important thing at SOAR is to take a math course and a science course (usually Chemistry or Computer Science). After that, you have some choice in rounding out your schedule with other exploratory classes or breadth and degree requirements.


Morgan is really interested in the environment and sustainability and hopes to work in those fields in the future. To do this, Morgan is considering some options related to engineering, like Civil or Biological Systems Engineering. For this semester, Morgan is planning on taking Math 221, Chemistry 103, an Environmental Studies course, and Life Sciences Communication 100.

Chris is broadly interested in engineering but isn’t sure which specific area. Coming into SOAR, Chris was interested in learning more about Computer Engineering, but after looking at options in the Guide, is now also curious to learn more about Materials Science and Biochemical Engineering. Chris plans to take Math 171, Computer Science 200, Communication Arts 100, and a Social Sciences breadth course.



Students considering a major in Nursing and planning to apply to the School of Nursing to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) enter UW-Madison as either pre-nursing (PRN) or as exploring students. Both groups spend their first two years completing nursing prerequisites and general education courses. Students then apply midway through their sophomore year to enter the nursing program as juniors. Students do not have to be classified PRN to apply.

The School of Nursing is a competitive limited-enrollment program. Students must have completed, or be in the process of completing, certain prerequisite courses and at least 54 degree credits of college-level course work in order to be eligible to apply. Admissions is based on factors including academic performance, pattern and trend of grades, courses taken, leadership roles, extracurricular activities, experiences related to health care, and experiences or background in diverse cultural, social and geographic settings.

Why does this matter to me?

It’s important to talk with your advisor if Nursing is something you are exploring or want to learn more about. There are certain prerequisites that you will need to complete if you are considering Nursing and intend to apply to the program in the spring of your sophomore year. Along with prerequisite coursework you may want to consider gaining experiences related to health care (like volunteering at a hospital), leadership roles (like joining a student organization), and getting involved in the community (through work, clubs, volunteering, etc.). Your advisor is a great resource to talk to about these options.

What do I need to know for SOAR? 

You do not need to know for certain that you intend to apply to the School of Nursing. Most students interested in Nursing start with taking a few of the prerequisite courses required for admission to the program. This strategy allows students to progress toward Nursing while fulfilling graduation requirements and exploring other interests.

  • Examples of prerequisites taken in the first two semesters include chemistry, psychology, biology, sociology and human growth and development. Students often take one science course in the fall and one science course in the spring.
  • Taking intro chemistry and intro biology in your first year allows you to move into human anatomy and human physiology in your second year.
  • Please connect with your advisor to learn more about the seven prerequisites required for application to the School of Nursing and when best to take them.


Katie is a first semester freshman exploring nursing, sociology, and pre-health. In her first semester she enrolled in Chemistry 103, Sociology 134, English 100, and Religious Studies 102

Jon is a first semester freshman exploring environmental studies, nursing, and French. In their first semester they enrolled in Biology 101, Psychology 202, French 102, Math 112, and Environmental Studies 112.

School of Education


The School of Education (SoE) is one of the eight undergraduate schools and colleges on the UW Madison campus. They offer majors in the arts, education, and health. Majors include Art, Kinesiology*, Rehabilitation Psychology, Communication Sciences & Disorders, and more.

They also have a variety of certificates to complement other majors on campus, such as Game Design, Disability Rights & Services, Health Promotion and Health Equity, and Studio Art.

*Kinesiology has its own section on this webpage

Why does this matter to me? 

Many of the majors within SoE have an application process. Requirements differ, depending on which major(s) you’re interested in, so it’s important to talk with your advisor if you are thinking about a major within SoE.

If you decide on a major that requires an application, you can choose to be assigned a pre-professional classification (e.g. pre-Kinesiology, pre-Elementary), which gives you access to an assigned School of Education advisor.

Students interested in pursuing secondary education (e.g. high school teaching) first focus on the content area they wish to teach. At UW-Madison, secondary education is available as a Masters program.

What do I need to know for SOAR? 

With the breadth of majors offered there are several ways to begin your exploration. If you are interested in exploring areas in the school of education, check out some of these courses: Curriculum 240, Educational Psychology, Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), Psych 202.

You can also consider volunteering with Madison Metropolitan School District, or other organizations listed on the SoE website.


Dana is a first year student who is interested in a helping profession but is unsure of the best way to proceed. She noticed that a lot of majors she is interested in are in the SoE, like Rehabilitation Psychology, Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Elementary Education. She decided to enroll in Rehabilitation Psychology 300: Individuals with Disabilities, which is a service learning course, to get experience in the field and explore her interests. She is also enrolled in Communication Sciences & Disorders 201: Speech Science, Psychology 202, and English 100.

Missy is considering elementary education, as she likes children and wants to work with them, but she also likes the idea of learning more about human development at all ages. For fall, Missy enrolled in Curriculum 240: Critical Aspects Of Teaching, Schooling, and Education, HDFS 362: Development Of The Young Child, Astronomy 103 (for the SoE science requirement), and Math 112.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)


The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is one of the eight undergraduate schools and colleges that makes up the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is the pre-eminent home of the life sciences and life science majors, such as Biochemistry and Plant Pathology. At the same time it houses majors dealing with physical and social sciences that connect with the overarching themes of biology, agriculture, health, and the environment, such as Community and Environmental Sociology, Life Sciences Communication, and Biological Systems Engineering.

Why does this matter to me?

There is a process for transferring into CALS. While it’s relatively easy to do, it’s important to talk with your advisor if you are considering majors within CALS. Students can transfer into CALS up until they earn 86 credits, so it is not necessary to know right away if CALS is right for you.

CALS also has different breadth requirements than other colleges on campus. Some majors can be pursued in either CALS or L&S (like biochemistry, environmental studies, and microbiology); the majors are the same, but the breadth requirements are different. Talk with your advisor about how to determine which focus is right for you.

What do I need to know for SOAR?

Given the breadth of options within CALS, be sure to talk to your advisor about which courses may be helpful for exploring their majors. Many science majors encourage first-year students to take math and chemistry, so it’s important to check your placement test scores to determine which courses would be right for you.


June is very interested in biochemistry and loves math. In fall, she is planning to take Math 222 and Chem 103 along with a course in Gender and Women’s Studies and a CommA course.

Ryan took a genetics class in high school and loved it, and he is also interested in business and history. He enrolled in Math 112 to prepare for Chemistry 103 in the spring, Economics 101 to explore business, Environmental Studies 112, and Community and Environmental Sociology 140.

School of Human Ecology (SoHE)


The School of Human Ecology (SoHE) is one of the eight undergraduate schools and colleges that make up the UW-Madison campus. SoHE focuses on the study of humans in various environments and how they interact in those environments, and offers a wide range of options, from those related to art and design, to social sciences and business. They are a smaller college, focused on personal connections, cultivated in project-driven and discussion-based courses. Majors within SoHE include Personal Finance, Community and Nonprofit Leadership, Retailing and Consumer Behavior, and more. They offer two certificates as well.

Why does this matter to me? 

First-year students, and transfer students in their first semester on campus, are able to declare SoHe majors. After that, must apply through a competitive, limited-enrollment process. Talk to your advisor if you are considering majors within SoHE.

SoHE also has different breadth requirements than other colleges on campus, which will be important to keep in mind later in your UW journey.

Along with coursework, you may want to consider other ways to explore these interests and get involved, such as volunteering, joining student organizations, working in a related area, and more. Your advisor is a great resource to help you determine what you’d like to try!

What do I need to know for SOAR?

If you are interested in exploring majors within SoHE, be sure to talk to your advisor about what courses may be helpful. We encourage you to try a class or two within SoHE to explore your interest areas and get a feel for how SoHE differs from other colleges.


Deandre is a transfer student, interested in Human Development and Family Studies. He is planning on taking HDFS 474: Racial Ethnic Families In The U.S. to confirm his interest, and then complete the declaration form before the end of the fall semester.

Juliana is interested in Personal Finance, and is also considering applying to the School of Business. She is planning on taking Econ 101, as well as Consumer Science 275: Consumer Finance to explore this interest and keep both pathways open.



The School of Pharmacy offers two programs to undergraduate students.

Pharmacology & Toxicology (PharmTox) is a limited-enrollment major, meaning that it has an application process (typically completed sophomore year). Application requires completion of 60 college credits and specific prerequisite coursework. It’s a great major for folks interested in pharmacy, biotechnology, government regulation of the health/environment, and more.

PharmD is a competitive doctoral-level program to which students apply to become Pharmacists. The School of Pharmacy does not require or prefer a bachelor’s degree for admission, so students can apply before completing their undergraduate degree. However, all applicants must complete a set of prerequisite college-level coursework, which typically takes two to three years to complete. Coursework that includes a strong foundation in physical and organic chemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry can help students explore their interest in the field.

Why does this matter to me?

It’s important to talk with your advisor if Pharmacy is something you’re exploring. Preparation for the PharmD program or the Pharmacology Toxicology program is an intention and not a major. Students can be working toward any major of interest as they prepare for admission into the PharmD program.  However, there are certain prerequisites that you will need to complete if you are considering Pharmacy.

Students typically start out with general chemistry and math in their first year. This is followed with introductory biology and organic chemistry in their second year. Based on placement scores and interests, your advisor can help you decide when to start chemistry and if further math is needed. Along with prerequisite coursework you may want to consider gaining experiences related to pharmacy (like working as a pharmacy tech), leadership roles (like joining a student organization), and getting involved in research.

Students are strongly encouraged to join the PharmClub, which helps them with their application preparation for both the PharmTox major and PharmD programs. This is a helpful link with more information:

What do I need to know for SOAR?  

  • If you’d like to explore pharmacy in your first year, you can look at the Pharmacy Practice department. Check out Pharmacy Practice 305, or one of two Pharmacy FIGS.
  • Students interested in pharmacy often enroll in general chemistry in the fall or spring semester of their freshman year.
  • Placement test scores in math determine if more math is needed and if students can enroll in Chemistry 103 (General Chemistry). Your advisor will help you determine when to start chemistry and if you should continue with math.
  • Other course options (pending AP, transfer coursework, and placement test scores) include Communications Part A, Humanities/Literature, and, of course, other areas students are interested in exploring.


Brenna is a transfer student, starting her junior year at UW. She is interested in applying to the PharmD program once she graduates. She took Bio 151/152 equivalents at her previous institution, so she is taking Microbio and Physics this fall (both requirements to apply), along with psychology coursework for her intended major.

Xin is a first year student, interested in exploring the PharmTox major. She is also interested in environmental sciences and biomedical engineering. She decided to take the Pharmacy and You FIG to explore this interest. She’s also taking Environmental Studies 126: Principles of Environmental Science.

Biological Sciences


“Simply put, the Biosciences study life. That may seem vast, and a bit vague, but it’s true. Biosciences can involve broad concepts, or a very specific building blocks of life. You could focus on a specific type of life like botany or zoology. Or concentrate on aspects common to many life forms, such as anatomy or biochemistry. Others are interested in broader systems like ecology or population health.” (The UW-Madison BioScience Advising Team Committee)

A student interested in the biosciences studies life in a range of areas. These areas often fall into different themes including cellular, organismal, community and population, animal, human, environmental, and plant sciences. Students can focus on broad concepts or very specific processes. For example a student interested in the theme of community and population might study the environmental sciences, anthropology, or plant pathology.  A student interested in the processes of the cell might study microbiology, biochemistry, or zoology.

Why does this matter to me?

Students considering a major in the biosciences have over 30 options to choose from at UW-Madison, so talking with an advisor about your interest is a good first step in the exploration process. These majors are located across six different undergraduate colleges and schools and allow students to explore a wide variety of interests and passions. An advisor will be able to share resources about the biosciences and help you create a strategy for exploring your interests.

What do I need to know for SOAR? 

  • Most students are encouraged to focus on math and chemistry in their first year of college and move into the introductory biology sequences in their second year. Focusing on the math and chemistry course requirements provides students with the necessary foundational knowledge to be successful in the introductory biology sequences.
  • There are three different intro biology sequences a student can complete. An advisor will be able to help you decide which sequence you want to pursue. It is important to let your advisor know which bioscience majors you are exploring, so we can discuss your options.

While taking math and science courses, there are additional opportunities to stay engaged with biology in your first year. A First-year Interest Group (FIG) is a great way to explore your interest in the biological sciences. There are also numerous Integrated Science courses that may tie in with your interests such as Integrated Science 100 – Exploring Biology and Integrated Science 140 – Exploring Service in STEM. Contemporary Topics and Careers in the Veterinary Sciences (Patho-Bio 150) is another example of a course that may align with your interests. Student organizations, research, and volunteer opportunities are also great ways to take part in the biosciences.


Teddy is exploring Kinesiology, Environmental Studies, and Communication Arts. For their first semester, they enrolled Chemistry 103, Environmental Studies 112, Communication Arts 100, Communication Arts 200, and Integrated Science 100. This schedule allows Teddy to test out their interests, progress toward majors, and fulfill graduation requirements.

Sydney is interested in Neurobiology, Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Art. She signs up for the Autism in Society FIG plus two other classes, so her schedule includes Rehabilitative Psychology 200, Rehabilitative Psychology 300, Psychology 202, Math 112 and Art 107.

Computer Sciences


Computer Sciences students develop fundamental knowledge and skills related to computer systems, which includes programming, hardware, operating systems, and networks. The Computer Sciences department offers both major and certificate options.

Why does this matter to me?

Computer Sciences is a fairly flexible major, appealing to students with interests in such topics as big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and software development (among many many others). If you are interested in learning more about Computer Sciences talk to your advisor about which introductory programming and math courses will get your exploration off to a great start.

What do I need to know for SOAR?

  • Students interested in Computer Science will usually take at least an introductory programming course to explore this interest (typically CS 200 if you have no prior experience, or CS 300 if you have some credits or experience coming in).
  • Math is required for the major, so taking a math class to help prepare for more advanced coursework is also recommended. Your advisor will help you determine which math options are best for you.


Throughout high school, Jo was frequently told that they are a “mathy” student and should explore various majors related to that strength. Jo is drawn to the idea of programming languages and getting involved in robotics, and is interested in analytical thinking. Based on this interest Computer Sciences seems like a good major to explore. Jo is thinking about taking CS 200, Math 221, an Ethnic studies course, and a Humanities breath course.

Lois heard that having some programming might be helpful in the future but isn’t sure about pursuing the major. For now, Lois thinks that taking some courses to help make progress in the certificate while focusing on other interests is the appropriate balance. Lois has some experience with programming and intends to ask about taking CS 200 or 300 during the 1:1 appointment. Math 240 is also a consideration for next semester.



Kinesiology: Exercise and Movement Science examines how the body responds to physical activity, the role of physiological and psychological factors in exercise, the mechanics driving movement, and how movement is controlled, learned, and developed over the lifespan.

Kinesiology is a competitive, limited-enrollment program. Students must have completed, or be in the process of completing, certain prerequisite courses and at least 54 degree credits of college-level course work in order to be eligible to apply. Most students apply in the spring semester of sophomore year to start the Kinesiology sequence their junior year. After admission to Kinesiology It is a four-semester sequence to complete the major.

Why does this matter to me? 

It’s important to talk with your advisor if Kinesiology is something you are exploring or want to learn more about. Your CCAS advisor can help you create a plan for completing prerequisite courses and staying on track to apply to the program in the spring of your sophomore year. Along with prerequisite coursework, you may want to consider gaining related experience (like volunteering at a hospital), leadership roles (like joining a student organization), and getting involved in the community (through work, clubs, volunteering, etc.). Your advisor is a great resource to talk to about these options.

What do I need to know for SOAR? 

  • Students interested in keeping the kinesiology pathway open often enroll in general chemistry in the fall or spring semester of their freshman year.
  • Placement test scores in Math determine if more Math is needed and if students can enroll in Chemistry 103 (General Chemistry). Your advisor will help you determine when to start chemistry and if you should continue with math.


Damien is thinking about an interest in physical therapy or occupational therapy. He has heard that kinesiology or rehabilitation psychology might be good majors for either of these, but he’s also interested in psychology and biology. He decided to take Rehabilitation Psychology & Special Education 300: Individuals with Disabilities, Chemistry 103, Kinesiology 119: Introduction to Kinesiology, and Psychology 202 to explore these interests.

World Languages


UW offers instruction in over 60 languages, including 45+ languages that are regularly taught during each academic year. Languages are taught at UW-Madison through a number of different departments and programs, including: African Cultural Studies, Asian Languages and Cultures, French and Italian, and more. You can choose to major in a language, pursue a certificate, or simply take courses to enhance your Wisconsin Experience.

Why does this matter to me?

The language requirement for graduation from UW-Madison varies by school and college. Some colleges do not have a requirement beyond the UW-Madison admissions requirement of two units, while others require three or four units of a language.

Studying a language allows you to:

  • Develop proficiency in the language you’re studying, including the ability to use the language appropriately in various contexts
  • Gain an understanding of the societies, histories, and major cultural contributions of the region or regions in which your language is spoken
  • Have the opportunity to study abroad in a country in which the language you’re studying is spoken
  • Meet and interact with speakers of the language
  • Network with alumni who work in a wide range of career areas and geographic locations
  • …And more!

What do I need to know for SOAR?

For most languages, you can only take the odd-numbered courses (i.e. first semester, third semester, etc.) in the fall, and the even-numbered courses (i.e. second semester, fourth semester, etc.) in the spring. This means that if you want to start a new language, you usually have to start in the fall semester.

Placement testing is required for students who have prior experience in a language. (Students entering with AP language credit or other college credit are still required to take the placement test to ensure accurate course placement.) Talk with your advisor if you are interested in taking a placement test.

It is possible to earn retroactive credits (credits for previous language mastery) based on which level of a course you test into. Please speak with your CCAS advisor to learn more about the rules governing retroactive credits.


Jaime is a first year student who took Latin throughout high school. Jaime has chosen to continue taking Latin, so Jaime has reached out to the Latin advisor. In the meantime, Jaime enrolled in Latin 101, knowing Jaime can swap it out for whichever course Jaime tests into.

Mai is a first year student who took Spanish in high school, took the UW placement test, and placed into Spanish 204. She is enrolling in Spanish 204 for fall; when she completes 204 with a B or better, she will receive 12 retroactive credits (for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd semester Spanish).



A certificate, similar to a minor, is an option for students wishing to compliment their chosen major or career aspirations by expanding their knowledge and education around a particular interest or passion.  Certificates typically consist of 12-15 credits of coursework in an interest area.

Why does this matter to me?   

While you do not need to choose a major or certificate at SOAR, it is important to know about certificates. Since UW-Madison does not offer undergraduate minors (except for certain School of Ed programs), certificates are one way for students to personalize their education, combining areas of interest, increasing skills, and broadening their perspectives.

What do I need to know for SOAR?

We invite you to explore certificates at SOAR as pre-packaged collections of courses that may align with your interests. This is an exciting way to explore new topics, narrow down class options, and complete degree requirements. A certificate may be a great way for you to ‘theme’ an interest area.

  • All certificates are listed alphabetically on the Guide.
  • Choosing a class or two from a certificate will keep that pathway open should you decide a certificate is right for you. Talk with your advisor if you are interested in learning more!


Jazz is interested in teaching high school and Psychology. They are passionate about working with and advocating for people with differing abilities. At SOAR, Jazz looked at four certificates to compliment potential major and career aspirations and get several course ideas in their cart:

  • Disability Rights and Services
  • Promoting Activity for Diverse Abilities
  • Education and Educational Services
  • Educational Policy Studies

They decided to take “RP&SE 100: Disability and Society” from the Disability Rights and Services certificate to explore this area of interest.

Monique really enjoyed their high school courses that allowed for plenty of creative expression. They enjoyed graphic design, drawing, painting,  pottery,  and theatre electives for example. Monique looked over the certificate options and placed several course  ideas in her cart after exploring:

  • Art Studio Certificate
  • Art History Certificate
  • Material Culture Certificate
  • Textiles and Design Certificate
  • Theatre Certificate

She decided to take Art 108: Foundations of Contemporary Art to explore her interest, while at the same time making progress towards the humanities breadth requirement.

High Impact Practices

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

ILS 139 Belong, Explore, Become: Discovering your UW paths

Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS) is partnering with Chadbourne Residential College and the Integrated Liberal Studies Department to offer Inter-LS 139 Belong, Explore, Become: Discovering your UW paths.

This seminar is designed for and open to all first-year, undecided students exploring majors in any school or college at UW-Madison.  The course will use personal reflections, readings, discussions, and experiential activities to explore self, community, and the liberal arts education.  Students will progress through a framework with the goal of developing confidence and tools to navigate the University’s opportunities and resources.

For more information, visit our Inter-LS 139 course page!

While ILS 139 is not formally a HIP course, it is a small seminar offering where students will have the opportunity to connect closely and build community.

First Year Interest Groups (FIGS)

FIGS: First Year Interest Group

A FIG is an interdisciplinary grouping of (usually) three courses including a main seminar which is capped at twenty students. FIGs are offered to incoming first-year students who attend these classes as a cohort. Taking a FIG allows you to explore a subject more deeply, work closely with a top-notch professor, and meet a small core group of students who share your interests.

“Game Design” and “Perspectives on Medicine and Healing” are two examples of popular FIGS.

If you’re interested in learning more about FIGS, find information here.

Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS)

URS: Undergraduate Research Scholars

Students accepted to this program participate in faculty-mentored research or a creative work project in their first year on campus. Taking part in research allows you to explore and engage your interests, make connections with faculty and across campus, and build academic and career skills.

Undergraduate scholars have participated in research on children’s understanding of mathematical symbols, treatment for spinal cord injuries, and folk art in the United States to name just a few.

If you’re interested in learning more about URS, find information here.

Community-Based Learning

Community-Based Learning Courses

Courses with a community-based learning component allow students to learn about real world issues and engage these issues through volunteer work with community organizations. Community-based learning courses allow you to help others while exploring academic and career interests.

For example, students in Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education 300: Individuals with Disabilities work with children with differing needs in a variety of settings.

If you are interested in this opportunity, find more information here.

WES: Wisconsin Emerging Scholars

Each WES section is a one-credit interactive study group for students taking Computer Science 200 or Calculus courses between Math 171 and Math 234. It is great for students who are looking for additional support or a deeper level of understanding of the material. 

You’ll meet weekly with a small group of fellow students and a peer mentor to enhance your learning and explore career possibilities. Students from underrepresented backgrounds are encouraged to enroll.

Integrated Science Courses

Integrated Science are small, interactive seminar courses in which students learn about current research happening at UW-Madison, public service within science, job trends in the field, and more.

Open to First Year students only, these courses allow you to learn skills and ways of thinking that will prepare you for success in future science courses, gain new perspectives on broad topics and current research, explore STEM careers and pathways that can come from engaging in research, and pick up great tips and advice on how to get the most out of your UW experience.

Two of the courses (IntegSci 140 and 240) have community-based learning components, where students have the opportunity to engage in public service activities (like leading an elementary school science club).

Interested? Search for the Integrated Science department on the Course Search & Enroll app.

Wisconsin Experience Seminar

Wisconsin Experience Seminar

The Wisconsin Experience Seminar (Counseling Psych 125) is a one-credit (75 min/week)  extended orientation first-year seminar open to all new students (freshmen and transfers). It is an active, discussion-driven, and community-oriented learning environment. Class size is capped at 20 students.

Students will: 

  • Discuss the history, culture, and purpose of UW-Madison
  • Engage with campus resources and opportunities to develop the habits of a successful college student
  • Develop positive relationships with faculty, staff, and students
  • Assess their skills, interests, and values
  • Analyze the multiple dimensions of social identity
  • Plan how they will engage with UW Madison and other communities during their time on campus

Constellations Program

A Constellations course is a high impact course that takes a humanities-focused approach to issues that cross disciplinary boundaries, for example, health and inequality. These courses are typically suitable for second-year, transfer, and upper-level students. Constellations classes allow students to explore the intersection of science and the humanities. They often include research opportunities, workshops, and out of the classroom experiences. Each Constellations class fulfills the pre-med intensive writing requirement.

 In one option this fall, for example, students can take a special pairing of English 153: Literature and the Environment (in which students analyze literary and film representations of the planet earth) and Astronomy 104: Our Exploration of the Solar System. 

If you’re interested in learning more, find information here. 

High Impact Practices (HIPs)

High Impact Practices are educational experiences intended to help students become more engaged, reflective and empathetic thinkers.

They are opportunities to engage in a different way with courses on campus, encouraging and helping students connect with others and explore different areas of interest.