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School of Education

Special Education Admission and Application Information

Admission as a Pre-Professional Student

New freshmen and transfer students are admitted directly to the School of Education and assigned a “pre” classification that reflects their area of interest—Pre-Elementary, Pre-Kinesiology, etc. Students interested in Special Education receive a pre-classification of PSR. This classification indicates that a student is interested in Special Education, but hasn't completed the eligibility requirements for admission into the professional part of their undergraduate degree program.

On-campus students wishing to be admitted to the School of Education while working on a program’s eligibility requirements can apply for admission to the School of Education by completing a pre-professional application form. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required, based on UW-Madison coursework. It is not necessary to be a "pre" before applying to any of the School of Education's professional programs.

It is strongly recommended that students interested in a School of Education program meet with an academic advisor in Education Academic Services (EAS), 139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, 608-262-1651.

Admission to the Professional Program

Students are admitted to the program once a year, and will begin the professional sequence in the fall. Selection is made in the spring and students will be notified of their status in April.

Resources limit the number of students who can be served by many UW–Madison teacher education programs. Thus, admission to the Special Education program is limited and may be competitive. If so, obtaining or exceeding the minimum criteria for eligibility will not guarantee admission.

Requirements and admission criteria may be modified from one admission period to the next. Any changes to these criteria may occur up until the application period begins and will be reflected below.

Program Admission Eligibility Requirements

The application period runs from October 2015 through February 1, 2016. To be eligible for admission to the professional program, applicants must

  1. Complete at least 40 transferable college-level credits by the end of fall semester 2015.
  2. RP&SE 300 Individuals with Disabilities (3 credits) must be completed by the end of summer 2016.
  3. Earn a minimum 2.5 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale on all transferable college-level coursework attempted. Note: Both the cumulative GPA and the cumulative GPA based on the last 60 credits will be calculated to determine program eligibility. Grade point averages are based on all college-level coursework and calculated from all coursework attempted
  4. Basic Skills Requirement: All prospective teacher education students must submit test scores to the School of Education to be eligible for professional program admission. Students may use their ACT, SAT, or GRE scores, or they may take the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Test (formerly the Praxis I/PPST). These tests meet Wisconsin's basic skills test requirement for prospective teachers. For more information see the document Academic Tests for Prospective Teachers.
  5. Submit the following application materials to Education Academic Services by February 1, 2016:
    • Program application.
    • Transcripts for any off-campus coursework (if not currently a School of Education student).
    • Résumé, including a description and dates of educational and work experiences, awards, and accomplishments, and a list of references.
    • Statement of purpose. Applicants must provide a written statement of reasons for wanting to be a special education teacher. Students should pay particular attention to the statement of purpose as it is an important part of the application. This statement might include information about employment goals, such as the student population which the applicant aspires to serve and the type of school or geographical area in which the applicant may desire to work. The applicant may also wish to share contributing factors from their life experiences or background that led them to the teaching profession. This is an open-ended document with no page or style limitations; however, both the information presented and the writing skills demonstrated will be factors considered in the selection process.
    • Letters of recommendation. No more than three letters of recommendation must be submitted from individuals who have observed the applicant working in an instructional or other helping capacity. These may be either paid or volunteer experiences.
    • Any additional documentation that may address or provide insight into any of the following: the applicant's background, experiences, stated professional goals, places where the applicant has resided, future commitment to multicultural education, trends in college grades or course selection patterns, and grade point average or basic skills test scores.

Transfer Students

Applicants not already enrolled on the UW–Madison campus must be admissible to the University to enroll in a School of Education program; program admission is contingent upon admission to the campus.

Admission to UW–Madison requires a separate application and admission process. See UW–Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment for application information. More detailed information for prospective transfer students is available here.

Prospective transfer students are strongly advised to meet with an Education Academic Services advisor in advance of their application.

Program Selection Criteria

The Special Education Area faculty will review all completed applications that meet eligibility criteria. When reviewing an application, Special Education faculty want to learn as much about the applicant as possible and will make every effort to take into account the whole person. Applicants are encouraged to provide, in writing, whatever they would want to share in a face-to-face interview.

The selection committee members will consider several factors when selecting students for the program. grade point average (GPA) and basic skills test scores will be a part of the evaluation process. Although these numerical scores are considered important indicators of success, they are not the only basis on which applicants will be selected for admission. Trends in the applicant's grades, difficulty of course load, and outside work load will be considered (see factors 1, 2, and 3 below). The basic skills test was designed primarily to assess mastery of basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics. High or low basic skills test scores may be considered in marginal situations. In addition to GPA and basic skills test scores, faculty will consider the following factors:

  1. College grading and course selection pattern. Transcripts will be examined individually. Account will be taken whether an applicant has clearly followed an unusually easy or difficult pattern of courses or if the GPA reflects a poor grade in an exceptionally difficult subject area.
  2. Trends of college grades. An applicant who started very poorly or showed a decline in their early phases of college, but performed strongly in later college years, may be judged more favorably than another with the same GPA but level or declining record.
  3. Diversity of experience or background. Work/life experience, college activity, political activity, and other experiences or background that adds a diverse perspective to the special education student body may work in the applicant's favor. Volunteer or paid work with people with disabilities will be taken into account in the selection process. Volunteer or paid work with people from a background different than the applicant's may also be taken into account in the selection process.
  4. Writing sample (Statement of Purpose). Application materials must include an essay in which the applicant gives reasons for becoming a special education teacher. Writing is so important in the professional life of teachers and in the teacher education program that the quality of the applicant's writing will be taken into account in making admissions decisions.
  5. Letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters will play an important role in helping the selection committee judge the applicant's prospects for academic success in the program. Careful, thoughtful letters from mentors, teachers, or employers will provide information about the applicant's intellect, imagination, or prospects for becoming a successful teacher. Working with people with disabilities will be taken into account in the selection process. Working with people from a background different than the applicant's may also be taken into account in the selection process.
  6. Other factors. The program's quest for diversity leads the selection committee to take into account fully qualified applicants from under-represented groups. Race, ethnicity, cultural, geographic background, and economic disadvantage are among the factors that will be considered, taking into account the needs of the schools. A full-time or extra heavy part-time work load will be considered a factor in close cases.

Last 60 Credits Rule

Two grade point averages will be calculated to determine candidates' eligibility for program consideration. GPAs will be calculated using (1) all transferable college level coursework attempted, and (2) the last 60 credits attempted. The higher GPA of these two will be used for purposes of determining eligibility. If fewer than 60 credits have been attempted, all credits will be used to calculate the GPA. Graded graduate coursework will also be used in all GPA calculations. ("Attempted" coursework indicates coursework for which a grade has been earned.) More information on this rule is available here.

Criminal Background Investigation and Disclosure Statement

Criminal background checks will be run on all students at admission. Applicants must also complete a disclosure statement. More information is available here.

Students with a Previous Degree

Persons who already hold an undergraduate degree are admitted to the School of Education as either an Education Special student or a Second Degree student, depending on their interests and academic background. The term Special student indicates that the student has an interest in pursuing certification in a subject area studied during the initial degree; the student does not receive a degree for this "certification only" coursework. Second Degree students are seeking a second, unrelated degree from the School of Education, which may, or may not, include teacher certification. Candidates for limited enrollment programs must meet all admission eligibility requirements for the program and must compete with the eligible applicants for program admission. More information is available here.