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College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Academic Policies and Procedures

Registration Issues
Attendance and Mid-Semester Issues
Graduation Issues
Academic Standing

Registration Issues

Study load and progress. Each full-time student is expected to take class and laboratory work totaling 12 to 18 credits per semester. Anyone desiring to take more than 18 credits must obtain permission in advance of registration from the advisor and the Office of Academic Affairs. Students registering for more than 18 credits will be subject to additional tuition and fees. See the registrar's website for the definition of maximum credit load in the summer sessions.

At least 120 credits are required for graduation for all majors (more credits are required for some majors), and so generally a student should be enrolled for 15 or 16 credits per semester to complete degree requirements within eight semesters.

Course numbers. Freshmen and sophomores are permitted to take courses for which they meet the prerequisites; courses numbered from 1 to 299 may be taken for credit by undergraduates only; those numbered from 300 to 699 are open for credit to both undergraduates and graduates; those numbered from 700 to 999 are open to undergraduates only with permission of the instructor.

A middle digit 8 designates an honors course; a middle digit 9 designates an independent work course, a research course, or a thesis course. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors may earn independent study credit (usually 299) with consent of an instructor and approval of their academic advisor. Seniors may earn credit for special problems work (course 699) with consent of instructor and approval of their academic advisor. There is no limit on the number of credits a student may receive for courses numbered 299 or 699.

Students may not receive more than 8 credits total for courses numbered 399 (internship). Students must have approval of a CALS advisor and complete a learning contract prior to registration for internship credits. Contact the Office of Academic Affairs, 116 Agricultural Hall, for more information.

Thesis. The undergraduate thesis, when required as part of the major requirements, consists of 4–8 credits (691/692). Students admitted to the Honors Program must complete a senior honors thesis for 4–8 credits (681/682).

Pass/fail privilege.

  1. All undergraduate students are eligible to take a course on a pass/fail basis if they request the option prior to the deadline and are in good academic standing at the time they request pass/fail. When a course is taken on a pass/fail basis, the instructor reports a letter grade, which is converted by the registrar to an S (satisfactory) or U (unsatisfactory). The grade of S shall be recorded by the registrar in place of instructors' grades of A, AB, B, BC, or C. The grade of U shall be recorded by the registrar in place of instructors' grades of D or F. Neither the S nor the U is used in computing the grade point average. A student must earn at least a C to receive credit for the course. In addition to the S or U notation, the student transcript includes the symbol # for courses taken on a pass/fail basis.
  2. The following conditions apply to pass/fail courses:
    1. Deadline to apply: Students may submit pass/fail requests via their Student Center from the time that they register until midnight on the Friday at the end of the fourth week of fall and spring semesters. (For modular and summer session courses, pass/fail requests must be submitted by midnight Friday of the week in which the session is one-fourth completed). Students may not cancel or add the pass/fail option after the deadline for submitting Pass/Fail Option Forms.The deadline for requesting the pass/fail option is posted on the Office of the Registrar website.
    2. Pass/fail can only be chosen for elective courses: Required courses cannot be taken on a pass/fail basis. CALS may reject pass/fail requests for nonelective work, but it is the student’s responsibility to be sure that the requested course is an elective.
    3. Pass/fail courses do not meet specific requirements: Courses taken on a pass/fail basis will not count for nonelective requirements even if they would normally count toward such requirements.
    4. Number of pass/fail courses: Undergraduates may carry one course on a pass/fail basis per term and a maximum of 16 credits during their undergraduate career. The summer sessions collectively count as a single term.
    5. Exceptions: CALS is authorized to make exceptions to the pass/fail policy.

Notification: Students can see whether a course is pass/fail in their student center. Instructors are not notified when a student elects the pass/fail option.

Repeating college courses. Students thinking about repeating a course should talk with their advisor. Students must do all the work in the repeated course, including laboratory; attend regularly; participate in class discussions; and take examinations. Students will earn a final grade in the course. Such credits are indicated with an X on the transcript. Students should know that: (1) the original grade still counts in GPA and remains on the transcript; (2) credits in the repeated course do not count toward the degree, unless the course was failed the first time; (3) grade points in the repeated course do count toward calculation of cumulative GPA; (4) credits carried on courses being repeated count toward the maximum credits permitted in a semester.

Special note: Students cannot take more than one "Communications A" course for degree credit.

Transfer students must be particularly careful to avoid taking courses on the Madison campus that duplicate courses taken at another school. Credit will not be given twice for the same or similar courses, nor will credit be given for a lower-level course in a sequence if students have already received credit for a higher-level course in that sequence. Students should carefully check the Evaluation of Transfer Credits prepared by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and should consult with their advisor. Duplicate courses may include transfer, Farm and Industry Short Course, and Advanced Placement credits coming in as course equivalents.

Physical Education–Elective Program. Students may earn 1 credit per semester in a physical education–elective course that can be applied toward graduation. No more than 8 such credits will count toward graduation. CALS encourages students to pursue these courses as one way in which to build and educate both mind and body.

Distance education courses. A course may be taken by correspondence through Learning Innovations (UW Extension) with special permission from a dean in the Office of Academic Affairs. Permission must be secured to ensure that: (1) courses are eligible to transfer and (2) the student is eligible to take correspondence study. See Independent Learning Courses for more information.  Students with full time status at UW–Madison may request a tuition waiver for UW Extension Independent Learning Courses provided that the following conditions are met:

a.  the student requests the waiver and enrolls in the course by the UW–Madison Add/Drop deadline

b.  the course is taken during the regular academic session

c.  the course is completed during the term for which the tuition waiver is requested.

The tuition waiver form is available on the UW–Madison Office of the Registrar webpage.  Students must abide by all campus policies regarding Independent Learning courses.

Credit through Exams and Special Programs

Credit by examination. A student may earn degree credits in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for courses completed by passing an examination specifically designed to cover the content area.

Internal examinations. Credit may be granted on the basis of satisfactory performance on an examination developed by the course instructor and approved by the department. Each department shall determine whether credit by examination will be available for a course taught within that department.

Retroactive language credit. Students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences may earn retroactive foreign language credit for foreign language skill developed in high school or elsewhere.  For more information, please see Retroactve Credit Policy for Foreign Languages.

Attendance and Mid-Semester Issues

Class attendance. Every student is expected to be present at all classes.

Academic integrity. The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences takes academic integrity very seriously. For full details on the UW-Madison Academic Misconduct Policies, please refer to the Dean of Students Office.

Registration changes. The Office of the Registrar publishes university deadlines for adding and dropping individual courses, withdrawing (from all courses), and selection options such as pass/fail and audit.  Changing enrollment can have consequences for academic standing, tuition, progress toward degree, etc.  Students are strongly encouraged to consult with an academic advisor, or an academic dean in 116 Agricultural Hall, prior to initial enrollment and before making any changes to enrollment.  Exceptions to or extensions of the university deadlines may only be granted for CALS students by the academic dean in 116 Agricultural Hall.

Final exam schedule. The final exam schedules are listed in the class schedule.

Graduation Issues

Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS). The Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) provides a continuous record of progress toward fulfillment of degree requirements. For more information on DARS, see the Student Services tab of My UW–Madison.  It is the student's responsibility to ensure that all requirements for graduation are fulfilled.  Requests for exceptions must begin with the student's academic advisor and be approved by the department (or equivalent) and by the academic dean.  Students who believe their DARS report is in error should contact 116 Agricultural Hall directly.

Senior year in residence requirements. CALS students must complete their final 30 credits for the bachelor’s degree “in residence”; that is, students must have the CALS undergraduate classification during the last 30 credits of their degree, and the last 30 credits must be UW–Madison coursework or courses earned on an approved UW–Madison study abroad program. This is so that students can obtain helpful advising and exposure to advanced topics, seminars and current issues in their major field, and to assist in the transition to a career or advanced study; students should spend at least the last year of their undergraduate program as a declared major in the department.  Appeals of this policy may be considered by the Office of Academic Affairs (for requests up to 6 credits) or the Scholastic Policies and Actions Committee (for requests of more than 6 credits).

Expecting to graduate. Students who expect to graduate must apply to graduate in the Student Center.  They may visit the University Book Store website for information about ordering caps and gowns and the Commencement website for information about the graduation ceremony.  Also, their academic records will receive a final evaluation by staff in the Office of Academic Affairs. Students should also inform their advisors and report any change in graduation plans to the Office of Academic Affairs. If a student has received permission to complete final coursework while not in residence, the student must notify the Office of Undergraduate Programs and Services so that records can be reviewed and certified for graduation.

Graduation. Students are graduated with a bachelor's degree when they have met all the university, college, degree program, and major requirements; have earned 120 credits; and have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher on all courses carried for a grade at UW–Madison. Graduating students should know that the date they finish any outstanding incompletes (I) will determine their semester of graduation. Students with a Biological Systems Engineering major should check with the department for additional graduation requirements. 

Academic Standing

Scholastic Actions

A student shall be considered in good standing if that student has:

  • a GPA of 2.0 or above in the semester just completed, and
  • a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above.

A student must be in good standing in order to be eligible for graduation.

A student shall be placed on academic probation when, in the semester just completed, that student has:

  • attained less than a 2.0 GPA, or
  • earned two or more grades of F.

Once on probation, the student is continued on probation until either removed from probation or dropped.

A student shall be removed from probation when that student has:

  • attained a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0, and
  • earned a GPA of at least 2.0 in the semester just completed, and
  • no outstanding Incompletes.

A student on academic probation shall be dropped (academically dismissed) for at least one semester at the end of any semester in which that student has earned a GPA of less than 2.0.

A student who has been placed in dropped status and who desires to be readmitted to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences must present to the Office of Academic Affairs evidence that time between being dropped and applying for reentry has been used gainfully. Such activity must give evidence of serious desire to gain an education, careful thought about academic goals, and strategies that will improve academic performance. If the application is accepted, the student will be readmitted on probation.

A student who has been readmitted on probation and who fails to earn a semester GPA of 2.0 or above will be dropped again and will not be permitted to reenroll for at least one year and then only upon appeal to the Scholastic Policies and Actions Committee with good evidence of changed circumstances that would indicate a reasonable probability of success.

A student dropped for a third time will not be readmitted.


On behalf of the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Office of Academic Affairs and the Scholastic Policies and Actions Committee may suspend or modify the operation of these regulations if their enforcement is judged to work an injustice to the student. Students should contact the Office of Academic Affairs in 116 Agricultural Hall, 608-262-3003, for appeal procedures. 

Student grievance procedures. Students who believe they have been treated unfairly, in any academic or nonacademic matter, may contest the treatment. The complaint may involve any matter of perceived unfairness, including grading or classroom treatment, or sexual or racial harassment.

If the student cannot resolve the fairness question directly with the person at whom the complaint is directed, the student may pursue a series of steps to achieve a fair hearing and protect the rights of both parties involved.

These steps are spelled out in a statement titled "Achieving Fairness: Grievance Procedures for Students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences." This statement is available from any department office, the Office of Academic Affairs, or the CALS website.

Matters of interpretation of academic requirements not involving questions of fairness should come via the student's advisor to the college's Scholastic Policies and Actions Committee.

This page was updated 5/3/16.