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Undergraduate Study at UW–Madison

Graduating in Four Years

UW–Madison encourages, supports, and expects students to graduate on time. Students should follow these guidelines to earn their degrees in a timely way:

  • Consult an advisor before each enrollment period, or at least once annually. Go to the meeting with the advisor prepared to discuss an academic plan; work with the advisor on a plan that will help achieve academic and career goals.
  • Choose a major area of study as early as possible. The surest way to finish on time is to have a plan and make consistent progress toward degree requirements. Students who are not ready to choose a major should work with an advisor to select courses that will allow them to explore their interests and make progress on degree requirements. They should use the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) to check progress toward the degree and which requirements have been completed and which remain to be completed. "What-if" DARS reports can be run to see how courses might count toward other programs. For more information, see the DARS website.
  • Formally enroll in the desired major as early as the major program allows. Review Entrance Requirements for Majors for information on procedures and requirements for declaring or applying to specific majors. When planning a change of major or if not admitted to a major program, students should consult an advisor to explore options.
  • Make the most of course schedules. Students should plan to take required courses as soon as possible and be flexible about course times, including taking advantage of sections scheduled early or late in the day; not all courses are offered every semester.
  • Complete at least one-eighth of required credits each fall and spring semester. For 124-credit programs, students should complete 15 to 16 credits per semester. Annually, they should complete at least one quarter of the total credits needed to complete the degree.
  • Make sure that courses count toward the fulfillment of general education, major, and degree requirements; limit elective credits to the number the program allows.
  • Work hard to learn all they can to get satisfactory grades in every course. Avoid repeating, dropping or failing a course. Repeating a course is costly in terms of time and money.
  • Put effort and hours into school. Instructors expect students to put in at least two hours of time outside the classroom for every class hour. Students should focus time on academic activities and extracurricular activities that enhance the learning experience. College is about more than textbooks and tests: students should make sure that jobs, extracurricular activities, and social diversions contribute to their academic progress in a positive way.
  • Stay in school. Part-time enrollment is better than stopping altogether. Before taking a semester off, students should consult with an advisor, professor, or counselor to explore options and plan for their return. Students should also meet with an advisor when they reenroll.

A reciprocal agreement for a four-year graduation plan is available for most degree programs to students entering UW–Madison as freshmen. Students interested in the agreement must attend SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration). For more information see UW–Madison Four Year Graduation Agreement.