University of Wisconsin–Madison

Advice for Freshmen & Transfer Students

If needed, take your Communication-A course

Some students test out of this requirement on the English Placement Test or are exempted through a score of 4 or 5 on either of the English AP exams. Completion of a Communication-A course is a prerequisite for J201, which is a prerequisite for admission to SJMC.

Complete your math requirements

If you have an outstanding Quantitative Reasoning-A or math requirement, take the appropriate course/s (often Math 112, but there are many options) within your first two years.

Complete your foreign language requirements

If you choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, you will need to complete up to the third-year level of one foreign language. If you took three years of one foreign language in high school, you have completed this requirement (one high-school year is equivalent to one university semester). If you choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, you must complete up to either the fourth-year level of one foreign language, or the third-year level of one language and the second-year level of another. The latter option may be preferable if you took two or three years of a foreign language in high school but do not feel confident taking the same language at the next level of difficulty at UW-Madison.

Don’t put off your science requirement

BA students must complete 12 credits in the sciences; BS students must take 16. You do not want to be a junior or a senior who needs to take additional science credits to finish up your degree. Take the classes early.

Take Journalism 201: Introduction to Mass Communication

J201 is a prerequisite for admission to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This course often fills before incoming freshmen have the opportunity to register, but it isn’t essential that you get J201 during your first semester on campus. It may even be in your best interest to wait a semester as you make the transition from high school to the university. The admissions committee does look at the grade earned in J201 as part of the application review process.

Complete required introductory social science courses

SJMC requires students to take three introductory-level social science courses from an approved list. Each of the three courses must be from a different department, and one must be either a political science or economics course. These courses also count toward the Letters & Science social science requirement.

Meet with an advisor regularly

Make regular appointments with a cross-college advisor to discuss your course choices and your progress toward completing your general education requirements. Students who spend time in an advisor’s office tend to graduate on time.

If needed, take your Communication-A course

If you did not get Communication-A credit through one of your transfer courses and believe you should have, contact the office of undergraduate admissions as soon as possible. You may want to consider taking the English Placement Exam before you begin school at UW-Madison to try to test out of this requirement, especially if you did not transfer an equivalent to Journalism 201.

Complete your math requirements

If you have an outstanding Quantitative Reasoning-A or math requirement, take the appropriate course or courses (often Math 112, but there are many options) as soon as possible.

Complete your foreign language requirements

Check to ensure that any foreign language you may have transferred is applying appropriately to your BA or BS requirements.

Finish your science requirement

BA students must complete 12 credits in the sciences, and BS students must complete 16 credits.

Complete Journalism 201: Introduction to Mass Communication

J201 is a prerequisite for applying into the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. If you took an introductory-level journalism course at your previous school that transferred to UW–Madison as a journalism elective (e.g. “JOURN X12), but feel it is equivalent to J201 here, you may petition to have the course substituted for purposes of admission. See the journalism advisor to begin this process.

Take introductory social science courses

SJMC requires students to take three introductory-level social science courses from an approved list. Each of the three courses must be from a different department, and one must be either a political science or an economics course. Courses that transfer as electives in these departments may be substituted in special circumstances. See the advisor for details.

Consider taking one or two journalism theories and topics courses

Courses numbered in the 500s and 600s are called Theories and Topics courses. They are not restricted to declared majors. If you have junior status, you are eligible to take most of these classes. You must complete 12 credits of courses at this level to earn your degree.

Meet with the undergraduate advisor as early as possible

If you know that journalism is the department for you, attend an admissions information workshop. (See the Calendar of Events for information about when these will be held.) After you attend one of these workshops, you may call 608-263-4898 to make an advising appointment with the undergraduate advisor. Issues like course substitutions and missing requirements can have a big effect on which courses you take in your remaining semesters. Particularly for transfer students, staying on schedule will determine when you graduate.