Academic Policies and Procedures

Enrollment Requirements

ALL of the following credit requirements (except F-1 and J-1 visa requirements) must be satisfied by graded courses taken at 300 or above; courses numbered below 300, audit, and pass/fail do not satisfy enrollment requirements.

Full-time enrollment: The Graduate School considers full-time enrollment to be 8-15 graded credits taken at 300 or above, excluding pass/fail and audit, during the fall and spring semesters, and 4-12 credits* during the summer term. If students elect not to enroll as full-time students as defined by the Graduate School, they are responsible for knowing about possible obligations that may require full-time status. Such obligations may include visa eligibility, fellowships, assistantships, financial aid, external funding agencies, and program satisfactory progress requirements.

Maximum enrollment: The Graduate School considers full-time enrollment to be 8-15 graded credits taken at 300 or above, excluding pass/fail and audit, during the fall and spring semesters, and 4-12 credits* during the summer term. Any exceptions to the maximum credit load permitted must be obtained via the Overload Request form.

Minimum enrollment: Non-dissertator minimum credit load is 2 credits* during the fall and spring semesters. Graduate students must be enrolled at least at the minimum requirement in the semester in which they receive a degree; master’s degree students expecting a summer degree must enroll in a minimum of 2 graduate credits in any summer session*. Graduate students who do not need to maintain full-time status (including TAs and PAs) have a 2 credit enrollment minimum during fall and spring semesters. Minimum requirements must be fulfilled by courses taken for a grade (not pass/fail or audit) and must be taken at 300 or above.

Underload: During the fall and spring semesters, non-dissertators must enroll for a minimum of 2 credits*. Audit and pass/fail courses do not satisfy this enrollment requirement. Dissertators are required to enroll for 3 graded credits taken at 300 or above and directly related to their dissertation research.

The specific situations listed below have special enrollment requirements.

Dissertators: Dissertators must enroll in exactly 3 credits* directly related to their dissertation (generally research and thesis or required seminars) during fall and spring semesters. Dissertators are considered full-time at 3 credits*. Dissertators who are summer RAs or trainees, or who expect to graduate in summer, must enroll in the general 8-week summer session (DHH) for 3 credits*. Additional courses for credit, audit, or pass/fail will result in removal of dissertator status and tuition assessment at the regular graduate rate.

Once dissertator status has been achieved, courses other than 990 must be directly related to the dissertation research and approved by the advisor. Dissertators must enroll during the semester or general 8-week summer session (DHH) in which they expect to earn a degree. Students must be enrolled during the semester when they defend the dissertation and when they deposit the dissertation. If defending and depositing in two different semesters, the student is required to be enrolled in both semesters. Students do not have to be dissertators during the semester or summer in which they expect to earn a doctoral degree, but they must be eligible for dissertator status before they complete the doctoral degree, and they must enroll in the semester in which they will graduate.

If a student enrolls before the dissertator status is approved, the enrollment system may indicate they are not eligible for that course. The enrollment system does not care if students are dissertators. If students had problems getting into a course, it is probably because permission has not been entered into the enrollment system. Most individualized study courses, such as research and thesis, require instructor’s permission and online authorization before enrollment is possible. If students have trouble with enrollment, they should contact the Office of the Registrar's help line, 608-262-0920.

If dissertator status is not processed by the segregated fee deadline, students pay regular non-dissertator graduate fees. The fee difference will be refunded for that semester when dissertator status is indicated in the system.

Assistantship appointees: It is against university policy to hold an assistantship without being appropriately enrolled.  Assistantships include those at UW-Madison as well as any UW System institution, including UW-Extension.

RA (Research Assistant): RAs are required to carry a full load each semester (8 to 15 credits* including research or thesis credits for non-dissertators, 3 credits* for dissertators) and at least 2 credits* during the general 8-week summer session (DHH) (3 credits* for dissertators). Dissertators who hold assistantships are considered full-time with 3 credits* directly related to their dissertation.

TA (Teaching Assistant) and PA (Project Assistant):

Minimum enrollment for PAs and TAs is 2 credits* (3 credits* for dissertators) during the fall and spring semesters.

  • To be considered full-time by the Registrar for loan deferment and for certification of student immigration status, non-dissertator PAs and TAs who hold an appointment of at least 33.33% must be enrolled for 6 credits*, or those who hold an appointment of at least 50% must be enrolled for 4 credits*.
  • Dissertator PAs and TAs are considered full-time with 3 credits* directly related to their dissertation (generally research and thesis or required seminars).
  • Maximum enrollment for PAs and TAs is 15 credits* during the fall and spring.
  • The Graduate School has no enrollment requirement for the summer session for PAs and TAs, unless the student is receiving a summer degree, but individual programs may.

Fellows: Non-dissertator graduate students holding fellowships that are payrolled through the university must be enrolled full-time: 8 credits* during the fall and spring semester. Fellows who are non-dissertators with 12-month appointments must also enroll in 2 credits* during the general 8-week summer session (DHH). Those who are not payrolled as fellows over the summer are not required to be enrolled. Those who are payrolled as fellows during any part of the summer term must enroll in the general 8-week summer session (DHH). Fellows who are dissertators must enroll in 3 credits* during the fall and spring semesters. Fellows with 12-month appointments who are dissertators must also enroll in 3 credits* during the general 8-week summer session (DHH).

Trainees: Trainees must carry a full load each fall and spring semester of 8 to 15 credits* including research or thesis credits for non-dissertators (3 credits* for dissertators), and at least 2 credits* during the general 8-week summer session (DHH) (3 credits* for dissertators).

International students: Both F-1 and J-1 student visa regulations require students to be enrolled full-time each fall and spring semester (8 credits, not taken as audit). Summer enrollment is not required by the U.S. federal government regulations for F-1/J-1 visa holders. However, summer enrollment may be required due to other circumstances; see summer enrollment requirements for assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and graduating students. Failure to maintain full-time status can result in loss of F-1/J-1 student benefits, including on-campus employment and practical/academic training options. Any exceptions to full-time enrollment must be authorized by International Student Services (ISS). Visit the ISS webpage to learn more about visa requirements. Permission from ISS to drop below full-time enrollment does NOT exempt an international student from meeting the enrollment requirement determined by a Teaching Assistantship (TA), Project Assistantship (PA), Research Assistantship (RA), fellowship, traineeship, or dissertator status.

International students-online learning credit limit: F-1 and J-1 student visa holders have restrictions regarding the number of online credits that can be taken during the semester as it relates to fulfilling the full-time enrollment requirement.  There are also restrictions regarding online enrollment during the final term of study-especially when the final term for completion is in summer. For more information, visit the ISS Online Course Enrollment  webpage.

Summer enrollment requirements: Students must be enrolled at UW-Madison if they are using university facilities, including faculty and staff time.

  • Dissertators defending and/or depositing dissertation (completing their degree) in summer must enroll for 3 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Dissertator RAs must enroll for 3 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Dissertator fellows with 12-month appointments are required to enroll for at least 3 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Dissertator trainees are required to enroll for at least 3 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Master’s candidates, who expect to graduate in summer must enroll for at least 2 credits* in any session, short session or general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Non-dissertators completing a summer doctoral degree must enroll for at least 2 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Non-dissertator RAs must enroll for 2 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Non-dissertator TAs and PAs not receiving a summer degree have no enrollment requirement. However, those who held such an appointment during the previous semester may qualify for summer tuition remission and are advised to consult with their employing department if they wish to enroll.
  • Non-dissertator fellows with 12-month appointments are required to enroll for at least 2 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • Non-dissertator trainees are required to enroll for at least 2 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • International students who are completing a summer degree are required to enroll for at least 2 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • International students who are RAs in the summer are required to enroll for at least 2 credits* in the general 8-week summer session (DHH).
  • International students who are not completing a summer degree and who are not RAs have no summer enrollment requirement mandated by the U.S. federal government regulations for F-1/J-1 visa holders.

Financial aid, loan deferral: In most cases, students are eligible for federal loans and federal loan payment deferral when enrolled at least half-time, which is 4 credits* for the fall and spring semesters. However, individual cases may vary, and students are advised to seek individual advice at the UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Aid.

Full-Time Enrollment Status at a Glance

ALL of the following credit requirements (except F-1 and J-1 visa requirements) must be satisfied by graded courses taken at 300 or above; courses numbered below 300, audit, and pass/fail do not satisfy enrollment requirements.

Categories Minimum enrollment for full-time status: Fall or Spring Minimum enrollment for full-time status: Summer (general 8-week DHH session)
Dissertator Exactly 3 credits directly related to research Not required unless receiving summer degree or if graduate assistant, trainee, or fellow, 3 cr. required.
RA, non-dissertator 8 cr. 2 cr.
TA/Lecturer (SA) 33%, non-dissertator 6 cr. Not required unless receiving summer degree, 2 cr. minimum.
TA/Lecturer (SA) 50%, non-dissertator 4 cr. Not required unless receiving summer degree, 2 cr. minimum.
PA 33%, non-dissertator 6 cr. Not required unless receiving summer degree, 2 cr. minimum.
PA 50%, non-dissertator 4 cr. Not required unless receiving summer degree, 2 cr. minimum.
Fellow, non-dissertator 8 cr. 2 cr. for 12-month appointments. Not required for 9-month appointments.
Trainee, non-dissertator 8 cr. 2 cr.
International student (F-1/J-1 visa), non-dissertator, if no other category in this list 8 cr. 4 cr. when summer is admit semester (2 cr. when summer is admit semester and student holds RA appointment or at least 33% TA or PA appointment)
If none of the above, full time enrollment is: 8 cr. 4 cr.

* Credit requirements (except F-1 and J-1 visa requirements) must be satisfied by graded courses taken at 300 or above; courses numbered below 300, audit, and pass/fail do not satisfy enrollment requirements.

See Authorization for Courses, Continuous Enrollment Requirement, Taxes

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