Admissions FAQs

General Admissions

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Why should I pursue Honors?

The L&S Honors Program provides a community for many of UW-Madison’s most engaged and motivated undergraduates. Among the benefits of the Honors Program are:

  • small, Honors-level courses and discussion sections led by faculty members
  • grants to financially support research experiences, study abroad, and community leadership projects
  • a dedicated academic advising team that supports students throughout their undergraduate education
  • informal networking and professional development events with faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines
  • social and service events with other Honors Program students, including events hosted by the Honors Student Organization (Check out @HSOBadgers on Instagram)

What are the liberal arts?

A liberal arts education is one of the oldest traditions in higher education. The root of the word “liberal” is the Latin liber, meaning “free and unrestricted.” The term “liberal arts” traces back to the philosopher Plato, who outlined several artes considered essential for a free-thinking person.

At UW-Madison, students in L&S pursue a liberal arts degree that incorporates breadth and depth of study across disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. This includes subjects ranging from Afro-American studies to economics to zoology. Furthermore, degrees from L&S emphasize discussion of ideas with a wide range of people and ongoing engagement with subjects beyond a chosen major. This form of education prepares L&S graduates to work flexibly, think independently, and to approach complex problems from numerous angles.

Former Honors Program Director and Professor William Cronon has written about Ten Qualities of a Liberally Educated Person.

How many students are in the L&S Honors Program?

There are approximately 1600 students in the L&S Honors Program. This number includes students pursuing the Honors in the Liberal Arts, Honors in the Major, and Comprehensive Honors degrees.

What is the size of the typical incoming first-year class?

The typical incoming Honors first-year class has 400-450 students.

Is the L&S Honors Program an “Honors College?”

The L&S Honors Program is a degree-granting program within the College of Letters & Science, not a residential program like Honors Colleges at some other universities.

Can I apply if I am a UW student but not in L&S?

Only students in the College of Letters & Science are eligible to complete the L&S Honors in the Liberal Arts degree track. Students outside of L&S are encouraged to explore Honors opportunities and programs within their respective colleges.

Note: Students in the School of Education can apply to participate in Honors in the Liberal Arts as continuing students after their first semester.

In certain cases, students in a different college who also have a major in L&S can work toward Honors in the Major for the L&S major.

How difficult are Honors courses?

Honors courses may require additional time compared to non-Honors coursework, but they are not designed to be unnecessarily difficult. In many cases, students find that Honors courses are more engaging than their other courses, and the extra contact with the professor can help them succeed.

Some departments offer accelerated courses for students with a particularly strong background and interest in the subject. These courses award Honors credit, as well.

Honors advisors look forward to helping you identify Honors course options that align with your interests and goals.

Will pursuing Honors delay my time until graduation?

Honors in the Liberal Arts (HLA) and Honors in the Major (HM) requirements can overlap with regular L&S degree requirements. Honors advising can also help students proactively plan for requirements. As a result, the vast majority of students complete all degree requirements in four years or less.

What happens if I decide not to complete Honors?

You can withdraw from the Honors Program at any time during your undergraduate studies. You can also add or switch Honors degree tracks, if you determine that a different path fits better with your experiences and goals. Honors advisors look forward to sharing more information and helping you explore your options.

How can I visit the L&S Honors Program?

Throughout the year, the College of Letters & Science offers an information session on some Mondays. These information sessions are led by representatives from various Letters & Science offices and have information about the L&S Honors Program in addition to other UW-Madison high-impact practices, like First-Year Interest Groups. These sessions are a mix of virtual and in-person, depending on the week.

Go to Visitbucky.wisc.edu to sign up and to check the location.

No information session on the day you’re visiting campus? Email honors@honors.ls.wisc.edu to potentially set up an alternative time or have questions answered.

Incoming Student-Specific Admissions

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Which track would I apply for as an incoming first-year student?

As an incoming student to L&S, you can apply to the Honors in the Liberal Arts degree track. You can read more about the Honors degree tracks on our Honors Overview page.

Please note that entry into the L&S Honors Program as a first-semester, first-year student is not your only opportunity to apply for admission to the Honors Program — it is just the first opportunity. Continuing students and transfer students can apply to Honors in the Liberal Arts on a rolling basis. Students can also discuss the Honors in the Major with advisors once on campus.

What is the normal deadline for application to the L&S Honors Program as an incoming first-year student?

There are several application deadlines throughout the spring, and decisions will be made based on when you apply. You will find more information on our incoming L&S student admissions page.

We encourage students to apply as soon as possible, as space is limited.

Is there an Honors dorm?

There is no residence hall specifically for Honors students at UW-Madison. The L&S Honors Program does, however, recommend that students consider residing in one of the learning communities through UW Housing. Many first-year L&S Honors students choose to live in the various learning communities.

Learning communities include Chadbourne Residential College, Bradley Learning Community, GreenHouse, a range of International Learning Communities, the Multicultural Learning Community, and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). The Chadbourne Residential College (CRC) has an emphasis on liberal arts education, which can complement the Honors in the Liberal Arts experience well.

To learn more about residential learning community opportunities at UW, please visit the UW’s learning community website.

What does the incoming student application include?

The application questions for this year can be found on the Incoming L&S Student Admissions page. We are interested in getting to know more about who you are and what interests you. The application also allows you to share how you engage in and reflect upon your own learning and involvement.

The Honors in the Liberal Arts application does NOT include a review of essays you submitted as part of your general UW application. Other aspects of your UW application may be considered as part of a holistic review process.

Is there funding available through Honors for incoming students?

No, the L&S Honors program does not offer funding for incoming first-year students. Instead, we recommend students review opportunities available through the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub.

The L&S Honors Program does, however, offer various opportunities for current students to receive funding that supports student research, travel, and leadership projects.

Can I use AP or any other credit earned by exam as "Honors" credit to help meet Honors requirements?

No. While AP or other test credit may earn credits at the UW, that credit can not be used to satisfy any Honors requirements.

I can't find an invitation to apply. Where is it?

Students who are admitted to the College of Letters & Science will receive an email invitation to apply to Honors within a few weeks of their admission. The email will be sent to the address you used for your UW-Madison application. If you cannot find your invitation email:

  • Confirm that you were admitted to L&S and not another one of UW’s schools and colleges.
  • Check your spam or bulk folders.
  • If you still cannot find the email, please contact the Honors Program at honors@honors.ls.wisc.edu or 608-262-2984 and have your campus ID ready (10-digit number that likely starts with 908).

Students can also access the application directly by logging into MyUW, opening WiSH, completing the general application and then searching for “Honors in the Liberal Arts.”

Continuing and Transfer Student-Specific Admissions

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Are continuing and transfer students eligible to pursue an Honors degree?

Yes! The L&S Honors Program offers rolling admission for continuing and transfer students. More information about admission to the Honors Program for continuing and transfer students can be found on our Continuing and Transfer Student Admissions page.

How do I know if it is too late to pursue Honors?

Your best resource in making a decision about Honors is to schedule an advising appointment with an Honors and/or Major advisor, depending on which Honors track you wish to pursue. If you have already completed most or all breadth requirements without Honors, it can be challenging to complete the Honors in the Liberal Arts track. However, requirements for Honors in the Major vary by department and are best addressed by major advisors.

Can I transfer Honors credit from another institution?

The L&S Honors Program is unable to award honors credit for coursework completed at any institution other than the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although Honors credits earned at another institution will transfer as general credits, they will not count towards any of UW-Madison’s three honors degrees (HLA, HM or CH).