Senior Guest Auditors

Spring 2024 Update:

On January 9, 2024 an online form to request permission to enroll in spring semester courses will be available on the Adult Career & Special Student Services website. To learn more about History and History of Science courses that are potentially auditable, please see our Spring 2024 Guide to History and History of Science Courses for Senior Guest Auditors (pdf). Senior guest auditors will be able to enroll in courses that they have received permission for beginning January 23, 2024, the first day of the spring semester. For more ways to engage with history, please check out the Madison History Club.


Wisconsin residents over 60 years of age have the opportunity to become a senior guest auditor at UW-Madison. Senior guest auditors are admitted as University Special Students and enroll in courses (free of charge) without earning credits.

Auditor Courses - Ray McCool
Senior auditor Ray McCool has been taking classes in the History Department for over 20 years! Photo credit: Parker Schorr

The Senior Guest Auditor Experience

Senior auditors are guests of a course and are able to sit in on lectures and listen, but are not active participants. Most auditors tell us that they feel privileged to be able to attend History and History of Science courses at no cost, and that they enjoy the opportunity to continue a lifelong journey of learning! Read more about the experiences of History Department senior guest auditors:

“I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the class – it was just great!!  I love history and I love cities – and had I known urban history was a speciality back when I was considering doing a PhD in history about 30 years ago, that’s what I would have done…so thanks for a very informative and interesting semester.  The class was well-organized to boot – it was just great!” – Trish Iaccarino

Expectations for Senior Guest Auditors in History Courses

  • Auditors are guests of a course and are able to sit in on lectures and listen, but are not active participants and do not attend discussion sections.
  • Auditors do not take examinations or complete assignments.
  • Auditors are not graded, and do not receive credit for courses.
  • The priority of the instructor and TA is the learning of undergraduate students, and we ask that auditors be respectful of this during class meetings.

Selecting Courses

Prior to each semester, an informational guide to History and History of Science courses for senior guest auditors will be available on this webpage. This is a resource to assist you in selecting courses that the Department of History has determined are potentially auditable for the current term. The guide also features a list of courses that are not available for audit, and a table of cross-listed courses that are being administered by other departments on campus.

Some courses are not open to Senior Guest Auditors:

  • Any discussion section of a course. Auditors who are enrolled in a course with discussion sections will only attend the lecture section of the course.
  • All FIGs (First Year Interest Groups), History 201, and History 600 courses.
  • Small seminars.
  • All graduate-level courses (numbers 700 and above).
  • Summer courses.
  • Any course for which an instructor or the department does not consent to hosting senior guest auditors.

For semester-specific offerings, please see the informational document below:

Requesting Permission to Enroll

After you have applied and been admitted for the current term (with a current 10-digit campus ID number) you are all set to start requesting permission to enroll in classes.

Permission to enroll must be obtained before you can enroll in the class you are interested in. Review the Department of History’s Spring 2024 Guide to History and History of Science Courses for Senior Guest Auditors (pdf). Once you have located a course of interest, permission to enroll can be requested through the online permission to enroll request form. Submission of this form is all that is needed to make your request. You will be notified via your email regarding your request status when a decision has been made. Please be patient as you may not receive a response until close to the start of the semester. If your request is approved, an electronic permission will be entered into the system that will allow you to add the class when your enrollment appointment arrives.

Enrolling in Classes

Once the department has entered an electronic permission into the system and your enrollment appointment has arrived, you will be all set to complete the enrollment process. A helpful step by step guide (with pictures) on how to enroll can be found here: Senior Guest Auditor Enrollment Instructions.  If the History course has a lecture section only, auditors will enroll in the lecture section of the course. If the course has a lecture section and discussion sections, auditors will need to enroll in discussion section 333, but will not actually attend the discussion section. Auditors who are enrolled in a course with discussion sections will only attend the lecture section of a course.

More Ways to Engage with History

The Madison History Club brings UW­­–Madison alumni together with people across Madison who are curious about the past and eager to learn and discuss history with others. The club reflects the Department of History’s deep commitment to the Wisconsin Idea—that education should transcend the walls of the classroom, and that the university’s work should benefit all those in the state and beyond.

Through public lectures, book discussions, roundtables, and film screenings, the Madison History Club connects the community with the innovative research and teaching going on in the Department of History. Members guide the club’s program of events. Do you have ideas or questions for Madison-area historians? All are welcome, and we hope you will join us!

To find out more about how you can participate, visit the Madison History Club webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a senior guest auditor?

  • For guidelines and instructions on applying to become a senior guest auditor, please go to the Adult Career and Special Student Services website. First-time auditors will need to complete a new application, as will returning auditors who did not enroll in the most recent term (excluding summer).

I am interested in auditing a summer course, are these available to me?

  • The History Department does not currently open summer courses to senior guest auditors.

If the course I am enrolling in has discussion sections, which section do I enroll with?

  • If the History or History of Science course you receive permission to enroll in has discussion sections, you will need to enroll using discussion section 333, but will not actually attend the discussion section. This is an enrollment-purposes-only section.

The course I am interested in still has seats available. Why is it listed as not auditable?

  • Even if there is still space after all the degree-seeking students have enrolled, the decision to grant permission to audit a class is ultimately up to the instructor of the course and the department. Sometimes this decision is based on availability of space, but there are other factors to consider as well. Creating a learning environment that is productive for the objectives of degree-seeking students isn’t always about physical space, and some courses may not be suited to passive observation. Thank you for respecting the authority of the instructor and the department to determine whether you are able to audit a particular class.

Helpful Links


  • For questions about History and History of Science courses, please contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator.
  • If you have questions about your senior guest auditor status or need help applying, please contact the Adult Career and Special Student Services Office by email at, or by phone at (608) 263-6960.