Frequently Asked Questions

History classes train you to answer tough questions. Some tough questions, however, can’t be found in a textbook or in a lecture hall (although finding your lecture hall is an accomplishment in itself). For questions involving major requirements, registration, credits, and other information that you just need to know, you’ve come to the right place.

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Where can I find information about courses offered by the History Department?

Overall, the Course Guide is the best place to find information about the courses offered by the History Department.

If you are looking for more specific information about a course being offered, check the course’s Instructor Provided Content. Courses with Instructor Provided Content have a “red star man” that you can click on to access information ranging from descriptions of the course, anticipated assignments, previous syllabi, and instructor bios.

How do we recommend picking courses? Talk to current history students and the History Department’s peer advisors in room 3211 about their favorite classes and professors.

How do I declare a history major?

Congratulations, you’ve already done the hardest part—actually deciding on a major. The actual declaration process is significantly easier.

To declare a history major you must fill out a declaration form with the Undergraduate History Advisor or Peer Advisor (3211 Humanities). You can make an appointment or stop by during walk-in hours.

The only prerequisite for declaration is that you must have at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA. You do not need to apply to become a History major.

If you are not a student in the College of Letters and Sciences, you will need to complete additional paperwork to declare the History major. If College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the School of Education, or the School of Business, to name a few, each have different processes for additional majors. When you meet with an advisor to declare, make sure you mention which school or college you belong to. If you’re unsure which school or college you belong to or you want to transfer into L&S, our advisors can help.

I’m a transfer student—will my classes transfer?

In short- yes, most of your credits will likely transfer. You worked hard for those credits and we want to help you keep them. It is important to be aware of how your previous course work will translate towards a UW-Madison degree. A good place to start is Transfer-Wisconsin. This site contains a number of resources for students transferring into the UW system. If you are transferring to UW-Madison from another UW school or a Wisconsin Technical College system school, you can check course equivalences through the Credit Transfer Wizard. If you are from another college or university see the UW-Madison Office of Admissions Transfer Guidelines or the Wisconsin System’s Transfer Information. If you have further questions regarding transferring credits or course equivalencies, you should make an appointment with the Undergraduate History Advisor.

How do I receive authorization for courses that need the “consent of the instructor” (600 seminars, senior thesis, and independent study)?

For all courses EXCEPT history 600 seminars, obtain a Course Authorization form from 3211 Humanities or download the Course Authorization Form (pdf).

Fill out the form completely and have it signed by the professor you’d like to work with. Then, bring the signed form to 3211 Humanities. You will receive the registration number by e-mail and you can use it during your normal registration time slot.

For history 600 seminars, contact the professor teaching the course you would like to attend. Once a professor has accepted you into their seminar, they will contact the History Advising Team who will then authorize you to register (on or after your scheduled registration time).

Courses that require special authorization:

  • Advanced Seminar in History (600)
  • Independent Study (199, 698, 699)
  • Honors Thesis (681, 682)
  • Honors Thesis Colloquium (680)
  • Senior Thesis (691, 692)
  • Senior Thesis Colloquium (690)

How can I learn more about my professors?

Professors’ profiles can be found on the faculty webpage. These profiles contain information about each professor’s historical interests and specialties, the books and other scholarship they’ve written, as well as syllabi from previously taught courses. If you have any questions about their courses and research, they would love to see you in their office hours or communicate via email for quick questions.

Can I register for a class once the deadline has passed?

Both late registration and enrollment in a course already at capacity requires additional permission from the course professor or lecturer. Students serious about registering for a class should attend the class and contact the instructor about the possibility of adding the course. Please see the Undergraduate History Advisor if you have any specific questions about the process. Note: The Registrar’s Office publishes specific enrollment guidelines for late class adds.

What is an incomplete? How does it affect my record?

An incomplete generally means you are unable to finish the course work in a given semester because of unforeseen circumstances, illness, etc. If possible, an incomplete should be arranged with your instructor before the end of the semester along with a plan to complete the remaining coursework. If you receive an incomplete for a History course, you must complete your unfinished coursework by the end of the fourth week of classes of your next semester in residence (exclusive of summer sessions) or it will lapse into a failure. Once you finish your remaining coursework, your instructor will assign a letter grade to replace the ‘Incomplete’. For more information on incompletes and deadlines for completing work, talk to the Undergraduate History Advisor about your particular situation.

How can I change the number of credits or a discussion section for a class that I’m enrolled in?

If you need to make changes to your enrollment before the add/drop deadline, you can make these changes yourself via your Student Center. Most importantly, Do not drop the course to make changes! To change sections, use the ‘Swap’ function, located within the Course Enrollment section of Student Center, and substitute your current enrollment package for one with your desired discussion section. To change the number of credits you are enrolled in, use the ‘Edit’ function, located within the Course Enrollment section of Student Center, and change. Tutorials for swapping sections and changing credits are available from the Office of the Registrar

After the add/drop deadline you will need to submit a Course Change Request that you can access through your Student Center. Watch the student demo for instructions. Some changes may require you to print out the form and obtain signatures. If you have any questions, contact the History Advisor.

A class I really want to take is full; how can I add it?

Cross your fingers and hope for other students to drop! Or, be proactive and let the professor and TA know you desperately want to be in their class. The History Department does not have waiting lists for courses that are full, but if you want to take a particular class, attend the lecture (even if you aren’t enrolled) and talk to the professor or TA during the first week. Each Professor has a policy regarding the enrollment caps used for a course; they’ll let you know what your chances are of adding the class.

Help! I lost something in my history class!

You can check for your missing Nalgene bottles, books, wool scarves (or–heaven forbid–cell phones) in either the history office (3211 Humanities) or the Humanities building lost and found (1530 Humanities). Please remember that the finders-keepers rule only applies with small change and snack food—if you find something worth a little more, please turn it in to either of these locations.

How many credits can I earn if I took the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in History?

UW is generous with AP and IB Credit (they are hard tests, after all). Score of 3 or higher on AP History tests will receive credit, as will a score of 4 on the IB exam. Just make sure to have your scores sent to UW-Madison so the credits transfer.

AP History
European History 3 3 credits, general electives
4 or 5 3 credits, History electives
United States History 3 3 credits, general electives
4 or 5 3 credits, History electives
World History 3 3 credits, general electives
4 or 5 3 credits, History electives
IB History 4 6 credits, history electives (social studies, elementary)

See Office of Admissions and Recruitment for more information, or other AP/IB course equivalencies and CLEP credit.

Where are most history lectures and discussions held?

Most of your history classes, as well as the undergraduate advisor and department headquarters, are located in the George L. Mosse Humanities building. “Humanities” is located on the corner of Park and University, across from Chadbourne Residential College. Click here for a map

I can’t find my Lecture Hall! How do I get around the Humanities building?

Although the Humanities building is a noteworthy tribute to Brutalism, an architectural movement of the 1960’s, maneuvering its hallways and stairwells can prove difficult. We would suggest string or perhaps breadcrumbs, but the hungrier students would eat them. More practically, if you are a freshman, find your classroom before the first day of class. Helpful hint: room numbers beginning with 1 are at the courtyard level, and room numbers beginning with 2 are at the street level. They go up from there. The History Department Office (3211 Humanities—look for the glass revolving door at the top of the stairs) has a map of the building for your reference.

Where can I find primary source material for my history research papers?

When you’re done scouring the stacks at Memorial or Helen C, try the Wisconsin Historical Society, next door to the Humanities building. They have a great library, plus an archive particularly useful for American history students who want to take a gander at documents. Visit