Parent, Guardian, and Support Team Information for First Year & Incoming Students

McBurney Center Director Welcome Video

(Note that the spoken English and American Sign Language versions cover the same content)

Spoken English with closed captions (CC)

American Sign Language (ASL) version, NO audio or captions

Supporting Your Student

As students head off to college, this is a time of great transition – both for them and for you. How can you best support your student, and their transition?

  • Form a partnership and keep open lines of communication with your student. Learn about the policies, procedures and options presented by the University and serve as an advisor and consultant to your student.
  • Check in with your student as they settle in to college life.
  • Ask your student guiding questions. If they are planning to use accommodations, ask if they have:
    • completed the student virtual MOST training through Canvas
    • generated their Student Accommodation Letters (SAL) through McBurney Connect,
    • met with their instructors to discuss implementation of those accommodations.
  • Note that students will request accommodations for each of their classes every semester.
  • Understand that McBurney Center staff, like others on campus, cannot discuss your student with you without a release of information. The Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) applies to UW-Madison and protects student privacy.
  • Reinforce the importance of timely communication – encourage your student to ask questions of McBurney Center staff, and of their instructors. Students are now holding the reins, which may be new for them. They need to form a schedule that works for them, establish healthy routines, request their accommodations, talk with their instructors – and ask for help when they need it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Does my student need to re-apply for accommodations each year?

Once students complete our eligibility process, they typically remain eligible for those same accommodations throughout their academic career at UW. Your student’s Access Consultant may request updated documentation if your student starts to experience new barriers during their time on campus and subsequently request new accommodations. Feel free to get to know our McBurney Center Team.

Your student may find that the university setting is different enough from high school that they want to adjust the types of accommodations they have. Students can revisit accommodations at any time with their Access Consultant.

How does my student request accommodations in their courses? Is there anything else they need to do to make sure their professors accommodate them appropriately?

Once students are approved for accommodations, they gain access to our database called McBurney Connect. Each semester, your student will login to McBurney Connect to submit their accommodation requests. They will have full control over which classes they request accommodations in and which of their specifically approved accommodations they want to use in those classes. Once they make their requests, McBurney Connect will automatically generate emails that get sent to the instructors with a copy of their Student Accommodation Letter (accommodation plan). We generally recommend that students login to McBurney Connect to generate their Student Accommodation Letters prior to the start of the semester or within the first week of classes.

After students generate their Student Accommodation Letters, we expect them to setup face-to-face meetings with each of their instructors by the third week of class. During these meetings, they will discuss each of the accommodations they requested and how those will be implemented in this specific course.

Can I have free and open communication with my student’s Access Consultant?

No. Students who work with the McBurney Center are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Students must voluntarily complete and sign a release of information form if they wish to allow their Access Consultant open communication with a parent or other member in their life.

Will campus contact me if my student is not doing well?

No. FERPA applies to all areas of campus life. It will be up to your student to alert you if they are not doing well personally or academically.

What other campus resources should I know about?

UW-Madison offers a wide breadth of important resources that your students may want to use during their time on campus. You can explore some of these below:

  • Academic Advising: All students at UW-Madison are assigned an academic advisor who can assist with scheduling classes, exploring interests, and finding ways to expand involvement on campus.
  • Career Exploration Center (CEC): The CEC is part of the Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS) and is designed to assist students in exploring their options for majors and careers.
  • Center for First Year Experience (CFYE): CFYE helps student adjust to life at UW-Madison. The provide a variety of opportunities through orientation and programming to ease the first-year transition.
  • Dean of Students Office: The Dean of Students Office provides assistance, intervention, prevention, and referral services to the university community.
  • Greater University Tutoring Service (GUTS): GUTS is a student organization dedicated to connecting UW students with volunteer tutors for assistance with academic courses, study skills, conversational English, and intercultural exchange.
  • Parent and Family Program: This program helps engage parents, stepparents, extended family members, foster parents, legal guardians, and other chosen family members in campus life to assist their student during their time on campus. The program includes an e-newsletter, campus events, web chats, and more.
  • Student Affairs: The McBurney Center falls under the branch of Student Affairs, which are dedicated to serving students and to helping them succeed in and out of the classroom in areas including health and well-being, identity and inclusion, leadership and engagement, and student advocacy.
  • University Health Services (UHS): UHS is the UW-Madison student health center, with a mission to enhance learning and student success by promoting, protecting, and restoring health and well-being.
  • UHS – Mental Health Services: MHS’ mental health providers understand the complexities of student life and offer an open, safe and confidential environment to help students through issues that may interfere with their development, well-being, and academic productivity.

Where should my student go for support if they are struggling academically, personally, or otherwise?

Students are always free to meet with their Access Consultant if they are struggling, and their Consultant can provide resources specific to their individualized needs. They can also turn to a variety of Academic Services, Mental Health Services, Health and Wellness, and Student Assistance through the Dean of Students Office.

Who will help my student create a class schedule each semester?

Each student on campus has an Academic Advisor who can assist them with class scheduling, major declaration, and other academic-related needs throughout their career at UW. Your student may also work with their Access Consultant if they wish to receive feedback on the balance of their class schedule.

Who should my student contact if they are struggling in one or more courses? What are their options if they are not on track to pass a course?

We recommend that students first contact their professors or TA’s if they are struggling in their classes. They can meet with them during office hours or schedule another time to check in to talk about their progress and receive tips for how to improve their grades. They may also want to check in with their Academic Advisor  and explore the academic supports that are available to students on campus.  Note that tutoring is available from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats and locations across campus.

It is important for students to remain cognizant of the semester dates and deadlines set forth by the Registrar’s Office. There are a variety of drop deadlines each semester. They can always work with their Academic Advisor or Access Consultant if they want to discuss dropping classes or withdrawing from UW.

Where can my student go to get involved around campus?

There are a variety of ways for students to get involved in and around campus. They can explore the Wisconsin Involvement Network to see all the student organizations available on campus. They may want to consider applying for a student job during their time here. Many students choose to study abroad while on campus, and it is important to note students may use their disability-related accommodations during their time abroad as well. The University consistently updates their calendar of campus events, which provides a vast number of opportunities going on each day.

Training for Campus

The McBurney Center provides a variety of training an consultation to campus, including in-person and online.

Asynchronous, Online Training Options

Virtual and In-Person Training Options

McBurney Center Training Requests

The McBurney Disability Resource Center provides training to campus departments, units, faculty, staff, and student organizations on topics exploring disability and accessibility. Training could include accommodations & adaptive technology; disability awareness; identity & culture; or inclusion & universal design. Customized requests are also possible.

  • Complete Campus Online Request for McBurney Center Training - Please complete this form at least three weeks prior to your requested training date and include as much information as possible.
  • For assistance completing this form, or if you have questions or need additional information, please email the McBurney Center Training Team.
  • You will receive a follow-up to discuss and confirm your request. Please note, completing this request does not guarantee availability for the requested date/time of the training.

Foundations (Modules 1-3) – McBurney Disability Resource Center Disability Training Series

This professional development series has been created to assist the UW-Madison community in understanding the history, resources, policies and procedures associated with providing access and accommodations to individuals with disabilities on our campus. Modules 1-3 include an overview of the disability rights movement, the history of accommodation and services at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and how the McBurney Disability Resource Center serves students with disabilities. These modules, each approximately 7 minutes long, can be viewed individually or as a series.

Important Content Update Notice

As of Summer 2018, McBurney transitioned away from the paper McBurney VISA (Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations) to electronic Student Accommodation Letters emailed from our new database system McBurney Connect. Instead of students coming to you with a paper form as shown in the videos, instructors of record will receive an emails with the Student Accommodation Letter (previously called Faculty Notification Letters) for each student for each class section, starting about two weeks before . You’ll also be able to access the Student Accommodation Letters through the Instructor Portal of the McBurney Connect system.

McBurney Connect has also updated our Notetaking accommodation service, which has reduced the faculty workload related to recruiting notetakers. The Notetaking Coordinator will only reach out to you if we are having difficulty finding a notetaker from within the McBurney Connect system.

Training for Students

The McBurney Center provides a variety of training options for students for different accommodations, including both in-person and online.  If you do not see a training topic, time, or option that meets your needs, OR if you would like additional training beyond the standard training, please contact us.

McBurney Center Technology Drop-Ins

McBurney staff meeting with student to troubleshoot notetaking software issue
Have questions about your accommodations that use technology/software?

We offer consulting with McBurney Connect, alternative formats, Kurzweil 3000, smartpens, Echo Desktop, and notetaking apps.

Where: Stop by the McBurney Center
When: (1/29/2024 – 5/6/2024)

  • Mondays: 10:00am – Noon

If you are unable to make drop-in hours, please make an appointment  by contacting the McBurney Center at 608-263-2741 (voice) or 608-225-7956 (text).

Fall 2023 Trainings

First Year Students: McBurney Orientation and Service Training (MOST) will be available online this summer for students starting in the Fall.

Please contact the McBurney Center front desk. (608) 263-2741, text (608) 225-7956 or email if you need to schedule any additional trainings.

Instructor Portal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The “Instructor Portal” is a web-based application for instructors of record to review the accommodation requests (i.e. Student Accommodation Letters) from students in their classes. It can be accessed from the McBurney Connect page by selecting the “Instructor Portal Login” button and logging in with their NetID. The portal provides:

  1. Listing in table format of the students who have made requests, including a high level overview of the types of accommodation requests (e.g. alternative testing, alternative formats, communication access, notetaking)
  2. “View” links to the Student Accommodation Letters
  3. Export to a CSV file that can be opened in Excel and sorted to assist in the process of coordinating/implementing accommodations (e.g. for midterms)

Student Accommodation Letters are available in the Instructor Portal at soon as the students generate them, so instructors are able to review them anytime prior to or after receiving them via email.

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What is McBurney Connect?

McBurney Connect is an online accommodation and case management system that serves as a hub for accommodation information for students with disabilities and instructors.

How do students use McBurney Connect?

Students will log in to McBurney Connect each semester to select which of their approved accommodations they wish to use for each class. The student’s selections generate a Student Accommodation Letter that is sent to course instructors by email.

How do instructors use McBurney Connect?

As a result of this new system, instructors will now receive customized information about classroom accommodations that are specific to each course, as students will select just those accommodations that are needed for each course. Students are still expected to meet with instructors to discuss their accommodations.

What is a Student Accommodation Letter?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to providing equal access for students, and has designated the McBurney Center as the office to determine reasonable accommodations, in consultation with students and their professors. The Student Accommodation Letter identifies accommodations that are intended to minimize barriers and provide equal access for students without compromising the essential elements of a course. Letters will be emailed to instructors each semester.

Can I review a list of students with Student Accommodation Letters in my class?

Yes. You can review a list through the Instructor Portal in McBurney Connect

Can I generate a list of students’ accommodations from the Instructor Portal?

Yes, you can generate a Microsoft Excel sheet listing students and their requested accommodations in your classes. This feature is particularly helpful for instructors with large class sizes managing high volumes of testing accommodations. The following steps will help you to generate this document:

  1. Log into the Instructor Portal with your NetID
  2. From the “Overview” page with the listing of students in a table, change the ” Sort Column by:” to “By Accommodation Group”
  3. Click on the button “Export Student Accommodation Requests”
  4. Save the file in a secure location.

You will then have a modifiable/filterable Excel document containing students who have requested accommodations across your courses and/or sections.  Note: you will need to periodically export this file for it to be up-to-date with recently requested accommodations.

What can I view in the McBurney Connect Instructor Portal?

Instructors will have access to:

  • a list of students who have generated a Student Accommodation Letter for each class
  • at a glance, the number of students who have test accommodations, communication access accommodations (e.g. interpreter, CART, media captioning), alternative formats, notetaking accommodations, reasonable courses adjustments and modification letters, and other classroom accommodations.
  • the Student Accommodation Letter for each student

Are Student Accommodation Letters the same for each course and each section of a course?

Not necessarily. Students select from their approved accommodations to generate a Student Accommodation Letter specific to each section of each course. For example, a student may need notetaking accommodations in the lecture section of a course, but not for the discussion section of the same course. A Student Accommodation Letter will be emailed to the instructor(s) of record for each section.

When will I receive Student Accommodation Letters?

Student Accommodation Letters will be sent out roughly two weeks in advance of each semester for all students who have made their requests. Once that date has passed, newly requested letters will go out regularly each business day. If there is no instructor of record for a section, the Student Accommodation Letter(s) will be held until an instructor is assigned.

What happened to Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations (VISA) plans?

Laminated, paper VISAs were no longer issued as of Summer 2018. Students with disabilities are instead be able to generate Student Accommodation Letters via McBurney Connect that will be emailed to instructors and viewable in the Instructor Portal.

What if a student presents a VISA to me?

This should be very uncommon as it has been more than 5 years since VISAs were last used. If a student presents you with their VISA, please engage in discussion with them about their needed accommodations, but also refer the student to their access consultant at the McBurney Center for assistance in generating a Student Accommodation Letter for your course.

Who has access to McBurney Connect?

  • Students with disabilities who are registered with the McBurney Disability Resource Center.
  • Any Instructor of record assigned to courses and their sections. This may include faculty, teaching assistants, lab instructors, and other instructional staff. If no students have generated a Student Accommodation Letter for the class, there will be nothing to view in the Instructor Portal.

Do course coordinators have access to McBurney Connect?

Only instructors of record for each course/section have access.  Course coordinators will have access to Student Accommodation Letters for any section on which they are listed as an instructor, including if they are listed in a supervisory or auxiliary role.

Do advisors have access to McBurney Connect?

No. Only instructors of record for each course/section have access.

How do I get assistance with a student’s accommodations implementation?

Please contact the student’s access consultant in the McBurney Center, who will be listed on each each Student Accommodation Letter.

How do I get help or support with using McBurney Connect?

Please feel free to contact Mari Magler.

Why am I receiving multiple Student Accommodation Letters for one student?

  • Possibility 1: If a student updates their accommodations selections in McBurney Connect during the semester, you will receive an updated letter by email.
  • Possibility 2: If a student generates a Student Accommodation Letter for a discussion section and a lecture section of the same class, and you are listed as the instructor for both, you will receive a letter for both sections.
  • Possibility 3: If the instructors assigned to a section change, McBurney Connect will resent the Student Accommodation Letters for that section.

The Instructor Portal on McBurney Connect will have the most recent version of the letter.

First Year Student (and Parent & Guardian) Orientation – MOST

Overview - MOST Program for New Freshmen and Parents & Guardians

About MOST

The McBurney Orientation and Service Training (MOST) Program helps new freshmen and their parents and guardians get the MOST out of their transition to UW-Madison. Participants will have the opportunity to complete virtual McBurney Center orientation and service training activities before the start of Wisconsin Welcome.

In order to attend the virtual MOST program, students must be determined eligible for McBurney Center services. Eligibility will be determined once you complete the initial meeting with your McBurney Center Access Consultant and submit documentation. Please see Apply for Accommodations for a detailed explanation.

Topics that will be included in the MOST program include: how to use approved classroom accommodations, understanding faculty expectations and perspectives, navigating campus resources, and implementing accommodations.

Timeline to be Eligible & RSVP for MOST

  1. January 31 to May 1: Submit disability documentation and other required forms to the McBurney Center. McBurney Center staff work with a large number of undergraduate and graduate students every year. To ensure timely consideration, we recommend that you submit required forms and documentation of disability as soon as you are admitted to UW-Madison.
  2. No Later than July 31: Complete an initial meeting in person or over the phone. Once the online application is submitted, students will receive an email asking them to schedule an initial meeting with their McBurney Center Access Consultant. This email will be sent to your UW-Madison email account, which you can access by:
    1. Activating your Net ID
    2. Logging into UW-Madison email/calendar using your active Net ID and password
  3. June 22 – August 22, 2022: Schedule individual service trainings and engage in virtual MOST materials. You will receive an email from the McBurney Center Transition Team following your SOAR date with information regarding your service trainings and MOST.

Information for Parents, Guardians, and Support Teams

The Parents, Guardians, and Support Teams page includes a director welcome video, info on supporting students, and FAQs.

Comments from Previous Attendees


  • “Getting to know other students made it easier to make the transition to college.”
  • “It was helpful for me to meet other students with a disability similar to mine.”
  • “I enjoyed hearing from different professors about their preferences and what they like and dislike.”
  • “The Orientation and Training Program provided helpful information that proved to be effective!”
  • “It was wonderful being able to move in early!”

Parents & Guardians

  • “Having it on a Sunday and providing an early move-in date were both incredibly helpful. My daughter had reservations about all the sessions but came away impressed, empowered, and ready!”
  • “Your team came across as supportive, but not “motherly”. It is nice to know our daughter has a place, on a large campus, to be known and find answers. I also appreciate your coaching her to talk to campus professors often and early. If she gains this skill as a freshman, she will be well prepared for her college academic career.”
  • “I most enjoyed hearing the students give their honest opinions about their experiences and giving helpful advice to incoming freshmen”.
  • “The student panel was on the mark. Great!”