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Choosing Courses to Take Abroad

General Guidelines

  • A course is eligible for credit transfer as long as Northwestern teaches its general subject at the undergraduate level. For example, an Irish literature course is eligible to transfer because Northwestern offers literature courses.
  • You must take all courses included in your full-time load for an official grade, and you must earn the equivalent of a C or above.
  • You must complete all courses, coursework, and final assessments on site.

Non-transferable courses

You will not receive credit at Northwestern for the following types of courses:

  • Courses taken abroad on a "pass/fail" basis.
  • Courses worth less than 2 semester credits.
  • Duplicate courses (meaning, they duplicate courses you have already received credit for at Northwestern).
  • Courses covering subject matter not taught in Northwestern's undergraduate curriculum (e.g., wine tasting, cooking, fashion design, etc.).
  • Some business & law courses: Since Northwestern does not allow undergraduates to major in Business or Law, taking these courses for credit abroad can be tricky. Particular types of Business and Law courses are allowed because Northwestern offers minors in Business Institutions and Legal Studies. See the Taking Business and Law Courses Abroad web page for more information.

Taking non-transferable courses may cause serious problems with the Undergraduate Registration Requirement and financial aid, since you may not receive enough credit to constitute a minimum full load (3 courses/quarter) at Northwestern. If you are interested in taking a non-transferable course, you may be able to audit it or take it as an overload.


Be sure to review and follow all Northwestern requirements that apply to you and your program while abroad.

School-Specific Requirements

The downloadable NU School Letters explain the study abroad policies and procedures for each School. Read your School letter carefully, and contact your School representative if you have any questions.

Program-Specific Requirements

Many, but not all, programs have specific requirements that participants are expected to follow. Review your program’s website for details.

Changing courses while abroad

While abroad, you may decide to register for different courses than those you reviewed with advisers before departure. Before registering for an unanticipated course:

  • Contact your Northwestern advisers to discuss potential changes.
  • If applicable, read Northwestern policies about research abroad or internships and service learning and discuss them with your school representative.
  • Be aware of the way course changes (such as reducing credit hours, earning an incomplete or a grade lower than C) could cause you to lose financial aid or affect your Undergraduate Registration Requirement. Contact your Study Abroad Adviser to discuss these issues.

Important Reminders

  • Northwestern does not guarantee credit for courses taken abroad. Final course approval, for any kind of credit, will be determined after you return from abroad and upon review of an official study abroad transcript.
  • Bring back with you as many of your course materials as possible, regardless of what type of credit you are seeking for your courses. If the Registrar's Office has doubts regarding the credit-worthiness of a course--even one for which you are only seeking elective credit--they may ask a professor in the appropriate field to review your course materials.
  • If you are majoring or minoring in Economics or Business Institutions and you take multiple Business courses abroad, you will probably not get major and/or minor credit for all of these courses.  See the Taking Business & Law Courses Abroad web page for more information.