Studying Abroad on an Unaffiliated Program
Northwestern strongly encourages students to apply to study abroad on Northwestern or affiliated programs, which have been approved by the University Study Abroad Committee and the Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee. We have close working relationships with affiliated programs and deem them to be of high quality in terms of academic standards, housing, cultural immersion, and administrative support services.
If you are interested in participating in an unaffiliated study abroad program or directly enrolling in an unaffiliated foreign institution during the academic year, this web page covers:
If you wish to study abroad in the summer on a Non-NU program, refer to the page NU Summer Programs for important information and application materials. The unaffiliated process only applies to programs that take place during the academic year.
You may be granted permission to apply to an unaffiliated study abroad program or unaffiliated foreign institution if you meet both of the following requirements:
- Present a compelling academic rationale.
You may consider unaffiliated options if you have specialized academic needs that cannot be met by one of our many Northwestern and affiliated programs. Non-academic reasons include, but are not limited to: following a family tradition, studying abroad with a friend from another institution, seeking less expensive options, or having a desire to live in a different part of a country. While the Study Abroad Office recognizes that these may be important aspects of a study abroad experience, they are not sufficient to override the combination of criteria that we have evaluated and approved in our Northwestern and affiliated programs.
- Find a program that meets the academic, student services, and immersion standards of affiliated study abroad programs.
The Study Abroad Office is more likely to grant permission to apply to unaffiliated programs run by universities/organizations that sponsor programs on our affiliated list than those run by other universities/organizations.
Students are not permitted to apply to more than one unaffiliated program or unaffiliated foreign institution, and the unaffiliated option must be their first choice.
Step 1: Email the Study Abroad Office
- An academic rationale describing how studying on the unaffiliated program or at the unaffiliated foreign institution will enhance your academic career at Northwestern. Be as specific as possible about your academic goals and the courses you are interested in taking, and how the courses will fit in with your degree program. Please also comment on any personal and/or pre-professional goals that pertain to the program and its location. If the option is in a country where Northwestern offers an affiliated option, explain why you wish to study on that program or at that institution as opposed to the affiliated program(s).
- A link to the website of the program or institution, and the term that you are interested in studying abroad.
- Your telephone number.
The email will be forwarded to the Associate Director, who will contact you after evaluating your request in collaboration with the Director of the Study Abroad Office and the Study Abroad Adviser for the country in which the unaffiliated program is located. If granted permission, you will be given Part 1 of the unaffiliated application.
Step 2: Complete the unaffiliated application
The unaffiliated application consists of two parts. The first part requires you to:
- Do a significant amount of research into the academic, financial, and student services aspects of the program or foreign institution.
- Possibly obtain a sample transcript for review by the Office of the Registrar, if requested.
Part 1 must be submitted to the Study Abroad Office first. The Associate Director will inform you if it is approved, at which point you will be given instructions for completing the second part online by the appropriate application deadline.
You must submit the initial email at least 6-8 weeks prior to the study abroad application deadline. In some cases, particularly if you are interested in applying directly to an unaffiliated foreign institution, the Study Abroad Office may need to work with the Office of the Registrar and possibly an outside consultant to determine whether or not Northwestern will accept credit in transfer from the institution, and this process can take several weeks.
No financial assistance (including federal loans, federal grants, Northwestern scholarship, private loans, and other forms of aid) is available through Northwestern for students who participate in unaffiliated study abroad programs or attend unaffiliated foreign institutions, and students are not eligible for payment plans (e.g., 9-Pay) offered by Northwestern. Northwestern will not enter into any kind of financial or consortium agreement with another institution for the purposes of processing federal aid for unaffiliated study abroad programs.
Additionally, any education loans currently in deferment may enter repayment while a student is attending an unaffiliated program. If you have any questions about how attending an unaffiliated program might impact your existing aid or loans, please contact Krista Buda, Assistant Director of Study Abroad Financial Services.
Students receiving financial assistance are strongly encouraged to apply to Northwestern and affiliated programs, and the Study Abroad Office staff is more than happy to advise them on which programs meet their academic needs and personal goals.
Like students who participate in affiliated study abroad programs, students who have been approved to participate in unaffiliated programs or attend unaffiliated foreign institutions will have their study abroad credit treated as transfer credit, to be assigned when they return to campus upon review of their transcripts. Read more about Credit Transfer Procedures.