Northwestern encourages all students to consider study abroad. However, to be eligible, you need to meet the following requirements:
- Application deadlines
- Minimum application requirements
- Major declaration
- Student conduct
- Northwestern language requirement
- School-specific & program requirements
- Undergraduate Registration Requirement (URR)
- Additional requirements
In order to earn credit at Northwestern for coursework completed abroad, you must apply for permission to study abroad by the appropriate Northwestern application deadline. Northwestern does not permit students to apply for study abroad credit retroactively. This policy applies to all students, including international students taking courses in their home country during a summer or any other term.
The University Study Abroad Committee expects all study abroad applicants to meet the following requirements at the time of application:
- Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above
Students with lower GPAs must submit an additional essay explaining why their GPA is below 3.0 and provide a detailed plan for how they are working to raise it. This is used to help determine academic preparedness to study abroad and should demonstrate the following:
- The lower GPA is the result of a particular situation (e.g., switching majors, medical leave, etc.);
- The GPA is steadily improving;
- They have strong support from their school representative;
- They have a compelling and coherent academic reason for choosing the study abroad program(s) to which they are applying;
- They have strong personal interests in their study abroad location and/or courses, which are apparent in their course choices at Northwestern, extracurricular activities, application essays, etc.
- Complete at least one year at Northwestern before studying abroad
Students are eligible to study abroad starting with the summer following their first year. Those applying to study abroad during their sophomore or senior years must have support from their schools and departments and, in some cases, approval from their degree auditors.
- Fulfill the Northwestern Language Requirement
See below for details.
- Meet the Undergraduate Registration Requirement
See below for details.
- Have strong school and departmental backing
All students must obtain approval from school representatives. Students with officially declared majors/minors in WCAS must also obtain approval from the appropriate major/minor adviser(s).
- Demonstrate seriousness of purpose and clear reasons for choosing a particular study abroad country and program
For more information, see our webpage on Choosing a Program.
- Demonstrate emotional stability and maturity
Students must indicate the ability to lead a stable, responsible, and healthy life abroad as a representative of Northwestern and the U.S.
To apply for study abroad, you must at least preliminarily choose a major and make your study abroad plans on the basis of that choice. Undeclared students should talk with academic advisers about declaring majors before starting a study abroad program.
If you then change your mind -- or if you already declared a major but decide to switch majors or schools -- you must review your study abroad plans with your new adviser and your School Representative so that they are aware of the change in your academic status and can help ensure proper credit transfer.
Disciplinary or housing violations
The Study Abroad Office will consult with the Division of Student Affairs at Northwestern to determine whether applicants have committed any disciplinary or housing violations and to ascertain the circumstances surrounding any such violations. In some cases, students will be asked to submit a personal statement and to meet with Study Abroad representatives to discuss the incident(s) and implications for study abroad. This information will be used in determining students' suitability for study abroad and may also be shared with the programs to which students apply. Students who commit disciplinary or housing violations after they are approved but before they study abroad may not be permitted to study abroad.
Students who will be on disciplinary probation during the term(s) in which they are scheduled to study abroad are not eligible to study abroad for academic credit at NU, even if their NU Application had been previously approved.
- Students applying to study abroad during the academic year in countries where French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, or Spanish are spoken are required to complete at least one year of the language at the university level (or the equivalent, by placing out of the language) before studying abroad, regardless of study abroad program requirements. Students applying to countries where languages other than those above are spoken are strongly encouraged to study the language at Northwestern before going abroad.
Note: This part of the language requirement does not apply to McCormick students, Music students, or students applying to the Duke Classics program in Rome and certain IPD programs.
- While abroad, all students are required to enroll in at least one language class, or one course taught in a local language other than English, throughout the duration of their program. Exceptions: Students studying in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand as well as those in the Duke Classics program in Rome (who are required to take Latin and/or Greek rather than Italian while abroad).
Many study abroad programs have their own language requirements above and beyond the Northwestern requirement. Check your program’s website for more information.
In addition to the general requirements above, each school at Northwestern has its own specific policies for study abroad, which are outlined in individual school letters:
- Bienen School of Music (pdf)
- McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science (pdf)
- Medill School of Journalism (pdf)
- School of Communication (pdf)
- School of Education & Social Policy (pdf)
- Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences (pdf)
- School of Continuing Studies (pdf)
Additionally, many programs have prerequisites. For example, Kings College in London requires that students who wish to study history have a strong background - three or four college courses - in history. These prerequisites are explained on each program's website.
Please see the Registrar's website for more information on the Undergraduate Registration Requirement and how it applies to study abroad.
Depending on your student status, you may need to complete certain steps before studying abroad. For information on procedures for transfer students, studying abroad as a senior, and early graduation, see the webpage on Student Status Issues.