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Eligibility Requirements

Northwestern encourages all students to consider study abroad. However, to be eligible, you need to meet the following requirements:

Application deadlines

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.

Minimum application requirements

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 2.5 or above (although students may apply if their GPA is above 2.0)
    Applicants with GPAs between 2.0-2.5 will be required to:
    • Meet with a study abroad adviser to discuss academic and personal preparedness to study abroad
    • Have their School Representative submit a "GPA Letter of Explanation" in the online application system
    • Submit an additional essay explaining why their GPA is below 2.5.  The essay should demonstrate the following:
      • Their GPA is stable or improving
      • They have a detailed plan for improving their academic performance
      • They have strong academic and/or personal interests in their study abroad location and/or courses, which are apparent in their course choices at Northwestern, extracurricular activities, application essays, etc.
      • They have a compelling academic rationale for studying abroad during the term(s) indicated
  • 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.

Major declaration

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.

Student conduct

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. 

Disciplinary probation

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.

Northwestern language requirement

  • 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.

School-specific and program requirements

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:

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.

Undergraduate ReGISTRATION Requirement

Please see the Registrar's website for more information on the Undergraduate Registration Requirement and how it applies to study abroad.

Additional requirements

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.