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Choosing Courses

Before you choose or change your study abroad courses, review information and requirements regarding course selection.

Enrollment Requirements

When selecting courses to take abroad, you must:

  • Enroll in a full-time course load, as defined by your program.
    • For many affiliated programs, this means enrolling in 4 - 5 courses worth 15 - 16 semester credit hours
  • Enroll in a sufficient number of credits abroad to maintain full-time enrollment at Northwestern - the equivalent of 3 units at Northwestern per quarter - during the term(s) you are abroad. Review the Registration & Credit page for more information about minimum credit requirements.
  • Enroll in one course in the host language, if you have not completed one quarter of language instruction in a language of your host country before departure. Many study abroad programs have their own language requirements above and beyond this Northwestern language requirement; check your program's website for more information.

Courses Eligible for Transfer

A course taken abroad 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.
  • It is taken for a letter grade (not on a "pass/fail" basis).
  • You earn a grade equivalent of a C or above.
  • It is worth at least 2 semester credits or 2 ECTS. Refer to Minimum Transfer Credit Requirements for more information about study abroad credit conversion.

Non-Transferable Courses

You will not receive credit at Northwestern for the following types of courses, which are deemed non-transferable:

  • Courses covering subject matter not taught in Northwestern's undergraduate curriculum (e.g., wine tasting, cooking, fashion design, etc.).
  • Courses taken abroad on a "pass/fail" basis.
  • Courses for which a grade equivalent to a C- or below was earned.
  • Courses worth less than 2 semester credits or less than 2 ECTS.
  • Online courses taken abroad at a foreign institution.
  • Duplicate courses (meaning, they duplicate courses for which you have already received credit at Northwestern).

Taking non-transferable courses may cause you to drop below minimum full-time enrollment at Northwestern (the equivalent of 3 units at Northwestern), which could prevent you from meeting the Undergraduate Registration Requirement (URR) or maintaining satisfactory academic progress for financial aid eligibility. Only consider taking a non-transferable course if you can manage this course in addition to the full-time course load for your program.

Note: If you receive financial aid for study abroad, you are required to transfer your credits back to Northwestern, regardless of whether you "need" the credits or intend to petition for specific departmental credit.

Preliminary Course Plan

All students will be expected to research course options when selecting a program abroad, and will discuss their preliminary course plan with the academic adviser(s) as part of the Northwestern study abroad application process.

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 and internships abroad and discuss them with your School Adviser.
  • Be aware of the way course changes (such as reducing credit hours, earning an incomplete or a grade lower than the equivalent of a C) could cause serious problems with your financial aid eligibility or URR. Contact your study abroad adviser to discuss these issues.

Earning Credit for Study Abroad Courses

If you follow these general guidelines, you can expect to receive credit for the courses you take abroad. For more information and reminders:

  • Review information about earning academic credit for study abroad courses.
  • Learn about the process for transferring credit from study abroad. Although Northwestern will provide preliminary information about transferring credit and applying this credit toward degree requirements, we cannot guarantee credit for courses taken abroad in advance. Final course approval, for any kind of credit, will be determined after you return and upon review of an official study abroad transcript and course descriptions.
  • 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 there are any questions about the credit-worthiness of a course - even one for which you are only seeking elective credit - your course materials may be reviewed.
  • If you receive financial aid for study abroad, you are required to transfer your credits back to Northwestern, regardless of whether you "need" the credits or intend to petition for specific departmental credit.