Skip to main content

Registration & Credit

Learn about the types of credit you can earn on study abroad programs and review registration requirements.

Credit Type

You may earn one of two types of credit on your study abroad program. Most Northwestern study abroad programs offer direct credit, while exchange programs, affiliated programs and unaffiliated programs offer transfer credit.

Direct Credit

Most Northwestern study abroad programs offer a set curriculum of Northwestern courses that have Northwestern course numbers with an “-SA” (study abroad) designation. You will be registered for these courses in CAESAR, and the courses will appear individually on your Northwestern transcript along with letter grades and credit totals for each course. You do not need to petition for credit, but you will need to work with your academic advisers if planning to fulfill major or minor requirements. Grades received in these classes are calculated into your Northwestern term and cumulative GPAs. No drops are permitted. Additionally, students must take all courses for a letter grade; no pass/no credit options are permitted. Review the list of Northwestern study abroad programs offering direct credit.

Transfer Credit

Exchange programs, affiliated programs, unaffiliated programs, and a small number of Northwestern programs offer transfer credit. During your term abroad, you will be registered in a study abroad placeholder course in CAESAR, which corresponds to your program. You will be issued a transcript from the university or institution that hosts your program, and eligible course credit will be transferred to Northwestern following completion of the program. Course grades will not appear on your Northwestern transcripts or figure into your term or cumulative GPAs.

Minimum Transfer Credit Requirements

As a reminder, you are required to enroll in a full-time load for your program, and in a sufficient number of credits to maintain full-time enrollment at Northwestern. Review credit requirements for various program types.

Affiliated Programs

Most affiliated programs follow a U.S. semester credit system. A full-time load for a semester program is typically 15 semester credits, which yields 6 Northwestern units of credit.

If you participate in a semester-length program that requires enrollment during two Northwestern quarters (fall-winter or winter-spring), you must enroll in a minimum of 15 semester credits. If you enroll in fewer credits--or if any of your courses do not transfer back to Northwestern--you will not earn 6 units at Northwestern, which could prevent you from meeting the Undergraduate Registration Requirement or maintaining satisfactory academic progress for financial aid eligibility.

Open Campus Block Programs: If you are participating in a CIEE Open Campus Block program you must enroll in a minimum of two blocks in order to meet the necessary enrollment requirements. 

If you plan to study abroad for the full year and need to earn 12 units at Northwestern (4 units per quarter), you will need to enroll in a minimum of 31 semester credits or the equivalent during the year. 30 semester credits translates to approximately 11 units at Northwestern.

Exchange Programs and Affiliated Programs with Direct Enrollment

Review important information about credit conversion from the local credit system to Northwestern units to determine minimum credit requirements and anticipated credit yield.

Unaffiliated Programs

As part of the unaffiliated application process for academic year and summer programs, GLO and the Office of the Registrar will do a preliminary institutional and transcript review to verify that the program or university hosting the program issues credit and grades in ways that are recognizable by Northwestern for the purpose of transferring credit. If your program follows a U.S. semester credit system, then refer to the information for affiliated programs above. If your program involves direct enrollment in a foreign university, review the section related to exchange programs and/or consult GLO for information about credit conversion.


All students will be registered at Northwestern for the appropriate study abroad course(s) for their program. Students participating in the Northwestern study abroad programs will be enrolled in their program courses; students participating in exchange and affiliated programs will be enrolled in a study abroad placeholder course listing their program name; and students participating in unaffiliated programs will be enrolled in an unaffiliated placeholder course. GLO will register students directly, so you should not register yourself for any Northwestern classes during your term abroad.

Preparing for Registration

  • Registering for on-campus courses to save spaces for friends is a violation of Northwestern’s policy on academic integrity. If you hold spots for other students in any on-campus courses during your term abroad, you will face academic and administrative consequences and will need to meet with the relevant academic integrity officer for your school.
  • Make sure you have paid your Northwestern bills. If you have outstanding financial obligations, you will have a registration hold that prevents GLO from registering you for study abroad.
  • Remember to check that you have updated or confirmed emergency contact information in CAESAR. If you do not, you will have a registration hold for missing emergency contact information.

Registration Changes

If you wish to change your study abroad program, extend your stay for an additional term, or withdraw from study abroad, be sure to review information below and contact your GLO adviser.

Undergraduate Registration Requirement (URR)

Only Northwestern study abroad programs offering direct credit count toward the Undergraduate Registration Requirement. All other programs, including exchange programs, affiliated programs, and unaffiliated programs do not count toward the URR.

Additional Study Abroad Credit Considerations

No Retroactive Study Abroad Credit Policy

You cannot petition retroactively for credit for study abroad undertaken while at Northwestern. All students who wish to earn credit for coursework completed outside the United States must apply through the Northwestern Study Abroad Application by the appropriate deadline.

International Students Studying in Their Home Country

International students on F1/J1 visas, as well as dual citizens not on J1/F1 visas, who are seeking to enroll independently in courses at foreign institutions in their countries of permanent residence/citizenship may be exempt from applying for permission to study abroad by the study abroad application deadlines. Refer to information for international students.

Pre-Matriculation Foreign Transfer Credit

If you are a transfer student and studied abroad while at your former university, or an incoming first-year student who studied abroad at the university level prior to matriculation, you may be eligible to seek pre-matriculation transfer credit through the Office of the Registrar.