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Earning Academic Credit Abroad

Review this page for the following information:

TYPES of credit

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

  • Direct Credit. Most Northwestern-Sponsored programs offer a set curriculum of Northwestern courses, most of which have Northwestern course numbers with an “-SA” (study abroad) designation (Click here for the list of Northwestern programs offering direct credit). Students are registered for these courses in CAESAR, and they will appear individually on the Northwestern transcript along with letter grades and credit totals for each course. Students do not need to petition for credit, but they will need to work with their academic advisers if planning to fulfill major or minor requirements. Grades received in these classes are calculated into students’ Northwestern term and cumulative GPAs.
  • Transfer Credit. All other study abroad programs offer transfer credit. For these programs, students are registered at Northwestern for a study abroad placeholder course during their term abroad. Students will be issued a transcript from the university or institution that hosts their program, and eligible course credit will be transferred to Northwestern according to the steps outlined below. Course grades will not appear on students’ Northwestern transcripts or figure into their term or cumulative GPAs.

Transfer credit

If your Northwestern Study Abroad Applicaiton is approved and you take courses eligible for transfer while abroad, you will be able to transfer your study abroad credit toward your Northwestern degree according to the Non-Northwestern University Credit Transfer Policy for Undergraduates.

Undergraduate registration requirement

Regardless of the number of transfer credits a student earns, all undergraduate students seeking a bachelor’s degree must fulfill the Undergraduate Registration Requirement.

Converting study abroad transfer credit to credit at northwestern

  • For students participating in study abroad programs that issue transcripts from a U.S. institution or an institution on a U.S. semester system, semester hours will be converted to units at Northwestern according to a standard conversion formula.
  • For students participating in study abroad programs that issue transcripts from an institution outside of the U.S. or that is not on a U.S. semester system, a credit conversion ratio will be applied to the number of foreign credits earned to determine the number of units at Northwestern. Students participating in exchange programs and affiliated programs that offer direct enrollment should refer to their program page for the credit conversation ratio for their program.

major, minor, distribution or other school requirements

Your departmental advisers have the final decision regarding which study abroad credits fulfill requirements for your major and minor. Your school representative must approve distribution or other school requirements.

Steps to take:


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.

Only international students on F1/J1 visas 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. They must, however, submit approved credit transfer forms by the end of the quarter prior to the start of their coursework abroad.  Dual citizens and other students not on J1/F1 visas may be eligible to seek a visa exemption and follow submit those forms rather than applying for permission to study abroad. Refer to the Non-Northwestern University Credit Transfer Policy for more information.

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 study abroad credit through the Office of the Registrar.