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Eligibility Requirements

Northwestern encourages all students to consider study abroad; however, to be eligible, students must meet the following requirements:

Application deadlines

In order to earn credit at Northwestern for coursework completed abroad, students must complete a Northwestern Application for permission to study abroad by the appropriate application deadline. Northwestern does not permit students to apply for study abroad credit retroactively.

Minimum application requirements

At the time of application, all study abroad applicants are expected to meet the following requirements:

  • 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 are required to:
    • Meet with a study abroad adviser to discuss academic and personal preparedness to study abroad
    • Ask their School Representative to submit a "GPA Letter of Explanation" in the online application system
    • Ask a professor who has had them in class to submit a Letter of Recommendation
    • Submit an additional essay, which should explain why their GPA is below 2.5 and include: how their GPA is stable or improving, a detailed plan for improving their academic performance, a strong academic and/or personal interest in their study abroad location and/or courses (which are apparent in their course choices at Northwestern, extracurricular activities, application essays, etc.), and 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 successful completion of their first year.  This requirement applies to transfer as well as first year students. 
  • 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, students must at least preliminarily choose a major and make study abroad plans on the basis of that choice. Undeclared students should talk with academic advisers before starting a study abroad program.

If students then change their mind -- or have already declared a major but decide to switch majors or schools -- they must review their study abroad plans with their new major adviser and School Representative so that they are aware of the change in academic status and can help ensure proper credit transfer.

Student conduct

Disciplinary or housing violations

The Study Abroad Office consults with the Division of Student Affairs at Northwestern to determine whether applicants have committed any conduct 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 meet with Study Abroad representatives to discuss the incident(s) and implications for study abroad. This information will be used in determining suitability for study abroad and may also be shared with the study abroad program. Students who commit conduct 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 Northwestern, even if their Northwestern Application had been previously approved. If a student's program would permit them to participate while on probation, they are eligible to appeal Northwestern's policy. The appeal entails submitting a personal statement and meeting with a panel consisting of members from the appropriate study abroad office, Office of Global Safety and Security, and Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution. The panel's decision is final and no further recourse is available.

Northwestern language requirement

To be eligible to study in a country in which English is not an official language, at least one quarter of instruction in an official language of the host country is required either before departure or 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 Northwestern School Letters.

Additionally, many programs have prerequisites, which 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.

Completion of Northwestern study abroad programs that offer courses with Northwestern course numbers and the “-SA” course suffix counts toward the URR as long as all other provisions are met. A list of all programs meeting this criteria is available here.

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, review Student Status Issues.

University's Use of Email: As indicated in the Undergraduate Catalog, "email is the University’s mechanism for official commun­ication with students, and Northwestern has the right to expect that students will read official email in a timely fashion." Failure to receive or read communication from the Study Abroad Office does not absolve a student from knowing and complying with the content of the communication.