Placement, Credit, and Registration

Receiving Credit for Study Abroad

Full information on all aspects of off-campus study, including credit, is available in the Off-Campus Study office, located in Cunningham House.

Below is an excerpt from the Off-Campus Study Faculty Handbook:

In recent years, approximately forty percent of our graduates have studied abroad or participated in other approved, credit-bearing Off-Campus Study programs.  A large majority of students participate for one semester, a small minority for two semesters.  Students can participate during the second semester of sophomore year, either semester of junior year, and—with permission of the major department—during the first semester of the senior year.

Students who wish to participate in the Off-Campus Study program must attend a general information session (normally offered one or more times each week when classes are in session). During these sessions they will learn about the application process, policies and procedures, and the credit approval process. Students are also required to have an advising session with one of the Off-Campus Study advisers and must complete an online Off-Campus Study application, specific to each program, available on the Off Campus Study website, in addition to any other applications and forms required by the program to which they choose to apply. The application deadlines are normally early October and early February, however some programs have deadlines that are even earlier than that and some programs operate on a rolling admissions basis, so that it benefits the student to apply early in the application cycle. Therefore, those students may come to you even earlier to discuss pre-estimation of credit. Most Swarthmore students are accepted by their first-choice program and therefore, the large majority of the outgoing group is certain of destination by mid-semester. Only a small number learn of their plans later in the semester.

To receive Swarthmore credit students must conform to the provisions of the Swarthmore Semester/Year Abroad Program. Students who wish to receive credit must, for the semester or year abroad, pay the full Swarthmore charges of tuition, room, and board (excluding the student activities fee). Financial aid is normally applicable to approved Off-Campus Study programs. Students may receive up to five (5) credits for a semester or ten (10) credits for the year from a Swarthmore Semester/Year Off-Campus Study program.

Since off-campus study is an officially recommended part of the College's degree program, specific procedures have been established to award Swarthmore credit for off-campus study, to reduce uncertainty both for students undertaking off-campus study and for the academic departments and credit granting programs of the College.

For students enrolled in the Swarthmore Semester/year Off-Campus Study Program, an equivalent full load of Swarthmore degree credits will be guaranteed in advance for successful completion of a normal full load in either a semester-long or academic year-long program by obtaining the U.S. equivalent of a straight C or better in each course. In cases where students complete less than a normal full load in the off-campus study program, they can only earn proportional credit at Swarthmore. It is the joint responsibility of the departmental/program faculty advisors, OCS, and students to do their utmost to avoid duplicating coursework done either here or while off-campus.

There are three kinds of credit that may be awarded for students in the Swarthmore Semester/Year Off-Campus Study Program: 

a) Departmental or program credits: These credits are determined normally before departure by departments and/or programs, when the course’s subject matter falls within the disciplinary purview of same. Course materials must be submitted according to departmental or program requirements. Departments and programs do not grade materials for these off-campus study courses. Grades earned must be the U.S. equivalent of straight C or better for credit at Swarthmore.These credits count toward the thirty-two credits required for graduation, toward completion of the major or minor, toward fulfillment of the twenty-course rule, and where appropriate toward fulfillment of the distribution requirement. The grades earned by the students in off-campus study programs will be entered upon their Swarthmore transcripts, with the four-letter department, program designation clearly noted. These grades are not computed in the Swarthmore GPA.

b) Off-Campus Study (OCST) credits: These credits are determined normally before departure by the Off-Campus Study office through the Faculty Adviser for Off-Campus Study for non-major/minor and non-distribution credit. These credits count toward the thirty-two credits required for graduation and toward fulfillment of the twenty-course rule. While this is intended for granting credit without specific designation to departments and/or programs, it may also be used to award work done in a foreign language when a student has less than two semesters equivalent or for interdisciplinary work that does not fall under the jurisdiction of one department and/or program. The grades earned by the students in off-campus study programs will be entered upon their Swarthmore transcripts, with the four-letter OCST designation and must be the the U.S. equivalent of a straight C or better for credit at Swarthmore. These grades are not computed in the Swarthmore GPA. OCST credit may be re-evaluated at the discretion of departments and/or programs as meeting the requirements for a major or minor after a student returns to campus, but the OCST designation will remain. Students may receive up to a total of 4 OCST credits per semester of off-campus study.

c) Swarthmore credits: These credits are determined normally before departure by departments and programs that manage Swarthmore off-campus study programs. In rare circumstances, credits may be supervised by Swarthmore faculty for other off-campus study programs. Departments and programs are required to grade these off-campus study courses. These grades are computed into the Swarthmore GPA. Course materials must be submitted according to departmental or program requirements. This credit counts toward the degree like any credits at Swarthmore.