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Timing and Planning


When should I start planning?

Ideally, planning for study abroad should begin as early as freshman year. You'll need to begin the study abroad process no later than two semesters prior to your intended term abroad. Some aspects of study abroad may affect your other plans as a Swarthmore student and are best to consider as soon as possible (​​​​academic, financial, health-related, etc.).

When can I study abroad?

You're eligible to study abroad during the second semester of sophomore year, either semester junior year, or the first semester of senior year. Students who plan to study abroad spring of their sophomore year declare their major during the fall semester of the sophomore year. First-semester seniors need approval from their major department(s)/program(s) to study abroad. GEO cannot approve requests for study abroad in the second semester of your senior year.

Some academic departments/programs have selected a semester that's best for study abroad. Be sure to check your department's/program's website and discuss the timing of your term abroad with your academic/major advisor. 

How long can I study abroad?  Can I go more than once?

You can study abroad for up to two semesters. You could spend the full academic year at one abroad institution, or you can spend each semester at a different institution, in a different location. Being away for two semesters requires careful planning, but it's definitely possible!

Do programs have different dates from Swarthmore?

Yes. Some programs start and end significantly earlier or later than a semester at Swarthmore. You may need to miss part of your usual summer break and/or figure out your own plans during a period when you would typically be at Swarthmore (where to live, how to spend your time, etc.). Program dates are not flexible; you'll need to plan around the dates of your selected program.

When do I apply for Swarthmore Study Abroad?

January 15 is the Swarthmore application deadline for study abroad in the fall term or for the full academic year. June 1 is the Swarthmore application deadline for study abroad in the spring term.

Before you can start an application for Swarthmore approval, you will need to attend a Study Abroad 101 Session and an individual advising session, so you'll need to start the process several weeks in advance of the application deadline.

Why does Oxford have a different deadline?

If you wish to study abroad at Oxford or Cambridge in your junior year, you will need to submit your Swarthmore application by December 1 of your sophomore year. This priority deadline will allow you to meet the external deadlines for programs (all supplemental materials are due by January or February for Oxford). Due to the competitive nature of these programs, early planning is advised.

When does Swarthmore release approval decisions?

Swarthmore reviews all applications after our internal deadline for the relevant term. Swarthmore Approval decisions are typically released within 2-4 weeks after the internal deadline.

When do I submit external program applications?

Once you receive Swarthmore's approval, you will need to meet the external application deadlines of each program that has been authorized. When programs have rolling admissions, it is important to apply early in the application cycle; many programs reach capacity long in advance of their published deadlines. If your program has a later application deadline, Swarthmore may require you to apply by an earlier date so can stay on track with GEO's pre-departure process (your approval letter will include the Swarthmore timeline for your external applications).


Who can I go to for help?

The GEO team is here to help! During your advising appointment, we will help you navigate your program options, and answer any questions you may have. And of course you can always email us.

Do I need to consult my academic department?

Most academic departments/programs have information about off-campus study on their websites. These webpages often provide information on the following:

  • Recommended study abroad programs
  • A semester that's best for study abroad
  • Departmental policies on study abroad credit (review details on our Coursework and Credits page)

Therefore, be sure to check your department/program's website. If you can't find information online, you can contact your academic advisor.

How can I learn about prior Swarthmore students' study abroad experiences?

We encourage you to read previous students' evaluations and talk to past participants of programs you're considering. Swarthmore students who have studied abroad know the ins and outs of the programs they participated in!

How should I plan for the application process?

As you discover a program of interest, we recommend that you review admissions information on their website. You will need to apply for Swarthmore Study Abroad before you can complete the external program application; however, it's best to take certain steps now to ensure that you'll be ready to apply for the program after you've received Swarthmore approval.

  • Make sure you meet all the program's specific eligibility requirements (GPA minimum, course pre-requisites, etc.)
  • Note the external application deadline, so that you know how soon you should apply after you've received Swarthmore approval. Check whether the program has rolling admissions - if they do, applying early is often the best way to increase your chances of admission!
  • Review the application requirements. If one or more letters of recommendation are required, ask your professor(s) as early as possible. The more time you can give faculty to write letters, the better!

It's fine for you to open an external program application to view requirements or submit a recommendation request to a professor. However, be aware that Swarthmore cannot approve you for a program until your Swarthmore Study Abroad application has been reviewed. External applications require insitutional approval to be complete.

Do I need to finalize my program choice(s) before I apply?

Yes. You are applying for Swarthmore Approval for (up to 3) specific program(s) of interest.  Programs for which you are seeking approval must be listed in your "Swarthmore Approval for Study Abroad" application prior to the deadline (though you could later decide not to apply for a program that has been listed). 

Should I apply if I'm undecided about studying abroad? 

Yes. Submission of the Swarthmore Approval for Study Abroad application does not entail a commitment to studying abroad. We recommend that you apply if there is even a small chance that you will study abroad, since late applications usually cannot be considered. You will be required to make a decision about whether to commit to a specific program after you have received an offer of admission from that program and before you respond to their offer. If you have submitted a Swarthmore Approval application but decide not to study abroad, please notify GEO as soon as possible so that we can update Swarthmore that you'll spend the relevant semester on campus.