Semester Abroad

Academic Information

Your semester abroad will be ripe with fulfilling experiences, from exploring a new city to experiencing a new culture. The following academic information will help ensure a smooth and successful academic transition to your term abroad and then back to Penn.

You should confirm that you have met all academic performance requirements prior to leaving for the program abroad. These include: 

  • Maintaining good academic standing and a minimum cumulative and semester 3.0 GPA. Please note that some partner institutions require a higher minimum GPA 

  • Not having grade notations of "I", "NR", or "GR" on your transcript 

  • Fulfilling any conditions set forth by your home school academic advisor for study abroad at the time of your application, which may include maintaining a certain GPA, completing a certain pre-requisite course, and/or achieving a certain grade in a pre-requisite course 

You are required to meet all academic performance requirements, including the resolution of any incomplete grades, by the following deadlines prior to your term abroad: 

  • Fall/Academic Year Abroad: June 10 

  • Spring Abroad: January 10* 

*Abroad programs commencing earlier than January 10 need to have all incompletes resolved by the date that grades are due for each term (SRFS Student Grades Schedule). 

If you do not meet all academic performance requirements by the deadlines above, you will be ineligible to study abroad. Your study abroad permission will be revoked and you will be personally responsible for all unrecoverable expenses incurred by you or on your behalf. 

Personal Conduct and Academic Integrity
Your disciplinary status may affect your eligibility to study abroad. You may not be eligible to study abroad if you currently stand charged or are charged prior to the beginning of your study abroad semester with a violation of a University regulation under the University of Pennsylvania's Code of Student Conduct or Code of Academic Integrity, or if there is a pending, current, or outstanding disciplinary matter (academic integrity or conduct).

When a charge results in probation, suspension-not-imposed, or suspension, you may be eligible to study abroad during a future semester after the expiration date of the sanction. Students must provide confirmation from the Office of Student Conduct or Sexual Violence Investigative Office that the terms and conditions of their sanction(s) have been met before receiving Penn Abroad approval to study abroad. If there are new charges during the period of the sanction, approval to study abroad may be rescinded.

While you are studying abroad, you are required to observe the laws of the host country and all academic and disciplinary regulations in effect at the host institution. Further, while abroad, you remain concurrently enrolled as a degree candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and, consequently, continue to be subject to Penn's Code of Student Conduct and Code of Academic Integrity.

You are expected to follow host university guidelines regarding class attendance, including attending class regularly.

Absence from classes or other scheduled activities due to travel or visitors, including family, is not tolerated under any circumstances and may lead to sanctions.

Under no circumstances will absence from class be excused in order to attend job interviews at home.

Credit & Credit Transfer
In order to receive academic credit toward your Penn degree for semester and academic year study abroad, you must have formal permission from your home school and you must apply and register through Penn Abroad; there are no exceptions to this rule.

Credit is not awarded retroactively after a return from a leave of absence during which you may have studied abroad independently.

Individual academic departments at Penn are solely responsible for determining exactly which courses taken abroad will receive credit in particular disciplines. It is essential that you determine prior to going abroad whether your proposed courses are approved for credit by the relevant Penn departments by submitting the courses though External Course Approval Tool (XCAT). You are expected to have sought the advice of your major advisor in planning your studies abroad. Failure to request course approval in advance may result in the denial of credit upon your return to Penn.  

Under no circumstances can you expect to obtain credit for business, engineering, or nursing courses except in programs that have been pre-approved by the Wharton School, School of Engineering and Applied Science, or School of Nursing.

Grades and Transcripts
All grades earned during study abroad are reported on your Penn transcript, are converted if necessary from the original grading system to Penn letter grades, and are computed in your cumulative grade point average.

You may not elect which courses from your abroad transcript you wish to have posted to your Penn transcript.

Grades earned during study abroad are based on your academic performance as judged by individual instructors according to local practice. Once reported, grades are typically not changed.

Pass/Fail Option

You are permitted to take a course pass/fail while studying abroad in accordance with the policy of your home school. If you wish to exercise this option, you must write to your home school academic advisor for study abroad and request permission by the end of the ninth week of your classes abroad for full-term courses. Please note:   

  • One week is defined as either a full five-day week, or a partial week (ex: Wednesday – Friday).  

  • Your notification to your home school academic advisor for study abroad must be received by email or voicemail by 5 PM ET on the Friday of the 9th week.  

For short courses, the deadline will be sooner and will be determined by your home school academic advisor for study abroad. 

If you are permitted to take a course pass/fail by Penn, your instructor abroad will not be informed. You will continue to be treated in exactly the same way as you would if you were taking the course for a grade, and will be expected by your instructor abroad to fulfill all the requirements for the course, including regular class attendance. 

Returning to Penn
You will receive an automated email from Penn Abroad once we receive your study abroad transcript.  Transcripts often take six months or longer to reach Penn Abroad due to grading schemes in international educational systems. Please note, if you have any outstanding charges owed to your study abroad program, Penn Abroad will not receive your transcript until all charges are settled.

Ensure that XCAT is up to date. All courses that you completed while abroad must be listed and approved in XCAT in order to earn Penn credit. You must also remove requests on XCAT for courses that you did not complete while abroad.

We will forward your transcript to your home school academic advisor for study abroad. Once your transcript has been received and all of your courses from abroad have been given departmental approval on XCAT it usually takes about two weeks for the grades to appear on your Penn transcript. Students with an approval issue or a department delay should send an email to the appropriate contact.

If you have questions about getting your grades posted on your Penn transcript, contact your home school academic advisor for study abroad.

Course Load
You are required to carry a full-time course load -- defined as a minimum equivalent to four Penn course units -- while studying abroad. However, at some institutions, the number of courses that constitute a full-time course load may be different than at Penn due to differences in academic calendar or course weighting. Therefore, you are required to observe local regulations, even if Penn's normal requirement is higher or lower.

In cases where a full-time course load abroad is the equivalent of fewer than four Penn course units, you will still be charged regular Penn semester tuition and fee.

Typically, the maximum amount of Penn-equivalent credit that may be awarded is five course units per semester.

Taking Penn Courses While Abroad
You are prohibited from being concurrently enrolled in courses at Penn (e.g. Penn online courses or Penn-directed independent studies) while abroad without submitting written permission from your home school academic advisor for study abroad to the Penn Abroad office.

Online Courses Offered at Host Institution
You are prohibited from enrolling in online courses at your host institution that are taught entirely online. If a course is partially taught online (i.e. online components with in-person lectures or discussion sections), it is at the discretion of your home school and the department granting equivalent academic credit at Penn to determine whether or not your course will be considered for Penn credit.  

Courses Outside the Program
When you are admitted by a university or program abroad, you are limited to taking courses for academic credit only at a designated institution or institutions. You are not permitted to cross-register for courses (including online courses) at institutions not designated as part of the program (even if affiliated with Penn Abroad) or to register for courses at non-affiliated institutions. If you do this on your own initiative, you are responsible for any additional fees and you will not receive Penn credit.

Registration/Drop-request and Withdrawal from a Course
The rules for registering,  dropping and requesting a new course, and withdrawal from a course abroad are different from the rules at Penn. You are responsible for being aware of the procedures specific to your host university, including whether registration takes place prior to arrival or on arrival to your host university.

Permission for exceptions to your host university rules around course registration, add, drop, and withdrawal procedures are at the sole discretion of your host institution.The host institution is under no obligation to provide exceptions to their course procedure rules during your semester abroad.

Incomplete Work
You are expected to complete all assigned work and exams before leaving the study abroad site at the end of the semester or year. In addition to obtaining permission from Penn Abroad, you must have written permission from your undergraduate home school academic advisor for study abroad to leave a site before completing all of your academic obligations.

Duration of Program
You are required to remain at your host university until the end of scheduled examinations. You should not attempt to rearrange your final exam schedule to suit your travel plans or to begin summer employment.

Should you depart from your program abroad before the completion of scheduled instruction and examinations, either by way of a formal withdraw from the program or a self-arranged early departure, there is no guarantee you will receive credit for your semester abroad.  

Some bilateral agreements between Penn and selected universities abroad require participants to attend the program for a full academic year. If you apply and are admitted to one of these programs, you may not leave the program after the first semester, except for a medical reason documented through your home school. Credit and grades will be awarded only to students who complete the full academic year. Any student who leaves a full-year program early continues to be liable for all costs associated with the program.