Guidelines for Petitioning to Study on a Non-affiliated Program or for Independent Study/Research

Occasionally, a student may wish to attend a university or study program abroad that is not currently affiliated with Penn and therefore not recognized for academic credit.  If you wish to study abroad and seek academic credit toward your Penn degree on a non-affiliated program, you must submit a petition to Penn Abroad for 1) permission to attend and 2) one-time, nonpermanent recognition of the program. The petition will be reviewed by Penn Abroad and advisors from the relevant undergraduate school/program.

In addition, petitions are required for advance approval of independent study or research to be conducted abroad for academic credit.  For this reason, petitions are always required for study abroad under the auspices of the School for International Training and the School for Field Studies, since programs sponsored by these institutions presume that some credit will be awarded for independent research. Other programs requiring independent study/research approval by petition are noted in the listing of affiliated programs.

  • Guidelines for Petition Programs
  • 1.  Consult with the Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager responsible for the region in which you seek to study. The petition must be submitted to that Manager, who will coordinate the review of the petition. You should submit your petition by the stated petition deadlines.

    2.  The petition consists of:

    a)  A completed Penn Abroad application

    b)  Pre-approval of all courses in XCAT

    c)  A Penn transcript (and transcripts from institutions attended previously)

    d)  A statement of purpose (2-4 pages, double spaced) that explains in detail the academic reasons why you believe that study at this site and on this program is integral to completing your academic program at Penn, and meets your academic needs like no other existing Penn Abroad approved program

    e)  A statement of support from your major advisor

    f)  A recommendation from a professor who has taught you here at Penn

    g)  Information about the study abroad program or foreign university you seek to attend, including but not limited to details on: program application, lodging and meals, insurance, program start and end dates, exam dates, basic university or program information, and any special university or program attributes (research, reputation, etc.).

    3.  Depending upon the advice of the Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager, you may need to apply to the specific study abroad program or foreign university you seek to attend before your petition is reviewed. You will be refunded for any application fee or deposit that you may be required to make only if your petition is subsequently approved.

    4.  Understand that petitions for study on non-affiliated programs are not routinely approved.  Only petitions with clear academic objectives and compelling academic reasons will be considered.  Petitions are judged on the merit of your academic objectives and your academic and linguistic preparation in relation to the specific study abroad opportunity for which you are seeking approval.  Petitioners are expected to have superior grades and sound academic preparation.  It is also expected that you will have the very strong support of your major advisor and will have departmental approval to apply at least one half of the credit earned abroad to meeting major requirements. Petitions for elective credit only are not normally approved. 

    5.  Petitions for programs that largely duplicate or are in enrollment competition with existing Penn Abroad programs will not normally be approved.  Programs should be academically rigorous and provide a high degree of linguistic immersion (when applicable) and cultural integration.

    6.  Petitioners seeking approval of independent study/research must demonstrate that they have or can acquire the linguistic and disciplinary skills necessary to accomplish the independent study or research before the study abroad program begins. Such petitions should include a fairly detailed project outline to be developed in consultation with the major advisor.

    7.  Petitioners must meet all published application deadlines for Penn Abroad concurrent with the petition process.  If your petition is approved, your study abroad program will be administered by Penn Abroad in the same way as all other study abroad programs, and all Penn Abroad academic and financial policies will apply.

  • Additional Steps for Heightened Risk Regions
  • Petitions to study on a non- approved program in a Heightened Risk Region will undergo an additional review by the Committee on International Risk Assessment (CITRA).  As part of their petition application, students will respond to additional application questions about their itinerary, preparation, travel risk awareness, and in-country contacts. In preparation for this, students should review the health, safety, or security risks involved with their travel. Please review the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings and Alerts, as well as International SOS (Penn Member ID: 11BSGC000012) guidance, as appropriate.

    Students will also be asked to sign an Acknowledgement of Risks for Heightened Risk Regions form.

    When reviewing requests, CITRA considers a number of factors including, but not limited to, the academic value of the proposed travel, the student’s preparedness and understanding of the risks specific to the region, and whether the proposed trip complies with the applicable International SOS and/or U.S. Department of State Travel Warning guidance. Each travel request is evaluated on its own merit, and risks are balanced with the academic value of the international experience. For more information, please see the Undergraduate Travel Request Process for Heightened Risk Regions.

Absolute Deadlines:

  • October 1 for spring semester
  • February 1 for fall semester and academic year