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Academic Planning and Policies
Academic planning is an important part of study abroad predeparture preparations. With good planning, GVSU students can earn credit towards degree requirements including:
- Major requirements
- Minor requirements
- General Education Requirements (Foundations, Issues, Global Perspectives)
- University Requirements (SWS, B.A. Degree Cognate, B.S. Degree Cognate)
We help students access courses that will complement and enhance their academic interests without setting them behind for graduation. Students often have varying circumstances, so academic advising is best when coordinated with the academic advisor. Students are encouraged to document all approvals and identify contingency plans if changes occur during final registration at the host institution.
Credit/No Credit: Study abroad courses will transfer back as credit (CR) or no credit (NC). Credit will be granted for those courses in which the student earns a grade equivalent to a C or better. These courses will not count towards the maximum number of CR/NC courses a student is allowed to take at GVSU. Courses completed abroad will not impact a student’s GPA at GVSU.
GPA: Each program has different eligibility requirements. In general, GVSU undergraduate students must have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA for semester/year programs, or a 2.0 for summer programs. Graduate students must have a 3.0 GPA.
Last 30 Credits: Students approved by PIC to study abroad will be required to register at GVSU during the semester they are abroad. Since students maintain their registration status at GVSU, they meet the residency requirement for completing the last 30 credits at GVSU.
No Audit: Any course taken abroad as “audit” will not transfer to GVSU. A grade must be earned in order for a course to appear on the GVSU transcript. Pass/fail grades are not allowed unless the host university does not offer students an option to earn a grade for a specific course. Written documentation from the host university may be required to verify that the course was only offered on a pass/fail basis.
Repeat/Replacing a GVSU Course: Study Abroad courses cannot be used to repeat or replace the grade of a course previously taken on-campus.
Full-Time Status: During Fall and Winter semesters, students MUST maintain full-time status (12-15 US credits) while studying abroad. Students not planning on registering abroad as a full-time student must get written approval from PIC. Students may not transfer back more than 21 credits in one semester.
Spring/Summer participants: Spring/Summer participants are not required to take a minimum number of credits, however, students in need of financial aid must complete a minimum of 6 GVSU credits in order to maintain eligibility for federal student aid. Graduate students are considered full-time if enrolled in 5 credits.
Maximum number of semesters abroad: Students may study abroad through GVSU for up to 4 full-time semesters, including spring/summer terms.
Conducting Research Abroad: If students are conducting research abroad that involves humans or animals, they must receive approval from GVSU prior to starting their research even if the research is coordinated through another university or organization. Visit the following link for guidelines: Research Compliance & Integrity - Grand Valley State University (gvsu.edu)
Course Availability: GVSU cannot guarantee access to specific courses abroad that a student may need to fulfill degree requirements at GVSU. Education systems around the world operate differently from the US system. Many host universities provide information on courses they expect to offer in an upcoming semester; however, most universities cannot guarantee those courses will be available. Students are encouraged to exercise maximum flexibility and understanding as it relates to the course selection and registration process. It is not uncommon for a host university to make course options available two to four weeks prior to the start of the semester. In some cases, students will not know the courses available until after they arrive at the host university. Students are encouraged to work with PIC to address course availability concerns.
Managing Course Planning without Course Schedules: If course schedules are not available for the semester a student will be abroad, we recommend looking at the courses that were offered the year prior during the same semester. While this does not guarantee course availability, students may find that certain courses are offered the same semester each year. It is always a good idea to have multiple alternate courses pre-approved in the event that the course options available are different from what a student originally planned.
Course Registration Abroad: Course registration may not be confirmed until students arrive at the host university. Students often learn once they are on-site what courses they will actually be registered for during that semester. It is up to each student to ensure all courses have the appropriate approvals prior to finalizing course registration at the host university.
Last Semester Abroad: Students in their last semester at GVSU, or students who have a tightly prescribed academic plan with very specific degree requirements, should carefully weigh the value and importance of a study abroad experience with their priority to finish their degree on schedule. There have been instances in the past where students were not able to take the courses needed to finish degree requirements at GVSU during their time abroad. While this is not the norm, it can be a risk students must accept. Past participants have most often agreed that the benefits of study abroad far outweigh any setbacks. Students are encouraged to work closely with their primary academic advisor to establish a back-up plan in the event that courses needed are not available once on-site.
Receiving GVSU Credit: All courses completed abroad must be evaluated by the appropriate academic department. It is up to each student to obtain the departmental approval for the courses completed abroad. Some courses have already been evaluated and are listed on a course equivalency list. If a course has already been evaluated at GVSU, it does not require any further approval. Students can find more information and instructions on our Course Approval Process page.
Gathering Course Information: Gathering specific course information may be challenging. Each institution has a different way of presenting course information. Students may have to communicate with their host university multiple times to get the necessary information. Students will need the following information for each course taken abroad:
- Course description or syllabi
- Contact hours (number of hours the class meets during the semester)
- How many courses or credits make up a fulltime credit load at the host university?
If the courses change once a student is at their host university, they should contact the relevant GVSU department for an updated course approval. This should be done as soon as possible so students know how these courses will be recognized at GVSU. All course approvals obtained while abroad should be forwarded to: email@example.com
Prerequisite Requirements: Students must meet prerequisite requirements in order to register for courses at the host institution. Many universities require prerequisites to be met in order to register for a particular course.
IS 380 Registration
All students participating in a study abroad program where the credits are transferred to GVSU from another institution will be required to register at GVSU for a placeholder course called International Studies 380 or 680 (IS 380/IS 680). IS 680 is used for graduate students studying abroad. Students who register for IS 380/680 will maintain their enrollment at GVSU which allows access to GVSU financial aid and all of the services of the university while participating in study abroad. Students register for IS 380/680 for the minimum number of credits they expect to transfer back to GVSU. If a student registers for 12 credits of IS 380/680, GVSU expects the student to register at the host university for the equivalent of at least 12 US credits. Due to different academic systems, students may have to do extensive research to determine the number of credits they will earn abroad.
If students fail to register for enough credits at the host institution, their GVSU transcript will show (NC) for the difference between the IS 380/680 credits they registered for and the credits they earned at the host institution. Financial aid will be awarded based on the number of IS 380/680 credits students register for at GVSU. It is acceptable for students to transfer back more credits than the original IS 380/680 registration, but it will be a problem if a student transfers back less than the registered number of IS 380/680 credits. If students are unsure of the number of credits they will earn, contact the Padnos International Center for assistance. All students who register for IS 380/680 will pay a per credit course fee.
Departmental Approval Concerns: If the relevant academic department at GVSU does not approve a study abroad course, or does not offer a GVSU course equivalency for a course a student wants to complete abroad, the student will receive IS 380/680 credit for the course.
Grading and Credit Systems
Grading System: Grading systems vary from country to country and even by institution. GVSU utilizes the International Grade Conversion scales published by World Education Services (WES) and Scholaro when converting grades from the host university to the GVSU grading system.
Credit Systems: The system for awarding credit for a course varies throughout the world. At GVSU, 1 credit hour is typically earned for 15 in class contact hours during the course of a 15 week semester. A typical 3 credit course would consist of 45 contact hours during a semester. Credit is determined using different variables at most overseas institutions. It is very important that a student understand how the credit system at the host university relates to the credit system at GVSU. It is the student’s responsibility to register full-time at the host university and to verify that they will earn a minimum of 12 US credits for the courses taken abroad. Fall, Winter, or Academic Year students must be registered full-time at the host university. All exceptions must be approved in writing by the Director of Study Abroad and International Partnerships in the Padnos International Center. Students who do not maintain full-time status while abroad may not be entitled to certain financial aid and may have to repay funds upon their return. Summer study abroad is much more flexible and does not require full-time enrollment.
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the host university transcript is sent to the Padnos International Center. A deferred grade (X) will be posted on the GVSU system until the transcript and course approvals have been received. Once the transcript and course approvals are received by the Padnos International Center, the deferred grade will be removed from the GVSU system and replaced with the GVSU course equivalencies for the courses completed abroad. If a transcript is not received, the incomplete grade will automatically be changed to a (NC) after 180 days.
Upon completion of your program, Official Transcripts from the host university should be sent to: Attn: Rebecca Morrissey Padnos International Center 130 LOH, 1 Campus Drive Grand Valley State University Allendale, MI 49401 USA. Transcripts sent directly to the GVSU Registrar will delay processing.
Thinking Ahead: Future employers, graduate schools, and scholarship committees may request transcripts from all institutions students have attended. Students are encouraged to find out the process for securing additional transcripts from their overseas host institution should this be necessary in the future.
Transfer of Credit Delays
It will take several weeks to several months for PIC to receive an official transcript after a student has completed a study abroad program. The placeholder course, IS 380, will stay in MyBanner as a deferred grade of (X) until PIC receives an official transcript and ALL course approvals. The deferred grade (X) on the GVSU system can affect students in many ways:
- This may impact the timing of when students can register for upcoming semesters. If students are concerned about not getting into a GVSU course for a future semester, contact the relevant academic department to ask if there is a process for requesting a closed class permit or if there are any contingencies in place for students who are abroad who have not yet transferred credits back to GVSU.
- Graduating seniors will not earn their degree until the study abroad credits are transferred back to GVSU and the deferred grade is removed from the system. GVSU has a grace period of several weeks after the conclusion of the GVSU semester for the institution to finalize study abroad transfer credits. If we are unable to finalize the transfer of credit within the grace period, the graduation date will reflect the following semester.
- Graduating seniors can walk in the commencement ceremony as long as they applied for graduation one semester prior. Students can email the Dean of Students Office to secure permission to walk in the commencement ceremonies even though the study abroad credit transfer may still be pending.
- In a few cases, students have had complications with financial aid for not showing academic progress for the semester they were abroad. These issues are usually resolved once the transfer of credit takes place, however, the transfer of credit process will can take several months after you return. If students experience difficulties because of the (X) grade for IS 380, please contact the Padnos International Center.
- If students do not receive a grade of a “C” or better in their course and receive (NC) for that course, they are allowed to re-take the course back at GVSU. The (NC) can be replaced by the course they complete on-campus. Contact the Director of Study Abroad if you would like to make this request.