Direct Enrollment Advice for Students

What is Direct Enrollment?

Direct enrollment reflects external study abroad opportunities in which students work directly with the Host University in another country to earn academic credit.

Padnos International Center (PIC) offers an open study abroad policy which allows students to select a program that best fits their academic, personal, and professional goals. In some cases, this results in students finding programs and universities with which we are unfamiliar. While we encourage students to pursue these opportunities. We also caution students to be mindful of things before making a financial commitment to a program. Below are suggestions and advice for such students...


Host Institution Standards

It is the role of PIC to review all Host University credentials to ensure the institution meets GVSU standards to recognize the academic credit upon completion of the program. All study abroad programs must meet one of the following criteria...

1. The institution awarding credit must be recognized by the Ministry of Education in the host country. 

2. The institution awarding credit must be an accredited U.S. university.

3. The program must be sponsored by a U.S. or non-U.S. organization or consortium that is accredited or recognized by the Ministry of Education.

4. The credits earned at the non-U.S. institution, which is not part of the official higher education system in the host country, will be accepted for transfer credit at GVSU with PIC, and the unit head or dean approval. 

If the program in which you wish to participate does not satisfy one of the criteria above, it will not be approved. If you are unsure if the program meets the criteria above, email [email protected] assistance. It is important to understand that this approval process only reviews the academic qualifications of a program. The review does not extend to availability of student support services that may be equally important to participants. 

Questions to Consider

1. What information have you found in your research that offers insight into the academic quality, student support services, and credibility of the institution? Have you checked...

Online and external reviews / past participant feedback or suggestions?

- Other U.S. institution that have sent students through the program and may be more familiar with the program quality?

- Better Business Bureau reports for organizations that are U.S. based

2. Have you asked past participants questions such as...

Did the host institution provide an orientation to help students get settled in?

- Was the academic program challenging?

- Were staff members available to assist you with important issues such as immigration concerns, health issues, housing questions, registering for classes, academic concerns, cultural differences, safety issues, etc.?

- Did you receive responses to your questions in a timely manner? If not, was that due to a lack of staffing at the host institution or a difference in cultural norms?

- Did you encounter any problems or concerns that you think future participants should know about?

- What advice would you give future participants to help them better prepare for this program?

- Would you recommend this program to other students?

3. Does the institution have accessible information to future students on...

- Application procedures

- Pre-arrival instructions or guide

- Housing options available

- Course information

- On-site support that will be available for international students

4. Have you gotten confirmation in writing about what the program costs are and what is included in the program fee? (If the information is not specific, ask for additional information in writing)

5. Have you asked the institution about other costs you should be aware of such as...

- How much will it cost to get from the airport to the institution?

- What are the average costs for meals per week?

- If housing is arranged through the institution, are utilities included? Is bedding and furniture provided? Is a deposit required? Are you required to sign a contract for the housing and are there penalties if you decide to move before your contract is finished?

- Is there a resident permit required? Some countries require visitors to register with local authorities for a residence permit and there are often costs involved with this. Make sure you understand the immigration rules before you arrive. Ask if there is someone at the host institution who works directly with international students on immigration concerns.

- Are you required to purchase national health insurance that will cover health care costs in the host country?

6. Have you built an understanding of the culture and differences in educational and administrative practices?

It is natural for people to want to compare their international experience with their experience in the U.S. However, educational systems and instructional structures vary significantly all around the world. Many students learn that other institutions place a greater emphasis on the student to be self-sufficient, which can surprise students once they arrive, leading them to a higher level of frustration on the part of the student until they learn to adapt to the local culture.

7. Have you considered that students who choose to direct-enroll in an institution abroad may experience more unexpected situations or concerns, especially during the first few weeks? Past participants have reported concerns such as...

- Lack of transparency from the host institution on what exactly is included in the program cost.

- Difficulty getting course information such as courses available to international students, course descriptions, syllabi, class schedules, etc.

- Limited on-site orientation. Orientations should include an introduction to campus, registration policies, safety and security information, cultural norms and expectations, classroom expectations, housing information, campus/local resources such as health clinics, food markets, academic resources, etc. Many institutions do not offer a comprehensive orientation when students arrive and in many instances, students may simply be required to attend one meeting. In this case, be prepared to ask questions if the information is not presented to you (PIC offers a checklist of questions to ask during this type of on-site orientation).

- Confusion with arrival instructions such as where you go to check-in, what the process is for finalizing registration, registering with local authorities, and what documents are necessary.

- Delays in communication

- Language and cultural differences

- Lack of information on how to pay fees to the host institution. They will likely not take credit card payments, so you'll need to plan accordingly to make sure that fees are paid in full by the payment deadline.

8. Have you considered wire transfers and how you can wire transfer funds to cover your in-country expenses such as tuition, housing, etc.?

Be certain that you have complete bank information before requesting the wire transfer. If you do not have the correct information, your funds may not be wired to the correct account, or they may be held for many weeks. If you have the time to do so, we recommend trying to wire a small amount initially to ensure that the funds reach the correct account. You can then wire the remaining funds with greater confidence that the information you received from the program is correct.

All International Wire Transfers must have a Bank Identification Code (BIC). EU and many other banks also use an International Bank Account Number (IBAN).

9. Have you considered housing options? If the host institution arranges housing for you, it is important that you understand the contract and expectations before you finalize plans. Ask your host institution...

- If staying with a homestay family, how are the families screened?

- What are the families expected to arrange for you during your stay?

- Laundry access: Are you expected to do your own laundry or will this be taken

care of by someone in the household?

- Cleaning: Will they clean your room? Are you comfortable having other people in your space?

- Payment schedule: Are you required to pay the entire amount for your housing up-front, weekly, or monthly? If you are required to pay everything up front, there may be a problem getting a refund if you decide to move.

- Distance: How far from campus might you be placed? It is common for students to have to commute to get to the institution but would you be okay with being placed at any distance?

- Transportation: If you are located further from campus, what are your options to get to/from the host institution and how much will it cost?

- Moving: If a problem arises with your homestay, will you have the choice of moving? How will these issues be handled? Some organizations will move students at their request without delay. Most organizations will likely attempt to mediate between the student and host family to see if misunderstandings can be remedied. Most homestay experiences are positive, however, there are instances when students do not click with their homestay placement. It is important to think carefully about your expectations and level of flexibility before agreeing to a homestay placement.

- Meals: Most homestays include meals with the family. Think about your expectations and normal habits compared to the cultural traditions. You may be required to be flexible with your eating habits or supply your own food if your practices do not align with those of the host country.


With so many unknown variables, why do students choose to direct enroll?

- You have access to many more destinations around the world.

- You have access to institutions offering a wide range of academic opportunities that meet your personal/professional interests.

- You can learn how to be resourceful and independent. Many institutions offering a direct enrollment option will not offer as extensive of a support system. While some see this as a disadvantage, we would argue that it offers an incredibly rewarding opportunity for students to learn how to navigate challenges and a new environment. The vast majority of students who choose to direct enroll do so with success and though they often report small frustrations, many students report that with patience and persistence, things come together.

- You can participate in an inexpensive experience abroad. In many cases, you may not be paying for a lot of extras such as excursions, on-site support staff, airport greeting, social events, etc., which can reduce the total cost of the program. Students who are willing to organize much of these things on their own can save a lot of money.

- Note: Is important to keep in mind that if you do not have the knowledge of a particular place or reliable local contacts, you may be at risk of overpaying for some services until you learn the appropriate local cost and good negotiation skills. However, do not be hard on yourself if you overpay sometimes - it is all part of the learning experience.

Page last modified April 13, 2023