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International Student and
Study Abroad Services

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Some of the information on this page applies only to certain program types, which have been labeled as:

 E  Exchange  D  Direct
  Faculty-led  A  Affiliate

If you have any questions about whether something applies to your program, please contact your Study Abroad Advisor.

Planning the academic component of your study abroad experience is an important part of the preparation but it doesn't have to be complicated. Please read through the information below to learn about the aspects and options for academic planning.

Study Abroad and Credits at NDSU

All NDSU students studying abroad are registered for NDSU general study abroad credits, regardless of program. All students are required to pay student fees in order to retain full-time status, use their NDSU email account, register for classes and retain financial aid. As part of the preparations for going abroad, you will register for the proper amount of credits in one of the following courses.

  • Faculty-led Programs  F : UNIV 379 or a department-specific course number
  • Exchange, Direct, and Affiliate Programs  E  D  A : UNIV 492

Course Transfer

Faculty-Led Programs  F 

Course numbers are pre-determined for these programs, and courses will show on the transcript as NDSU courses with a letter grade. Courses may fullfill certain degree requirements as based on their course number, but check with the faculty leader and/or your department for more details. If you would like to use a course to fulfill a requirement that is not pre-approved, you can complete the appropriate form:

course approval form
Course Approval Form.pdf 
(33KB PDF)

Exchange, Direct and Affiliate Programs  E  D  A 

Courses abroad return to NDSU as transfer credits, which are evaulated on a Pass/Fail basis and can be used to complete requirements at NDSU. The Course Approval Form (CAF) is most commonly used to obtain approvals for these course equivalencies. Depending on how you want to use courses, follow these steps:

  • If you would like to substitute a course abroad for a similar course at NDSU, academic departments at NDSU can sign off on the CAF that they approve these course equivalencies, and then as long as you take the course abroad at your accredited university then it will complete the requirements fulfilled by that course at NDSU. To do this:
    1. Talk with your academic advisor to determine what classes you may want to take while studying abroad.
    2. Look at the courses available where you want to study, and identify courses that might be similar to the classes that you need. If you need help with locating courses abroad or course descriptions, talk to your study abroad advisor.
    3. Obtain approvals for course equivalencies from each department into which you want to transfer courses using the Course Approval Form. The CAF can be completed before, during or within 1-2 months of the study abroad time abroad, and is returned to Study Abroad Services (in person or via email). 
      Each department can only approve course substitutions that go into their own department (i.e. if you want to substitute courses for only one department then you would complete one CAF, but if you want to use courses for multiple departments, then you would complete multiple forms). Check with the department to determine who can sign off on approvals on the CAF--in some departments any faculty member can do so, while others require that the chair of the department make such determinations. The department may require documentation such as a syllabus to verify that the content of the course will be sufficient to replace the course at NDSU. Contact the department to ask what is needed for approval.
    4. Take the course abroad as planned and make any arrangements needed for your transcript from abroad to be sent to Study Abroad Services at the conclusion of the program.
    5. No further action is usually needed on your part. Upon receipt of the transcript from the institution abroad, Study Abroad Services will send the transcript together with any Course Approval Forms to the Office of Registration and Records. Registration and Records will evaluate the transcript to determine the number of credits transferred and note any course equivalencies that have been approved by the appropriate departments as part of the transfer process.
  • If you would like to use a class abroad to fulfill a requirement at NDSU, but it isn't similar to any classes at NDSU, you can request that the department approve the alternative class using the Substitute/Waive a Course form. Talk with your department to see if they are able to approve this.
  • If you just need credits, but not specific courses, you do not need to complete the CAF. Any class that is included on your transcript from the accredited institution abroad comes back as a free elective, unless it has been designated otherwise on the CAF.
  • If you are looking to have a class abroad count towards a General Education requirement at NDSU, then several options are possible:
    • 3 credits of UNIV 492, when completed successfully and transferred back to NDSU, will qualify for either Cultural Diversity or Global Perspectives credit.
    • 6+ credits of UNIV 492, when completed successfully and transferred back to NDSU, will qualify for both Cultural Diversity and Global Perspectives credit.
    • For other courses and/or general education requirements you must complete the Appeal General Education Requirements form found on the Bison Connection website. You must explain concisely how the proposed course will fit into the general education category description from the Undergraduate Bulletin. 

Host School Credits and Classes  E  D  A 

You will officially be able to register for classes at your host school once you arrive. Some schools may allow you to register online before you depart from the U.S. It is important that you have the email address of your NDSU academic advisor in case you have any questions about the classes you are taking at your host institution. 

Be aware that the classes you are actually able to enroll in and those you put on your course plan may end up being different. You must be FLEXIBLE! When getting courses approved using the Course Approval Form it is best to list more classes than you think you'll be taking so you have more options to chose from when finalizing your schedule.

Credit Equivalence

Credits at your host school may be measured differently in comparison to NDSU credits. For example, a 2-credit class abroad may transfer back as 1.5 credits at NDSU. Below are guidelines about how the number of credits awarded per class abroad compare with the number you might receive at NDSU upon return. Ask the study abroad advisor or your overseas program coordinator if in doubt. 
  • Australia: At the University of the Sunshine Coast and Charles Sturt University 1 class is equivalent to 4 NDSU credits, so to maintain full-time status students must take at least 3 classes per semester.
  • Chile: Credits are evaluated at a 2:1 ratio with 8 credits being equivalent to 4 NDSU credits, so to maintain full-time status, students must take at least 24 credits per semester.
  • European Credit Transfer System (ECTS): ECTS is used in countries such as Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, etc and is evaluated at a 2:1 ratio with 8 credits being equivalent to 4 NDSU credits. To maintain full-time status, students must take at least 24 credits per semester. Some universities may require that you take 30 ECTS to be full-time at their institution.
  • France: If the university follows the ECTs credit system please see above, but if it uses the French system NDSU will evaluate the amount of credits based on contact hours. Total contact hours/ 12.5 = NDSU credits. Students must take a minimum of 150 contact hours per semester to be considered full-time.
  • United Kingdom: Credits from Leeds Met are evaluated at a 4:1 ratio and each module (course) is generally worth 10 or 20 credits; 2.5 or 5 NDSU credits. Students must take a minimum of 48 credits per semester to be considered full-time.
  • Italy: The transcript from the University of the Sacred Heart is issued with U.S. credits.
  • Mexico: Credits are evaluated 1:1, so students must take a minimum of 12 credits per semester.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Students studying abroad are required to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements. This means that the number of credits that you actually complete abroad must transfer back to NDSU as at least two-thirds (66.67%) of the number of UNIV 492 credits that you were registered for or else your future financial aid may be in jeopardy. Students who do not meet SAP for one semester are placed on "Financial Aid Warning", which does not affect the receipt of financial aid. Students who do not meet SAP for more than one semester may be placed in a status of "Financial Aid Disqualification". 

To avoid any possible issues with future financial aid, students are required to register for as many or more credits abroad (when taking into account credit equivalence as explained above) as you have registered for UNIV 492 at NDSU. If you think you might not complete the necessary number of credits to meet the SAP requirements, please contact your study abroad advisor immediately to talk through the possible implications.

Placement Tests for Host Schools

Language placement tests are often required and are especially important for those studying in another language at a foreign institution. If you will be taking classes abroad in English, you probably won't need any placement tests unless you also plan to study in the native language and feel you might have adequate previous knowledge. If you are a language major, you must verify that you language courses abroad are at an advanced level if you want the credits to transfer back for your degree. If you have any questions, please speak with your academic advisor and language professors.


Transcript and Transfer Credits  E  D  A 

Semester or year-long students must maintain full time status equivalency of at least 12 NDSU credits. Before you leave your host school, make sure your host university sends your transcripts directly to NDSU ISSAS. You will be notified when it arrives and a copy will be made for the OIP's records before sending it to Registration and Records for processing.

If they are sending it by EXPRESS MAIL:   If they are sending it by REGULAR MAIL:
International Student and Study Abroad Services
Tanya Kramer
1401 Administration Ave MU 116
Fargo, ND 58102
International Student and Study Abroad Services
Tanya Kramer
PO Box 6050, Dept 4620
Fargo, ND 58108

Credit transfer decisions are based on the information contained in your host university transcript. Remember that you must abide by host institution requirements if you add, drop, or withdraw from classes. If you make any special arrangements to deviate from normal academic procedures at your host institution, be sure to get the conditions of your agreement in writing. Also be sure to keep copies of course descriptions, syllabi, assignments, and any other records you feel may be important for the proper evaluation of your courses which have not received prior approval on your Course Plan.

Transfer for Courses Not Pre-Approved

By default, courses listed on your transcript from abroad will return to NDSU as general education. If you did not pre-arrange for courses to be approved towards your major, minor or general education requirements using a Course Plan, you can still request to have them approved upon return. The process depends on what you want to use your classes abroad to replace.
  • Courses for your major or minor: Work with your advisor to complete a Substitute/Waive a Course form.
  • Courses for general education requirements: Complete the Appeal General Education Requirements form. As part of this process, you must provide an explanation as to how the proposed course "satisfies" the general education category description. It is very important that you show understanding as to why this course satisfies the requirement.
Both of these forms are available on Bison Connection at

Frequently Asked Questions 

Some questions in the FAQ below only apply to certain program types, which have been labeled as Exchange, Direct, Faculty-led or Affiliate. If you have any questions about whether an answer applies to your program, please contact your Study Abroad Advisor.

Q: Will study abroad affect my GPA?
 E  D  A : No, study abroad credits are considered transfer credits and do not affect your cumulative GPA. However, transfer credits can affect your honors standing, so please see the NDSU Undergraduate Catalog for more information on transfer credit policies.
 F : Yes, because faculty-led programs are NDSU courses, they are usually graded on a letter basis and would affect your cumulative GPA.

Q: Am I required to earn certain grades while abroad?
 E  D  A : If you plan to have classes abroad substituted for classes at NDSU, it is important to meet with the chair of your department prior to leaving to determine the department's policies. Even though study abroad courses will not affect your cumulative GPA, some departments will require students to earn a minimum grade for classes that count towards their degree. Be aware that your overseas transcript will record the classes you took and your grades will follow the foreign university's grading system.

Q: What happens if I fail a class?
 E  D  A : Some schools may record failed classes on their transcript, but the credits will not transfer back to NDSU. Failing or dropping a class will lessen the amount of credits that will transfer back and may affect your student status (here and abroad) and likewise your financial aid eligibility at NDSU. If you are considering dropping a course while abroad for any reason, please fist consult with your host school, your academic advisor and department, and your study abroad advisor. If you fail the majority of your classes abroad, it is possible to receive an F for your study abroad experience.
 F : Failing a study abroad course is rare, but would be similar to failing any other course through NDSU. It would be difficult or impossible to retake a study abroad course though, so if you are concerned about how you are doing in the course, please be sure to talk with your faculty leader right away to address any difficulties.

Q: Can I retake a class I failed at NDSU while abroad?
 E  D  A : No, the course would not return to NDSU.  Study abroad is considered transfer credit and according to transfer and repeated courses policy students who wish to repeat a course for grade improvement are required to repeat that class at NDSU where the attempted credit and honor points can factor into the cumulative GPA.  In addition, as part of the repeated courses policy it mentions duplication of credit;  students who attempt to repeat classes elsewhere are not eligible for this credit as it is considered "duplicate credit" at NDSU.
 F : It may be difficult or impossible to retake a study abroad course due to available, costs, and program policies. If you are concerned about how you are doing in the course, please be sure to talk with your faculty leader right away to address any difficulties.

Q: How long will it take to get my transcripts?
 E  D  A : The normal time frame is 2-3 months, but this may vary from school to school. Your NDSU transcript will show an "I" (incomplete) for the semester(s) you were abroad until the transcript from the host school is received. When transfer credit is granted, the "I" will convert to a "P" (pass) unless you failed the majority of courses, in which case you may receive an F. Please note: any incompletes must be off your record in order to graduate.
 F : Grades are posted during standard times for term grades in most cases. When travel dates overlap the end of the term, such as with a spring semester course that leaves at the end of the semester, an I may be issued until the grade can be submitted after return.

Q: What will my NDSU transcript look like when I graduate?
 E  D  A : It will show that you were registered at NDSU for study abroad and that you earned transfer credit from your host institution. On your NDSU transcript, only the name of your host school and the number of credits that transferred back will appear on the transcript. Although the details of your classes and grades abroad are not shown, that information is available on your host school transcript if needed for graduate school or other reasons. Click here to see an example transcript.
 F : Faculty-led courses are NDSU courses and so will be listed on your transcript the same way as other NDSU courses.

Q: Can I take my final credits while abroad? 
 E  D  A : Due to the 3-4 month timeframe for your transcript from abroad to arrive and be processed by Registration and Records, taking your final credits abroad may delay your graduation date. If you want to graduate while abroad, please contact Registration and Records and discuss your plans.
 F : Faculty-led courses are NDSU courses that usually post grades during the standard times for the term, however sometimes the travel dates extend past the normal end of the semester. If you are planning to do this, please contact your faculty-leader to discuss when your grade will be posted to be sure it will not delay your graduation date. If you have any questions on deadlines for grade posting and your graduation date, contact Registration and Records for assistance.