Academic FAQs

What is Colby's policy on transfer of credit from abroad?

Colby’s Office of Off-Campus Study (OCS) approves all study undertaken abroad and in certain approved domestic programs during the fall and/or spring semesters. Credit cannot be transferred to Colby and financial aid is not applicable without OCS approval. Approval for off-campus study (domestic or foreign) during Jan Plan and the summer, or for study at most domestic institutions during a semester on leave, is obtained by filing an “Application for Transfer of Credit” with the Registrar’s Office.

To be approved for off-campus study through the OCS application process, students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.7 and be in good academic and social standing. They may not be on academic probation. The institution from which credits are to be transferred must also meet certain guidelines; these include, but are not limited to:

  • The program or university must provide an academic program which is consistent in quality and quantity of work required at Colby.
  • With the exception of a foreign accredited university, the program must be sponsored by an accredited US college or university whose academic standards are high.
  • For all programs in non-English speaking countries, students must study the language of the host country for the duration of their program.
  • The program or university must provide a cultural experience substantially different from that of a typical U.S. campus experience.
  • The program must have a duration of at least fourteen weeks of class time (including exam time but not including vacations and excursions), to match the length of a semester at Colby.
  • The program must be situated in one host country (with the exception of certain specific approved programs). Touring or shipboard programs are not acceptable.


How will my credits transfer back to Colby?

If your plans are approved by OCS you will receive a full courseload of 15-16 credits per semester. Upon completion of your program a transcript will be sent to Colby and credits, courses and grades will be posted on your Colby record.

  • No classes may be taken pass/fail unless that is the only way a course is taught
  • No credit will be given for audited courses.
  • You will not receive credit for a class you have already taken at Colby
  • No credit will be given for physical education
  • You will receive credit only for those courses for which you receive a grade on your transcript (including internships, independent study, and research)
  • You WILL NOT receive credit for any course in which a grade of less than C- was received, and the grade WILL APPEAR on your Colby transcript.
  • Unless otherwise requested and approved to count towards major or minor or a distribution requirement, all credits will count as general credit.
Can I earn credit towards my major, minor, distribution or diversity requirements off-campus?

Yes. Approval of courses toward the major, minor, distribution or diversity credit is decided by academic departments. For course credit to count toward your major or minor or a college requirement, these courses must be approved in writing by the appropriate academic department according to its policies.

May I take a course Pass/Fail?

You MAY NOT take a course on a pass/fail basis unless this is the only grading option available for that particular course. 

How many credits do I have to take?

You are required to register and complete the equivalent of a full course-load which must be at least the equivalent of 15-16 Colby credits for the semester (you may transfer up to 20 credits back to Colby).  In some cases, the course load required by Colby may be higher than that recommended by your program provider. Information on credit equivalencies and minimum/maximum course loads is available from the program or university you are attending or from the OCS course load requirements table.

If studying in a non-English speaking country, you must also take at least one course each semester in the language of the country in which you are studying. This course may be either an appropriate language/grammar course or an academic subject course taught in the language of the country.

If my program courses are worth 3 credits each, will I receive 4 credits for each course at Colby?

No. In most cases, programs that award 3 credits per course will define the normal full-time course load as 5 courses (15 credits) per semester based on contact hours and work-load per course.  On the DIS program in Denmark, for example, courses are 3 credits each and you are required to enroll in 5 courses during the semester.

Do courses taken off-campus count toward my GPA?

Grades received and courses taken abroad on a Colby program (Colby in Salamanca, Dijon, St Petersburg, or Bigelow Laboratory) will appear on your transcript and will count in your Colby GPA. This includes passing and non-passing grades. You may elect to take a course satisfactory/unsatisfactory prior to a specific deadline, which will be announced once you arrive on-site. Resident directors of Colby programs submit the grades for students in their program directly to the registrar at Colby.

Grades earned and courses taken abroad on a Non-Colby program are posted on your transcript by the registrar but do not figure in your Colby GPA. These grades do appear on your Colby transcript, and it is quite legitimate for you to count them when you are asked to compute your own GPA for the purpose of employment or graduate school.  The policy to grant credit, but not factor grades into the GPA for non-Colby programs stems from the inherent impossibility of controlling the curricula of all the programs that we approve for credit transfer.  On a Colby program, we exercise control over the curriculum, the faculty and staff, the content of the courses, and the grading practices.  The policy to factor grades earned on one's own program into the GPA, but not those of other institutions and providers, is quite standard at institutions like Colby.

What is the minimum grade I must receive in order to receive credit?

You WILL NOT receive credit for any course in which a grade of less than C- was received, and the grade WILL APPEAR on your Colby transcript.

Do I need to know another language before I go?

Colby believes that foreign languages are the key to understanding foreign cultures and that the most rewarding experience abroad includes living in and speaking a language other than English. To study abroad in regions where the spoken language is taught at Colby, students are expected to have completed the equivalent of three semesters (through 127) of the given language (Spanish, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Russian) prior to study abroad. (For study in Portuguese-speaking countries (Portugal or Brazil), Colby requires the equivalent of 3 semesters of college level study of Spanish or another romance language).

Keep in mind that some majors and some programs may have a higher requirement than Colby’s.

Exceptions to this rule are the Colby in Salamanca and Colby in Dijon language semesters, which accept students who have had only one semester of language at the college level or three years at the high school level, and any exemptions specific to majors and programs that are listed in the Academic Department Policies and Recommendations section. 

Students are urged not to put off their Colby language requirement beyond their sophomore year.

In addition there are many universities and programs in English-speaking countries such as Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Do I have to study the local language while I am abroad?

Students studying on programs in countries where the host language is not English are required to study the local language for the duration of the program. This includes both languages taught at Colby College and languages that are not included in the Colby curriculum. In some programs such as DIS (Denmark), the Danish language course will be in addition to 4 other courses for a total of 5 courses.

In some programs in countries/regions where the language is taught at Colby (Spanish, French, German, Italian) some or all of your classes may be taught in that language. In other programs, you may have a choice of a mix of classes. You are encouraged to take as many classes in the local language as possible in order to maximize your language practice. You should also be aware of your major department’s requirements.

Can I take classes in English if I study in country where the local language is not English?

Yes, There are many quality program opportunities where the language of instruction is English even if English is not the official state language. For example, the approved programs list includes programs taught in English in the Czech Republic, Denmark, The Netherlands, and many others European, African or Asian countries. You must, however, take at least one course in the local language for the duration of the semester.

Can I do an Internship for credit?

International internship programs are encouraged, but must meet Off-Campus Study requirements and conform to Off-Campus Study and Colby College policies in order to earn academic credit. In addition to general policies, internship programs must include a non-paid internship with considerable academic work done in tandem and not to exceed 4 credit hours.  The internship should be done as part of a study abroad program that is predominantly credited in terms of the courses taken.  Typical models consist of 16 credits with the internship counting for 4 credits and three other courses counting for 4 credits each).  

Please consult with OCS if you are interested in choosing an internship program abroad to assure that it will meet these requirements and that you will receive credit.
For other types of international or domestic internships for transcript notation or JanPlan credit please see Career Services.

Can I do an independent study while studying off-campus?

In some cases, an independent study project (ISP) may be approved as long as you are working in conjunction with a Colby faculty member. If you participate in an SIT program where an ISP is required, you must bring your ISP project and any work back to campus to be reviewed by a Colby faculty member upon return. Before you go, you should identify a Colby faculty member who is willing to read and evaluate your project. Select someone familiar with your expected topic and discuss it with them.

Credit will only be transferred after this faculty member has reviewed your independent study and approved it for credit transfer. Failure of the work to meet Colby's standards may jeopardize the transfer of credit. If, upon return, your ISP topic has changed considerably, or the selected faculty is no longer able to read it, you must find another Colby faculty member who is willing to do so. If the ISP is written in a language not understood by your reader, it is your responsibility to translate it into English or identify another faculty member to read it.

How do I register for classes abroad?

Once you are admitted to an off-campus program or foreign university abroad you will be given the opportunity to select courses. In some cases you may not know for certain what courses you will take until you arrive and register. In other cases, your program may have a fixed curriculum for the semester.

Must I take my exams before I leave the country?

Yes, you are expected to attend classes regularly and to comply with all the requirements of your program. If you are studying at a foreign university or institution, you are required to take the regular final examinations for all courses in which you are enrolled, or to have an alternative assessment of your work if you are not allowed to take the final examinations. If you do not take a final examination in a course for which an exam is given, you will receive no Colby credit for the course.  If you leave your program early or for extended periods of travel while classes are in session, the amount of credit you receive will be reduced.  In extreme cases, you will receive no Colby credit for your period abroad. Please note that no course abroad may be taken pass/fail and receive Colby credit.

At the London School of Economics this always means exams in all courses and half-courses in which the student is enrolled. At other UK universities it means Degree exams except in the following situations:

  • When graduating students do not sit an exam.
  • When a student’s work is of high enough quality during the term to be excused from the exam using the same standards applied to the UK students receiving exemption from a degree exam in classes where such an exemption is possible.
  • When a student joins a year-long course part way through the course. This situation would apply most frequently to spring semester students.
  • When the degree exam covers materials not covered by the class taken by the student.

NOTE: Please take these exam policies into account as you plan your stay abroad. Those students attending approved fall semester programs which continue into January should expect to stay into January to complete their courses and exams, unless there is an early start program in September.

Can I receive JanPlan credit if I am studying away during JanPlan?

Colby students on some programs which are in session for most of January and whose total duration is at least eighteen weeks are exempt from the January program requirement for that year. Holidays and vacation periods are deducted from the 18 weeks.  Students who are abroad for a full year, are also exempt from JanPlan for that year (and may not return to Colby for JanPlan that year). Each student who is in residence for seven or more semesters must complete three January programs but must complete two if in residence for six semesters or fewer.

JanPlan credit will not appear on your Colby record until you complete the program and your transcript is received.
When registering for JanPlan that year, select “no JanPlan”.

Please refer to the list of programs qualifying for JanPlan exemptions.

Note: If you believe that your program qualifies for the Jan Plan exemption and is not listed, contact Off-Campus Study and submit a program calendar for your semester to the Off-Campus Study Office for review.