Preliminary Application for Off-Campus Study


  • This is an online application by which you begin the process of gaining approval for your off-campus study plans.
  • You should begin by scheduling a meeting with your Advisor(s) in your major(s)
  • If you have not yet declared a major, we advise doing so
    Read your OCS Handbook (in your campus mailbox) or review Getting Started before beginning your application.
  • You do not have to pick a specific program/university by November 15 but you should indicate some preliminary ideas about where you would like to study and discuss these with your major advisor/s (who must approve your preliminary application form). You may indicate several options on your form; if you do so, please list them in order of preference to the extent possible.
  • You must indicate your preferred semester of off-campus study and provide an academic justification.
  • The application must be approved by your advisor(s). You are responsible for ensuring that the form reaches our office before the deadline of November 15; we recommend submitting it to your advisor no later than November 10. You can check the status of your preliminary application in your MyColby portal page so that you will know when it has been submitted.
  • An appointment with OCS before November 15 is not required and in most cases not necessary, but you must ensure that your preliminary application has been submitted to our office by that date. Call (207) 859-4500 to schedule an appointment, if needed.

Follow the link in MyColby to access the online application. When you are done, submit it to your advisor(s). If you are a double major, both advisors will receive a copy and must approve it before your application is complete. Your advisor may return it to you for changes before indicating his or her approval. If your advisor approves your preliminary application, he or she will submit the form electronically to the OCS office.


You should expect to study off-campus for one semester. With only a few exceptions, you are limited to one semester of off-campus study and we cannot always guarantee which one due to the need to balance enrollment over the two semesters. If you plan to study abroad for one semester, we encourage you to consider the fall semester. Many study abroad programs have fewer students in the fall. Fewer students means less competition.  Another thing to consider is that going abroad in the fall means you can be back on campus in the spring which is the prime season to interview for summer internships.

With the exception of language and area studies majors (studying in the target language both semesters), participants on the Dartmouth engineering exchange, students who enroll in the fall Colby at Bigelow program, and students who participated in a program abroad during their first semester, all others are required to petition the Advisory Committee on Off-Campus Study.  When you request to study off-campus for a full year that is considered above and beyond the norm and there are a limited number of slots available for full year off-campus study. We do the best we can to accommodate student wishes.

All other non-exempt student who wishes to study abroad for a year in the same place or two different places must submit a petition to the Advisory Committee on Off-Campus Study by March 1. You must show compelling academic reasons to be allowed to study away for more than a semester, and you must have the solid support of your major advisor/s. You will be contacted by OCS for an appointment if you indicate on your preliminary form that you hope to study abroad for two semesters.

It will not be possible to extend your stay once you are already abroad as a junior; the request for more than one semester off-campus must be made as part of the sophomore-year application process.


While language and area studies majors (studying in the target language both semesters), participants on the Dartmouth engineering exchange, students who enroll in the fall Colby at Bigelow program, and students who participated in a program abroad during their first semester are automatically granted a full year abroad, all others must petition the Advisory Committee on Off-Campus Study by March 1. Language studies majors are encouraged to study in the target area for a full year to maximize their language fluency.

For the Dartmouth program, the policy will be that if you apply to Dartmouth, you will be placed on leave for the fall and spring of your junior year regardless of whatever sequence Dartmouth offers and you will not be permitted to return to Colby for the fall.

Students who are abroad for a full year, are exempt from JanPlan for that year (and may not return to Colby for JanPlan that year).  


When you submit your preliminary application for study abroad in November, You will be asked to specify your choice of semester for off-campus study and to justify that choice on specific academic grounds. Semester choice is NOT guaranteed. Due to the College’s need to balance enrollment across the fall and spring semesters, students may not be able to study off campus in the semester of their choice. By vote of the faculty, academic reasons for needing to study away during a specific semester take precedence over extracurricular and athletic participation.

Thus, you should make your choice of semester carefully in consultation with your major advisor(s), and remain open to options in both fall and spring.  Academic reasons for choosing a particular semester may include: a program that is particularly appropriate for you and only runs in a particular semester; courses for your major that you must take on campus in a particular semester (you must specify them); an off-campus program focus that is different in different semesters; specific courses toward your major that you intend to take off-campus; language preparation for a particular program that would require an extra semester at Colby prior to departure. Your application must be specific about courses and programs if you cite any of these reasons. Your overall reasons for going off-campus and the appropriateness of the program to your academic goals are also part of the decision.

Keep in mind that some programs are not in session both semesters. In addition, as the fall term in the UK system is not long enough to warrant a semester of credit at Colby, attendance at many universities in England, Scotland or Ireland for the fall term is generally not allowed. Exceptions are programs with "Early Start" terms in September (University College Cork, Trinity College,) or institutions on the semester system, where you must then stay through January to complete exams. Some UK programs run by U.S providers may also be options because they run on a U.S. calendar.

You will be notified in late December by the OCS office if your choice of semester is approved. You may then make plans for the alternate semester, or request to be placed on the wait list in anticipation that a spot will open up.


An enrollment imbalance is created when too many students choose to go abroad during one of the semesters (usually spring) and some students, whose academic justification is not compelling enough, are not approved for their first choice but are approved to study off-campus in the fall semester. These students are then asked if they accept to go in fall or wish to be placed on a waitlist for a spring slot. They will remain approved for the fall until a spring slot is opened and they are removed from the waitlist.  In most cases in past years, the wait list usually clears in time for students to go off-campus on the program and semester of their choice but we cannot guarantee this.

At a small college such as Colby, the process of preserving the balance of students on campus throughout the year is a challenging one. Such imbalances affect all aspects of the college from housing, to faculty, staffing and finances and they create inefficiencies and waste resources. Colby has been very careful to balance these concerns and this is certainly part of Colby's careful financial strategies. In such situations, OCS looks carefully at students' plans and academic justifications for their choice of semester to study abroad, weighing them compared to those of other students.  

The best way to guarantee that you will be able to study off-campus is to make plans for the alternate semester and then you may usually defer your program admittance to the spring if your clear the waitlist and if that is your preference. If you truly cannot go in the alternate semester, we generally advise waitlisted students to proceed with your plans in the hope that you clear the waitlist. In most cases in past years, the wait list usually clears in time for students to go off-campus on the program and semester of their choice but we cannot guarantee when or if you will be cleared.


If you find after the November 15 application deadline that you would like to change your semester, you will be allowed to do so on a space-available basis only, and in consultation with OCS. You must make a formal request in writing to switch semesters or be placed on the waiting list for the semester of your choice.  You may NOT simply submit an application on March 1 or 15 with a different semester indicated.  Once you have requested a switch you will not be allowed to switch again.