Important Academic Policies

It is your responsibility to be familiar with and comply with these important academic policies concerning off-campus study.

To apply for Off-Campus Study in either the fall or spring of the following year, you must have a cumulative G.P.A. of at least 2.7 by the end of January of the year in which you are applying. You must maintain this minimum cumulative G.P.A.prior to departure or your approval will be withdrawn.

If your G.P.A. is lower than 2.7 (but no lower than 2.5), you may be permitted to petition the Advisory Committee on Off-Campus Study, if you can show compelling academic reasons to study abroad, and meet a variety of other conditions. You will need to consult with an OCS staff member to determine if you are eligible to petition. Students with a G.P.A. below 2.5 after Jan Plan will generally not be considered eligible to petition. Please note that a  2.7 does not guarantee your admission to any program; most programs have requirements higher than 2.7.

You must be in good academic and social standing to be approved for off-campus study at Colby. This means that you may not be on academic probation.

If you are on disciplinary probation please discuss this with OCS.

Please be aware that most off-campus study programs require a “home school nomination” or “study abroad advisor approval” form as part of their application on which they ask about any disciplinary or academic probation in the student’s history, among other things. You are required to bring this form to OCS and we will complete it truthfully. You or your Advising Dean may be asked to provide additional information. In most cases, any past infractions or probation do not impede admission to the program as long as you show a good record since and the College approves your application.

With the exception of Colby’s language-acquisition programs in Salamanca and Dijon, which are open to sophomores, you must have junior standing when you study abroad. If you wish to study off-campus during your sophomore or senior year, you must contact the office of Off-Campus Study. Colby requires seniors to spend their last semester on the Waterville campus.

a) Language preparation:

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).

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. Certain majors are also granted modifications/exemptions as listed in the department’s policies section of the handbook. For some departmentally-recommended programs, other standards may apply; see the statement of your major department in section II of this handbook. If there is no statement about language in your department’s section, you should expect to complete the three semesters before going abroad.

Students are urged not to put off their language requirement beyond their sophomore year. Last-minute attempts to fulfill the requirement through a semester of study abroad almost always run into roadblocks such insufficient G.P.A., senior residency requirement or major requirements.

b) Language study while 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. Yes, that does include Danish or Czech! In some programs such as DIS (Denmark), the Danish language course is taken 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 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 in English and the local language. 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.

For study in Israel, Colby requires all students studying at a university in Israel to enroll in Ulpan and in an appropriate Hebrew language course during the semester which follows. (Most Israeli universities require Ulpan and it allows the semester to be long enough to meet Colby’s requirement for credit). Colby will normally award 2 credits for Ulpan and no more than 6 credits total for the study of Hebrew during Ulpan and the semester.

c) Language modification:

Students who have received special accommodation for language study at Colby College should speak directly with the Office of Off-Campus Study so we may assist you in choosing a suitable program. If you feel you cannot handle the study of a foreign language, you should consider going to an English-speaking country.

Aside from a language modification or certain departmental exceptions, there will be no exceptions to Colby’s language policy.

a) On a Colby program: 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 G.P.A. 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.

b) On a Non-Colby program: 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 G.P.A. 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 G.P.A. for the purpose of employment or graduate school. The policy to grant credit, but not factor grades into the G.P.A. 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 G.P.A., but not those of other institutions and providers, is quite standard at institutions like Colby.

Note: 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.

You MAY NOT take a course on a pass/fail basis. All courses on non-Colby programs MUST be taken for a letter grade.

You may transfer a maximum of 20 credits for a semester and 32 for a full year back to Colby.

  • On a Colby program abroad you will normally receive, upon successful completion of the course of study, 16 Colby credits per semester.
  • On a Non-Colby off-campus program, you will normally receive 15-16 credits per semester for successfully completing the entire program. You may be granted more than 16 credits for work that exceeds the normal course load of the program, upon petition to the Registrar. Students attending programs not sponsored by US institutions should be sure that credit transfer has been approved by the Off-Campus Study Office.
  • Credit for courses in subjects not taught at Colby: No credit will be given for physical education. In the case of disciplines such as agriculture, archeology, architecture, business, engineering, law, or veterinary studies for example, you may be asked to seek approval from the most related department at Colby. Please ask OCS for advice on approving these courses in advance.

You are required to register and complete a full course-load which must be at least the equivalent of 15-16 Colby credits for the semester. The number of classes you take will vary depending on the program and the credit value of the courses. See the OCS Course Load Requirements.  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 on the OCS website.

Remember that if you are studying in a non-English speaking country, you must take at least one class in the local language.

Course selection should generally be made on consultation with your Colby academic advisor prior to departure. You will be asked to list your course selections on your Colby and program applications. In many cases, however, these may change upon arrival in country. You should always let your academic advisor know and also notify OCS ( of any curricular changes. If you have not taken the courses you listed on your application, and have not obtained permission to change your courses, you may not receive complete credit for your semester or year abroad. You should notify your academic advisor of changes at the beginning of your off-campus program in order to resolve any issues that may prevent transfer of credit. If there are discrepancies, your off-campus credits may not appear on your transcript when you return, delaying your ability to use them in applications for graduate school or other purposes.

Please be aware that Colby may not approve full credit for certain courses taken abroad that do not meet Colby’s standards of academic rigor, even when these courses are marketed to you during your program orientation. For example, Sports & Learning in Australian Culture at the University of Sydney may only receive 2 credits. When in doubt, please consult with your academic advisor by email and include a full course syllabus to allow us to determine the course content.

Please note that not all of the courses on an approved program will automatically be approved individually and for all students.

  • You must take the equivalent of a full course load (15-16 U.S. credits). Check the OCS Course Load Requirements.
  • No classes may be taken pass/fail
  • 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 and other subjects not taught at Colby
  • You will receive credit only for those courses for which you receive a grade on your transcript (including internships, independent study, and research)
  • In a non-English speaking country, you must take at least one course each semester in the language of the country in which you are studying. This course may be either an academic subject course taught in the language of the country or an appropriate language/grammar course.

Courses for general credit should be approved by OCS and courses towards major/minor/distribution requirements need to be approved by the relevant department.

Transcripts for off-campus programs are reviewed by the Off-Campus Study Office before credits are posted by the registrar.

General Credit: On all non-Colby programs, the OCS Office grants approval of courses completed for general Colby credit. If you change courses after arrival at your off-campus study destination you must inform OCS by email ( for confirmation of approval. Unless specified, courses will be applied as general credit.

Major, Minor, Distribution or Diversity Credit: Must be approved in writing by the ap­propriate academic de­part­ment & must be shared/forwarded to OCS. (See Course approval instructions & contact)

See Department Policies or refer to the OCS Course Approval Form for M/M/Distribution credit.

If your courses change after arrival on site please notify OCS. Failure to do so may result in no credit given.

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.

Some programs which are in session for most of January (fall or spring) and whose total duration is at least eighteen weeks are exempt from the January program requirement for that year and will receive Jan Plan credit. Holidays and vacation periods are deducted from the 18 weeks. Students studying off-campus for a full year, are also exempt from Jan Plan for that year (and may not return to Colby for Jan Plan 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). Please refer to the list of programs qualifying for Jan Plan Exemptions.

(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).

Note: Jan Plan credit will not appear on your Colby record until you complete the program and your transcript is received.

If you will be abroad during Jan Plan, select “no Jan Plan” when registering for Jan Plan.

International internship programs are encouraged, but must meet OCS requirements and conform to OCS and Colby policies. 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 in order to receive Colby credit. 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 to assure that it will meet these requirements and that you will receive credit.

Other international internships not for credit may be arranged through the Career Center.