Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are the most common questions we’ve heard over the years about studying abroad during the academic year and are likely some of the questions going through you mind.
Choosing a Study Abroad Program, Location & Term
There are so many study abroad offerings available to me. How do I choose the right program?
- Ask yourself the right questions to enable you to define the type of program that best meets your needs and goals.
- Get some advice from your department.
- Attend study abroad events to learn about specific programs.
- Meet with a study abroad adviser who can help clarify your options.
- Get advice from Princeton students who have studied abroad before. You can also read comprehensive evaluations from student returnees, which include their feedback on courses, housing, and money matters among many other topics. Stop by the Office of International Programs to read these helpful evaluations.
When is the best time to study abroad?
Students in both the A.B. and the B.S.E. programs may participate in the Study Abroad Program in the spring of the sophomore year, during one or both semesters of the junior year, or in the fall of the senior year. It may also be possible to study abroad in the fall of sophomore year. Students who are interested in doing so should discuss their plans with a study abroad adviser and submit a petition and a letter of support from a faculty member. Your department and the Study Abroad Program can work with you to determine the most appropriate timing. For students who are not eligible to study abroad during the academic year or who have serious conflicts during term time, summer study is always a possibility.
What advantages are there to studying abroad as early as possible, i.e. in the sophomore year?
The earliest most students can study abroad is spring of sophomore year, although students can petition to go in the fall as well. Students interested in this option should discuss their plans with a study abroad adviser and submit a petition with a letter of support from a faculty member. Click here for the views of some students who studied abroad as sophomores.
Eligibility to Study Abroad
What is the GPA requirement for studying abroad?
All students must have at least a B average for the fall and spring semesters of the academic year preceding the semester abroad. Some programs may have higher GPA requirements (e.g. University of Oxford, Worcester College requires a 3.5 or better). If you are concerned about your eligibility to study abroad, please talk with a study abroad adviser in the Office of International Programs.
I won’t have a B average for the academic year before I’d like to go abroad. Is there anything I can do?
It may be a good idea to stay at Princeton, utilize the academic resources here, work hard to bring up your GPA then apply to study abroad for a later term. If you are concerned about your eligibility to study abroad, please talk with a study abroad adviser in the Office of International Programs.
Must I be fully fluent in the language of the host country?
During a semester or year of study abroad, the minimum prerequisite for study in a country where courses are taken in the local language is completion of a Princeton language course at the 107/108 level, but it is highly recommended -- and in some programs required -- that students take at least one 200- or 300-level course before they go abroad. Princeton’s ideal is full immersion in the language of the country, both in terms of the language of instruction and in daily life, so the stronger the language skills, the better.
In certain cases, students may take some coursework in English while continuing to study a language abroad. Certain languages require a longer time to achieve fluency (e.g. Near Eastern and Asian languages). In these cases, not all students will be ready to follow discipline-based courses in the target language and therefore can take them in English while continuing language study. However, it is important to note that completion of the Princeton language course through the 107/108 level is still required.
There are also approved programs that offer a special academic opportunity abroad (e.g., options in engineering, field trips to study art and archaeology, biological field research, etc..), where courses are offered in English in a non-English-speaking country or where the local language is not taught at Princeton.
Could a prior Dean’s Warning or period of disciplinary probation make me ineligible to study abroad?
A prior disciplinary record does not preclude approval to study abroad, but the Office of International Programs will review students’ disciplinary records with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students to determine if the record warrants withholding approval.
Applying to Study Abroad
When should I start the study abroad application process?
You should have a good sense of which program(s) you want to apply for about six months before the applications are due. Generally speaking:
- Study abroad during fall or full year: program applications due February-May; Princeton forms due April 29
- Study abroad during spring: program applications due August-November; Princeton forms due November 1
- Some programs (e.g. Oxford) have much earlier deadlines, some a full year in advance. Check individual program’s webpages for specific deadlines.
What do study abroad applications usually require?
Requirements vary by program, but programs/universities usually ask for the following: personal and academic information, essay, letter(s) of recommendation, language evaluation, resume, official transcript, passport photos, study abroad approval forms (to be completed by the Office of International Programs).
Where do I submit my study abroad application?
The Office of International Programs collects applications for some programs, then sends them to the universities abroad. For most programs, you are responsible for sending your application materials in yourself or completing the application online. Visit your program’s webpage to learn about specific application procedures.
Credit & Grades
What type of credit can I receive from study abroad courses?
You can earn credit to fulfill departmental, distribution, or certificate requirements. You can also earn elective credit abroad which counts toward the total number of courses needed to graduate from For more information, see Academic Policies.
You may use this form to see how many credits you can earn in a particular program. Please see your adviser if you have questions.
Each department has its own rules regarding the number of departmental courses that can be taken while on study abroad. Usually departments allow two courses per semester and three or four per year to count toward departmental requirements. For more information, see Study Abroad Advice by Department
You may use two courses taken abroad to fulfill any two distribution area requirements; they are normally in in two different areas.
How do study abroad grades transfer to my Princeton record? Are they factored into my GPA?
If your courses are preapproved and you earn a C or above in your courses abroad, the name of your program and the credit will appear on your Princeton record. Study abroad grades will only appear on your study abroad transcript and not on your Princeton record. There are some exceptions though, where certain programs offer actual Princeton courses (e.g. Princeton in London Junior Seminar, Woodrow Wilson Policy Task Force), which will award letter grades and appear on your Princeton transcript. Also, if you do your junior independent work abroad, you’ll receive a letter grade.
Can I take courses pass/fail abroad?
Credit is not given for courses taken on a pass/fail basis. You may enroll in a course pass/fail if it is taken on top of a normal course load.
Making Study Abroad Work with Princeton’s Academic Requirements
Does Princeton's Junior Independent Work make it difficult to study abroad?
Juniors who study abroad are required to complete junior independent work and send their papers to Princeton (usually postmarked or sent electronically by the JP due date). There are many good reasons to pursue independent work abroad; and students on study abroad have found, not infrequently, that writing their JPs while abroad has been more rewarding than writing them on campus.
Doing independent work abroad may be complicated for juniors who have not thought carefully about the interrelation of study abroad and departmental work. Even if your independent work requires labs and other facilities only found at Princeton, you do not need to forgo study abroad. You may (1) participate in study abroad as a spring-term sophomore or (2) become an early concentrator in your department and complete one semester of your independent work prior to the start of your junior year. You should consult with the departmental representative about becoming an early concentrator.
Some study abroad sites have the option of an on-site independent work adviser, i.e., a faculty member abroad who is appointed to the Princeton faculty and who is responsible for advising and assessing the junior independent work of Princeton students.
If I study abroad, will I be shut out of courses for the next term?
Students abroad register for courses online at the same time as their classmates on campus. If you have trouble accessing the Web from abroad, the deputy registrar will assist you in signing up for courses. You may apply for courses open "by application only" by sending in the application or essay by fax or e-mail. If an interview is required, you should simply alert the instructor that you are abroad and make your case in writing for entering the course.
Making Study Abroad Work with Princeton’s Social Scene & Extracurricular Commitments
I want to study abroad in the spring but I’m worried I’ll miss out on getting a good summer internship. What should I do?
Being away from campus in the spring does not preclude you from getting a good position, but you will have to plan in advance and be proactive.
First, you might consider extending your study abroad into a work experience abroad. Check out the International Internship Program (IIP) for lists of opportunities. Most international organizations have their own application procedures and deadlines, but IIP also has many placements especially for Princeton students.
If you know you’d like to return to the U.S. for a summer internship, you should start looking for internships in the fall. Attend the fall Career Fairs and meet employers who have internships available. Start searching HireTigers, Career Services’ internship database, for opportunities. Reach out to alumni, family, and friends before you leave to see what assistance they can offer. Get leads in advance of your departure. Remember that when you are abroad you have access to the same online resources as you do here at Princeton (provided you have internet access!). Many employers hire interns based on resumes or Skype/phone interviews only, without interviewing applicants in person. Being flexible, honest, and proactive with employers will improve your chances.
Although most employers do not come to campus to conduct interviews for internships, those that do (finance, consulting, or technology industries) typically interview juniors. These employers have information sessions in November and conduct interviews in February. If you will be abroad in the spring, you should contact these employers in the fall to find out about their policies. Some may interview study abroad candidates early. Some may have branch offices in the country you’re studying in where you could interview. Again, start early, ask questions, and be flexible!
May I apply to the Residential College Adviser (RCA) program if I am studying abroad during the spring?
Applications for RCA positions are available before the end of fall semester. Students who have participated in foreign study have been successful applicants. Because study abroad affords students a chance to gain a new perspective on their own culture and on their personal goals and values, former study abroad participants have gone on to be very effective contributors to the RCA program.
If I study abroad in the spring will I still be able to live with my friends the following year?
Yes! Students on study abroad for the full year or spring term can designate one of their friends to choose a room for them (See Room Draw website), or they can authorize the Housing Office to select a room with their guidance. If you study abroad for the fall term, the Housing Office will try its best to accommodate your housing preferences, but it is not always possible to find the kind of space you might want in the middle of the year. (If you study abroad in the fall, you can switch places with a friend in a double or suite who is planning to spend spring term away. The other occupants in the room or suite must agree to the arrangement, and you must inform the Housing Office of the arrangement prior to Spring Move-In.)
Does going abroad conflict with the bicker process?
One participant who studied abroad in sophomore spring bickered Tower Club in the fall when she was back, another signed into Colonial Club before leaving, still another had her friends sign her in. Students agree that you can stay connected to the eating clubs through your friends, and join later if you want. A number of students noted that studying abroad had broadened their horizons so much that the Street seemed a lot less central than before.
Does going abroad make it difficult to keep up your Princeton friendships?
Study abroad returnees felt that you can remain connected to Princeton friends even while abroad, and that in fact, having new experiences while abroad strengthened friendships at home. After studying abroad, you will still have your Princeton friendships as well as the new relationships you formed while you were away, which only expands your social network!
Does going abroad conflict with leadership opportunities?
As one participant put it, going abroad does not mean that you disappear from the face of the earth. It is often still possible to stay connected to organizations and to contribute remotely. Usually you can plug right back in and take on--or resume--leadership roles.
Also, many students find new ways to demonstrate their leadership skills while studying abroad. Successful leadership in the 21st century calls for a global outlook and an appreciation for other cultures as well as a practical ability to function cross-culturally. Spending time abroad can contribute greatly to building all these competencies.