Harvard views study abroad as an invaluable part of every student's undergraduate education through encouraging students to explore the possibilities of earning degree credit by studying in another country. Details about academic year, term-time, and summer study abroad may be found on the Office of International Education (OIE) website.
From a full year, term, or even just a summer abroad, there are many ways to experience international study. Over half of Harvard College students participate in an international experience during their time as an undergraduate. The Office of International Education advises Harvard College students on all aspects related to study abroad, from preparation prior to departure and on-the-ground resources, to funding support and academic advising. The OIE works closely with each student to find a program that best matches individual academic and personal goals, while also providing guidance through the course approval and credit transfer processes.
The OIE website has extensive advising resources, including information on approved programs and universities, course and credit guidelines, FAQ’s, a calendar of events, and contact information for the OIE staff, concentration and language advisers, and students advisers and ambassadors who have recently returned from a term abroad.
Planning is key to a successful study abroad experience, so it is never too early to begin integrating study abroad into individual academic plans, seeking advice from concentration, secondary field, and/or language advisers, and visiting the Office of International Education for guidance. All students should seek assistance from the OIE as early as possible to begin planning the best study abroad experience for them. To ensure that credits from courses taken abroad will transfer back to Harvard for concentration or secondary field credit, students should work directly with the specific academic departments. If a student is seeking elective credit for a course taken abroad, the course will be reviewed by an Elective Credit Committee.
Who can Study Abroad?
Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors may participate in term-time study abroad through enrolling directly into a foreign university, participating in programs sponsored by U.S. universities, or through organizations dedicated specifically to providing high-quality study abroad programs. The OIE maintains a list of approved programs on the OIE website, which is reviewed and updated annually. If a student is interested in participating in a program that is not on the approved list, the student may petition the program through the formal petition process.
To begin planning, students should meet with an adviser at the OIE during drop-in hours held daily (Monday-Friday, 2 – 5 pm), or through connecting with a student adviser. Students should consult the OIE calendar to find dates and times for recurring informational sessions as well as the wide variety of information meetings, panels, and events held throughout the year.
Procedures for Earning Degree Credit for Study Abroad
Credits earned abroad are considered transfer credit, for which up to a full-year of credit (32-credits) may be earned. No more than 16-credits may be earned per term for term-time study abroad, and no more than 8-credits may be earned for summer study abroad. A total of 32-credits transfer credits may be earned from studying abroad.
Transfer credit may be earned for concentration and/or elective credit and may also contribute to a secondary field or language citation. Additionally, students may satisfy one divisional distribution requirement for one term abroad. Specific information about these options is provided on the OIE website, the General Education website (see Term Time Study Abroad), and through the undergraduate advisers in the academic departments.
Students planning to study abroad in countries where English is not the first language are encouraged to complete at least one year of study in the host country’s language before studying abroad. Additionally, as part of their academic program during each term abroad, students in non-English-speaking countries are expected to take either a language instruction course or a course taught entirely in a language of the host country.
It is expected that students who study abroad for a semester or academic year will take a full-course-load, as determined and approved by the OIE, and consistent with the College's policies. Students studying abroad during the fall or the spring term will reduce by one the number of terms for which they may register at Harvard College.
Applying for Study Abroad
Online application instructions and materials are available on the Office of International Education website.
To study abroad, students must do both of the following things:
- Apply directly to their study abroad program or university for admission
- Apply to the Office of International Education for transfer credit
Applications to the OIE, for study abroad transfer credit, must be completed and submitted by the deadlines listed below:
- October 1 for Spring Term study abroad
- March 1 for Fall Term study abroad
- Mid-February (for students applying for both summer funding and credit
- April 1 (for students seeking only credit)
Students should begin the application process early, and monitor the OIE website carefully for updated or changed information.
Online application instructions and materials are available on the OIE website. The student’s Resident Dean and departmental DUS must sign off on a student’s proposed study abroad coursework. This ensures that advising conversations take place before the student receives approval to study abroad. Students should meet with a study abroad adviser from the OIE for specific questions on this process.
To be approved for study abroad, a student must be in good academic and disciplinary standing during the term immediately preceding the proposed period of study. Unless granted permission by the Administrative Board in advance, a student cannot be granted degree credit for course work that begins when the student is on probation for any reason.
Financial Aid and Summer Funding
The only way to have a guaranteed Harvard-funded international experience is if a student is on financial aid and participates in term-time study abroad, as students eligible for financial aid may apply their financial aid award to their term-time study abroad experience. A student’s financial aid package may be used to pay for term-time study abroad, including tuition, room and board, program and visa fees, books, airfare, and other living expenses. Students eligible for financial aid should consult their designated financial aid officer for more detailed information.
All students earning credit abroad during the academic year will be charged the student services fee on their Harvard College term-bill. Students will also be billed automatically for health insurance, which may be waived with proof of comparable coverage by the designated deadline.
Students abroad will maintain their HarvardKey, thus retaining access to Harvard libraries and services.
Harvard does not ordinarily grant credit for study out of residence at other U.S. institutions, except in rare cases when such study is judged to offer a “special opportunity” unavailable to the student at Harvard. Information on the process for petitioning for credit for study out of residence within the U.S. can be obtained from the student’s Resident Dean of Freshmen or Resident Dean; if the student’s petition is approved by the Administrative Board, the OIE will be notified by the appropriate Dean and will instruct the student on how to apply for transfer credit.