Transferring Credit

Ten Things You Need to Know about Credit Transfer

Students who enroll in approved study abroad programs typically transfer back 4 units of credit per semester of work done abroad. In order to ensure the successful transfer of course work to the Wellesley degree, students should be mindful of the following: 

1. Student must enroll in a full load of courses for each semester abroad, and cannot transfer back more than the equivalent of 4 Wellesley units per semester.

Students must register for a full load of courses as defined by the host university or study abroad program. This is typically 4-5 courses but may be as few as one or as many as 10 courses per semester. For programs with US-style credit systems, students will need to be enrolled in 15-16 credit hours. For programs or universities that use the European Credit Transfer System, students will need to be enrolled in 30 ECTS credits per semester. Where the standard course load is more than four courses, students should expect that each course will likely transfer back as less than a full Wellesley unit, as course values are calculated as a proportion of the full load, e.g., when the standard load is 5 3-credit courses, each course is worth 20% of the total course load and each would transfer back as 20% of the Wellesley course load, or as 0.8 units. Students may earn a maximum of 4 Wellesley units for a semester abroad, and a maximum of 8 units for a year abroad. Please refer to our Credit Transfer Info document to find out what a full course is for each program, and what the equivalent of 1 WC unit is in each program.

2. Courses with which you hope to satisfy specific degree requirements must be approved via the Transfer Credit Request (preferably before departure).

You do not need to fill out a Transfer Credit Request form for a Study Abroad course that has an equivalent subject/department at Wellesley, falls under the category liberal arts and for which you do not wish to request distribution, major or minor credit. 

If you hope to receive major, minor, distribution, or 300-level credit for a course, you must submit a Transfer Credit Request form for that course as soon as you have a syllabus for that course. Wellesley will review the course and assign a transfer credit value to each course. Please allow sufficient time for review before the end of your program or university's drop-add period. 

Only Submit a Transfer Credit Request Form if you wish to count the course toward an unmet distribution or major/minor requirement. Asking for approval for multiple requirements that you have already completed and do not need will increase the time needed to review your form as this often requires review by multiple department chairs. For example, please do not ask for foreign language requirement approval if you have already fulfilled this requirement.

3. Courses must be in a field of study offered at Wellesley or in a related field in the liberal arts.

Most of the courses available at the approved study abroad site will transfer back to Wellesley. However, the following types of courses are problematic and should be cleared with the OIS director in advance.

A) Single semester of a foreign language at the introductory or intermediate level. If the language you intend to study is taught at Wellesley, it is normally safe to assume that you will NOT earn credit for a single semester since languages at the introductory or intermediate level normally must be taken in a full-year sequence (i.e., 101-102 or 201-202) in order to receive credit. If the language you intend to study is not taught at Wellesley, it is normally safe to assume that you WILL earn credit, so long as you have not already received credit for introductory language courses in two other modern languages at Wellesley. All students studying abroad in a foreign language destination are strongly advised to take a course in the local language while abroad (your study abroad program may require it). In addition, students are reminded of the language policy related to study abroad in foreign language destinations and should refer to this as they make their course selections.

B) Courses not considered liberal arts: Examples include communications, dance, theater, technical subjects, cooking, business, law or criminology. If the Wellesley College Course Bulletin does not list a comparable course, there is a good chance you will not earn credit for that course. Please contact the OIS Director to check.

C) Instrumental Music does not normally transfer back. Music majors should check with their department chair for guidelines for enrolling in music instruction courses while abroad.

D) Pre-Med or lab sciences may not be approved for credit transfer, depending on your study abroad program. Pre-med and science students should check with their department chair for guidelines for enrolling in these courses courses while abroad.

E) Short preparatory courses prior to enrollment in the semester or year program: Some programs have preliminary sessions, which you must take, but for which you will not receive additional transfer credit beyond the regular four units for a semester or eight units for the year, e.g., Wellesley-in-Aix, Sweet Briar and Smith.

F) University Courses designed for Study Abroad Students in English-language destinations: If your host university does not allow its own degree students to enroll in a course, it is unlikely that Wellesley will award credit. The "Study Abroad" courses at the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney are examples of these.

G) Independent Study, Internships & Research Projects: Wellesley will not award credit for independent research or internships unless these are a required part of a pre-approved program (e.g., SIT, SFS, OTS, IHRE). If you have the option of either taking a course or doing a research project/internship, you should take the course.

H) Financial Accounting: Wellesley only accepts one unit of Financial Accounting toward the degree.

I) Journalism: Wellesley only accepts one unit of Journalism toward the degree.

J) Courses that substantially duplicate courses you have already taken: If you happen to take a course abroad which is similar in name to one you have already taken but which is entirely different content, you should bring all relevant materials - syllabi, written exercises, exams - back to Wellesley to demonstrate the differences between the two courses. The Registrar will require a letter of approval from the relevant department chair.

K) You will need to consider that no more than 14 courses in any one subject may count for your Wellesley degree. If you are enrolling in a program that focuses in one field, you will want to carefully review your overall study plan with your class dean.

4. Courses must be taken for a letter grade, and students must earn a C or higher.

No courses for which grades are normally given may be taken on a pass-fail (credit/non) basis. Where courses are offered only on a pass-fail basis, documentation must be provided that the grade received was C or better.

To see a list of grade translation scales for certain programs, click here.

5. In order for a course to count toward major, minor, distribution or 300-level requirements, the course must be approved by the relevant department head or his/her designee.

Courses that are transferrable toward the degree will not necessarily be accepted for credit toward the major, minor or distribution requirements. You must submit a Transfer Credit Request Form for each course that you wish to use to satisfy specific degree requirement(s). The request will be reviewed by the relevant department chair or program director. In order to submit the form, you must be logged into your account. Typically, transfer credit decisions are made within a week. If you require a faster response, please contact the relevant faculty member directly. 

If you aim to fulfill distribution requirements abroad, please note that distributions are listed as “units” rather than “courses,” so if you are taking a course that is worth 0.8 units, you will not completely fulfill the corresponding requirement; you would need to take 2 courses in the same area to satisfy the distribution requirement. 

6. Students who wish to earn credit for elementary or intermediate language courses abroad (for languages taught at Wellesley) will normally need to complete the equivalent of a full year of that language to earn credit.

Check with the chair of the relevant language department to confirm whether or not this is the case for the language you wish to study abroad. Languages at the introductory or intermediate level normally must be taken in a full-year sequence (i.e., 101-102 or 201-202) in order to receive credit. 

8. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that, at the end of the semester or year abroad, an official transcript is sent from the study abroad or host university to the Office of International Study:

Office of International Study
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02482

Students should also ensure that they understand the process for requesting future transcripts from their semester or year abroad, as Wellesley is not able to issue copies of the original transcript to the student or to any potential graduate/fellowship programs or employers.

9. Grades from study abroad will not appear on your Wellesley transcript and will not be factored into your Wellesley GPA.

However, graduate programs, fellowship programs and recruiters will often require a copy of the study abroad transcript and may recalculate the GPA to include the study abroad grades. 

10. Study Abroad is an opportunity for students to experience a different academic system and academic culture.

Wellesley students often struggle to figure out how to make the most of the academic experience, which may require them to "own" the learning experience. To prevent disappointment over opportunities lost, students should become familiar with the academic culture in advance. 

Wellesley students will find, almost universally, that the academic system they encounter is very different from that at their small, single sex, liberal arts college. And while the demands made on the student are often much less strenuous than those at Wellesley, this is more a reflection of a different approach to education than it is an indication of a poor institution. It would be inappropriate to infer that, because the approach is different and may seem less demanding, it is inferior. Your challenge is to figure out how to meet your academic and personal goals within this very different system.

Among the most frequently heard complaints by students returning from a semester or year abroad are that courses were not as "demanding" or as "organized" as at Wellesley, that the faculty tended to go off on tangents in their lectures, or that not enough attention was paid to the syllabus. From time to time, you may also feel that there is some truth to these statements. Certainly there is the possibility for stronger or weaker course offerings on any program, just as there is at Wellesley. But beyond the question of individual courses, you will find significant differences in the requirements, expectations, attitudes, and teaching styles of education. If you are able to adjust to and appreciate these differences, you will be well on your way toward a unique and rewarding time abroad. If not, you may be continually frustrated and disappointed. 

Here are a few tips. In many colleges and universities around the world, courses tend to be offered on a full-year basis only, and even then the course is only one more segment of a process that is leading toward the mastery of a subject over a three year or four year period. Most countries require at least one year more of secondary education than U.S. colleges do before entry to the university, and it is assumed that first-year students have done their  liberal arts study at the high school level. Consequently, students often begin their specialization, or "major" in the first year. The process that begins here depends very little upon the demonstration of competence in a particular course, but is aimed at what the student knows. In some countries, there are ordinarily no course examinations at all.  Consequently, unless your instructors frequently have American students in their classes, or have some experience teaching or studying in the U.S., they may find your natural concern for how well you're doing, or whether you'll get an A, to be rather odd.

Inside the classroom it will be an entirely different world from what most U.S. students are used to. Faculty may not be "accountable" in the same way that U.S. instructors are. It is assumed that the student is aware of what is to be covered in the course, and that it is his or her responsibility to identify the appropriate readings or resource materials, to select the relevant sections to be read, and to become knowledgeable on the subject. The professor may or may not speak directly to the subject in his or her lectures.

As you may imagine from the above, the concept of a syllabus is not the same around the world as it is in the U.S. Although an instructor may mention or recommend certain texts during a lecture, you might not be given specific reading assignments. If you are taking a course on Proust, your assignment will be to read what Proust wrote, to read what was written about Proust, and to think about both. Your coursework will more closely resemble the type of study undertaken by an American graduate student, with a great deal more independent responsibility than you are probably used to here. In many ways, this makes study at a foreign university excellent preparation for graduate school

Another major difference in the classroom is that, whereas many American colleges combine the lecture and discussion format in each class, universities in other countries often separate them. In a lecture class, the professor has the floor for the entire time and does not expect to be interrupted. Even seminars may be structured so as to discourage open discussion, even though students are giving presentations.

If all of this sounds a bit intimidating to you, your initial impression of the foreign university life may be quite the opposite. Many students report that there seems to be a lack of "academic pressure" in their courses, or that little seems to be expected of them. This is reinforced also by the rate of student absenteeism that may be higher than at U.S. colleges. All of this is understandable when placed in the context of the educational system as described above, but it can also be very deceptive, since it doesn't take into account what the student may be doing outside the class.

The message, then, is to try to be aware of these differences from the very beginning, and also to realize that your ultimate goals will be different from those of your counterparts. Whereas they may be looking more toward long-term goals and are, therefore, less concerned about performance in a particular course, you may well have to work harder, and certainly more independently than you are used to, in order to achieve the results you desire.

The sooner you can make the adjustment to a "local consciousness," the happier and more productive your time will be. It is a good idea to talk to students who have studied in your host country before - preferably those who have spent an entire year abroad. Unfortunately, it is sometimes only in the second half of the year that this awareness and appreciation of the local system becomes clear.

Adapted from a handout from Institute of European Studies,
Chicago, IL