Penn State vs. Non-Penn State Programs

Penn State Education Abroad strives to provide a diverse portfolio of approved programs that meet the personal, professional, and academic goals of all our students. However, sometimes students find another program they feel is a better fit for them, or if they have missed our deadlines, may need to consider studying abroad on a non-Penn State program. 

Going abroad “non-Penn State” often involves several considerations and additional steps that students must complete. It is also important to discuss this decision with your family before pursuing a non-Penn State program. 

Benefits of Going Abroad on an Approved Penn State Program

All programs listed on the Education Abroad website, and available via the program search feature are approved Penn State programs!  Students and their families will benefit from the following advantages of studying abroad through Penn State.

  • Programs vetted and supported by academic colleges, Education Abroad, and Penn State University for academic quality, adequate student support, and health, safety and security protocols that meet standards in the field
  • Students remain enrolled at Penn State earning direct credit and grades on their programs
  • Risk management and support provided by Education Abroad office
  • Penn State credit equivalency and transfer process facilitated by Education Abroad office
  • Financial aid and scholarships apply to semester study abroad on Penn State programs
  • Education Abroad provides assistance throughout application process, orientation and preparation prior to program start, and support while abroad
  • Education Abroad assistance/intervention with crises or issues occurring while abroad

What Do I Need to Know About My Student Choosing a Non-PSU Program? 

Students may apply to and participate on programs that are not approved Penn State programs. However, there are several important differences between Penn State and non-Penn State programs of which students and their families must be aware:

  • Students participating on a non-Penn State program cannot receive financial aid through Penn State. Students are not registered for credit at Penn State while on a non-approved program and therefore are not eligible to receive federal aid, student loans, parent plus loans, or other types of aid that is typically approved through the Office of Student Aid. 
  • Students must take a leave of absence for the semester(s) spent abroad (not applicable for summer).
  • Students must meet with the Admissions Office prior to applying to the program to see if Penn State will accept transfer credits from the selected non-Penn State program. Contact the Admissions Office for more information.
  • Students must research and apply for the program individually.
  • Non-Penn State programs have not been vetted for academic quality or student support by the Global Programs professional staff.
  • The Education Abroad office cannot advise students or sign documents for non-Penn State programs.
  • Students must meet with their academic adviser to determine if transfer credits could meet degree requirements.
  • Students must arrange for an official transcript to be sent to the Undergraduate Admissions Office once coursework is completed. Most programs will charge a fee to send an official transcript.
  • Once the transcript is received, Penn State's Admissions Office will then evaluate the transcript and add appropriate credit.

How Do I Know if a Non-Penn State Program is Reputable?

Ultimately, students participating on non-Penn State programs are responsible for doing their own research to determine if the program provider is a reputable organization.

Penn State approves some of but not all programs offered by organizations such as IES, CIEE, Arcadia, and School for Field Studies.You can search for the Penn State approved programs from these organizations. The additional programs offered by these organizations are considered non-Penn State programs but may be of interest to students considering taking a leave of absence while studying abroad.

World Campus is Not Study Abroad

World Campus refers to one of the 24 Penn State campuses around the Commonwealth. The World Campus provides online courses to degree seeking students from wherever they live in the world. World Campus is not affiliated with Global Programs and is not an Education Abroad approved study abroad program. Students who choose to take World Campus courses while traveling overseas are not enrolled in the Education Abroad travel safety network, are not enrolled in international health insurance, and are not supported by the Education Abroad office.  

What If My Student Missed the Penn State Deadline for an Approved Program?

Penn State sets internal deadlines that typically differ from the deadline of the host institution or provider. In order to go on an approved program as a Penn State student, students must apply by the Penn State internal deadline. Students who have missed the internal deadline can still apply for that program by applying directly to the host institution or provider, but they will have to go on the program "non-Penn State".