Do's and Don'ts

To review applications you can locate the name of a student under a program category/location and read all the requirements for their Education Abroad (EA) application.  For further instructions on how to use the software and locate students, please see Using the Application System.

Do’s and Don’ts when Reviewing Student Applications

  • Do:  Review based on academic qualifications: cumulative grade point average as required by the program in question; prerequisite courses (this usually applies to programs that require a certain level of language instruction); semester standing (if applicable); suitability for the student’s graduation requirements; and recommendation from an advisor or faculty member.
  • Don’t:  Review with regard to any personal information: such as disability; ethnicity; gender; age; current campus location (such as a Commonwealth Campus or World Campus); place of residence; and organizations that the student belongs to (such as fraternities or sororities).

Program Requirements and Prerequisites

Every program in the Penn State Education Abroad (EA) selection of approved programs has their own selection criteria and requirements.  These requirements can be found on the appropriate program page via the Education Abroad application software.

Application Materials

While it is easy to skim over some of the essay answers in an application, please be sure to look for anything the student might divulge that would require a special accommodation, such as a learning disability, a special request for housing or anything out of the ordinary.  Sometimes the student will put this type of personal information into the last question, which asks for any further information the student wants to include.  If you see an issue that either causes concern or if the student has made any kind of special request for accommodation, please note this in the comments box.  

Note: a request for special accommodation should not be used in determining admission; rather, including it in the comments will draw the request to the attention of the adviser for the program.

Students who have grade issues will normally plead their case in the last question, and they will usually have a detailed narrative that can involve illness or some kind of family issue. These are fairly common for the low GPA group, and what we tell students who inquire after they are rejected is that all students with low grades have a narrative regarding the circumstances of their academic performance.  If we allowed all of them to be accepted we would not have any GPA requirements, nor would we be able to comply with the admission standards of our program providers.  Since that’s not possible, and because we must be fair to students who meet the prerequisites, we must reject students with low GPAs, unless they are what we’d consider to be “borderline” (see GPA section of this page).  Students who had a poor first semester and good grades thereafter can be considered, and you can note that in the comments box.  Please contact the Education Abroad Office’s Associate Director, Kristi Wormhoudt with any questions. 


All programs have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) prerequisite, and students are advised that they should have the required GPA at the time of application.  If the applicant does not have the appropriate GPA please do not accept the student unless the current average is “borderline.”  For example, for a 3.0 cumulative GPA we should have the applicant in the 2.90 range in order to be considered close enough to the requirement to be sent on to the host institution or provider.  If the student is applying to a provider program (IES, CIEE, Arcadia) and does not have the required minimum GPA but is “borderline”, then the application can be passed to the provider by Education Abroad for their final decision.  You will need to note this in the comments box and you should select "accept" as the admission decision.  In the comments box please note that the student is accepted “conditionally,” and that the condition is that they raise their GPA to whatever the required minimum is for the particular program.  Please use the wording provided on the application review overview and guidelines page to describe the condition of the acceptance.

If the student applies for a fall or full year program by the March 1 application deadline, he or she will have time to correct a GPA that is too low.  The GPA can be checked by EA staff at the end of the spring semester. 

If a student applies for a spring semester program, meaning that their application will be reviewed during the previous summer, the only way the student can raise the GPA is by taking summer courses.  If the student does not intend to attend one of the summer sessions, they will not have a chance to correct a low GPA and should not be accepted unless the GPA is considered "borderline."

If the GPA is not borderline, and is really too low for the program, look at the second and/or third program choices the student may have, to see if they qualify for those.  In the comments box you can state that you are accepting the student for an alternate program, as long as the program is listed by the student on the application.  You must consider the alternate choices in the order the student has listed them. 


We ask all students to get at least one recommendation from a faculty member who has had them in a class or an academic adviser in their College or department who has worked with them.  Some students do not understand the difference between an academic reference and a character reference.  EA will not accept recommendations from non-academic persons and the reference should be from a Penn State employee unless the applicant is a recent transfer.  Examples of unacceptable referees include, but are not limited to, the following:  a high school teacher or coach; an employer, either downtown or on campus; a rabbi or member of the clergy; a Penn State athletic coach; a sorority adviser; a relative or friend.  Applicants should have their recommendations from faculty or academic advisers with Penn State access IDs.  If the student has transferred from another college or university we will allow them to send us a recommendation from their former institution, and we can attach it to the application as a PDF document.  If a student is missing a recommendation please contact the Education Abroad Office

Some programs may require a recommendation from a language professor.  If that is the case, the applicant must get a reference from a language instructor with whom they have had a class.  Without the language reference the application will be considered incomplete.  If you find that the student has a reference, but not from a language instructor, we will have to put the application on hold until the student can submit one.  Heritage speakers have different requirements for IES and CIEE programs.  Notify EA staff if you have a case like this.

If you encounter a negative or concerning recommendation, please contact the Associate Director of Education Abroad, Kristi Wormhoudt for appropriate follow up measures.


In most cases the pre-requisite requirement will be a language course that the student has to take.  Less frequently, there may be a different type of pre-requisite course required (i.e., BIOL 201).  In either case, please ensure that the applicant currently meets or can meet the pre-requisites before the start of the program if you intend to accept the student.  If there is a case where you will accept the student on the condition that he or she completes the necessary pre-requisites, please follow the instructions for processing a conditional acceptance.

If you are unsure of a program's pre-requisites, please review the online program brochure page.  Should any doubts remain, contact Education Abroad to confirm the requirements.

Other Considerations

Other than GPA all reviewers should be reading the application to make sure that the program is academically suitable for the student’s degree program.  The student will list courses within the application questionnaire that they expect to take on the program.  Students are advised that this is just a planning list and nothing is final until they register on site.  Some students will want to take courses that apply to the major or minor, and some will simply be taking electives or basic degree requirements.  Students are told not to schedule any sport activity courses, and they will hear this in advising and orientation sessions.