Education Abroad Policies

Before studying abroad it is important that you have a clear understanding of the policies put into place by the Education Abroad Office regarding withdrawal, academics abroad, and appeal processes.

Age Requirement for Participation

In consultation with University Risk Management, Global Programs has enacted a policy that prohibits any participants under the age of 18 at the start of the program from participating in an education abroad program. This policy applies to programs of any length. There is no appeal process for exception.  

Withdrawal Policy

Education Abroad makes every attempt at keeping the program and administrative costs to a minimum. However, when you commit to participating in a program, Education Abroad begins to make financial commitments on your behalf. Regardless of the reason and effective date of withdrawal, it is the responsibility of students to immediately notify their Education Abroad Adviser in writing (email is preferred) and to understand the implications of their withdrawal actions.

Withdrawal After the Commitment Deadline

  • The Education Abroad administrative fees will be assessed to students' bursar bill regardless of the reason and effective date of withdrawal.
  • In certain cases, partial program expenses may be refundable but only to the extent that Education Abroad can recover expenses incurred on behalf of the student. Costs vary depending on date of withdrawal.
  • Students participating on third-party (i.e., CIEE, IES, Arcadia, etc.) programs should also consult the appropriate third-party institution's withdrawal and refund policies.
  • Any adjustment of tuition charges will be made according to the Tuition Adjustment Schedule as determined by the Office of the Bursar.
  • Go to the University Senate Policy on Withdrawal and Leave of Absence for more information.

Withdrawal from a Faculty-Led Program

Faculty-Led programs begin making payments and arrangements for students well before departure and are subject to strict withdrawal penalties. In case of withdrawal, the following fees will be charged to your Bursar account:

  • Upon Commitment - 90 Days Prior to Departure: 25% Program Fee + EA Admin Fee
  • 30 - 90 Days Prior to Departure: 50% Program Fee + EA Admin Fee
  • 29 Days - Departure Date: 100% Program Fee + EA Admin Fee

Withdrawal After Commencement of Education Abroad Program

  • Withdrawal from an Education Abroad program once it has begun is a serious matter and may have consequences regarding grading, credit transfer, financial aid, University enrollment status, tuition refund, etc.
  • If the withdrawal occurs before the end of the Penn State drop/add period, students may initiate a change of location from study abroad to a domestic Penn State location, drop the study abroad courses, and add courses at the domestic Penn State location.
  • If the withdrawal occurs after the end of the Penn State drop/add period, students will need to work with their undergraduate dean’s office to process a withdrawal

Types of Withdrawal While Abroad: Voluntary and Involuntary

Once on site abroad, the decision to withdraw from the study abroad program is a difficult one.  Withdrawal may be involuntary or voluntary.  

Involuntary Withdrawal

In cases of involuntary withdrawal, EA reserves the right to require withdrawal from the program of any participant whose continuation would be detrimental to himself, to others, or to the University. Return passage and any other expenses due to such involuntary withdrawal are the responsibility of the student. 

Voluntary Withdrawal

In cases of voluntary withdrawal, a student who voluntarily withdraws from the program for any personal reason will be responsible for any and all costs associated with their return home; a refund of tuition or fees is only available to the extent allowed by applicable Penn State policies outlined on this webpage.

Course and Grade Policies

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is as critically important abroad as it is on campus at Penn State.  Penn State Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 defines academic integrity as “the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner… [and] a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception.”  Please read (and make sure you fully understand the implications of) this policy. You are also subject to the academic integrity policies of your host institution.

Class Attendance

You are expected to attend and participate in all of your classes, labs, recitations, and field trips as necessary and as scheduled at your host institution. Please remember that you are a student first and foremost when studying abroad.

Dropping Classes While Abroad

  • Students studying abroad are required to maintain full-time status at both Penn State, and their host institution/provider abroad (whichever is greater).
  • Students may not drop below the minimum number of credits required by their program, and may not drop below the equivalent of 12 Penn State credits (for fall/spring programs).
  • If you are on a program with one or more required courses, you may not drop the required courses. With approval, you may drop other courses that you have chosen to take, as long as you do not go below the required minimum. 

Dropping and Adding Courses

  • While you are abroad you are not on the Penn State schedule for drops and late drops, and your late drop official credits at your Penn State location do not apply to your host institution.  
  • Classes can be dropped only up to the drop deadline at your host institution (and you must be sure to check with an academic adviser at your host institution before dropping any classes).
  • You are subject to the withdrawal policies of your host institution; therefore, if you miss the deadline to withdraw from a course, that course will appear on your transcript.

Petitioning to Drop Below Minimum Enrollment or Late Drop a Course

Dropping below the required minimum is considered to be an exceptional circumstance and will require compelling justification and documentation on your part.

  1. You must complete the Appeal Process Form stating why you must drop the course and/or below the minimum enrollment and a formal letter of support from your Penn State academic adviser.
  2. Permission to late drop a course or drop below the minimum credit enrollment may only be granted by the director of Education Abroad or their delegate, in conjunction with the host institution/provider Resident Director.
  3. Questions about this policy should be directed to Education Abroad.

Final Exams

This section is relevant to students who will enroll in coursework at an international host institution or study center.  Most institutions abroad have more formalized exam periods than what you may be used to at Penn State.  The official exam timetable is usually posted during the month before the exams are held, so you may not know the dates of the exams for your specific courses until quite late in your semester abroad.  For this reason, when you purchase your plane ticket, do not plan to leave your host city until the day after the last day of the scheduled exam period.  Penn State makes every effort to provide you with program dates well in advance of your departure, although in some cases the dates may not be finalized until after you arrive on-site. In general, you will not be allowed to take exams early, and if you do leave your host country before taking your exams, you may fail your courses. Education Abroad does not proctor exams.

Grades Abroad

This section is relevant to students who will enroll in coursework at an international host institution or study center.  Education Abroad and/or your program provider have grade conversion scales that convert foreign grades to US grades which are provided to you in the Program Guide in your Penn State Application.

  • The Education Abroad office does not interfere with the academic judgment of your professors overseas.  We do not award grades, nor do we “round up” low grades on your behalf.  We simply convert the final grades from abroad to Penn State grades, using a predetermined scale (see the site-specific section of your orientation materials for the grade conversion scale for your host institution, if applicable) and then transmit the grades recommended by the host institution to the Office of the Registrar at Penn State.  
  • The Education Abroad Office will not mediate grade disputes between students and professors abroad.  If you have not dealt with your problem on-site, we will assist you from this end by helping you to get in touch with your professor abroad, but you will be responsible for pleading your own case. More information on grades can be found under the Academics section of the Global Penn State website.
  • Education Abroad does not have the option to ignore a grade on a transcript.  The only recourse you will have will be to appeal to the Penn State Faculty Senate upon your return for a retroactive late drop, but these cases are taken very seriously and cannot be put forward without the support of your undergraduate dean.  Staff members in Education Abroad do not become involved in this appeal process.  Our job is simply to report the grades that appear on your final transcript.

Grade Processing

  • No pass/fail grades are allowed.  You are required to receive grades for your courses abroad on any Penn State-sponsored program.
  • Grades from abroad will be translated into U.S. equivalents and then calculated into your Penn State GPA.  
  • In accordance with Penn State Faculty Senate Policy 49-60, “courses abroad may not be taken under the SA/UN [satisfactory/unsatisfactory] grading system except under highly unusual circumstances and then only with the advance authorization of Education Abroad.”


If you are a senior, please note that Penn State may not receive your grades in time for the commencement ceremony that takes place immediately at the end of your semester abroad, so your graduation may have to be postponed until the next commencement. If you will not be in State College at the time of your official graduation, you will need to arrange for “graduation in absentia” and for having your diploma mailed to you.  More information regarding the education abroad graduation process can be found under the Grades section of the Global Penn State website. Remember that you must formally register your intent to graduate for the appropriate semester. Please contact your academic adviser concerning the intent to graduate. 

Appeal Process

In some circumstances it may be necessary for students to appeal to Education Abroad regarding a decision about their education abroad program. By submitting an Appeal you are in no way guaranteed a particular decision, only the opportunity to plead your case. 

Admission Decision

A student's acceptance into a particular program depends on a variety of factors and Education Abroad reserves the right to make admission decisions regarding all approved programs. Since each program has its own set of academic and admission standards, students should investigate the requirements of their desired programs before applying. Students who would like to appeal their admission decision may do so through the Appeal Process. By submitting this appeal form you are in no way guaranteed acceptance into any program. If your appeal is denied, we recommend that you work to meet all requirements of the program and re-apply in a future semester.

Requirements for Appeal

Financial Fee or Withdrawal Penalty

Education Abroad makes every attempt at keeping the program and administrative costs to a minimum. However when you commit to participating in a program, Education Abroad begins to make financial commitments on your behalf. Regardless of the reason and effective date of withdrawal, it is the responsibility of students to immediately notify their Education Abroad Adviser in writing (email is preferred) and to understand the implications of their withdrawal actions. If you believe that your withdrawal was due to extenuating circumstances you may appeal the fees you will owe. 

Extenuating Circumstances are defined as:

  • Medical: Can be physical, mental, emotional, etc. and require documentation from an attending physician. 
  • Illness/Death in the Immediate Family: Family medical emergency (surgery, long-term illness diagnosed) which requires documentation from an attending physician. Death of an immediate family member - parents, guardians, siblings, children, spouses, registered domestic partners - requires appropriate documentation. Immediate family designation does not include grandparents.
  • Military Activation: Requires a copy of the military activation orders showing dates that conflict with the program dates.
  • Unanticipated Change in Financial Situation: Termination of main source of income, filing of bankruptcy, etc. are examples of changes in financial situation and require appropriate documentation. Financial emergency does not include not understanding the costs of the programs or not receiving financial aid or scholarships you might have been counting on. 
  • Other: A circumstance of "other" must be out of the student's control and requires supporting documentation of situation, process, and timeline. 

Requirements for Appeal

  • Complete the Student Appeal Form
  • Indicate in your explanation the extenuating circumstances 
  • Email supporting documentation

Dropping a Class While Abroad

Semester (Fall, Spring, and Academic Year) participants are required to enroll as full-time students according to their host institution's policies, as well as meet Penn State's minimum requirement for full-time status. Dropping below full-time status will jeopardize both financial aid and academic status. Summer participants are required to enroll in the number of credits as determined by the program enrollment.

Students must abide by drop/add deadlines as determined by their host institution/program. Penn State late drop and course withdrawal policies and timelines do not apply to the semester or summer abroad. If you believe that you need to drop a course due to extenuating circumstances you must appeal to Education Abroad before changing your schedule abroad.

Extenuating Circumstances do NOT Include:

  • Not needing the credits for the course
  • Not performing well in a course

Requirements for Appeal

  • Complete the Student Appeal Form
  • Indicate in your explanation the extenuating circumstances 
  • Email any supporting documentation

Program Cancellation

While Penn State closely monitors events in countries where our programs are hosted, occasionally a situation may develop suddenly that requires the unexpected cancellation or modification of the program’s location due to safety concerns.

Program Cancellations by the Education Abroad Office

In the case of an unforeseen or late-developing event in a program’s host location that would potentially compromise or otherwise threaten the safety of Penn State students and faculty, Penn State reserves the right to decline any application or to cancel any program in its entirety, possibly without notice, in which event all monies paid to the Office of the Bursar for participation in the EA program will be refunded in full.

In certain circumstances events in the program’s host location may require a modification to the program’s itinerary which could include a change of location.  Any and all modifications to a program for health and safety will involve close consultation with Global Programs international risk analysts and finance personnel.  Program modifications will not necessarily carry with them any refund of program fees.