Academics

Study abroad at Vanderbilt is integrated into the student’s course of study. Below are the nuts and bolts of making sure your chosen program is a good academic fit. Start by talking with your academic advisor to understand what coursework you need to fulfill abroad in order to stay on your four- or five-year plan. Your GEO advisor can help you identify programs that are a good fit for your academic needs, as well as help you understand what issues to consider.

Credits and Grades

Beginning with students abroad in Fall 2019, all Vanderbilt-approved programs administered through GEO receive Study Abroad/Away Credit. Study Abroad/Away Credit does not count toward your cumulative Vanderbilt GPA. However, grades earned during study abroad will be converted (where necessary) from the original grading system and reported on your Vanderbilt transcript. Study Abroad/Away Credit courses earn credit when you score the equivalent of a D or better, and they may fulfill major, minor, and graduation requirements. You are responsible for making sure that all the courses you plan to take abroad have been evaluated for VU credit. Find details on this process below.

Study Abroad/Away Credit counts toward Vanderbilt’s residency requirement, and is separate from transfer credit&emdash;courses earning Study Abroad/Away Credit will not count toward transfer credit limits.

Vanderbilt translates grades from a number of institutions’ local scales. Where this is the case, prior to enrollment in courses abroad students will be provided with Vanderbilt’s official grade conversion for the host institution. Vanderbilt will use this scale to articulate all grades from the host institution, regardless of the subject area or language of instruction. Before committing to coursework, students should consult with Vanderbilt faculty advisors about their capacity for successful work in classrooms overseas.

Note that while the grades you earn abroad don’t count toward your Vanderbilt GPA, graduate and professional schools may choose to take them into account when you are applying for post-graduate opportunities.

Understanding How Credits Transfer

It is important to carefully review the YES Study Abroad Course Search tool before studying abroad. This tool demonstrates how a course taken abroad will be reflected on your transcript and factored into your degree audit.

The process for course evaluation is coordinated by the International Curriculum and Credentials Analyst in the Office of the University Registrar. Vanderbilt faculty determines the course equivalences, including the number of credit hours a given course is worth.
The course equivalency process is as follows:

  1. Use the YES Study Abroad Course Search Tool to find courses that have already been evaluated.
  2. Refer to the host school course catalog (if applicable) for a full list of courses and up-to-date information on course offerings.
  3. Don’t see the course you want to take on YES? Simply request a new course review by submitting a Course Equivalency Evaluation Request Form online.
  4. Visit the University Registrar’s website to understand the Study Abroad Course Review process.
  5. If you want a course to count differently than is listed on YES, your next step will depend on your college:

Academic Policies

Grades earned while studying abroad are based on the student’s performance as judged by local instructors according to the host institution’s standard practices. Once reported to Vanderbilt, grades cannot be changed, except when amended via a newly issued transcript from the host institution.

While studying abroad for a semester or a full academic year, students are required to take the equivalent of 12-18 Vanderbilt credit hours each term. Underloading (bringing back under 12 credit hours) will result in academic probation, and may also jeopardize financial aid eligibility. It is critical to understand that the Vanderbilt course equivalency evaluation determines the number of credits awarded, so students need to consider the credits earned for each individual course they take.

Students must follow both the study abroad program’s and Vanderbilt’s academic requirements. For example, students must take the minimum number of credits required by the partner to be considered full-time, and must also take the minimum required number of credits required by Vanderbilt.

There are some unique policies that apply to coursework taken overseas. These are university-wide policies and govern students in all four undergraduate colleges:

  • Classes may not be taken for pass/fail credit on any study abroad program. Students must earn a letter or numerical grade for each course they take.
  • While abroad, a student may not retake a class that they have taken on campus; that is, a course having the same Vanderbilt course number. Similarly, a student may not retake a class on campus that they have taken abroad.
  • All course credits on your abroad transcript will appear on your Vanderbilt record. You cannot “opt out” of any credits you received abroad.
  • Individual courses taken abroad do not count towards College of Arts and Science AXLE requirements.

Transcripts

Institutions abroad have their own customary schedules for reporting grades and producing transcripts. Vanderbilt has no control over this process, which may take up to six months in extreme cases. Vanderbilt’s University Registrar will work as quickly as possible to process your Vanderbilt transcript, but only the host institution can expedite the reporting of your grades to VU. Please request to have your abroad transcript sent directly to the University Registrar’s Office. The mailing address can be found on the University Registrar’s website.

Please note that if any of the courses you took abroad do not have current course equivalencies evaluations on file with the University Registrar’s Office, there will be a delay in updating your academic record. All courses taken abroad must be evaluated by Vanderbilt faculty before the transcript from a term abroad can be articulated to your Vanderbilt record.

Academic Systems Abroad

Higher education and academic systems abroad can vary greatly from what you are used to at Vanderbilt. If you are considering enrolling directly in a foreign university, here are some things that might be different, depending on the country. Talk to your GEO advisor to find out more about what you might encounter on your program.

  • There may be fewer hours spent in the classroom, with students expected to spend more time studying on their own. This doesn’t mean that there will be assigned homework! A lot of responsibility for deciding how best to spend your homework hours may be left up to you.
  • Depending on the course and level you are taking, and whether you are taking it in a foreign language, you may need to spend extra time learning and mastering the material.
  • There may be fewer tests and quizzes, and students may earn a grade based on just one final exam, or a mid-term and a final. You may have little opportunity to gauge how a professor grades in the weeks or months before an exam.
  • Professors may be less accessible for office hours and by email.
  • Classes may be more lecture-style than discussion-based. This may leave fewer opportunities to ask questions or express your opinions.
  • There may not be much sense of privacy attached to grades. For example, the instructor might post all exam grades publicly. In some places, individual grades may be discussed openly in class.
  • The prevailing academic culture may be very different. For example, students may not be as concerned—or concerned at all—about getting high grade point averages, and instructors may view concern about grades as a sign of a student who is not serious about learning.