Academic Considerations

Declaring A Major

If you are currently a sophomore and you have not already declared a major, you must do so before you leave campus. Remember that you can always change your major later, provided that you can still complete requirements on time.

Credit Transfer and Other Academic Policies

  • Academic credit is granted only after you return from abroad and only for liberal arts courses completed with grades of C- or better. Mount Holyoke does not give credit for internships, orientation courses or programs, or non-liberal arts courses (such as business, marketing, nursing, etc.).
  • You must arrange to have an official transcript (or other official evaluation, if no transcript is available) of your work sent to the Registrar's Office after the completion of your studies abroad. No credit will be granted until the transcript is received. Note that we cannot provide copies of that transcript to you or to anyone else, and that we will keep it for a limited period of time and then destroy it. Be sure to obtain extra copies for yourself in case you cannot get them later directly from your program or foreign university.
  • Grades for work done abroad are not posted on your Mount Holyoke transcript (except for MHC's own programs in China and Costa Rica) and are not figured into your cumulative average. 
  • Remember, however, that you must complete your work satisfactorily (the equivalent of C- or better) in order to receive credit.  In addition, be aware that graduate schools and employers may require you to submit copies of the transcript for your year or semester abroad, and therefore the grades you earn will remain an important part of your educational record.  
  • Mount Holyoke will review your grades and credit standing upon your return, and will hold you to the same standards as if you were on campus; students may be subject to disciplinary action (such as a warning, probation, or suspension) if they complete less than a full courseload, and/or if they earn one or more grades below C-.
  • Specific credit for specific courses (e.g., 300-level, Distribution, etc.) must be approved by the appropriate department chair at Mount Holyoke, with whom you should consult before you leave campus.
  • Bring your work (reading lists, syllabi, papers, etc.) back with you in case there are questions about credit or the level of the work you have done.
  • We recognize that students have many varied (and valid) reasons for choosing to study abroad and that because of the experiential nature of studying and living in another culture, many of your most meaningful learning experiences will take place outside of the classroom. But remember that it is the work you will do in the classroom that will determine how much credit you will receive for your time away.

Avoid These Common Mistakes

  • You must complete what your program or host institution defines as a full-time standard course load (which may not be four courses per semeser) to receive a full semester or year of credit at Mount Holyoke. A full-time standard course load is usually expressed as 15 or 16 semester credits (not by the number of courses). If your program/university advises you to take fewer than 15 or 16 credits, or to take 4 courses because that’s what you would do here, be cautious: check with Mount Holyoke to clarify how those credits will transfer back. Your program sponsor may not know our policy, and Mount Holyoke cannot adjust your credits after the fact because you received poor advice abroad. Check with the McCulloch Center or the Registrar’s Office if you have any questions at all about what constitutes a normal full-time course load.
  • While you are studying abroad, you are subject to the academic and other requirements and policies of your program or host university (not MHC's policies).  There may be much less flexibility than you are accustomed to about such things as late registration, dropping a course, incompletes, etc.  Be sure you understand what your program or host university requires.  Do not assume that MHC's policies will apply elsewhere.

Planning Ahead

For Independent Study: If you plan to undertake an independent study (thesis) your senior year, and will be away in the spring of your junior year, check with your advisor or department chair for guidelines. In some departments, students must make arrangements before the end of junior year to sign up for senior independent study.

For The Health Professions (Medical School, Vet School, Etc.): If you plan to apply to medical or other health professional school, it is essential that you consult with your Health Professions Advisor before you leave campus.

Higher Education Abroad

Many of you will be taking all or some of your courses at a foreign university next year, and you will find that many other countries approach higher education very differently than does the US. Learning about another country's educational system is one of the reasons for studying abroad, but these differences can take some time to assimilate, and thus may interfere with the unprepared student's ability to benefit fully from the experience. Your program/host university will provide additional information, but here are some common areas of difference that may help you anticipate what will be expected of you, and what questions to ask:

  • In many countries, students complete 13 years of education (instead of 12) before entering university, and a broad-based liberal-arts type of program exists only at the high school level. Students often begin their major in their first year at university, and they may be more advanced in their studies than a typical first-year student here; in addition, they generally study only one subject (or two, if they are doing a “joint degree” or interdisciplinary program).
  • Students often are expected to take much more responsibility for shaping their academic program, and instructors provide relatively little guidance (for example, students may be expected to read widely from a long list of resources, with no specific assignments, and faculty may not be readily accessible outside of the classroom). Your program of study abroad may feel more like an American graduate program than an undergraduate one.
  • Expectations about the style and form of essays may be different from what you are used to.
  • Students’ progress toward a degree often depends on exams given at the end of each year, or at the end of their program, rather than on work completed for individual classes. Degree candidates therefore may put less emphasis on attendance at lectures and more on the work they are doing outside of class to prepare for exams. As a non-degree student, your work may be assessed differently, perhaps with more emphasis on class essays and attendance.

End-Of-Year Exams

In some countries (for example, the UK and Ireland), exams given at the end of the year may be the primary or only basis on which grades are determined. We require students who enroll in a foreign university to undertake a course of study equivalent to that which a degree student would take, and we expect them to complete all of the readings, papers, exams, and other work required. We also expect that faculty will assess students' work according to their usual methods and standards. Therefore, students must take all exams, including end-of-year or sessional exams, that the university will permit them to take; a student will not receive credit for a course in which she chooses not to take an examination that she is permitted to write. (Students will not be expected to take degree exams that cover more than one year's work; and students abroad for the fall semester only will not be expected to return in June to take exams.)

  • Note that while many universities require visiting students to take exams, some do not; and some US colleges do not require their students to take exams. You may hear conflicting information, so remember that you must follow Mount Holyoke's policy, regardless of what other institutions may require, in order to receive credit here.
  • The only exceptions to this policy are if an exam is optional for all students (including degree students) and not just for junior year abroad students; and for some Scottish universities, which offer exemption from exams to students who achieve a high standard in their coursework. In cases such as these, in which exams are optional for all students, they are also optional for you. If an exam is optional only for junior year abroad students, it is not optional for you and you must take the exam.
  • Many students find this end-of-year exam system daunting because it differs so much from what they are accustomed to here. Don't hesitate to ask your tutors or other advisers for advice about how to prepare for them (sometimes you may be able to review exams from previous years, which will help give you an idea of the approach taken and the kinds of questions asked). The vast majority of students do well on the exams, but returning students advise that you take them seriously and keep up with your work throughout the year.