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Academic Policies

Study abroad/study away is not "travel." It is an academic activity that contributes to your degree progress. 

As such, it is important that you understand how your study abroad/study away coursework will fit into your Cal Poly degree. Please carefully review academic policies before applying to study abroad or study away.

All students participating in a Cal Poly-sponsored or Cal Poly-approved program must do so for academic credit, and all credit will transfer back to Cal Poly. Please consult the following sections for further information.

While abroad, you are required to carry a full-time load of coursework.  At Cal Poly, minimum full-time enrollment for a quarter is 12 quarter credits. For students on semester-length or yearlong programs, full-time enrollment is a minimum of 12 semester credits/18 quarter credits per semester, though students should plan to doing a full 15 semester/22.5 quarter credit load. (Note: Students on summer programs generally take fewer credits.) You are advised, however, to check with your program to see what constitutes a full course load and note that you should maintain full-time enrollment as defined by both the program and Cal Poly. Failure to be enrolled full time may affect your academic progress and financial aid, and for students studying abroad, may constitute a violation of your student visa.

If you are considering taking an online Cal Poly course while abroad, you will need to check with your Study Abroad Advisor/Coordinator to see if it is possible to have concurrent enrollment on your program. You will also likely be charged an additional tuition fee by Cal Poly. In general, students are advised not to take additional online courses at Cal poly while on study abroad. 

If you take courses at a host university abroad/away, you must sit at the regularly scheduled times for all examinations that are required of you, including those given at the end of individual academic terms and, if you are on an academic year program, any comprehensive exams that are given at the end of the academic year. 
Cal Poly cannot provide exam proctoring for students who leave their programs before the scheduled exam date.  Students may independently arrange exam proctoring with their Cal Poly faculty but do so at their own risk.
Failure to complete exams at the scheduled time may result in a failing grade.


Credits earned on an abroad or away program can, with proper approval, be used to fulfill GE, major, or minor requirements; otherwise, they will be elective credits toward the total number of units you need to graduate.  Be sure to seek academic advising in your major early in your planning process. You can discuss which classes can count toward specific major requirements and initiate a Major Substitution Form (see Academic Planning for more information).
The teaching institution determines both the amount of credit awarded for a course and whether any given course is upper- or lower-division work.  As you consider how your study abroad/study away course work will fit into your Cal Poly degree, you may need to convert the credits into quarter units. What follows are some common credit systems and how they convert to quarter units, but there are many other systems used across the globe: if you are unsure, consult with the International Center or the Registrar’s Office.

  • Cal Poly Global Program courses carry quarter credits.
  • Most partner programs including CSUIP programs, use semester credits. Multiply these by 1.5 to get the quarter credit equivalent (3 semester credits = 4.5 quarter credits).
  • Courses at most European universities are measured using the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Multiply these using 0.75 to get quarter units (6 ECTS = 4.5 quarter credits).
  • Note: Some universities abroad, particularly in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, use different credit systems. Please consult with your program or the International Center for advice on how to convert them to quarter credits. 
Be aware that if you receive approval for courses that carry less than 4 quarter units, you will still have to meet total unit requirements for your degree, including unit requirements for GE.  If you are considering courses that carry fewer than 4 quarter credits, please consult with the International Center.

While some partner programs indicate recommended amounts of credit for coursework done at a host university abroad, the actual credit is determined by the host university and reflected on your abroad transcript.

Your off-campus study program must report all credit earned abroad.  Failure to register for the required number of credits may affect your financial aid and may place you in violation of your student visa.

You will be graded for your study abroad/study away course work and all courses taken on an approved Cal Poly program will be evaluated by Cal Poly exactly as the course credits and grades appear on your study abroad/study away transcript. All letter grades will count toward your GPA and all course credits will count towards your unit total, regardless of whether the course is required to graduate.

All abroad/away coursework on an approved Cal Poly program must be reported to Cal Poly.  Students who have been enrolled in a study abroad placeholder course by Cal Poly will be unable to have their degree conferred until a study abroad transcript is received and evaluated by the Cal Poly Registrar’s Office. It is ultimately the student’s responsibility to ensure Cal Poly receives their study abroad transcript for evaluation in a timely manner.
Cal Poly will not change or omit any courses or grades listed on a study abroad/study away transcript. If you wish to take a course on a Credit/No Credit basis while on an off-campus program, you must request this with the program or host institution at the start of the program. Consult with your study abroad/study away organization or host institution about their policy on doing coursework on a CR/NC basis. You should also consult the Cal Poly Catalog for policies on CR/NC limits within GE and consult with your academic advisor, as some majors limit the number of CR/NC courses that may be taken.

Any disputes regarding grades received while on study abroad /study away must be resolved with the partner organization or host institution directly.
Credit on Global Programs and CSUIP programs will count as resident credit and grades will count towards your Cal Poly GPA. Credit from a partner program, the NSE, or an exchange will count as transfer credit and grades will count towards your higher ed GPA, but not your Cal Poly GPA.

Credit earned on a study abroad/study away program may be applied towards GE, Major, or Minor requirements, but may also just be elective credits toward the total number of units needed to graduate.
You can find a list of pre-approved courses on the Cal Poly brochure page for your program. Go to and use the "Program Search" to find your program, then click the “Academics” tab to find the Course Pre-Approvals link. These lists indicate which courses have been pre-approved either by the GE governing board (for GE) or academic departments (for major/minor) to fulfill specific requirements. 
You may take a course even if it is not on the pre-approved list, but if you want to use it to fulfill a course requirement, you will need to complete the appropriate Course Substitution Form.  See the Academic Planning page of this website for detailed instructions and links to the GE and Major Substitution Forms
GE Substitution Forms are first reviewed by the International Office to verify the accuracy of the course information you provide.  The form is then forwarded to Evaluations for review and possible approval. Only Evaluations can approve courses on a GE Substitution Form.  Once reviewed, you will receive an email from with the determinations. You can request the review of more courses than you plan to take and may also submit multiple forms.
This process can take 6-8 weeks, so we encourage you to submit your GE Substitution Form(s) as soon as possible. 
Major Substitution Forms are completed within your major department(s). Each department/program at Cal Poly determines whether to apply credit from off-campus study toward its requirements, and some may choose to evaluate certain courses after you return, so it is always a good idea to return to Cal Poly with copies of all course syllabi, reading lists, papers, and exams from off-campus study.
Students seeking credit within a minor should consult with the minor department advisor, who will work with you to complete the Minor Substitution Form.
Instructions on Course Substitution Forms and a link to the AdobeSign GE Substitution Form can be found on the Academic Planning page

NOTE: A course must carry at least 4 quarter units to fulfill a GE requirement. 
NOTE: On some programs, courses may carry fewer than 2 semester credits (this is particularly common at Japanese universities). Students may still take courses toward requirements but will need to get approval to combine two courses in similar subject areas toward each requirement. You are strongly encouraged to talk with your study abroad advisor and to get courses pre-approved well in advance of going abroad.



Study Abroad/Study Away Transcripts
Once you have completed your program, please ensure that your study abroad/study away transcript is sent to Transcript Processing at Cal Poly.*

Transcripts must be sent by the host organization: Cal Poly will not accept copies that have been issued to the student or anyone other than Cal Poly

Cal Poly will accept electronic transcripts via the following services:

  • Parchment
  • Docufide
  • Naviance
  • National Student Clearing House
  • eScript-Safe
  • Military Services

If your host organization provides certified electronic transcripts through another service, have those transcripts sent directly from the organization to Or you can have hard copies of your transcript mailed to:

Cal Poly
Transcript Processing
MC 1001
1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Do not have transcripts sent to the International Center.

  • Students on Cal Poly Global Programs earn Cal Poly credit, so no abroad/away transcript is required.
  • Students on Cal Poly International Exchanges should confirm with their exchange university's international office how to request a transcript to Cal Poly. It is the exchange student's responsibility to ensure a transcript is issued to Cal Poly by their exchange institution. 

Transcript Processing Time
Once the Office of the Registrar receives your transcript, the Records Unit completes the transcript entry and then Evaluations will add the appropriate credit to your Degree Progress Report. You will eventually be able to view transfer credit on your Poly Profile under the “View Higher Education Credits Detail” link.

As a reminder, it can take up to two quarters from when your transcript arrives on campus (not from when your program ends) for your courses to be evaluated and applied to degree progress.

Transcript Evaluation

  • Coursework, including all grades, from your program will be entered into your record. 
  • Credit on Global Programs and CSUIP programs will count as resident credit and grades will count towards your Cal Poly GPA. Credit from a partner program, NSE, or an International Exchange will count as transfer credit and grades will count towards your higher ed GPA, but not your Cal Poly GPA.
  • Please note that all courses and grades from an approved Cal Poly study abroad/away program will be evaluated by Cal Poly exactly as they appear on your study abroad/away transcript.  All coursework will be entered into your Cal Poly academic record, regardless of whether the course is required to graduate.
  • Cal Poly will not change any letter grades received on your transcript to CR/NC, and any CR/NC grades listed on your study abroad/away transcript will follow the university's policies on CR/NC grading. 
Future Transcript Requests
We highly recommend that you request a copy of your study abroad/away transcript for your own records or, at the very least, keep a record of the transcript request process for your study abroad/away program organization/institution. If you need a copy of your study abroad/away transcript in the future (i.e., for graduate school, a job, etc.), you will have to request the transcript directly from your study abroad/away organization/institution. Cal Poly cannot release transcripts from other institutions

  1. Students planning to study abroad/study away in the senior year should consult with an academic advisor in their college to ensure they can complete on-campus requirements and meet the residency requirement for graduation.
  2. You must be a matriculated and continuing Cal Poly student for the duration of your program. Your expected graduation term must be at or after the end of your study abroad/study away program and you cannot extend your graduation term for the sole purpose of studying abroad. If you have a personally or academically justifiable reason for a graduation extension, you may submit a formal request to the Registrar’s Office. More information can be found on the Graduation Process webpage.
  3. Please also be aware that it may take up to three months for your program transcript to be sent to Cal Poly and two quarters for your courses to be processed by the Registrar's Office. This may significantly delay receipt of your diploma.