door to the world

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Bowdoin have a GPA minimum for participation in off-campus study?

No Bowdoin does not, however programs may set a GPA requirement. If you are concerned about your GPA and your chances about getting in talk with OCS. We also may know which programs are very strict about GPA requirements and which can be more flexible with added support (like from a faculty member, or short essay explaining circumstances around a low GPA.)

Will I get in to my chosen program?

Generally if you meet the stated GPA requirement and apply before the deadline you will get in. There are some exceptions to this, such as highly competitive universities like Oxford and LSE with high GPA requirements and rolling admissions, and field programs with capacities like SFS, OTS, and SIT. However overall students find OCS applications to be much more transparent and straightforward than the college application process.

What if I don’t get in?

While not frequent it can happen—but don’t worry too much about it. Talk to OCS and we’ll help you strategize another program choice and support you getting in the required paperwork to change programs.

Can I change my program?

While the February 21 application requires you to choose one program, we understand that evolving academic and personal interests may lead you to another program. Talk to OCS and we’ll let you know if it’s possible to change. If it is, you’ll be required to submit a new OCS application and we’ll have to inform the Registrar of your change in program plans.

Can I change my mind about studying off-campus?

Yes. Circumstances arise that may make study away difficult or impossible. Talk to OCS as soon as you are aware you might need to make a change and we will help you navigate your options. Note: there can be consequences regarding Bowdoin class registration and housing, as well as unrecoverable program costs, if you make a late change so do not commit to a change before speaking to us and be prepared for increased complications closer the change to the start of the semester away.

My program offers so many classes not offered at Bowdoin—I’m confused about what I can or cannot take.

Uncertain about if a class is OK for general credit? Contact OCS and we’ll review it and get back to you ASAP. A good rule of thumb is that subjects that could be taught at Bowdoin are OK, even if they aren’t currently offered (e.g. any language class or cultural classes, like Swedish language or Maori Studies); but any professional class is a strict no-go. Email us if you’re uncertain and be sure you’re familiar with these academic guidelines.


I have a documented learning disability and receive accommodations at Bowdoin—can I get these accommodations off-campus?

Sometimes. Many English-taught programs and English-speaking universities have some system in place for learning accommodations, and some foreign-language programs do as well, but it’s important you check with your program or the university’s visiting student’s office well before the start of the semester to ascertain what support they can offer. If you need a letter of support from Bowdoin please contact the Dean’s office.

How many credits can I earn while away?

You can earn a max of four Bowdoin units for a semester and eight units for a year.

How many major/minor credits can I earn while away?

It totally depends on your department and it’s best to talk with them directly to confirm their policy and procedures about granting credit toward a major/minor.

I missed the November and/or February OCS deadline(s)—can I still study off-campus next year?

Approvals of late applications to study off-campus are rare and considered on a case-by-case basis. All late applications are reviewed by the Office of Off-Campus Study and must be approved by the Recording Committee. The final deadline for late applicants to apply to study off-campus in the spring semester is September 15th; this deadline is not impacted by later program or university deadlines. Students may request access to the late OCS on-line application by contacting the OCS office directly. (Please note that all students planning to study off-campus in the fall or year periods must adhere to the regular application deadline as there will be no late applications considered for these periods). This late deadline also applies for fall semester students that want to extend to study for the academic year; therefore, fall semester students must submit their application for extending their period off-campus to a year by September 15th. 

Why is enrollment balance between semesters important?

For Bowdoin, a small, residential liberal arts college with a large participation rate in off-campus study, it is very important to manage a balanced enrollment between the fall and spring semester.

 The on-campus academic program, housing and student activities here on-campus could be undermined if there is a striking imbalance between off-campus semester enrollments. Considering this possibility, the top priority at Bowdoin is the quality of our on-campus academic program.

 Choosing to study in a particular semester is based on several factors including fulfilling academic requirements on-campus, taking advantage of academic offerings off-campus; and the desire to continue significant extra-curricular leadership roles on-campus. The registration of intent form, due in the fall semester, will require students to select a particular semester (or year) to study off-campus. Following the submission of this form, students will be assigned a semester during which to study off-campus; the Office reserves the right to shift students from one semester to another if there is an imbalance between semesters. 

I’m currently a first-year hoping to study away in my sophomore year OR I’m currently a junior hoping to study away in my senior year—is this possible?

We occasionally work with students interested in off-campus study not just in the junior year. Some programs have restrictions about study in the sophomore spring so check with them. Seniors typically don’t face program restrictions but should be aware that off-campus study is best done in the fall-semester, due to delays in graduating on-time if away in the spring. In either case come in and talk to OCS, and be prepared to submit the November 1 and February 21 paperwork.

I’m interested in studying on a program not on the Options List—is that possible?

Bowdoin’s Options List is a terrific resource of well-vetted, respected programs and universities across the world and academic fields, so you should definitely start your program search there. However if you have an academic interest that’s not reflected on the Options List come in and talk with OCS. We can help you research and vet the program, and explain the petition process if the program seems appropriate. While we can’t always accommodate petition requests we find students who petition are often very thoughtful about their interests and we do our best to work with each individual find the right fit!

I feel so lost—how in the world do I go about choosing a program!

This is all about finding the right fit for you and your interests. What works for somebody else might not work for you, so focus first and foremost on why you’re going off-campus and what you hope to gain. Once you understand this then choosing a program gets a lot easier! Make an appointment with OCS—we know how to ask the right questions to help students consider their goals and begin narrowing their options down. Then read through websites, talk to friends and professors, read evaluations in our office, all the while looking at the options through the lens of your purpose.

Where can I live while I'm abroad? Can I live independently?

Students are required to be accommodated in housing provided by the study abroad program or institution. When offered and available, students are strongly encouraged to live with locals. Students may not elect independent housing.

How does money work with off-campus study?

That’s a big question! I’m going to re-direct you to the Finances section of our website so you get the overview: Paying for OCS. (For more detailed information about payment, bills, 529 plans, and more see the Bursar's Office OCS FAQ.)