Location: Bowdoin / Off-Campus Study / Predeparture Planning

Off-Campus Study

First Steps


If Bowdoin approves your off-campus study application, you will receive an email message from the OCS Office setting out the terms of your approval and asking you to submit an online Agreement of Participation in Off-Campus Study and Release. Please confirm your plans as soon as possible, and in any case within twenty-one days of receipt of the email message. This applies to students going away in the spring as well. Do not wait for your program to admit you. The agreement will not prevent you from remaining at Bowdoin if you cannot study away.

Please see below if you need to make any changes to your plans (you decide you want to remain at Bowdoin, need to change your course selection, were not accepted by a program, etc.).

You should also continue to plan for your study away experience. The following are the major steps you will need to take. You will find more detailed information in other parts of this website. If you want to make an early start on planning, you can download the latest version of the OCS Student Handbook [pdf], a printed version of which is distributed at each semester's predeparture meeting.

Application to your program. In most cases this is the first thing you will need to do, if you have not completed it already. Find out what the program's final deadline is, but do not leave application until then (and certainly do not assume that it is a postmark deadline). Many programs fill well before the stated deadline, and many explicitly use a system of rolling admissions.

If you are applying to an English-speaking university, you will also need to decide whether you want to apply directly or through a third-party provider (e.g., Arcadia, IFSA-Butler, CIEE, Interstudy) that offers extra services and assistance. The additional cost of going through a provider can be substantial, and we recommend that you price out the program carefully, and discuss the question with students who have enrolled by either route, as well as with your parents. Bowdoin aid does not cover the additional cost, except in the case of Cambridge University and the University of Cape Town, where direct enrollment is not practical.

IES, DIS, and CHP applicants will receive a message from us about special admission procedures through OCS. All other applications should be sent directly to the program. Most programs have a dean's/home-school approval form, which we sign in OCS, after checking your Bowdoin file to confirm that you are in good standing; do not go to Student Affairs or a faculty advisor. Complete a request form at the Registrar's Office (Moulton) for a sealed Bowdoin transcript to include with your application. If you are applying for a spring program, you should usually wait until you have a Bowdoin transcript for the previous spring, except for a few programs that have a single deadline.

More information on application to a program or university...

Passport and visa. If you will need a passport, apply without delay. If you have one, note that some countries require a passport to be valid for as much as 6 months after exit. Review the application requirements at the State Department website. If you are not a US citizen, check with the consulates of your own country and your destination. Find out from your program about visa requirements, if any, which vary by country and even by consulate. Photos for passports, visas and other applications can be taken at Rite Aid on Maine Street.

More information on passports and visas…

Predeparture meeting. A mandatory predeparture meeting is held for students who will be leaving to study off campus in the following semester, at which OCS staff and a panel of returned students share important information on academic credit, health and safety, cultural adaptation, and other topics. The meeting usually takes place in Daggett Lounge, Thorne Hall, in April and October, and lasts about an hour and a half. Depending on the availability of returned and departing students, we may also set up country-based group discussions. Watch for email notices.

Changes of Plan

Changes of program or period. You do not receive general approval from Bowdoin for off-campus study, but approval to study on a particular program for a particular period. Changes of program or period will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances beyond your control, such as cancellation of a program or rejection by a program that you had good reason to believe would accept you; completion of a new application, with departmental approval, will then be required. Please remember that it is not usually possible to extend a period of off-campus study, both because of visa regulations and because Bowdoin, as a small college with high off-campus study participation, is unusually affected by fluctuations in study away numbers, especially between the fall and the spring, and has to maintain a reasonable balance between the semesters in order to manage its on-campus enrollment.

Changes in course selection. You are provisionally preapproved for Bowdoin credit for the courses you listed on your OCS application form; most students also receive provisional preapproval of certain courses toward a Bowdoin major or minor. Do not worry too much if you end up being unable to take these exact courses when you arrive on your program. You will be asked before final course registration on your program to email your course choices to OCS; you should also email your major/minor department with a course description if you need provisional approval for a new course. Do also make sure that you are taking a normal full load of courses on your program, and that they meet the conditions for transfer of credit outlined in Bowdoin's OCS Student Handbook.

Changes of status at Bowdoin. Bowdoin keeps track of leaves, course registration, and study away by assigning its students a status. If your OCS application is approved, your status will change for the period that you will be away, and you will not be eligible to register for classes or apply for College housing for that period. If your plans change and you do not wish to study off campus after all, you should inform the OCS Office, in writing, as soon as you are absolutely sure of your decision. There is a convenient PDF form available here; or an email message with the necessary details is also fine. Make clear that you wish to return to Bowdoin rather than take a leave, and to which semester the change of status applies. This simple step must be taken whether or not you have returned your participation agreement; your changed status will be communicated to all relevant Bowdoin offices, and allow you to register for classes and make you eligible for housing at Bowdoin for the semester when you would have been away. Please note that the timing of your decision will affect your ability to register for courses and the availability of College housing. If you request the change after Bowdoin course registration, you will have to wait to register for courses at the start of the semester. Your decision to return to Bowdoin is final; once your status has been changed you will not be able to reactivate your approval to study off campus. For other changes of status, such as a leave of absence, you must receive authorization from a dean in Student Affairs.

Good standing. Your approval by Bowdoin is subject to your remaining in good standing at the College. If you are placed on academic or disciplinary probation, or are suspended, for the semester in which you were approved to study away, you lose Bowdoin's permission to study away. Receiving an F in a Bowdoin course in the semester before departure, for example, will place you on academic probation.