Independent Study Abroad

While Drexel offers a vast range of study abroad options, there may not be a program that suits every student's particular needs or objectives. Students who have not identified a suitable Drexel sponsored program may want to consider the Independent Study Abroad option. The information below will help students understand the process and how to begin planning.

Steps for Independent Study Abroad

  1. Review FAQ’s and Independent Study Abroad Guide to fully understand the financial and academic implications, how to choose a program, and other critical details.
  2. Identify top 1 or 2 independent study abroad program options. Important — do not begin searching for programs without reviewing the Independent Study Abroad FAQ’s and Guide.
  3. Schedule appointment with Study Abroad Advisor.
  4. Begin Drexel pre-approval process for your chosen independent program.
  5. Apply directly to the independent program by their required deadline.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ's only cover the basics. All students should review the Complete Independent Study Abroad Guide to fully understand this option.

When students choose to study on a particular program that is not sponsored by Drexel, they are embarking on an “independent study abroad”. Independent programs are usually run by other American universities, study abroad provider companies, or foreign universities themselves. There are important academic and financial differences between independent and Drexel sponsored programs. Refer to Independent Study Abroad Guide for further details.

While Drexel offers a wide variety of study abroad options, there may not be a program that suits every student’s specific academic, linguistic, or personal goals. Independent study abroad allows students to select an outside program to fit their needs based on location, language level, and course offerings.

For Drexel sponsored programs, students receive Drexel credit for approved courses taken abroad. Independent programs, which must also be pre-approved, will result in transfer credit for courses taken abroad. Often times, students will not be permitted to take their course major requirements for transfer credit. Students must earn a C or above in order for the credit to transfer back to Drexel.

Students are strongly advised NOT to submit an official Leave of Absence from Drexel, except for special circumstances. During their independent study abroad term, Drexel students who have completed the pre-approval process will be registered for a zero credit “ABRD 100” indicator course. This will indicate, both on the students’ transcript, and to Drexel staff that the student is participating in a pre-approved independent program with the intentions of returning to Drexel upon its completion. In rare cases when students are fulfilling 9 months or longer on independent study abroad programs, a Leave of Absence may be appropriate. Before submitting a Leave of Absence form, students are strongly advised to meet with their Academic Advisor and Study Abroad Advisor for guidance.

For Drexel Sponsored Study Abroad programs all of a student’s financial aid, scholarships and loans apply. There is even a position funded by Federal Work Study funds that allows students to earn money while abroad. Students pay their regular Drexel tuition while abroad.

For Independent Study Abroad programs a student’s Drexel grants and scholarships do NOT apply to the costs. Federal grants and loans may be applicable. For private loans, grants and scholarships students should contact their lender/donor to determine whether the funds are transferable to non-Drexel sponsored programs. Students pay the outside program directly instead of paying Drexel for their study abroad term. Because the student would not be registered for class at Drexel during the independent study abroad term(s), normally a student’s Drexel tuition for that term(s) would be credited back to their account. For more information, contact Financial Aid or the Bursar’s Office.

The main difference in doing independent study abroad is that Drexel aid (scholarships, grants) is NOT transferable. Student loans and federal aid often are transferable to outside programs. To determine whether an independent study abroad is affordable, students should review their financial aid package on DrexelOne to determine how much aid they receive from Drexel. Compare the cost of the independent program with Drexel tuition for that term. If the cost of the independent program is less than Drexel tuition, the actual net cost differential may be manageable, despite the loss of Drexel aid during the abroad term. A student’s financial aid will not be lost for remaining terms spent at Drexel. Participating in independent study abroad is normally less of a financial concern for students with little or no Drexel financial aid.

Students are required to complete a Consortium form as part of the pre-approval process. Important: in order to use federal funds, students must be registered by an American institution during their abroad term. To find this out, students should ask their program provider if they have an “American School of Record”. If so, the Consortium form will ensure that students’ federal aid is still dispersed to Drexel during their abroad term, even though they are not registered for Drexel classes. This usually triggers a credit to the students’ Drexel account of unused federal aid, and the student can obtain a refund. Those funds can subsequently be used toward the cost of the independent program. Students must be sure to enroll for electronic refund transfers with the Bursar’s Office, so that their refund is automatically deposited in a checking account.

Timing is a tricky issue however, because often students will be required to pay their independent study abroad charges before their federal aid has been dispersed. In this case, students may need to negotiate payment schedules with their program provider.

  1. Make sure that Drexel doesn't have a suitable program first. (Remember, going on a Drexel program allows students to use ALL of their financial aid, and reduces the amount of bureaucracy they will have to navigate.)
  2. Review the Independent Study Abroad Guide to fully understand this option.
  3. Start researching program options on websites like,, and The number of programs can be very overwhelming, so it's best to narrow your focus based on country, major, cost, and course offerings.
  4. Make an appointment with the Study Abroad Office to discuss planning and approval process.

Once students have chosen their independent program, they must schedule an appointment with the Study Abroad Office. During this appointment, students will be given access to an online independent study abroad application (for Drexel purposes) which includes the required Drexel materials. Students will need to obtain pre-approval signatures from their Academic Advisor, Co-op Coordinator, Modern Languages, Billing, and Financial Aid Offices.

Yes. All Drexel students participating in study abroad, regardless of the program must consult the Study Abroad Office. Students who work with the Study Abroad Office will be registered for a zero credit “Independent Study Abroad” indicator during their abroad term. This will ensure that their Drexel transcript reflects their term abroad accurately and also that Drexel staff understand that the student has intentions to return to Drexel after studying abroad.

In non-English speaking countries, the Modern Language Department usually recommends completion of level 103 which will ensure that students have "survival skills" and can actually interact with locals in their host country.

The benefits of direct enrollment into a foreign university can be: Often times, foreign universities will have lower tuition costs than American study abroad programs. Additionally, direct enrollment is complete emersion both academically and cultural into the foreign institution.

The disadvantages of direct enrollment can be: Students will not be registered at an American institution during their abroad term, which can affect their health insurance and student loan repayment grace period. Additionally, students will not have a US based point of contact for questions, concerns, and logistics. They will be communicating directly with the foreign university for all matters.

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