FAQs & Key Policies
1. Who studies abroad at Bates?
Everyone studies abroad. We don’t mean “everyone” literally; we mean the full range of students, majors, interests, and backgrounds at Bates – physics majors and French majors, varsity team members and non-members, students involved in extra-curricular activities and students uninvolved in them, students with lots of travel experience and family resources, and students with minimal family resources and no prior international experience. You can find more information on our It’s For Everyone web page.
2. Where can I study?
Almost anywhere, but only at an institution or on a program that is approved by Bates for you. Bates maintains a list of over 200 potential programs on this web site.
3. Do I have to be a junior?
The Bates Fall Semester Abroad Programs and Off-Campus Short Term courses are available for all classes, including first years. Students study on other programs mostly during the junior year after they have had time to explore the Bates curriculum and gained the background needed to declare a major, take key introductory courses required for the major, and developed an overall academic plan that off-campus study will enhance.
4. Is there a minimum GPA requirement?
Students must have a 2.50 GPA at the time of application. Programs and universities often require a 3.00 GPA, but opportunities exist for students with lower GPAs.
5. What is the first step?
For semester or year abroad programs, the first step is to meet with Mr. Das or Dean Sawyer in the Off-Campus Study Office, 124 Roger Williams Hall. Students meet directly with the faculty leading Fall Semester Abroad programs and Off-Campus Short Term courses.
6. What is the application process?
There is a Bates Off-Campus Study application and a program/university application. Students need to apply to Bates for off-campus study if they want to study elsewhere at any time during the following year. This application is due in early February. The Bates Fall Semester Abroad Program does not require the separate Bates application. The program and university applications tend to be short and are available online and in the Off-Campus Study Office. Most programs and universities require one or two letters of recommendation.
The Bates application contains a Parental Notification Form which must be signed by the applicant’s parent or guardian.
7. Is there a deadline?
Yes. There is a Bates deadline and additional deadlines set by the program or university. The Bates deadline is in early February. This process and deadline apply for the entire next year. The deadlines of universities and programs can be misleading since most accept students on a “rolling basis.” This means that it is best to apply early since popular programs may fill up before their deadlines.
8. Is it hard to get in?
Not in most cases. Bates students tend to be academically talented, sincerely motivated, responsible, and mature. In short, they are just the type of individuals whom most universities and programs aspire to have. When students are not admitted, it is usually because they applied too late and the program is full. In most cases, you will likely need just one outside application. Dean Sawyer and Mr. Das will advise you on this.
9. Does Bates limit the number of students who may study off-campus?
Bates balances on-campus semester enrollments. The number of students applying for off-campus study must be approximately equal for the fall and winter semesters. More details on this are provided in the Explanation of the semester balance policy.
10. How is credit awarded?
The course load at some universities is four courses a year while at others it is eight courses a semester. As this suggests, the definition and scope of a “course” varies tremendously around the world. To deal with this, credit in most cases is awarded on the basis of a “full course load abroad” equals a “full course load at Bates.” Students take the normal full course load as defined by their program or university and receive full credit at Bates (4 courses a semester) provided they earn the equivalent of a 3.00 cumulative GPA and pass all courses. These grades are not included in your GPA. The courses must be appropriate to the liberal arts and sciences as defined by the Bates faculty for the fall or winter semester with one course allowed “at the margin” of what the faculty approves. Courses may not duplicate other courses applied toward the Bates degree. At English language universities, at least half the course work must be above the first-year level. More details about required course loads and grades are available on the Course Load and Credit List. Extra credit is not awarded. In contrast, Bates Fall Semester Abroad Program courses are treated just like on-campus courses.
11. Can I apply the courses toward my major, minor or general education requirements?
Yes, with the approval of your major or minor department. Some departments have a limit of two or three non-Bates courses that may be applied toward the major; other departments require that certain courses be taken on campus. In the case of a general education concentration (GEC) that permits non-Bates courses, the concentration coordinator must approve the course(s).
- Major Course Approval Form
- Minor Course Approval Form
- GEC Course Approval Form
12. Do I have to know a foreign language?
Not if you study in an English-speaking country. Not if you study where the languages of the country are not taught at Bates. (In this situation, you have to take one course in a language of the country while on the program.) Not if you study on a Bates Fall Semester Abroad Program. This leaves non-English speaking settings where the language is taught as a major at Bates – French, German, and Spanish as well as Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. In French, German, and Spanish language settings, students are required to have completed the equivalent of two years of college-level study of the language. At least one year proficiency is required in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian language settings. Students without these proficiencies may petition the Off-Campus Study Committee for an exception. “Equivalent” means that a student who skips over the first two years of French and then completes an advanced French course has five semesters for that language.
13. How much does it cost?
This is difficult to answer because costs vary tremendously by program and personal spending patterns. In most cases, study abroad costs no more than being at Bates, including international airfare and limited foreign travel. With careful planning, it can cost considerably less. Costs are available on program and university web sites. Up-to-date information on currency exchange rates is available at XE Currency. Expenses, especially personal expenses, tend to be highest in Europe, Australia and Japan. Study in these locations can exceed the cost of attending Bates, especially with extensive personal travel.
The Bates Fall Semester Abroad Program and several other programs simply charge the Bates comprehensive fee. For other programs, Bates charges an “Off-Campus Study Registration Fee” equal to 7% of the Bates comprehensive fee for each semester off-campus, with all the other costs set by the program. This fee offsets various costs Bates incurs operating its off-campus study program and supporting students abroad. These costs include maintaining evaluations and the off-campus library, mailings to students, programs, and universities abroad, foreign site visits by faculty and staff to assess program quality, attendance at study abroad conferences, membership fees, the emergency assistance policy (including evacuation, if needed) that covers all students, access to the College’s database and email systems, the advising and assistance provided to students abroad by faculty and staff, and the continuous improvements at Bates such as upgrading computers and purchasing books that will be used by students when they return to campus. The goal of the fee is to avoid having the students who remain on campus subsidize those who study elsewhere.
14. Is financial aid available?
Aid is available according to the same policies that apply on campus. When financial aid is calculated, it is based on the program’s or university’s tuition, room, and board fees, a personal expense allocation similar to the one provided for on-campus students, and the Bates Off-Campus Study Registration fee. Airfare for the first semester abroad is also included if airfare is part of your on-campus aid. A book allowance is usually included as well. Work study jobs are not available abroad. The expected work-study contribution is switched to loans for students with access to federal and state loans programs. For other students, fifty percent of the expected contribution is awarded as a grant, fifty percent is the student’s responsibility. The Bates grant may be as large as received on campus, but it is generally smaller since the sum of the costs listed above is generally less than attending Bates. Other potential travel costs, including passport, visa, medications, non-program travel, and extra personal expenses, are not included in the Bates aid calculations. In English-speaking countries, aid calculations are based on the cost of applying directly to the university rather than through a program. A fuller discussion of how off-campus study costs are determined is available.
15. This is a bit overwhelming. What should I do first?
Relax and recognize that this is a decision that takes time to evolve. Few students know instantly that they want to study abroad, where, and for how long. It takes time to sort it out, to think through the opportunities available, and to evaluate the trade-offs involved with leaving campus for a semester or year compared to remaining at Bates. Some of the key issues are located on the Issues to Consider page. You will want to look over the Potential Programs. Finally, plan on one and perhaps multiple meetings with Dean Sawyer or Mr. Das to discuss the options and find out more about the process. Please drop by the Off-Campus Study Office in Roger Williams Hall or call (786-6223) during office hours for an appointment.
16. After my program ends, can I practice with my varsity team?
Varsity athletes may return to Bates after the conclusion of their program for team practices if certain conditions are met. This option is available only for participating varsity athletes and only during the fall semester, at the beginning of their team’s winter season. The following conditions must be met to return early: the Housing Office must be able to house the student without inconveniencing other students; the student must have a positive social history at Bates, have a 10-15 hour a week volunteer or work commitment on or off-campus, and understand that any inappropriate behavior during the “early return period” will result in immediate departure from campus. In addition, the early return needs to be supported by the student’s coach and the Department of Athletics needs to pay for the student’s meals in Commons. Coordinated by the Off-Campus Study Office, Student Affairs has sole discretion on whether an early return is appropriate and whether the student may remain on campus during the early return period.
17. How are off-campus study programs and universities selected? Is there a petition process for alternatives?
Bates selects study abroad programs that best enhance the academic program of our students, challenge and enrich their personal development, and promote their appreciation of different cultural contexts. The inclusion of individual programs and universities in the Bates Potential Programs List is based on many factors. The most central are Bates faculty endorsement, consistency with our curriculum, academic quality and atmosphere, emphasis on cultural immersion, attention to student support, safety and security, a proven track record with an on-going program evaluation process, and the responsiveness of the program or university to Bates concerns. In any given location, Bates lists only those programs or universities that best fit these criteria. In some cases, no suitable option is available.
Academic quality is recognized in multiple ways. Bates faculty assessments of programs and universities are most important. In-country rankings and national assessments are important when selecting foreign universities. Programs sponsored by colleges and universities of Bates quality and nature are most highly regarded. Similarly, programs and universities used extensively by and positively evaluated by NESCAC, Ivy League colleges and universities, and similar institutions generally provide the most serious academic atmosphere and peer group for our students. Student evaluations are required and closely monitored. To encourage serious academic engagement and cultural immersion, the duration of the program must be at least as long as the Bates semester, including our vacation and exam period. An emphasis on language learning at an advanced level is important for programs based in one of the six languages taught at Bates.
To illustrate these values and the other criteria noted above, it is helpful to note the type of programs and universities not included on the Bates Potential Programs List. Excluded programs include those that have modest academic reputations, emphasize internships, focus on subjects not included in the Bates curriculum, have a multi-location travel focus, admit high school seniors or first year students, have no or a low GPA requirements, are designed for colleges eager to get their students abroad regardless of the academic quality, do not limit enrollments, do not provide adequate student support and safety, do not emphasize cultural immersion, or do not have the minimum language requirements set by Bates.
Petitioning for an alternate program or university
The Bates Potential Programs list contains over 200 study abroad opportunities based on the standards and values outlined above; however, occasionally, students identify a university or program not on the list that they think better suits their academic interests. Students are welcome to petition for approval to study on this program or university, recognizing that the academic program of the university or program must be demonstrably better than those already listed by Bates.
In the petition to the Off-Campus Study Committee, the student needs to specify: (1) the program or university, (2) the dates of the academic program, (3) the reasons why the academic courses are demonstrably better for the student than those at a listed program or university, and (4) how the program or university satisfies the academic qualities and cultural immersion values outlined in the introduction above. The student’s petition needs to be supported by a letter of support from the student’s faculty advisor, attesting to the superiority of the program or university for the student compared to a listed program.
18. Does Bates have a special endowment to support study abroad?
Our study abroad program is enhanced by the Barlow Endowment for Study Abroad. The Endowment supports a number of grants and activities with the goal of enriching the study abroad experience of Bates students and strengthening the links between study abroad an the College’s on-campus academic program. Grants for students are listed on the Grants web page. A list of all the activities funded by the Barlow Endowment can be found here.
19. Does Bates have a special relationship with some study abroad program providers or other colleges or universities?
Bates is a member of the following organizations: the Associated Kyoto Program consortium; the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies; the Council on International Educational Exchange; the Forum on Education Abroad; the Intercollegiate Consortium for Classical Studies; IES Abroad; the Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education program; the South India Term Abroad program; the Washington Semester program. Bates has exchange programs with Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. Dean Sawyer, the Director of Off-Campus Study, is a member of the Academic Consortium Board of the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and the National Advisors Council of the Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA-Butler), and is a past member of the Partnership Council of SIT Study Abroad and of the National Advisory Board of Arcadia University’s College of Global Studies. Bates pays annual dues for some of these memberships. Occasionally, these organizations sponsor site-visits to their programs, meetings, or other events for Bates faculty or staff. The costs of these activities are often shared with Bates, but this varies by organization and activity.
20. Does Bates have multi-year financial aid consortium agreements or contracts with study abroad program providers and with other colleges and universities?
As required by federal law, Bates has many of these agreements. They specify the responsibilities of Bates as the “home” institution and the program or outside university as the “host” institution regarding the distribution and reporting of financial aid, enrollment verification, information on costs, and the reporting of grades. Bates students may receive up to 25% of their degree credit from these outside education providers. The list of institutions with agreements or contracts with Bates is provided in our Financial Aid Consortium Agreement List. The agreements are available for review in the Off-Campus Study Office.