FAQ - OCS 2013
I'm a first or second-year student. What should I be doing now to plan for off-campus study?
First you should attend the Off-Campus Studies (OCS) Informational Meeting for new students held during Opening Week and the Off-Campus Studies Fair, which is usually held in late October or early November. Then you should attend an OCS First Step Meeting no later than the first semester of your sophomore year. These are small group meetings intended to help students get started with planning for study abroad. Please note that if you plan to major in the sciences, music or theater, it is often advisable to begin to take courses in your intended major during your first year, if you wish to go abroad. Check with your academic adviser about whether you need to begin taking courses in your intended major.
Can I earn full credit while studying away?
Most students who participate on an off-campus study program through Whitman earn a full semester of credit, usually 15-16 credits. In order to earn transfer credit from off-campus study, you must have pre-approval from Whitman and earn a C- or better in the courses. To obtain pre-approval, you must complete the Whitman Off-Campus Study Application.
I have not studied a foreign language. Do I have to study abroad in an English-speaking country?
Whitman College offers a number of study abroad options in countries where English is not the main language spoken in which students may begin foreign language study and take elective courses in English. Currently such Partner Programs are located in Austria, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam. These programs are excellent for students who wish to immerse themselves in a foreign culture but have not yet developed proficiency in a foreign language.
How many semesters of a foreign language do I need before going abroad?
Most of Whitman's Partner Programs in Germany, France, Spain and Latin America require that students have completed four or five semesters of college-level courses in the relevant foreign language or the equivalent. This usually means that you need to have completed at least the 206-level language course at Whitman or one semester of a third-year language course before going abroad. Most programs prefer that students enroll in a course in the target language the semester before going abroad to ensure that their language skills are not rusty. It is generally advisable to take as much of the target language as possible before going abroad.
When is the best time to study off-campus?
Because many programs require that students have completed at least two years of their college education to participate, and because Whitman has senior examination or thesis requirements in the majors, Whitman expects that students will study off-campus during one or both semesters of their third year of college.
What OCS programs are recommended by my Major Department?
Off-Campus Studies and the Major Departments at Whitman College have worked together to produce new Off-Campus Studies Advising sheets for each major. The purpose of the new OCS Major Advising sheets is to provide students information that will help them decide when and where to study off-campus and how this might fit into their major program at Whitman. The Major Advising sheets list recommended programs, provide guidelines on course loads, and describe the major department’s philosophies towards off-campus studies, including how the department views OCS experiences as potentially integrating into the major. The new Off-Campus Studies Advising Sheets for each major can be found at Off-Campus Study by Major.
Can I get major credit for courses taken off-campus?
Whether or not you may apply off-campus study credit toward your major requirements is up to your major adviser or your major department. Most major departments at Whitman are willing to approve transfer credit toward the major quite readily if the course is suitable. Whitman students must take at least two-thirds of the courses in their major on the Whitman campus. Most departments at Whitman allow a maximum total of 8-12 transfer credits (including both foreign and domestic transfer credit) to be applied toward the major.
Do I have to study on a program that is related to my major?
It is not always necessary to study off-campus on a program that is related to your major, although it is often highly recommended. Many students find it interesting to take courses off-campus in their major field, as it gives them insight into how that field is approached in other parts of the world.
Can I earn distribution credit during off-campus studies?
If you take off-campus courses in the appropriate fields, you may apply them to the relevant distribution requirements at Whitman. The advisers of Off-Campus Studies (OCS) can offer you guidance as to which courses are likely to apply to certain distribution areas. The final decision regarding distribution credit rests with the Whitman Registrar.
Will my grades from off-campus study count?
Grades from off-campus study do have an impact on your academic record. If you attend a Partner Program during the academic year, your off-campus course grades will be posted on your Whitman transcript. However, they will not be averaged into your Whitman cumulative grade point average. Graduate schools and employers often want to see all college transcripts with grades, so off-campus grades can have an impact on future opportunities.
I'm a transfer student. Can I participate in an off-campus study program?
Transfer students are often able to participate on an off-campus study program through Whitman, but it does take careful planning. Keep in mind that you must study at Whitman at least one semester before you can apply to an off-campus study program. This means being enrolled at Whitman at least two semesters before you participate in an off-campus study program. Also, remember that the maximum total number of credits that you may transfer from any institution (including study abroad, domestic colleges and universities, AP and Running Start credit) and apply toward your Whitman degree is 70 credits.
Can I apply to attend two different off-campus programs - one in the fall and one in the spring of the same academic year?
Typically, the OCS staff advises against this as it is usually best to stay on one program for the year to take advantage of immersion into and understanding of the host country's culture. Whitman students who wish to study on two different off-campus programs in one year must demonstrate an extremely compelling academic reason for wanting to do so by writing an additional essay as part of the Off-Campus Study (OCS) Application. This essay and complete application will be reviewed carefully by the Off-Campus Studies Committee to determine the academic merit of this study plan and approval will only be granted in exceptional cases as justified by extremely compelling academic goals. Please note that there is no guarantee that students applying for two different programs in one year will be approved.
Can I apply for Semester in the West during the fall semester of my junior year and for off-campus study during the spring semester of my junior year?
Students who are accepted to the Semester in the West program during their junior year may consider applying for study abroad for the spring of their junior year, if it complements their academic program at Whitman. However, because you would be studying away both semesters of your third year, this will take careful planning in terms of completing your major and general education (distribution) requirements. Moreover, your choices of study abroad destination countries will be somewhat more limited because the process for applying for a student visa to enter some countries must be started well before Semester in the West ends. For example, it is usually not possible to study abroad in France, Spain, Chile or Austria the semester after participation in Semester in the West because both countries require in person applications by the student at the host country's Consulate when Semester in the West is still in session. We recommend that students interested in combining participation in Semester in the West with off-campus study in their junior year, attend an Off-Campus Studies (OCS) First Step Meeting no later than spring of their first year. OCS First Step Meetings introduce students to hot to choose an off-campus study program and the OCS application process. After attending a First Step Meeting, students may schedule an individual advising appointment with an adviser in the OCS Office.
How will my financial aid be calculated under OCS 2013?
Students attending Whitman's Partner Programs are eligible to apply their Whitman need-based aid and merit scholarships to the fees of the program. Whitman's Office of Financial Aid Services will recalculate the aid awards for students who study off campus and have need-based aid based on the total basic cost to attend the Partner Program. Typically this will include Whitman tuition, program room and board, visa fee, and an estimate for out-of-pocket expenses including airfare, local transportation, books and personal expenses. If the total basic program cost is higher than the on-campus budget, then Whitman's Office of Financial Aid Services will recalculate the student's financial aid award according to the higher cost of the program. Conversely, if the total basic program cost is less than the on-campus budget, then the student may be eligible for less aid than they would on campus.
Students who are not currently receiving need-based aid but believe they may qualify for aid when they study off campus because of the higher cost of the OCS program may apply to Whitman's Office of Financial Aid Services for consideration of financial aid for their OCS semester/year. Students must submit a current FAFSA and CSS Profile, and parent tax returns to apply for consideration. The deadline to apply is October 1 for spring semester OCS participants and May 1 for fall semester and full-year OCS participants.
Work study students should note that work study is not available outside the U.S. and students may need to borrow more funds in loans to cover the work study portion of their aid award.
Any student with financial aid who is considering off-campus study and has questions about how it will impact their financial aid is encouraged to schedule an appointment with one of the staff members in the Office of Financial Aid Services.
How will Whitman merit scholarships be handled?
Students who receive Whitman merit scholarships can apply them directly to the fees of Whitman OCS Partner Programs. Merit scholarships are typically not recalculated when a student studies off campus unless the merit scholarship exceeds the total basic cost to attend the OCS program. The only exception is the Music Department scholarships that require participation in a Whitman on-campus ensemble.
Are there special Outside Scholarships for study abroad/off-campus studies that will help me defray costs?
Yes! Many study abroad program providers offer both need-based aid and merit scholarships. In addition there are national scholarships such as the Gilman, Boren NSEP, and Freeman Asia that offer study abroad scholarships. We expect students who receive financial assistance from Whitman to apply to all outside scholarships for which they may be eligible to help make off-campus studies more affordable. For a list of outside scholarships, please see Fees and Scholarships. For specific advice about your eligibility for scholarships, please consult with Barbara Hoffman, Assistant Director of Off-Campus Studies.
If you receive an outside scholarship from a study abroad program provider or national study abroad scholarship, you will typically receive the entirety of those funds to help defray the cost of your off-campus studies fees. Receiving an outside scholarship will not reduce your Whitman scholarship, except in the rare case in which your combined Whitman financial aid and outside scholarship exceeds the total basic cost of your off-campus studies program.
Any outside scholarship you receive could also reduce your loan eligibility. It is possible that you might qualify for less subsidized loan as a result of the additional scholarship due to your expected family contribution from completing the FAFSA.