Academic Matters

Basic information

Off-Campus Programs Student Handbook


Academic eligibility for studying off-campus

Your academic eligibility and anticipated course credits are determined by a preliminary application that must be approved prior to application to a particular program. Calvin sponsored programs require at least sophomore standing and a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.5. For students who are not on academic probation but who do not meet the 2.5 GPA requirement there is an appeal process.

Academic appeal process for semester programs

This process is for students who are NOT recommended for off-campus study by Academic Services. If your preliminary application for a semester program was not been recommended due to GPA, you can appeal by writing a letter to the Director of Off-Campus Programs that addresses the following questions:

  • Why your GPA is low?
  • What steps are you taking to improve your GPA?
  • How can you still be successful in the off-campus program?
  • Why should you be allowed to participate in this off-campus program?
  • Why do you need to go to this program at this particular point in your academic career?

You may also wish to include a letter of recommendation from a professor who can attest to their academic ability (not required).

Once the Off-Campus Programs Director receives an appeal letter, it will be sent to the director of the specific program for which the student applied. The final decision for student participation is made by the Director of Off-Campus Programs in consultation with the program director. If the appeal is granted by the OCP office, the student must meet with the program director to develop a formal contract outlining all expectations for the program. Successful student contracts could include the following:

  • Academic requirements prior to the trip (e.g. specific GPA, class attendance, etc);
  • Academic requirements during the trip (e.g. specific academic expectations, class attendance, use of a tutor, extra meetings with the instructor, etc);
  • Adherence to all aspects of Calvin’s student conduct code;
  • Consequences if expectations are not met.

Academic and residential accommodations

Calvin College is committed to serving students with disabilities and our goal is to ensure that every student is provided with access to the services that will ensure equality of opportunity. For students studying off-campus providing assistance can be more complicated to arrange, so start the process early.

Assistance is available to students with visual impairments, learning disabilities, mobility impairments, hearing impairments, chronic health conditions (including allergies), psychological disabilities, and temporary disabilities to assure access to a complete range of academic and non-academic opportunities. This assistance is provided in consultation with Calvin’s Disability Coordinators who work directly with students to assess needs and develop individual plans for support in academic and residential life.

If you need assistance, please contact the department of Student Academic Services (616-526-6113) to set up an appointment with a Disability Coordinator. Initial appointments must be completed by November 15 for Spring programs and May 15 for Fall programs.

More information on forms and appropriate documents can be found on the Student Academic Services page.

Add/drops, withdrawals, & incompletes

You must take at least 12 credits while studying off-campus for a semester. In many cases, the classes you take are set in advance but on some occasions you may direct enroll in one or two classes at the host institution. In these cases, you may withdraw or change classes within the rules of the host institution.

You can withdraw from classes and keep your full time status as long as you complete at least 12 credits by the end of the semester. If you are thinking about withdrawing from a class you should speak with the program director as soon as possible to see the available options at that time.

If you fail to complete all the required work or to sit for the final examination, instructors may, if they consider your reason valid, give an incomplete grade. You must complete all incompletes within the policies offered within the College Catalog.

Grades and transfer of credits

Courses taught by Calvin instructors or instructors hired by Calvin will be given letter grades that calculate into the student’s GPA. These courses will be specific registered courses, usually starting with ‘ST’ (e.g. STGH for the Semester in Ghana program). Courses taught at host universities will be treated as transfer credit (e .g. The Chicago Semester); these grades will be noted on the Calvin transcript, but will not calculate into the student’s GPA.


The Off-Campus Programs Office will ask all students to evaluate their off-campus experience electronically. The purpose of this evaluation is two fold: first, to examine the overall learning outcomes of all Calvin’s off-campus programs and second, to improve the overall implementation of each program. When asked, please take a few moments to complete the evaluation so the OCP office can better serve students in the future.

Student concerns and appeals regarding faculty (e.g. grades)

While studying off-campus, students who wish to protest or appeal the actions or conduct of a faculty member or program director should follow the procedures outlined in the protest and appeals policy in the student handbook. Within these procedures, the first point of contact for students is the Director of Off-Campus Programs, who will assist you in the appeals process.

Independent studies

You may register for independent studies while studying off-campus if they can find an appropriate faculty member to supervisor your work. As long as you are taking less than 17 semester credits, there will be no additional charge for completing the independent study. You need to set up the independent study prior to departure. The independent study request form is available here.

Class attendance

Remember that your semester away is a study program – not a vacation. You are expected to attend classes and complete your work as if you were studying on-campus. The excuse that you were unable to complete your work because you are traveling is unacceptable, nor will you be allowed to miss class owing to your personal travel schedule.

Advising/Registering for Classes (for the following semester)

Before leaving campus, you should work out a tentative schedule for the following semester after you return with your academic advisor. Although the program director is available to answer some questions, he/she cannot act as an academic advisor for all programs. While you are studying off-campus, you will receive an email with information about registration and how to register for classes the following semester directly from the Registrar’s office.

Graduation Preparation for Seniors

Students studying off-campus in the spring immediately prior to graduation and who plan to participate in commencement in May, must complete the following before leaving campus:

  • Have a senior picture taken for Prism in the fall;
  • Be measured for a cap and gown; and
  • Have an application for a degree on file at the Registrar’s Office (this is required to receive your degree).



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