Study Abroad Guidelines
The Application Process:
Coursework and Transcripts:
Why is study abroad limited to the 3L Fall?
Unless special permission is received, or a particular program requires attendance in the spring, all semester-long study abroad must be completed in the fall of a student’s 3L year.
If a student is approved to study abroad during the spring of the 3L year, that student runs the risk that grades from the overseas law school may not be received in time for him/her to receive a diploma at commencement. Provided all other requirements are been satisfied, a student in such circumstances would still be permitted to walk in the commencement ceremony with his/her class. She/he would, however, receive a diploma by courier at a later date. All prior students who completed the LLM at Hong Kong University and the Masters in Economic Law at Sciences Po have been eligible to participate in commencement and to sit July bar exams.
Penn Law does not permit summer legal study for credit.
Transfer students, joint degree students, and certain certificate seekers will not eligible to study abroad. Penn Law views studying abroad as an alternative to other opportunities to study outside the Law School at other Penn departments or schools during students’ second and third years. Therefore, students studying abroad may count only one class at another Penn school toward the law degree.
If a student who wishes to study abroad takes more than one class outside the Law School, credits from those classes will not count toward the credits required to graduate from Penn Law. Moreover, the student will have to pay fees for such classes beyond the amount of his/her normal Law School tuition.
Students remain responsible for meeting all Penn Law JD requirements, including completing the correct number of semester hours to graduate, the Senior Writing Requirement, the Public Service Requirement, the 6-credit Experiential Learning Requirement, and the Professional Responsibility Requirement. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of and make accommodations for any potential scheduling conflicts (e.g., semesters in which Professional Responsibility may not be taught). Please also be informed on MPRE timelines and any specific bar filing deadlines for your intended jurisdiction.
Students who study abroad through a Penn Law Partner program are, for financial purposes, generally treated as if they were still enrolled and taking classes at the Law School in Philadelphia. For these students, the process of paying tuition and applying for loans remains streamlined and they continue to be eligible for Penn Law financial aid grants.
Students who study abroad through ad-hoc programs will be responsible for making two separate payments: a direct payment of tuition and fees to the foreign institution as well as a Penn Law non-matriculation fee. This fee is designed to reduce the possible role of financial incentives in influencing the decision to study abroad. For ad hoc programs, the non-matriculation fee is equivalent to the difference between the applicable Penn Law tuition and fees and those of the foreign program. The dollar amount of this fee varies from program to program but is always at least 5% of Penn Law’s applicable tuition and fees. Students awarded grant or scholarship will have their non-matriculation fee reduced proportionally. The student’s financial aid is first calculated as a percentage of his/her overall Penn Law tuition. The student’s non-matriculation fee is then reduced by the same percentage. Students can also apply for loans to support ad hoc study abroad. Please contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss your personal circumstances.
The Application Process
For both partnership programs and ad hoc study abroad, the application deadline is the Monday after Thanksgiving Break of the academic year prior to the proposed period of study abroad. The study abroad application requires a basic form, Penn Law transcript, resume, and two short essays.
Students applying for an ad hoc program must submit an additional (part 2) form. Materials are reviewed in December, with decisions announced shortly after 2L students return to campus in January.
If accepted to a program, students will be guided through next steps which include mandatory reviews for his/her progress toward graduation requirements and pro bono hours. Students will have the opportunity to accept/decline the study abroad nomination.
If moving forward as our nominee, the next step would be applying in February or March to the foreign law schools as visiting students. Students must receive approval from Penn Law before submitting their applications directly to a partnered law school. Notwithstanding approval from Penn Law, foreign institutions retain the final authority to accept or reject students.
Most our partnership programs are set up as reciprocal exchanges. The expectation is that we will nominate no more than two Penn Law students to any single program at one time. With that said, we have historically increased or decreased our nominations in any given year based on the quality of the candidates being considered.
Individual students will be approved for overseas study on the basis of a number of factors including academic achievement at the Law School; relationship of study abroad to personal and professional goals; foreign language ability if relevant; maturity and cultural adaptability; and potential for contributing to Penn Law’s overall international programming.
In the case of ad hoc applications, Penn Law must also evaluate the specific overseas law program proposed by the student. Such evaluations will consider the faculty and curriculum available to students, the administrative infrastructure to support their studies, compatibility of academic calendars, and access to necessary coursework in the proposed term. Please note that the Law School’s approval of past requests to participate in a particular ad hoc program does not guarantee that future requests will also be approved.
Coursework and Transcripts
How are credits awarded for a semester abroad?
Credits are transferred based on the coursework completed at the foreign institution and on Penn Law’s assessment of the specific courses taken. It is expected that all students studying abroad for one semester will transfer back 12 credits. This serves as both the minimum and maximum credit load. The terminology with which the overseas law school labels such a course load (e.g., “22 credits”, “4 credits”, “4 classes”, etc.) is irrelevant from Penn Law’s perspective. Instead, we use the Penn Law credit policy for determining credit hours for coursework:
To be applied towards a student’s Penn Law graduation requirements, these 12 credits must all be in law-related classes. (i.e., A study abroad student is welcome to take a class in German history, however, whatever credit he/she receives from the foreign law school for this class, will not count toward his/her Penn Law degree.) Similarly, credit from basic language courses, while undoubtedly beneficial, cannot be applied towards the requirements for a student’s Penn Law JD.
Coursework taken overseas should not focus on themes of U.S. law, unless it does so in an explicitly comparative manner. You will not receive credit for coursework which substantially duplicates work you have already taken or could take at the Law School.
The Sciences Po and HKU programs take place over the entire 3L year and students may obtain up to 27 credits for work completed while on those programs.
In order to conditionally pre-approve your classwork for 12 credits, Penn Law disseminates a Course Form that must be returned no later than one week after the start of the semester. While still in the add/drop window, students are required to supply information on all courses, including descriptions, methods of evaluation, and minutes of instruction.
In rare cases, students may be permitted to take fewer than 12 credits. However, this exception is granted during the study abroad application phase and cannot be arranged after you have matriculated at your study abroad program.
All classes abroad must be taken for a grade, unless everyone in the class is graded on a Pass/Fail basis for that course, or if prior authorization has been granted.
Grades for coursework abroad will not be factored into your grade average or honors calculations. All grades for these classes will appear in the notes section of Penn Law’s transcript, rather than the body. Grades will be listed exactly as assigned by the foreign institution and not translated into a U.S. scale.
In accordance with the ABA Standards, Penn Law requires that all study abroad students submit a Learning Plan prior to their departure. Working with the Office of International Programs and a faculty advisor, you will develop a written plan to define the educational and professional objectives that you seek to achieve during this period of study abroad. The Learning Plan must also specify the methods to be used in evaluating your achievements of these objectives.
Drafting this Learning Plan will challenge you to begin familiarizing yourself earlier about the legal infrastructure of your soon-to-be host country. Beginning these inquiries while still on-campus will allow you to take advantage of the wealth of resources offered by the law school. We encourage you to utilize both library and faculty resources in development of this plan. Further information about how to begin drafting your learning plan will be available in the spring of your acceptance.
Once you have booked your international flights, all study abroad students must register their travel in the Global Activities Registry (GAR). This ensure that Penn can locate students quickly and provide assistance in the event of an emergency (i.e., medical, natural disaster, civil unrest, etc.). Registering is required for all students; doing so will provide the necessary information to International SOS to activate your travel medicine and evacuation insurance.
Should Penn Law determine at any time, that circumstances have arisen that significantly diminish quality of the program, students will be notified that the program has been modified or canceled. If these changes or cancelation occurs prior to the period of study abroad, students may apply to another study abroad opportunity or withdraw their request to study abroad. Should such changes occur during the study abroad period, students will work with the Associate Dean for International Programs to make alternate arrangements. To date, no program has been cancelled or significantly modified after a student has been accepted to a study abroad program.
In the unlikely event that a Penn Law student should fail to comply with academic or disciplinary regulations of the host institution, and is asked to leave the host institution, the study abroad student will be responsible for any expenses resulting from the involuntary withdrawal.
Should your program be cancelled, or you otherwise seek a refund, we will use Penn Law’s tuition refund policy (found here) to assess if any tuition can be returned to you. We will work closely with any student whose program is cancelled to reinstate you to the Penn Law curriculum as quickly as possible and will not penalize any student if a semester is lost due to a cancellation beyond the student’s control.
After completing the coursework, all students must arrange to have an official transcript sent to Penn Law. It is the student’s responsibility to provide a transcript to the Registrar’s office in a timely fashion in advance of your expected graduation.
Following their return, all students will be asked to complete an evaluation of their experiences of the study abroad program.
As a condition of studying abroad, all students are expected to serve as contacts for future students interested in their experience. Contact information will not be shared with anyone outside the Penn Law community without the students’ permission.