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Studying Abroad on a Non-Approved Program

Studying abroad on a non-approved program means you will not be studying abroad through any of the programs approved by the University of Colorado Boulder. While we encourage you to go abroad, you must be aware of the major differences between approved and non-approved programs.

If you choose to participate in a non-approved education abroad program you will opt-out of the services provided by the CU Boulder Education Abroad office. The services for which you opt-out include, but are not limited to: advising on program selection, emergency assistance, in-residence credit for your courses, oversight of academic content, access to academic advising, coordination of financial aid, and general support before departure and while abroad. For more information, see CU Boulder Programs vs. Non-Approved Programs.

Non-Approved Programs and Covid-19: Due to the current global pandemic, Education Abroad recommend considering your study abroad plans carefully – specifically as proceeding with these plans may have negative health and safety, as well as academic and financial implications. You should monitor the following resources carefully and should not proceed with any international travel plans unless the CDC and U.S. State Department change their advisories and remove restrictions/ advisements against international travel globally or to specific regions.

You should also research the health and safety protocols, as well as financial / academic implications of program suspensions or cancellations, of the program you are looking into. As a participant on a non-approved program, you would not have the health and safety or academic support CU Boulder and Education Abroad provides in the event of program suspension or cancellation.

Why are some programs non-approved?

CU Boulder Education Abroad (EA) offers a robust list of over 400 approved programs for students to choose from. With several thousand programs of varying quality in existence, EA chooses to restrict our approved list so that we can provide high-quality advising on each of the programs we offer. We also do this to ensure that the academics, student services, and health and safety of each program meets standards set by the Forum on Education Abroad, and to be able to conduct routine program evaluations. EA consistently reviews its list of approved programs to ensure it is offering high-quality and varied program options in terms of courses offered, overall cost, scholarship opportunities, and student experience. EA may decide to consider adding programs to the approved list after identification of a gap in offerings. The process of adding a program typically takes 1-2 years so that proper vetting can take place and all required contracts between CU Boulder and the new partner can be signed.


One of the most common reasons that students choose to go abroad on a non-approved program is because they believe that it is a more affordable option; however, this is often not the case. Program costs posted on the CU Education Abroad website may initially appear to be more expensive than many non-approved programs’ costs, but this is because these costs include comprehensive estimates of what students will spend for their entire term abroad and not just a program fee. CU Education Abroad's posted program cost estimates include round-trip airfare, books, meals, housing, visa fees, personal expenses, etc. When comparing programs offered through CU Education Abroad with non-approved programs, check to see what your non-approved program costs include. Is it just the program fee? If so, what itemized costs are included in that fee and what is it missing? Be sure to add any additional out-of-pocket expenses to get an accurate comparison.

Additionally, choosing a non-approved program may cost more because you cannot use your federal, state, or institutional aid. If you are looking for additional aid, you should contact your program about financial aid.

Applying to a Non-Approved Program

You must apply directly through the program sponsor, not the CU Boulder Education Abroad office. We ask that you register your program with our office using the button below. This helps us report required statistics about all CU Boulder students going abroad. It also gives you access to a step-by-step walk-through of how to get your credit from your non-approved program reviewed.

Register your Non-approved Program

Students in A&S and CMCI:

  1. You cannot get advising on the transferability of credit from your program until the program is completed and an official transcript is received by the Office of Admissions in Boulder.

    1. A&S students: For additional information about the transfer credit process after you return, please inquire at the main A&S advising office in Woodbury 109.  

    2. CMCI students: For additional information about the transfer credit process after you return, please talk to your CMCI advisor.

Students in ENVD, Engineering, Music, Business, Education, or the Graduate School:

  1. You can get advising on the transferability of credit to CU Boulder from your major advisor, your college advisor, and from the Office of Admissions before you attend your program.

Assessing a Non-Approved Program

There is no easy way to find out how good an education abroad program is as there is no rating system outside of student reviews.

Programs offered through CU Education Abroad have been approved by the CU Boulder Education Abroad Committee and are specifically designed for the needs of students on the campus. There are too many non-approved programs for CU Education Abroad and the Committee to assess individually, so it is up to you to judge which will be best for you.

The best thing you can do is talk to as many people as possible. Check with campus experts on your country of study, with students who have participated in the program, and with anyone else you can think of who might know about the program.

As you do research, ask the program sponsor as many questions as possible. Be thorough in your research; you want the program to fit your needs and expectations. Here is a good set of questions to make sure the program meets your needs and your expectations:

  1. Is the organization granting academic credit accredited? By whom?
  2. How many students participate in the program each term?
  3. How many staff are available to assist students?
  4. Will the organization give me names and addresses of former students for me to contact?
  5. How is the program fee calculated? What is included in the fee and what is not?
  6. Under what circumstances will fees be refunded in the event I withdraw?
  7. What courses are available? Who teaches them?
  8. What kind of housing is available?
  9. Does the program sponsor appear to be a bona fide education abroad organization, or does its major interest appear elsewhere (travel sales, for instance)?
  10. Is a comprehensive orientation program provided for student participants?
  11. What procedures are in place to provide a safe and healthy environment for the program? Have provisions been made to provide medical care in case it is needed?

Finding a Non-Approved Program

  1. Institute for International Education: search thousands of program listings for learning opportunities matching your needs and interests.
  2. listings for thousands of programs in more than 100 countries.
  3. a comprehensive on-line source for study abroad, language schools, internships, international volunteer positions, teach abroad, jobs abroad, etc.
  4. Mobility International USA: International opportunities for people with disabilities.
  5. Erasmus Student Network: a European student organization which aims to help all exchange students who want to study in Europe.
  6. Worldwide Classroom: a list of foreign-run programs, organized by country, and a planning guide covering academic, cultural and practical issues.
  7. Go Overseas: a community-driven platform for every study, intern, volunteer, teach, language school and gap year program abroad. Read peer reviews, location guides, helpful articles and much more!
Disclaimer: Providing information about international opportunities does not constitute an endorsement by the University of Colorado Boulder, or the CU Education Abroad office. CU Education Abroad is not an agent for these organizations and does not guarantee their quality or that academic credit may be transferred to CU Boulder. The listing is provided for your information only.