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Non-Approved Programs

What to know and what to do

Participating in a program that is not approved by CU Boulder comes with additional considerations. While we encourage you to go abroad, you must be aware of the major differences between approved and non-approved programs.
  1. Read and understand the info on this page
  2. Take the proper steps to make an informed decision about choosing a non-approved program
  3. Register your non-approved program travel

What you need to know: If you choose to participate in a non-approved education abroad program you will opt-out of all services provided by the CU Boulder Education Abroad (EA) office. You will not have access to: advising on program selection, use of federal, state and institutional financial aid, pre-approval of courses and academic advising, in-residence credit for your courses, emergency assistance, international health insurance coverage through CU and general support before departure and while abroad, nor will you receive graduation cords from our office. For more information, see CU Boulder Programs vs. Non-Approved Programs.

Academics and Course Approvals

Students in A&S and CMCI:
  1. Registering your program will provide you with the necessary forms to fill out to allow the Admissions office to evaluate whether they will accept your transcript from your non-approved program before you start your program. You cannot get advising on the kinds of credit you will receive (major, CMCI Core, etc.) until after your program is complete and you work with your Academic Advisor. 
Students in ENVD, Engineering, Music, Business, Education, or the Graduate School:
  1. Registering your program will provide you with the necessary forms to fill out to obtain approval prior to your program. You can get advising on the transferability of credit to CU Boulder from your major advisor, your college advisor, and from the Admissions office before you attend your program. 
  2. Obtaining course advising or pre-approvals does not imply program approval, oversight or responsibility on the part of Education Abroad or the University of Colorado.


You cannot use your federal, state, or institutional aid to pay for a non-approved program or any costs associated with going on the program. If you are looking for scholarships, you should contact your chosen study abroad program about options.

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 programs cost page 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 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.

Health Insurance

If you choose to participate in a non-approved education abroad program, you will not be eligible to enroll in the CU Boulder Education Abroad insurance policy. We recommend you visit InsureMyTrip to research possible coverage options. Please understand these policies may not cover you while you are in your home country.

Health & Safety Considerations

If you choose to participate in a non-approved education abroad program, you will receive any of the health and safety resources and support that CU Boulder and Education Abroad provide. You should research the health and safety protocols of your program and make sure to pay close attention to the health & safety resources your program provides. In addition, monitor the following health & safety resources carefully:

Education Abroad discourages students from participating in international travel where the CDC or U.S. State Department has restrictions/advisories against travel to specific countries or regions.

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 green button on this page. 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 courses from your non-approved program evaluated for transfer credit. Registering your program does not imply program approval, oversight or responsibility on the part of Education Abroad or the University of Colorado.

Register your non-approved program travel

Why are some programs non-approved?

CU Boulder Education Abroad 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 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. EA cannot accept ad-hoc requests for a program to be approved.

Assessing a Non-Approved Program

There is no easy way to find out how "good" an education abroad program is, since 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 CU students. 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 your needs.

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:

  • Is the organization granting academic credit accredited? By whom? Who will be issuing the transcript, and do you have to pay extra to receive it?
  • How many students participate in the program each term?
  • How many staff members are available to assist students?
  • Will the organization give me names and addresses of former students for me to contact?
  • How is the program fee calculated? What is included in the fee and what is not?
  • Under what circumstances will fees be refunded in the event I withdraw?
  • What courses are available? Who teaches them?
  • What kind of housing is available?
  • Does the program sponsor appear to be a bona fide education abroad organization, or does its major interest appear elsewhere (travel sales, for instance)?
  • Is a comprehensive orientation program provided for student participants?
  • 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?

Last Updated December 2023