Many AFSers are able to get academic credit for the time they spend in school abroad; however, that’s not the case for everyone. Because academic credit is typically a local decision determined by your school district in the U.S., rather than through AFS, the best advice we can give is to begin talking to your school early. Below are some steps to get you started.

Before You Leave

  • Meet with your high school counselor and ask whether they will grant you credit for your study abroad. Every school’s policy is different regarding the acceptance of credit for courses taken outside of your state (and country). AFS cannot guarantee that your high school will grant academic credit for the courses you complete while abroad.
  • Create a study plan that outlines which credits must be taken here at home and which credits your high school will accept from abroad. Make sure to go over the plan together with your counselor, and both you and your school should keep a copy. Don’t forget to consider that you could take courses in a different sequence than the typical student and/or you could potentially take online courses before or after your exchange experience.
    Download this form to review with your school.
  • Download a Host School Info Sheet. Once you start your application, you’ll be able to access information about what school will be like in your host country, which classes are available, and whether you’ll be able to get an official transcript.

While You’re Abroad

  • Take classes for which you might be given credit. These usually include math, science, art, history, and world language. The classes that are harder to find abroad will be your U.S. history or government courses and English. (In non-English speaking countries, English is taught as a second language so you will most likely learn grammar, not literature, in an English course abroad). Keep in mind, however, that you may not be able to choose your courses while abroad.
  • Keep detailed records of your school year abroad. List all of the courses taken and write a detailed description, in English, of each class. Bring home the syllabus of each class along with samples of your work including any quizzes, tests, and homework. Get a profile sheet of your host school, if one exists. Make sure that all of this is collected and in your possession before your host school closes for vacation. If you can take pictures of these syllabi and course descriptions, you can even send them to your school counselor for review while you are abroad.
  • Ask your host school teachers to write a letter. Have a favorite teacher write a signed letter about your performance in their class. They may choose to write it in their native language if they do not know English and you can translate the statement.
  • Bring home an official transcript, if possible. It is your responsibility to ask for an official transcript from your host school. AFS cannot help you once you have returned home. Be advised that depending on your enrollment status your host school may not be able to provide this.

When You Come Home

  • Present documentation of your coursework abroad to your high school in the U.S. When you get home, show your list of classes to your school, along with any supplemental materials you brought home with you.
  • Earn college credit. To get college credit for your “new” language, take the CLEP (College Level Exemplary Placement) test soon after returning home. All colleges offer this test or know where it is given. For a summer abroad program, you could earn up to 8 credit hours and for the year or semester abroad program you could earn up to 15 credit hours. The amount of credit will vary from college to college.
  • Certify your language skills. Consider taking a language proficiency assessment (AAPPL or STAMP 4S) after you return while your language skills are at their best. Most states will have a mechanism for you to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy and/or the Global Seal of Biliteracy to provide a certificate of your level of language to be used on university and job applications.

Please remember that while AFS supports your efforts, you are entirely responsible for making arrangements to receive academic credit.

By going abroad in high school, you can change your world in ways that are both visible to you personally, and visible to your friends, family, teachers, and future peers and colleagues. Many AFSers say that their experience was “transformational.” They gain new maturity and independence, and develop a better understanding of what their passions and long-term goals are. They also share that they’re better prepared than many of their peers for the college application and interview process.

There are practical benefits to going abroad in high school too, like gaining language fluency, developing critical intercultural communication skills, and forming lifelong connections that span the globe and often last a lifetime.

The impact of going abroad is different for everyone. Call our AFS Study Abroad Specialists or visit Ask an AFSer on Facebook to learn more.