Information for Faculty & Staff
Writing and Submitting Letters of ReferenceMost study abroad programs require one or two academic letters of reference. Quite often these must be from a member of the faculty who has taught the student. Some programs may also require a letter from someone who has worked closely with the student and can write a character reference. Letters of reference are a critical part of the application process and the Off-Campus Study Office appreciates the time and effort required to write in detail. Our office recommends to all students that they inquire at least three to four weeks in advance about a recommender’s willingness to offer an evaluation/letter of support.
Quite often host universities and other study abroad programs want to know how long and in what capacity the recommender knows the student; details of the student’s academic performance; and personal strengths and/or weaknesses that affect the student’s academic performance.
Swarthmore programs and Direct Enrollment Programs
For some study abroad programs (i.e., Swarthmore programs) the student can request letters of reference electronically through the on-line application system. The submitted request will be emailed to the recommender, who can then use the link in the email to visit the Off-Campus Study web site. After logging in, the recommender can view and submit pending recommendations, review past recommendations, or alternatively provide a paper form to referees.
Recommenders are encouraged to use the online system, however it is also possible to submit the Off-Campus Study Recommendation Form, which may be returned with a letter of recommendation on departmental letterhead to the student or directly to the Off-Campus Study Office in a sealed, signed envelope by the application deadline. If you prefer this method please make this known to the student.
References for Other Study Abroad Programs
Some study abroad programs may have their own system for electronic requests for letters of reference. Others may have separate paper forms that must be completed by the recommender. In all cases it is the responsibility of the student to contact the recommender to request the reference and to provide the electronic link or the paper reference form with instructions on where to submit the reference.
Prior to participation in study abroad, admitted students are required to obtain pre-estimation of credit from appropriate departments. Students who have petitioned to study on programs that are not currently listed as approved programs must seek the pre-estimation of credit earlier in the semester, normally at the time of application. The Application for Pre-estimation of Study Abroad Credit form is used for this purpose. This document contains a section under each reviewed course entitled Comments from Off-Campus Study that explains the credit weightings of the host institution with a recommendation for the credit equivalency at Swarthmore. Departments are encouraged to contact the Off-Campus Study Office with any questions they might have concerning the amount of credit recommended for a course. Final determination regarding the amount of credit awarded lies with the department.
Pre-Estimation of Credit
Departments should notify students if they have additional forms or requirements that must be completed. Students are also directed to inquire regarding specific procedures in practice in each department. Additional information on pre-estimation of credit is available under Academic Matters in the Policies and Procedures for Students Participating in the Swarthmore Semester/Year Abroad Program handbook.
Credit ApprovalUpon their return students meet with the Faculty Adviser for Off-Campus Study for both a debriefing concerning their abroad program and experience and also to discuss the credit review process. Following this meeting, the Faculty Adviser for Off-Campus Study writes a letter to the study abroad credit reviewer in each relevant department indicating the courses taken abroad. Included in this correspondence is the recommended amount of credit per course based on the credit weighting of the course according to the host institution. The student then arranges to submit their academic materials from their program to the department.
If a department has specific guidelines (which may include the completion of additional forms) for the submission of academic work done by students who participate in the Swarthmore College Semester/Year Abroad Program they should make those guidelines available to the students. Departments are welcome to contact the Off-Campus Study Office with any questions they might have concerning this process.