The trouble with transfer credits

Academic exchanges can make for transcript complications

Josh Krusell, ArtSci ’07, said he had an unforgettable experience at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Getting his transcripts ready for graduate school, however, has caused him some grief.

“I had to e-mail a woman back in Holland to get my transcript,” Krussel said at an information session in the International Centre in the JDUC.

Students wishing to apply to graduate school who have been on exchange are required to send transcripts from both Queen’s and the partner school they attended.

To obtain their numerical grades, students must contact their partner institution to receive a separate transcript.

“Grad schools don’t really want photocopies,” Krusell said, adding that correspondence between Queen’s and Leiden has been somewhat difficult.

Students who have taken courses from other institutions face the same obstacles when transferring grades to their Queen’s transcript.

The only exception to this rule applies to students who attended the International Study Center at Herstmonceux Castle in England, who receive percentage grades on their Queen’s transcripts.

“Every school has a different grading system,” said Mary MacDonald, international programs assistant, adding that it’s difficult to translate a mark from an international school into a Queen’s equivalent.

MacDonald said with students headed to dozens of schools worldwide--all with different approaches to grading--the most logical solution is to keep things simple, and give them a credit if they pass.

Laura Esford, Study Abroad and Exchange co-ordinator at the International Programs Office, said transferring credits from a partner school to Queen’s has presented a difficulty to exchange students.

Courses taken abroad are not given numerical grades upon return. All that appears on a Queen’s transcript is a pass or a fail, and a passing grade is 60 per cent.

Julia Scott, ConEd ’07, is still in the process of sorting out credits gained from her 10-month exchange in France.

“It’s up to the department heads. They can give you a credit in a certain category … It makes sense that it takes a while. They can’t really call up a prof from France,” Scott said, adding that it’s important for students to take initiative in doing research in order to have a successful exchange experience.

“In the long run it’s a smooth process,” she said, “Nobody should have a problem if they communicate well with the undergraduate chair ahead of time.”

Theresa Alm, associate registrar (student awards), said the Student Awards office relies on a student’s faculty to determine whether the work the student did abroad is worth the credit he or she received.

“If the faculty says that the student has successfully completed their courses, we’re satisfied,” she said. “The student has had a rich and full experience.” Esford said exchanges are a positive academic and life experience for students.

“I’ve never had anyone come back and say that studying abroad has worked against them.” --------------

For more information about exchange programs and other study abroad opportunities, the Arts and Science International Programs Office is hosting an Exchange Information Fair on Thursday, Nov. 9 in Wallace Hall in the JDUC.

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