Getting Credit for Language School Study in Spain

Over 100 Spanish schools in Spain offering Spanish language classes, Spanish culture courses, and more!

Getting credit for direct enrollment at a Spanish language school

Getting credit for direct enrollment can be both a simple and, as with any conventional study abroad program, potentially complicated process.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how you study abroad, the only institution that can award you credit for direct enrollment or traditional study abroad programs is your own college or university.

If you spend a summer studying Spanish language and culture at a Spanish school in Spain or a Spanish university in Spain, the Spanish school or Spanish university will issue you a transcript or a certificate of attendance. Whether or not you receive credit for your study abroad is up to your university (it's worth repeating).

How can you get credit for direct enrollment study abroad?

  • Independent learning contract
  • Transcript evaluation / credit award
  • Placement exams
  • Standardized tests

Independent learning contract

Independent learning is generally a self-directed learning experience with faculty oversight and guidance. Independent learning should offer and result in a novel learning experience for which credit is granted. Credit is awarded by your school when you demonstrate to your professor or mentor or academic advisor that you have gained knowledge from your learning experience.

How to you show that you have gained knowledge?

BEFORE you go to study Spanish in Spain, for example, you would meet with your Spanish professor, or the head of the Spanish department, or Romance Language department, etc., and let her or him know that you would like to study independently in Spain at a Spanish language school, and that you would like to get credit via Independent Learning Contract.

DEFINE YOUR GOALS. When you meet with your advisor you will have to define your independent study goals, such as "I intend to acquire an intermediate level knowledge of Spanish language / grammar by participating in an intensive Spanish class in Spain during summer break in which I will participate in 20 class hours of Spanish language and culture at the XZY Spanish language school."

DEMONSTRATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. If, as in the example above, you spend participate in a summer program at a Spanish language program, you will have completed 80 class hours per week—80 hours in one month, 160 hours in 2 months. You will certainly have learned Spanish. The next step is to demonstrate you knowledge. Your professor or advisor might ask you to have a verbal interview, in which you show what you have learned by speaking with you professor and giving him/her the chance to evaluate how much and how well you have learned. Or, you may take a written test with a required minimum score to demonstrate knowledge gained.

It is important to meet with an advisor before you go away and to fill out any necessary paperwork and learning contracts ahead of time. The learning contract will contain your anticipated goals, motives for independent study, and the method by which you will be evaluated for your studies at a Spanish language school in Spain.

Do not forget to request a transcript or certificate of attendance (with the classes and number of classes hours indicated) from your Spanish language school! Know ahead of time if your advisor or professor needs to have a copy sent directly from the Spanish language school to her, or to the registrar's office, etc.

Transcript evaluation / credit award

In some cases, receiving credit for learning Spanish at a Spanish language school will be as simple as showing your advisor or professor a transcript or certificate of attendance from the Spanish language school where you took your Spanish classes. If professors are familiar with the Spanish school (or Spanish university program for foreigners) that you attended, they may simply review your transcript / certificate of attendance and award you credit based on established criteria (you should know what that criteria is, of course).

Placement exams

A placement exam may or may not help you receive credit for learning Spanish at a Spanish school in Spain. When you return to your university after studying at a Spanish school, for example, you may be able to take a placement exam at your home university. A placement exam is designed to determine your level of Spanish so that you can be placed in the appropriate level Spanish class. Passing a placement exam usually means that you gained entrance into the class you are testing for. It does not guarantee credit. So, minimally, you advance a level in your Spanish studies.

However, a placement exam can also be used as a way of testing what you have learned in during your studies at the Spanish school in Spain you attended.

If, for example, you were taking Spanish 101 before your Spanish summer study program in Spain, and you pass a placement exam for Spanish 201 upon your return from Spain, your advisor may award you credit for Spanish 102 (because you demonstrated that you gained that knowledge while you were in Spain).

Remember, it is always your school that determines whether or not credit is awarded—no one else but your school can award you credit, so meet with your advisor, professor, department head, etc., before you go. Planning ahead will ensure the best results.

Standardized tests

Standardized tests are an attractive way of gaining credit for independent study abroad in Spain. CLEP exams (College Level Exam Program), for example, are widely accepted by US universities. Consequently, you could participate in a summer program in Spain studying Spanish language and culture, or you could spend an entire semester in Spain studying Spanish language and culture, and then take a CLEP exam to demonstrate your knowledge. If you achieve the recommended score, receiving credit from you university is almost guaranteed.

How does your home university evaluate direct enrollment or study abroad coursework?

If you enroll directly at a Spanish language school in Spain or at a Spanish university in Spain, the process for credit evaluation and transfer is the same as it is for receiving transfer credit from any other university or study abroad program type.

Likely Not likely
Is there an equivalent class taught at your home university?
Does the class consist of the required minimum number of class hours?
Do you already have credit on your transcript for this type of class?
Did you receive less than a C in your study abroad class?
You met with a faculty member and had your classes pre-approved
The class you took abroad is a lower level class than one you already took at you home university

When your college evaluates the Spanish classes you have taken at any Spanish school in Spain or at any Spanish university program in Spain, they will usually evaluate transfer credit using the same policy that is used to evaluate transfer credits from other US universities or traditional study abroad programs (which require the same transcript / certificate of attendance already mentioned).

Who evaluates your study abroad transcript / certificate of attendance?

If your school has a study abroad office, it is likely that someone in the study abroad office will evaluate your credit. If your school does not have a study abroad office, your Spanish professor or the head of the Spanish department is the person likely to evaluate your transcript. The process can take as much as a couple of months, so be patient.

In some cases, even though your school has a study abroad office, approval for credit may still be required from the Spanish department.

Have you declared a major and a minor?

If you have a declared major or minor, the department head of your major or minor may be involved with awarding credit.

Potential problems of transferring credits

  • Universal standards for credits and credit-weighting systems do not exist
  • Considerable variation in credit structures exist in the schools and universities abroad
  • The class you take abroad may have a similar, but not exact equivalent class at your home institution
  • Some classes (such as electives) may not have enough credit hours to qualify for full-credit
  • Did you enroll in a Spanish language school abroad but take a class LOWER than the level of the last Spanish class you took at your college?
  • Need less to say, you need to do well in your Spanish classes—if you have earned less than a C in a class, it will likely not transfer
  • You may not receive credit for a study abroad class conflicts with "minimum residency requirements" at your school—in other words, you are required to complete a certain number of major requirements, minor requirements, and total credits required for graduation at your home school.