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Courses taken at other institutions are evaluated by Penn professors or committees within departments before Penn credit is awarded.

Penn just released its register of hundreds of courses it will offer in the fall — but less advertised is the opportunity students have to take classes somewhere else.

The University allows its students the chance to take up to five credits of credit away — meaning that students can take courses at institutions other than Penn, whether a few miles away or across the Pacific Ocean, and receive credit for them at Penn. Credit away courses are different from courses taken at Penn because they do not affect a student’s Penn GPA and because only the credit transfers, not the grade earned. Many students take advantage of credit away in the summer to fulfill general education requirements, major requirements or receive elective credits.

The Daily Pennsylvanian outlined the process:

1. Students request credit on XCAT

XCAT is an online tool that students can use to request credit at Penn for courses completed at other institutions. Students are expected to research the details of the course they want to take, obtain the course syllabi and submit the information online. XCAT sends these course requests to a specific person or committee in each department for credit evaluation.

Gary Purpura, the assistant dean for Advising in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that credit away allows students to take courses outside of Philadelphia or at institutions that have lower tuition than Penn . Though there is no deadline for requesting courses, students should send in requests before enrolling so that there is no risk of the department rejecting the requests later on.

2. The request goes to specific departments

After students submit information online, XCAT sends these course requests to the relevant department for credit evaluation. In each department, there is a specific person or committee that conducts these reviews, and different departments may make decisions based on different criteria.

“There’s a number of criteria: one is, especially for summer classes, you have to meet approximately the number of hours that a Penn course does,” said Deborah Burnham, the associate undergraduate chair of the English Department. “I also look at the amount of reading.”

For other departments, it’s easier to receive credit for courses taken at other institutions.

“If [the requested courses] look at all similar to [the courses] we offer, most of the time they get approval,” classical studies professor Ralph Rosen said. “The reason is that there’s only a handful of books that people use [in Classical Studies courses], and if [other universities are] using one of those books, those books are tailored to our course of study.”

3. Students receive a decision on whether they will get academic credit, free elective credit, added credit or no credit

Once the department receives the request, professors in the department decide whether to approve it or not.

“If you submitted something to XCAT, I would receive an immediate notification, look at the request, and most of the time, I can make a decision right there,” Rosen said. “I just click all the boxes that say approve ... or I don’t approve if they don’t look appropriate to my department.”

Purpura pointed out that departments sometimes approve courses for free elective credit, but not for credit for specific courses.

“For example, if someone took an introductory physics course, it might not match up exactly with the topics that are covered in our introductory physics course here, so our Physics Department might not give it exact credit,” Purpura said. “The department might say, ‘Yes, we’ll give you a free elective credit, but it does not satisfy the Physics 150 requirement for physics major.’”
4. Students send their transcripts to the College office

After the department has approved the request and the student has taken the course, he or she sends the transcript to the school’s office so the credit can be posted on the student’s Penn transcript.

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