Directed Study Process & Procedures

While directed study abroad is similar to directed study on campus or in the local community, directed study abroad requires more advance planning. The information on these directed study web pages outlines general academic and financial aid considerations, and what process you need to follow during your preparation. Directed study runs through academic departments on campus, and credit and support would come from your department, not the Learning Abroad Center.

When doing Directed Study, students register and pay for directed study credit through the regular University of Minnesota procedures. If you wish to request aid or loans beyond the amount you expect to receive for enrolling in the directed study credits, follow the procedures listed in the Directed Study Financial Aid section below.

Procedures You Must Follow

  1. Review all information on this page.
  2. *If using financial aid: Review all information in the Directed Study Financial Aid section, and use the information to create a Study Abroad Cost Estimate. Be aware that your adviser will need to sign off on the cost estimate before it can officially be used by the Office of Student Finance.
  3. *If using financial aid: Schedule a Financial Aid Preview Meeting for study abroad to clarify if additional aids/loans are possible for your overseas expenses. You must bring your Study Abroad Cost Estimate with you to the meeting.
  4. Complete a Student/Faculty Contract for your directed study project. 
  5. Register for your directed study credits through the normal University of Minnesota registration procedures. You register yourself for your directed study credits, and your faculty adviser provides you with the necessary registration information. Be aware that if you intend to complete the directed study after the term of registration and take an incomplete grade, you may risk being placed on academic and/or financial aid probation. If you will be taking less than a full load of directed study, you must petition the 13-credit policy, or you will be charged for the full 13 credits of tuition, even if you register for fewer credits.
  6. If you are traveling to a country with a US State Department country-wide travel advisory of Level 3 or Level 4, or if there are Level 3 or Level 4 locations or regions within your host country, you are required to apply for and receive approval from UofM ITRAAC (International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee). Consult the GPS Alliance travel advisory web page to see if your destination requires approval. 
  7. Register with the University of Minnesota Student International Travel Registry and complete the University's requirements, including purchasing mandatory international insurance. For more information, visit the Student Travel and Education Abroad: Health and Safety policy webpage.
  8. Maintain your US health insurance coverage while you are abroad.

Additional Procedures

  • Take care of any negative service indicators (previously referred to as holds) on your record. Negative service indicators prevent registration. As a result, the University of Minnesota may charge you a late registration fee or you may lose your University of Minnesota student status and financial aid eligibility.
  • Identify someone who will serve as a contact for you and take care of your affairs while you are away, and grant your contact person Power of Attorney.
  • Complete a Student Information Release Authorization form with One Stop Student Services Center that will allow your contact person access to your University of Minnesota account. The form and instructions are available at One Stop.

Suggestions for Planning a Directed Study Abroad

Identify a faculty adviser.When considering a directed study project, you will need to identify a faculty member who will agree to oversee your project and assign credit. If you are engaging in a research project, the University of Minnesota Office of Undergraduate Research offer helpful guidance and considerations and the Learning Abroad Center has additional resources specifically related to conducting research abroad..

  • Limit your topic to something manageable. Identify specific questions you wish to answer through your directed study project. Be sure these questions are answerable within your constraints on time and resources. Note that time constraints are more severe abroad. You will also be limited by the unfamiliar cultural and institutional settings and the logistical demands of setting up research in a new country.
  • Do as much background reading as possible before departure. Foreign libraries and online systems may be more difficult to use than when in the US, even for those who are familiar with the language and system.
  • Focus your directed study/research questions and define your methodology before you leave. What exactly do you propose to do once you are on site? With whom will you want to speak? What research tools will you use? If you are conducting a research project, a rough draft of the introductory section of your research paper may help you clarify your project with your faculty adviser before you leave. Discuss all of these matters in detail with your adviser.
  • Determine how to conduct your directed study ethically. Discuss this with your faculty adviser, and plan well in advance. For example, you will need to research what is ethically acceptable both where you plan to do your project and in the US. If you are conducting a research project, you may need to obtain IRB approval for your research, or you may need to develop informed consent forms for your research and translate them into another language.
  • Discuss your proposed project with others, including other faculty, who know the location where you will be doing your research. With these discussions, you may identify problems that you might encounter or holes in your research strategy. In addition, try to develop a list of local contacts who might be able to help you once you are abroad.
  • Discuss contingency plans with your faculty adviser. Students are usually more on their own in doing a directed study project abroad. In case part of your project does not work once you are abroad, discuss possible alternatives with your faculty adviser in advance.

Completing Your Directed Study Credits

The number of credits and nature of assignments are stipulated by the faculty adviser supervising your project. Your faculty adviser is also responsible for submitting the directed study grade through the regular University of Minnesota grade reporting procedures after being satisfied that you have met the agreed-upon standards for the credits. 

Financial Aid

It is possible to use federal and state aid—including loans, scholarships and grants—for directed study abroad. By creating a Study Abroad Cost Estimate, you can have your financial aid package reevaluated for the term(s) you are away so that your aid may be adjusted to reflect the cost of your directed study abroad rather than the cost of study at the University of Minnesota. Additional costs could include your flight and overseas living expenses. Additional aid is not always possible, and you should schedule a Financial Aid Preview Meeting to discuss your package.

Creating a Study Abroad Cost Estimate

You must be registered at the University of Minnesota for an appropriate number of credits while you are abroad in order to receive financial aid. To have your aid adjusted for the term(s) you are away, you will need to create and submit an official Cost Estimate to the Office of Student Finance.

Steps for Creating a Study Abroad Cost Estimate

  1. Put together a well-researched budget for your directed study costs and document the sources of your estimated costs and share those with your adviser; this can be an airline invoice, printout of a website with airline or train ticket costs, photocopy of a travel guide's estimate of housing and meal costs. These estimates should be for a reasonable standard of living. For example, a student would not be expected to camp out and get all food from grocery stores to save money. However, a budget based on a four-star hotel accommodation and fine dining every night would not be acceptable. Personal expenses such as non-study related travel, gifts and souvenirs cannot be included in this budget. is often a helpful resource for planning a budget according to cost of living in your host country. 
  2. Your faculty adviser will need to officially approve and sign your Cost Estimate before it will be accepted by the Office of Student Finance. 
  3. Schedule a Financial Aid Preview Meeting for study abroad, where you will meet with a study abroad financial aid adviser to clarify if additional aids/loans are possible for your overseas expenses. You must bring your Directed Study Abroad Cost Estimate Form with you to the meeting.