If you would like help determining whether or not a specific course will be a good fit for transferring into HSOC/STSC, please plan to ask Dr. Christine Muller (HSOC or STSC), Dr. Ramah McKay (HSOC), or Dr. Sebastian Gil-Riano (STSC) an email and/or set up a time to talk with us. Generally, we here in the HSOC/STSC programs take the same approach to granting study abroad credit as we do when it comes to accepting your petitions for courses from outside our program: if you can make a rational argument for why the course ought to count towards your major and the course meets basic expectations for academic rigor and analytic perspective, then it is likely we will accept the course for credit into your sub-major (in the case of STSC) or your concentration (in the case of HSOC). Many students like to discuss these plans with us in advance, and we welcome these conversations because it helps us to know what your plans are for your study abroad experience, and it helps put you at ease regarding your credit transfer once your study abroad program is completed.


All transfer credit, study abroad, or credit away requests must be submitted through the XCAT system.

1. Credit for courses taken away from Penn is not automatic. We will only consider credit requests AFTER the course has been completed, we will not pre-approve courses in XCAT (*with the exception of courses from the pre-approved International International Honors "Health & Community" program.)

All courses are reviewed by the department on a case-by-case basis, through the XCAT system. It is each student’s responsibility to enroll only in courses that are as demanding as those taught at Penn. It is the responsibility of HSOC majors and STSC majors/minors to meet with the Undergraduate Chair or Associate Director prior to enrolling in a Study Abroad program or in courses at other domestic institutions to discuss planning.

2. For a course to be considered for credit, the following standards must be met:

• Instructors should hold an advanced degree
• The course must meet regularly (at least 30-40 hours over the term)
• The course must include a substantial reading component
• The course MUST require a significant written component, and students must be able to demonstrate completion of that work.

3. All XCAT applications must include the course syllabus, details on how you would like us to count the course (i.e. As a free-elective? As an equivalent to one of our numbered courses?), and why you think the course is a good fit for HSOC. A writing sample from your work in the class may be requested on a case-by-case basis.

Your syllabus must enumerate the course in full, including the lecture schedule, list of readings, exams, and all written assignments. In cases where additional documentation is necessary, students will be asked to provide copies of graded work by uploading to the XCAT request. Students should save all work completed for these courses.

4. Courses that do not meet the standards listed above will not be approved; these typically include:

• Purely or predominantly laboratory-based science courses

• Courses exclusively on business methods or management practices will not count

• "Science appreciation" courses or other courses that remove science, technology, or medicine from its historical, political, and cultural context

• Courses that do not require substantial written work and substantial reading 

5. For HSOC or STSC majors, a limit of two study abroad/transfer credit courses, approved by the department, can count towards the major—these must fit within the concentration (for HSOC majors) or the sub-major (for STSC majors). For STSC or BIOE minors, a limit of two study abroad/transfer credit courses, approved by the department, can count towards the minor.

6. Classes will only be approved as a general requirements course if the content, scope, approach, and work-load is judged to be equivalent of a general requirement course (like STSC 0600, for example).

7. Please check with your Advisor in your School regarding the amount of credit you will ultimately receive on your transcript. Most often, if you have fulfilled our requirements, we are pleased to grant you 1 CU as an STSC or HSOC elective credit. However, credit values can vary from School to School.


Updated 03.05.24