11 Ways to Expand Your College Education Through Off-Campus Study and Exchanges

Student waving goodbye representing ways to expand your education with off campus studyMost college students know that they can study abroad but fewer realize that there are opportunities for off-campus study without ever leaving the country. Why would you want to do that? Because such exchange programs allow you to explore academic subjects not normally available on your campus or to immerse yourself in one area for a semester. Off-campus study programs can help you establish contacts in distant cities for internships or job opportunities. They can provide you the chance to try something different without having to commit to four years at one campus.

January or May terms are one way of allowing students the opportunity to visit a different part of the country to explore their interests. Many schools will have their own off-campus programs for specific majors. However, there are other opportunities for domestic off-campus student and exchanges for students from colleges that don’t offer the previous options.

Opportunities Beyond Your Campus

There are a number of domestic programs sponsored by various institutions and organizations. Some of these are student exchanges that are only available to students from member institutions. Others are programs sponsored by an organization or institution but available to all students. Often, students with affiliated institutions pay only their home campus tuition or receive tuition discounts and the credit has already been approved for transfer.

The availability of such programs means that your education isn’t limited to just the campus you walk onto as a freshman. In fact, given the variety of opportunities, it’s a good idea to check out a college’s policy regarding financial aid and exchange programs as part of the college selection process. It also means that attending a small, rural campus doesn’t rule out urban experiences.

The following is a list of programs that offer domestic semester or longer off-campus study programs. Two are actually study abroad type programs but they were unique enough that I wanted to include them in the list.

National Student Exchange

Allows students to spend a semester or academic year at over 150 participating campuses in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Depending on the plan, students pay their normal tuition to their home campus or pay the in-state tuition to the host university.

The Washington Semester

The Washington Semester is sponsored by the American University in Washington DC and has affiliations with over 50 college in the United States. Most member schools allow institutional aid to be used toward program cost.

The New American Colleges & Universities

This association of colleges allows students to study a semester at one of twelve member campuses. Students continue to pay their regular to tuition to their home institution.

Semester at Sea

Colorado State University sponsors a Semester at Sea program. Yes, you could be fulfilling degree requirements on an around the world cruise. This program doesn’t have any official affiliations which means that students will have to check with their home school about classes transferring and any financial aid issues.

Associated Colleges of the Midwest

This group of 14 colleges sponsors off-campus study that is not restricted to just association members. The programs include the Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Urban Studies; Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities at the Newberry library in Chicago; and Oak Ridge Science Semester in Tennessee.

Great Lakes Colleges Association

Programs offered by this association are not limited to just member institutions. The programs include Border Studies in Arizona, New York Arts, and The Philadelphia Center.

Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs

HECUA programs are open to all students. There are four programs in Minneapolis-St. Paul: Intersection of Art, Identity, and Advocacy; Ecology, Policy, and Social Transformation; Policy, Community, and the Politics of Empowerment; Digital Technologies, Storytelling and Activism. A summer session on Race in America: Then and Now is offered in Jackson, Mississippi.

Duke University Marine Lab

This program is sponsored by Duke as part of the 37 member Marine Science Education Consortium although non-member students may apply. Non-science majors are allowed to apply.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Students can select from Conservation, Biodiversity, and Society; Endangered Species Conservation; and Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Programs have different minimum credit hour requirements. Credit is awarded a non-degree student through George Mason University.

Semester at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Sophomores or Juniors majoring in science, engineering, or math are eligible for the program. It’s located in Massachusetts where students will be conducting a semester long independent research project. This is not a tuition exchange program. Students have to pay the WHOI tuition amount.

Trans-Atlantic Science Student Exchange Program

This is a study abroad program but is unique in its focus on science students. This program ensures that students receive full credit for courses taken abroad, often a problem for science and engineering students. Students pay their home campus tuition and fees. Participation is limited to students from members institutions only.

11 Ways to Expand Your College Education Through Off-Campus Study and Exchanges