Transferring Credits

Understanding Transfer Credit

Students may transfer credit to GW from a variety of different sources both before and during their time at GW.  Please review the following resources to guide you as you prepare to transfer credit:

Course Designations: Direct Equivalent vs. Special Topics

Your transfer credit is likely to appear on your GW transcript as a mixture of Direct Equivalents and Special Topics courses. Confused? Here's what it all means:

Direct Equivalent

If a course you took at another institution is determined to be the same as or sufficiently similar to a course offered at GW, the transfer credit will appear on your GW transcript with the equivalent GW course number (e.g. ECON 1011 or PSC 1001). This direct equivalency means you can count that class toward your curriculum requirements in the manner indicated on the GW Bulletin.

Special Topics

If a course you took at another institution is not equivalent to a course offered at GW, the transfer credit will appear on your transcript with a Special Topics number (e.g. PSC 1099, HIST 3001). To see if you can apply that credit toward your Elliott School curriculum as something other than elective credit, you should consider submitting a Course Substitution Request. Here's how that works:

  • Complete a Course Substitution Request Form indicating the course title, the course number that appears on your GW transcript, and the Elliott School requirement you want the course to satisfy.
  • Attach a copy of the syllabus of the class you took to the request form.  If a syllabus is not readily available, ask the instructor or institution for the syllabus or course description.
  • You will be notified via email of the result of your Course Substitution Request in 5-10 business days.

Duplicate Credit

A student may not earn credit twice for the same course. If you have received (or expect to receive) transfer credit for a course, please do not register for the same course at GW.

Pre-Matriculation Transfer Credit


To transfer Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) credit, students should have their official score reports sent to the Office of the Registrar directly.  You may apply a maximum of 24 credits earned by exam toward your 120 credits for graduation. Any additional exam credit may be treated as a course waiver, where the course requirement is satisfied but no credit is earned.

Please consult the Admissions Office's Bring Credit to GW page to understand how AP/IB scores will transfer and which courses may be satisfied by AP or IB transfer credit.

Credit From Another Institution

Students may earn credits from an accredited institution prior to coming to GW.  In order to transfer this credit to GW, students should have their transcripts sent to the Registrar's office.  While there is no maximum number of credits that can be transferred in prior to enrollment, students must complete at least 60 credits at or through GW.

Post-Matriculation Transfer Credit

Once you've begun your studies at GW, there are limits to how much additional transfer credit can be applied toward your degree. No more than 9 credit hours or 3 courses (up to 12 credits) may be transferred after enrollment at GW. All post-matriculation transfer credit should be pre-approved via the relevant transfer credit approval processes described below.

Note: UW 1020, WID, and University General Education requirements (GPAC) requirements cannot be satisfied by post-matriculation transfer credit.

GW Study Abroad coursework DOES NOT count toward the 9 credit hours/3 courses limit.  Study away programs DO count against this limit. More details regarding summer study abroad can be found on the Study Abroad vs. Study Away Undergraduate Transfer Credit Processes & Policies page.

Domestic Transfer Credit and Non-GW Study Away

To transfer credit from a course taken at an accredited institution after arrival at GW, students must submit the course syllabus and a Transfer Credit Approval Form to the appropriate GW department (the department most closely related to the content of the course taken at the other institution) to receive a GW course equivalency designation for the course.  Once the form is returned to you with a GW equivalent, it should be submitted by the student to their Elliott School advisor.  If you are unsure which GW department is the most appropriate, consult your academic advisor.  This process should be completed before taking the course, to ensure that credit will be earned. To determine whether this credit can be applied to an Elliott requirement, please review the section below titled Using Transfer Courses Toward Elliott School Requirements

Semester and GW Short-term Study Abroad


(NOTE: Non-GW summer study programs will use the process detailed above)

After applying to a study abroad program, the next step for students looking to transfer credit from an abroad institution is to submit your course approval requests through the Course Approval Transfer System (CATS) - this process ensures that you will receive GW credit for courses taken abroad (see section below for how to use this credit toward Elliott requirements).  CATS instructions (PDF) and additional transfer credit information can be found on the Study Abroad website. The CATS process must be completed for each course taken abroad, regardless of whether you wish to earn credit for the course.  CATS requests go directly to the departmental approvers, who typically have 12 days to respond to the request.


Using Transfer Courses Toward Elliott School Requirements

Depending on how your course is transferred back through CATS, you may need to complete an additional process. With domestic or study abroad transfer credit, a course may transfer back in one of two ways:

  1. A course may transfer as a direct equivalent to a specific course already offered at GW (i.e. PSC 2337 Development Politics, ANTH 3708 Anthropology of Africa, etc.).
    1. When a course is approved as a direct equivalent, it will automatically count for any requirement that that course is approved for.  For example, if you are given approval for your transfer course to be transferred back as ANTH 3708 – Anthropology of Africa, this course will count for any ONE of the Elliott School requirements it is approved for (in this case Contemporary Cultures and Societies concentration, Int’l Development Concentration, Africa Concentration, or Africa Regional Foundation).
    2. If this is the case, there are no additional steps that you need to take for this to count.
  2. Alternatively, a course can transfer back as a Special Topics course.  This will be the case with most IAFF approved courses, as well as courses approved by other departments that do not consider any GW course to be an exact equivalent to the course being transferred.  Some examples of common Special Topics course numbers include course numbers that end in “99”, HIST courses ending in “01”, IAFF 1099, IAFF 2040, and IAFF 3180-3190, among others.  If you are unsure whether a course has been given a Special Topics designation, search the bulletin for the course number you were given or contact your academic advisor.
    1. When a course is approved as Special Topics, it likely will not automatically satisfy an Elliott School requirement.  Instead, it will require that you submit a Course Substitution Request (CSR) to request that the course be allowed to satisfy the requirement you hope to fill. If you do not wish to satisfy an Elliott School requirement with the course, no CSR is necessary.
      1. As an example, if you plan to take a course abroad called “IECO 2511 - Economics of the Middle East” with the intent to use this course for your International Development requirement, you will first submit a CATS approval to find the GW equivalent.  Most likely, you will request an equivalent from the Economics department, as the course seems most relevant to economics. If GW does not currently offer a course considered to be its equivalent, it will be deemed a Special Topics course (ECON 1099, perhaps).  You will then use the CSR form to submit a request for ECON 1099 Economics of the Middle East to count toward your International Development concentration.  The CSR will require you to attach a syllabus to the request.
      2. Submitting a CSR takes less than 10 minutes once you have access to the course syllabus and have received a CATS approval. You will typically hear back within 5-10 business days, so please plan ahead.
    2. Once you've received an email approval for your CSR from your advisor, save that email so that you can inform your advisor when your transfer credit has come in.  They will then be able to make the necessary changes in DegreeMap when the credit is posted.

Note that to ensure that credit and requirements will be satisfied, CATS requests and, when necessary, Course Substitution Requests should be completed before going abroad.