FAQs: Graduate Student-at-Large

What’s the difference between the Graduate Student-at-Large and Returning Scholar programs?

Graduate Students-at-Large (GSAL) can take courses for credit and receive a letter grade for each course taken, and receive a transcript. Returning Scholars (RS) take audit courses, and do not receive academic credit or a grade but receive a transcript.

Do GSAL and RS students take courses with full-time and part-time University of Chicago students?

Yes. GSAL and RS students take courses with both full-time and part-time College, master’s, and PhD students, at the University of Chicago, and are similarly held to rigorous academic standards.

Are international students allowed to apply to GSAL?

Yes, international students are allowed to apply to GSAL. International students are admitted on F1 student visa status and have to be enrolled in 300 credits (typically three courses) every quarter. Students may decide to apply for one, two, or three quarters of study at the time of admission. Once here, students may extend the duration of their study but must be registered as full-time students at all times to maintain their F1 visa.

Are international students allowed to apply to Returning Scholars?

International students who are studying on an F-1 or J-1 visa must take courses as GSAL students. Returning Scholars do not earn academic credit for their courses.

Do you accept international transcripts?

Yes. International transcripts must be submitted in English. If your transcripts are in another language, you will need to provide an English translation.

What academic credentials must I already have, to apply for the GSAL or RS Program?

All applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. For some international applicants, a TOEFL score of 106 is required.

Do you require GRE or GMAT scores?


Do you require TOEFL scores for International Students?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is required of international applicants (those who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents). The TOEFL may be waived if the applicant is a native of or studied in full-time status for at least one academic year within the last five years in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or English-medium universities in Canada or South Africa. Students who studied in English in other countries, for example, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., are not exempt from the English language requirement. Please check with the Office of International Affairs for more details: https://internationalaffairs.uchicago.edu/page/english-language-requirem...

How competitive are the GSAL and RS programs?

Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements and are unable to work with the GSAL Associate Director to find satisfactory provisional admission plans will not be granted admission to the GSAL and RS programs.

My undergraduate performance wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but I’ve been building a good professional track record. Should I still apply?

Yes, you should definitely apply. We look at each application holistically in order to gauge an applicant’s probability of success in the program. Students are invited to interview so you can contextualize your undergraduate performance and make a cohesive plan with the Associate Director about next steps in your academic journey.

What is the admissions process?

Applicants apply online during all four quarters of the academic year at the University of Chicago. After applications are reviewed, applicants moving towards the next round in the admissions process are invited for an in-person or telephone interview with the Associate Director or members of her admissions team. This is the opportunity for applicants to ask questions and solidify goals and objectives for participating in the GSAL or RS programs.

When will I find out if I was admitted?

GSAL and RS Students will be notified during the interview whether they are admitted or denied.

Will I get a degree from this program?

No, the Graduate Student-at-Large program is a non-degree program. You will receive an official University of Chicago transcript, which lists the courses you have taken.

As a Graduate Student-at-Large or Returning Scholar, would I be taking courses with other continuing studies students? Which courses are open to me?

You are able to take all graduate, undergraduate, or professional school courses for which you have the prerequisites and there is seat availability, except in the Pritzker School of Medicine. If you want to take an undergraduate course, you’ll need to obtain instructor consent in advance. GSAL/RS students are taking regular university courses, not continuing studies courses. GSAL students can request to take any graduate course they are qualified for (i.e. have the prerequisites for); follow particular department’s registration policy, and have obtained approval from department. No courses in the medical school.

What sorts of students accept admission to the GSAL and RS programs? Are there any programs where I can meet my fellow GSAL and RS students?

GSAL and RS students are diverse in age, academic background, and goals in pursuing the GSAL and RS programs. Students are seeking to explore a particular field of discipline, to preview graduate level courses and seminars, to switch to a new field of study and need a transcript with courses and grades, professional development, or simply personal edification. Students planning to apply to graduate and professional programs remain in the GSAL program for two or more quarters, building their transcript and receiving academic and professional/career advice from the Associate Director and her advising team.

Domestic and international GSAL students have gone on to successfully apply to master's and PhD Programs in the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences, medical school, law school, public policy, social work, and other fields, both in the United States and overseas.

The Associate Director of GSAL and RS plans an annual “Exploring Graduate School Seminar,” inviting directors of programs and admissions personnel representing different fields of study to talk about their fields of research and what factors they look for in successful graduate school applications. There are also quarterly workshops and social events and mixers for GSAL and RS students to build community and learn about campus-wide resources.

I am an international student. Tell me about living in Hyde Park and student housing.

GSAL students needing living accommodation within Hyde Park, whether single room or shared apartment style, please visit Graduate Student Housing at rp.uchicago.edu for all details, costs and deadlines for application.

To experience a global hostel-style living environment in Hyde Park, please consider International House at ihouse.uchicago.edu.

GSAL advisors are happy to assist you in your final decision about the best possible accommodation in Hyde Park, while you are a GSAL student at the University of Chicago.

How many courses can I take per quarter?

Domestic students can take up to two courses per quarter. In exceptional cases, students may register for three courses per quarter, with the approval of the program director. Students who wish to take more than two courses in a single school or department must receive departmental approval prior to registration.

International students have to be registered for 300 credits every quarter (usually three courses) to be in full-time status, which is a requirement for the F1 visa.

Once I apply, am I obligated to take a class this quarter?

No. If you decide to take a class in a subsequent quarter, please contact our office three weeks prior to the quarter start date.

International students on F1 visas are obligated to complete their studies or must contact the Associate Director and Dean of Students for assistance if they are unable to continue their studies.

Must I pass all my courses? What happens if I fail one?

GSAL students must always be in good academic standing and two grades of “C” will result in academic probation. Students on academic probation must work closely with the Associate Director and/or Dean of Students to improve academic grades. Continued failure to improve will result in non-enrollment and possible termination from the GSAL program.

Are federal student loans or financial aid available to GSAL/RS students?

No. Federal programs release funds only for students enrolled in degree programs. However, the Student Loan Administration office can assist GSAL & RS students in securing alternative loans.

Are GSAL or RS students eligible for work-study programs?

No. Work-study programs are a form of federal aid, and as such only students enrolled in degree programs are able to participate. GSAL students who are enrolled in classes can apply for regular student employment (not work-study) on campus.

I am applying to a graduate degree program at the University of Chicago; will these classes transfer? How many classes will transfer?

University of Chicago degree programs will generally accept up to three classes to transfer. This varies by program and school, so we suggest that you contact the department’s graduate studies advisor for specific details.

As a GSAL student, will I have access to the libraries and athletic facilities?

Yes. You will have access to a variety of student services and facilities for each quarter that you are enrolled in classes. GSAL students can access campus libraries and have borrowing privileges with their UCID card.

Will I have an academic and graduate school advisor?

Yes, the Associate Director and her team of advisors are experienced in academic student success and will work with you to explore suitable courses, meet and converse with faculty, conduct research and student engagement activities, help with graduate school applications (including seeking faculty for letters of recommendation) and help you manage your work-life balance.

Will I have access to graduate resources and career advising services as a GSAL student?

Yes, UChicago Grad http://grad.uchicago.edu/ provides support services to GSAL students. In addition, GSAL staff provides academic advising and communicates relevant University workshops, programs, and opportunities.

Where are classes held? I am working, but am interested in taking non-business courses; do you offer these in the evening?

All non-business classes are offered on the main Hyde Park campus. The vast majority of the classes are offered during the day; very few are offered in the evenings. Time Schedules for classes can be found here.

I want to take business classes. Where and when are these offered?

GSAL and RS students are eligible to register for courses at the Chicago Booth School of Business. These courses are offered at the Harper Center in Hyde Park during the week day and at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago during evenings and weekends. Time Schedules for classes can be found here. Tuition and costs for Booth Business School courses are different from other GSAL classes, so, please check the costs carefully.

I eventually want to apply to medical school and need one or two biology and chemistry classes that I didn’t take in college. Can I take these as a GSAL student?

Yes. However, undergraduate students will have priority for undergraduate courses, so you’ll need to plan carefully to make sure that the courses you need will be available to you. You’ll also need instructor consent to register for undergraduate courses.

I was accepted last year to GSAL, but never took a class. Do I need to reapply to take a class this quarter?

No. If less than four quarters have elapsed since you were accepted or last took a course, you just need to contact the office three weeks prior to the quarter start date to renew your status. After four quarters of non-registration, we require an updated candidate statement and resume for your status to be reinstated.