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CSU Subject/Course Information

When selecting a CSU campus and subjects/courses to study, prospective students and partners are advised to refer to the CSU Campus Profile webpages and the CSU Campus and Course Selection Guidelines. The webpages and the "Guidelines" list impacted subject areas (which are not available to exchange students) and restricted subject areas (which have limited places available to applicants and are highly competitive). This will assist applicants and partners with selecting appropriate CSU campuses for exchange.

Course Information:  CSU campuses are not required to provide detailed course information online or before the first day of class. Brief course descriptions with prerequisites (if applicable) and credit/unit values are provided in CSU campus catalogs, which can be found on each campus website. A few departments at various campuses have syllabi (outlines) available online. (See link with list of campus departments below.) Students are encouraged to visit department websites to see if additional information about courses is available. This can be done by going to the CSU campus homepage and conducting a search of the department or specific course/subject of interest. After students are accepted to a campus, they are welcome to request course information to their host campus directly although students should be aware that this information may not be available until the first day of class. Here are quick links to the following campus resources:
- CSU Campus Catalogs
- CSU Campus Homepages
- CSU Campus Departments with Online Syllabi (Subject Outlines)
- CSU Course Numbering System

Course Levels:  Courses at the CSU are given unique course identifiers that indicate the level of the course. Generally, course levels correlate with the difficulty of the course although students may experience challenging courses in each level. Undergraduate courses are either lower division or upper division rather than categorized as first, second, third or fourth year courses. Lower and upper division courses pertain only to undergraduate degrees, and graduate level courses pertain to graduate (post-graduate) degrees.   

Lower division courses are designed for first and second year students undertaking an undergraduate degree although courses may be taken by other students. In many disciplines, these can be introductory or foundation courses for upper division courses usually taken by third and fourth year students. Upper division courses may have prerequisite course work which must be satisfied in order to take the course. Prerequisites are provided in course descriptions which can be found online in the campus ‘catalog’ or ‘bulletin’. (See link above.)

CSU Course Numbering System. To understand the numbering system that identifies the level of courses, refer to the CSU Course Numbering System document. Students must select only undergraduate courses unless approval has been given to study at the graduate level at the time of application.

CSU Definition of a Credit Hour.  Federal law (600.2 and 600.4) requires all accredited institutions to comply with the federal definition of the credit hour. For all CSU degree programs and courses bearing academic credit, the “credit hour” is defined as “the amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:

  1. One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one-quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; 
  2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.” 

A credit hour is assumed to be a 50 minute period. In courses, in which “seat time” does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement.

Each campus lists the credit hours associated with each of the courses that they offer. This information can be found in the course descriptions found online in the campus ‘catalog’ or ‘bulletin’. (See link above.)  

Full time Enrollment.  Undergraduate exchange students are required to enroll in full time studies, or 12 credits/units, while attending a CSU campus regardless of what students may require for their degree program. This requirement is strictly enforced. Failure to maintain full time enrollment can result in dismissal from the CSU campus and the exchange program.

Priority Registration. Each campus has different levels of priority registration for exchange students. The following campuses provides the higest levels of priority of registration:  Channel Islands, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Fullerton, Humboldt, Monterey Bay, Northridge, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Marcos, and Sonoma. 

IMPORTANT: Courses listed in campus catalogs may not be offered every year or may be impacted or restricted. To find out if the subject area is impacted or restricted, please refer to the document entitled “CSU Campus Selection Guidelines” (above). Note that information is subject to change and that there are no guarantees that students will be able to get courses that are offered in any given year. Therefore, the key to a successful exchange to the CSU is flexibility.