Energy and Sustainability Policy
Program Office


One of the most important questions you'll have is 'How long until I complete my degree?' And that's a valid question! You're spending a lot of time and money to do this and having some sort of idea of how long of a commitment you're looking at provides necessary perspective and planning ability for future semesters.

You should work closely with your adviser to determine the following:

How has my previous coursework transferred into the degree program?

When you applied to Penn State, you submitted all of the transcripts for previous college-level coursework you've done. When you were admitted into the ESP degree program, the Office of Admissions began the process of determining what of this previous coursework will transfer into Penn State. Now, your adviser will work with you closely to determine how many can be used to fulfill ESP degree requirements. Please keep in mind that your adviser will work carefully to ensure that as much of your relevant and applicable previous coursework is considered for degree requirement fulfillment in the ESP program, but they are bound and limited to some extent by the requirements you must fulfill.

What additional information/documentation will my adviser need from me to include other previous coursework in the degree program?

Once your adviser has evaluated your transfer credits for the fulfillment of ESP degree requirements, you may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation to substantiate the request to have these courses count on your degree audit. The optimal documentation is a course syllabus from the course from the semester you've taken it. Recognizing this is not always readily available (especially if you've transferred in courses from many years ago), a current syllabus and/or course description will suffice. Your adviser will let you know what you'll need to provide, but it is your responsibility to contact the previous institution and obtain these materials.

Do I have any past or present related work experience I can use to meet any degree requirements?

We recognize that many of our ESP students are coming back to the classroom after having spent years in related fields of practice in the energy or other environmental sectors, and we want to honor that on-the-job experience. It is possible to earn credit for present or previous work experience. If you think you might be a good candidate for this, you should speak with your adviser after reviewing the Credit for Prior Learning section of the ESP Program Office website. Pay attention specifically to Credit by Examination and Credit by Portfolio Assessment.

What courses will I need to take as an ESP student?

Either of the Bachelor's degrees in Energy and Sustainability Policy require 120 credits of coursework. You can look at the Courses page to see a list of the required core courses. Your My ESP excel file supplied by your adviser will show each course needed to fulfill the degree requirements. If you have questions or concerns, just talk to your adviser.

How many courses should I take each semester?

This number will be different for everyone, but here are some things to consider when trying to plan your course load each semester.

  • The online courses you'll be taking as part of the ESP program are every bit as rigorous and time-consuming as their residentially-offered counterparts. The difference is in the flexibility to complete assignments around your own schedule of work and family commitments. Plan to spend 9-12 hours per week completing all tasks, reading assignments, quizzes, and exams for each 3 credit class you take.
  • Check with the Office of Student Aid to make sure you're adhering to any necessary credit minimums for loans, grants, etc.
  • Be strategic. If you're worried that STAT 200 is going to be a real challenge for you, maybe you'll want to take one less course than you normally would, to give yourself the extra time (and brain power!) to tackle the more challenging course. While piling on as many classes as possible could get you to graduation faster, it could also slow you down if you aren't able to be devoted to each course and succeed in it. And, you might graduate and realize you didn't really retain anything as you were too frantically trying to just keep your head above water. A college education is a big investment of time and money - get the most out of it by putting the most into it.

Which courses should I take next semester?

While your adviser will be more than happy to help you figure out a set of courses for you to take next semester, you should approach that conversation with some ideas in mind (as opposed to just open-endedly asking, "What should I take next semester?" You're armed now with the tools you need to know what degree requirements you've already met and which ones you still need to work toward. Utilizing these and some other helpful resources, put together your own list and then work with your adviser.

  • Lionpath Search - You can check here to see which courses are being offered for the upcoming semester and how many seats are available in each course. Please be advised that general education and language courses often fill up very quickly, so you'll want to schedule these as soon as you're permitted. *Make sure you select World Campus as your campus!
  • University Course Bulletin - you'll want to make sure you read over the course descriptions to ensure that you've met all necessary prerequisites and that if you've selected a course to fulfill a general education requirement, that it does actually fulfill the requirement you think it does.
As an ESP student, we expect you to take a proactive role in understanding your placement in the degree! You should not rely on your adviser to prescribe courses each semester - you need to actively participate in the advising process - it's a two way street!

Let's be clear though - an active role doesn't mean that we expect you to figure all of these things out on your own - don't worry, we won't leave you out in the cold! It can be confusing to figure out how your coursework from previous studies fit into our degree requirements, and mapping out a plan of what courses you should take when will also require insight from your adviser.

Taking an active role in your advising relationship means that you:

  • Keep in touch with your adviser on a regular basis and apprise them of any signficant changes that will influence your completion of degree requirements (examples include: adding/dropping classes, taking residential or online classes at another institution concurrently with your PSU courses, leaves of absence, work load changes, etc.).


I haven't completed any previous coursework, can I still be part of the ESP program?

Yes! Students with little or no previous college-level coursework who are interested in this exciting and growing field are also encouraged to apply to the program. For students who wish to complete an ESP degree but don't yet meet the 27 credit threshold for entry into the major, you can enroll with a pre-major designation, EM SC.