Getting the Most Out of Attending College Classes as an International Student

Getting the Most Out of Attending College Classes as an International Student

Understanding the classroom learning environment in U.S. universities is integral to completing your program successfully. You will need to stay on top of reading materials and class discussions, as well as build academic relationships with your peers and professors to receive the most from your program. Below are a few tips that can help you optimize classroom learning:

Understand the Time Commitment

In the U.S., an undergraduate course typically takes four years to complete. In order to graduate, you will need a minimum of 120 credits, but this requirement may vary depending on your program or college. If your school operates using a semester system, you will need 15 credits per semester to graduate. On average, each course is three credits, meaning you will need to take five courses per semester to meet the 15-credit minimum. Five courses a semester can be overwhelming, but take the full course load so that you can graduate on time.

Ideally, you should spend seven hours a week on a three-credit course outside of classroom time. Make sure that you set aside the required time for each course and make a proper study schedule to help you stay organized.

Do Not Wait for Deadlines

In the U.S., your final grade will not be determined only by your final examinations. You will likely have graded assignments or tests spread throughout the semester. This means that you must always stay on top of the material, or else you could miss a deadline or two.

Most of the assignments are open-ended, and going through the material alone is not enough. Your coursework may require external research and original ideas, meaning that waiting until the last minute is not a wise choice.

Engage in Peer Review and Discussions

In your classroom, you’ll meet people from varied backgrounds; use that to your advantage. Form study groups and work on assignments together. Different perspectives are intellectually stimulating and act as motivation. This will also discipline and motivate you to study, because you will have an obligation to participate in your group.

Be careful though, as you only want to discuss the assignments with one another and help push each other into unexplored territories. Do not sit and copy from each other. Plagiarism is a serious offense and can go on your permanent academic record. In a worst-case scenario, you could even get expelled.

Participate in Class

Your high school could have been a place where your ideas weren’t welcomed, and you merely memorized the information. The goal of a university course is not just to teach a subject, but rather equip you with tools that will help you learn by yourself. Your classroom is a place to question, oppose, and understand. Express your thoughts out loud and it will make the process of learning active and engaging.

Talk to Your Professor

The professors at your university may be very different than the teachers you are accustomed to from primary and secondary school. Do not treat them merely as authority figures. Have frank conversations with them. Feel free to chat with your professors after class and in the halls, and make use of their office hours. Your professor is a qualified academic who can help you explore your ideas and cultivate your academic curiosity.

Do Not Miss Class

It is tempting to skip class on the notion that you can just go over the material later by yourself. Although this is possible, doing so will mean you’ll miss the classroom experience. The classroom allows you to come to conclusions yourself and develop your reasoning abilities. The interaction with your peers and the dialogue exchanged with your professor is integral to understanding the course.

Moreover, you’re likely to not catch up with the material on time. And because each unit in your course is connected, you’ll fall behind in the following classes as well.

Keep Your GPA Up

Having a good GPA is an indication that you are getting something from the program. While grades do not always reflect your knowledge, a low GPA in college often means that you are not completing your assignments or paying attention in class. Graded exams are devised to test classroom understanding and engagement with the material.

If you plan to attend graduate school, keep in mind that the top programs will only accept applicants with a high GPA. However, the exact GPA you must maintain to be accepted into a graduate school will depend on the program Your CGPA is a cumulative grade calculated based on your GPA from each semesters. In most schools, you will need a minimum of 2.0 GPA to graduate. However, you should do your best to keep it above 3.5, so even if you do poorly one semester, your CGPA doesn’t take too much of a hit.

Take a Summer Course

Try to free up at least one summer for extra classes. Completing one or more courses over the summer could help you earn extra credits. If you decide to do an internship or have harder classes during one semester, having extra credits will allow you to drop a course and decrease your burden so that you can focus on your classes more successfully.

However, summer courses are not typically included in your initial tuition. Speak to your adviser to find out what courses are available to you and if you can afford them.

Shift Your Perspective

Do not treat academic work as a menial task. Instead, view it as an opportunity to discover and enhance your abilities. This will help you look forward to assignments and lectures, and create a curiosity within you to learn. Even when you have to take electives that do not relate to your core program, do your best to integrate your new skills into your education and your life. Visualizing how your courses make an impact on life in general makes the courses seem more relevant and less abstract.

Reading before classes and engaging in class are essentially the bare minimum that you can put into college classes. Understand what your course is and what it expects of you, and plan your actions accordingly.

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