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Adjusting to an American Education

The American style of education catches some international students by surprise.

Adjusting to an American college education can be challenging if you’re an international student.

You will be spending time in the classroom while you continue to grapple with a different language and culture. Before getting an American education, know what to expect.

How an American Education Works

Class sizes at accredited American schools can vary from just a few students in a small classroom to hundreds in a large lecture hall. Beginner-level (also known as general education) courses that students in many disciplines must pass to graduate from college are likely to be larger than upper-level courses for students with a specific college major.

However, even large lectures are sometimes split into smaller classes a couple of times per week so that students can ask questions and receive more individualized attention.

Students in all college courses are expected to take notes. Organize your notes by date and topic. If you miss a class, be sure to copy the notes from one of your classmates. Professors sometimes mention topics that aren’t in your course textbook, and that information could show up on your next exam.

If your handwriting is sloppy or if you can type fast, try taking notes on a laptop. It is also perfectly acceptable to record the lecture if the professor has a strong accent or you want to review the materials later.

Some universities in the USA also offer online classes, allowing students to work at their own pace.

American Education in the Classroom

College students completing an American education are expected to participate in class. Be prepared to ask questions, make comments and defend your ideas, even if they differ from those of the professor.

Don’t hide in the last row or – worse yet – fall asleep during class. Professors in American classrooms want to see that you are paying attention and taking an interest in the class.

If you find it difficult to ask questions during class, ask for help during the professor’s office hours. Professors often have set hours they are available each week for students to drop into their office.

American Education Outside of Class

Responsibilities for your American education don’t end when the final bell rings.

Outside of class, students must read assigned texts, complete assignments and prepare for quizzes and exams. Professors at the beginning of the term will probably distribute a syllabus that states when textbook pages should be read, the dates of major tests and the deadlines for any large projects.

Get to know a few students in your classes. Form a study group, or at least exchange phone numbers in case you have any last-minute questions the night before an exam.

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Students aren’t coddled when they receive an American education. Chances are your professor won’t urge you to participate or chide you for failing to read the textbook. You’ll simply earn a lower grade.

Knowing your professors’ expectations from the beginning will help you earn the grades you deserve as you complete an American education.