Academic Life

Even the best students may need to adjust to new styles and methods of learning when first coming to the United States. These suggestions and explanations are designed to help you become accustomed to the U.S. academic environment.  Don't hesitate to ask questions of fellow students, academic advisors, professors, or CIE staff members.

Tips for Academic Success 

Have reasonable expectations

  • Tasks may take longer to do at first. A period of adjustment is needed when studying in a new academic system.
  • The first term may not be the time to take extra or particularly difficult courses.

Avoid procrastination

  • Study hard from the start and keep up with reading assignments. If you fall behind in the beginning you will spend the rest of the semester trying to catch up.
  • Plan your time; make a schedule and keep it.
  • Learn to prioritize and always set some time aside to socialize.

Talk with professors

  • Ask for clarification or help early in the semester from the professor.
  • There is no shame in not understanding!
  • Making an appointment to see a professor might be a better way to address your concerns.
  • Asking questions immediately following a lecture is important if you have questions related to the lecture just given.
  • Don't be embarrassed to ask for help.  When a student is not doing well, it is expected that the student will contact the professor.
  • Organizing or being part of a study group can be very helpful when dealing with a large volume of work.  Plus, it is a great way to get to know your fellow students.
  • For additional help the Academic Resource Center offers academic counseling and tutoring services.

Understand the academic system in the United States

  • It depends on the class, but generally memorizing lots of material is not very important.  It is more important to understand the material and be able to apply it to different situations.
  • Keep an open mind; be receptive to other ways of thinking during class discussions.
  • The emphasis in the United States is on thinking for oneself.
  • Use information from many sources.

What to Expect in a U.S. Classroom? 

The following are important values and principles of the U.S. classroom learning environment: the rights of the individual, personal responsibility, freedom of choice, interactive learning, liberal education, independent thinking, and democratic principles.

Learner-Centered Approach

U.S. classroom culture tends to lean more toward a learner-centered approach as opposed to a teacher-centered approach.  A learner-centered approach is more interactive and tends to include more discussion, participation and group projects than a teacher-centered approach. Although the learner-centered approach is more common, every classroom has a mixture of both learning styles. As well, the professor and field of study impact the approach in the classroom.

Active participation by students

  • Being silent in class can be interpreted as lack of interest or being unprepared for class.
  • Class participation is often an important part of your grade.

Taking responsibility and being self-motivated

  • Attendance is not always taken; it depends on the course and the teacher.
  • Topics covered in the lecture but not in the reading may be on exams.

Informality

  • Sometimes relationships between students and professors will seem casual.
  • Only address a professor by his or her first name if you have been invited to do so.
  • Although the behavior with the professor is relaxed it does not mean you are equals in the academic setting.
  • Behavior of U.S. students may seem disrespectful. It is not uncommon for students to eat or drink while a class is in session.
  • Students may be late for class or leave early (discreetly).

Diverse teaching styles

  • Some professors will be formal; others informal.
  • Some will require more participation from students; others less
  • Students need to be ready to defend their views.

Commonly Used Terms 

Plagiarism: Using others' words and/or ideas as your own.  This is a serious breach of the university policy of academic honesty.  To avoid being accused of plagiarism,

  • When using someone else's words and/or ideas, you must cite the source.
  • Cite the source correctly.
  • Even if you don't use the exact words, using someone's ideas without giving them credit is plagiarism.

For more information about plagiarism, refer to the Writing Across the Curriculum website.

Cheating: This is another serious breach of the university policy of academic honesty.  Some cases of cheating are clear, such as

  • Having someone else write your paper
  • Having another person do your take-home exam
  • Getting answers from someone else during an exam

Although students may, and sometimes are, encouraged to work together in study groups, each student should do his or her own homework.

Academic Honesty: Cheating or engaging in plagiarism can have serious academic consequences, including:

  • Failing an exam, paper, or course.
  • Becoming a permanent part of a student's record.
  • Being suspended or excluded  from Loyola.

Academic year
The fall term (semester) of August through December, and the spring term of January through early May generally constitute the academic year.

Course credits
The course credits are a system schools create to keep track of the courses students have taken and need to complete a degree. The Student Records office or your academic advisor can give you more information about course credits.

Full-time course load

As an international student you are required to maintain full-time registered student status each semester.

Office Hours
Teachers often set aside time for talking to their students. If there isn't time or opportunity to raise questions in class, students may see their professors privately during their office hours or by making an appointment for another convenient time. Professors usually announce their office hours at the first meeting of class.

Syllabus
A syllabus is a list describing the course objectives, materials to be covered, due dates for assignments, schedule of exams and reference reading. It should give the professor's office location and office hours. It is imperative that students read the syllabus.

Take-home examination
Questions to be answered in the form of written essays outside of class hours, using resource materials. It must be taken alone, not in collaboration with fellow students.

related links

Academic Resource Center

Writing Across the Curriculum