The View From Campus: Research Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S.

This month we hear from Matthew Beatty, Director of International Admissions and Financial Aid, at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, on the important topic of researching college options as an undergraduate student.

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Vibrant, friendly, and academically inquisitive.  

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

A: The College is best known overseas for delivering high-quality academic programs and generous scholarship awards.  The Concordia Language Villages – which are cultural and language immersion programs offered in the north woods of Minnesota – are also popular programs for students both locally and globally.

Q: What are your top academic programs?       

A: The most popular undergraduate programs at Concordia are Biology, Business Management, Computer Science, Music and Psychology

Q: How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admission process?

A: International students whose native language is not English must demonstrate proof of English proficiency for admission to Concordia College. One of the most popular standardized exams for meeting the language proficiency requirement is the IELTS exam. Applicants who successfully earn a 5.5 (or higher) on the IELTS exam, and meet all other admission standards, may be admitted to the College.

Q: What is the most significant challenge most international students have when considering the U.S. for post-secondary education?

A: Culture shock.  Once the excitement of studying in the U.S. fades, most international students suddenly find themselves struggling with local customs and new ways of living.  They become fatigued with speaking in a different language, eating different food, socializing in a new manner, and adjusting to new classroom expectations. Fortunately, Concordia College offer lots of support to new international students including a Center for Student Success, International Student Advisor and Holistic Health Center.

Q: How far ahead should students start the planning process if they are planning to come to the U.S. for study?

A: The process leading up to studying abroad can be lengthy.  Students and families need time to research institutions, gather academic documents, save money and submit application material far in advance.  They’ll also need ample time to apply for a student visa and say good-bye.  Therefore, I recommend prospective students begin the planning process at least 12 months prior to their anticipated departure date.

Q: What factors should students use to narrow their range of choices from over 4000 accredited colleges and universities down to a manageable shortlist of institutions?

A: To narrow their range of choices and help find the “best fit” institution, I suggest the following three strategies:

  1. Academic Program(s): Try to narrow down your list of potential colleges by only looking at those that provide your preferred academic program (or major) – and excels in areas related to that program.  If you haven’t decided on a major yet, then consider 4 or 5 academic programs that sound intriguing to you while leaving yourself some room to explore. 
  2. Size: The size of your college will impact your educational experience.  A large school means lots of people to socialize and interact with and larger class sizes.  Larger institutions also offer an abundance of co-curricular programs. 
    On the other hand, smaller schools often provide a closer relationship with you and your professors because of their smaller class sizes and individual level of academic accountability. 
  3. Cost: The most common perceived barrier for international students is the cost of studying in the United States.  However, if you devote sufficient time to the research process and consider a wide range of U.S. colleges and universities, I’m optimistic you’ll find one that meets your budget. 

Q: If international students come across self-described “liberal arts colleges” in their search what do they need to know about these institutions?             

A: Prospective students should keep the following in mind as they do their college research and consider liberal arts colleges. 

1.  Undergraduate Focus: There are approximately 200 private, liberal arts colleges in the U.S.  The majority of these colleges only offer undergraduate programs. This means faculty, staff and administrators at liberal art colleges focus 100% of their time and energy on the undergraduate student experience – inside and outside of the classroom. 

2.  Holistic Education: Liberal arts colleges allow students to explore a variety of disciplines. Unlike some academic programs at larger universities, their course requirements are not as regimented.  This means liberal arts students have the flexibility to study multiple disciplines simultaneously, or even two majors, while still graduating in 4 years.  At Concordia College, nearly ¼ of our students will double major and 91% graduate in 4 years.

3.  Generous Financial Aid: Because the majority of liberal arts colleges are private institutions, their “sticker” price is often higher than public universities.  Fortunately, many liberal art colleges offer very generous financial aid packages.  Their competitive merit-based and talent-based scholarships will significantly lower the net price.  This means students will pay about the same, or possibly less, out of pocket to attend a private liberal arts college than a public university.   

Q: What kinds of students can be successful or “good fits” for liberal arts colleges in the United States?

The undergraduate experience at Concordia College is distinct.  There is a lot of camaraderie that happens, especially the first year.  For example, all new students are assigned to a “Club” during New Student Orientation.  They will also participate in a campus-wide service project early on in the first semesters.  Programs like these create a very close-knit community for students, staff and faculty.  As such, liberal arts colleges like Concordia can be a great fit for students who will be living abroad for the first time.  The friendly environment and camaraderie allows new students to quickly find their niche on campus. 

Also, students seeking a more personalized educational experience where they can be actively involved in different activities, including music ensembles, research opportunities and study away often thrive at liberal arts colleges because of their stature.   

The View From Campus – Making The Academic Adjustment To Life at a U.S. University

This month we hear from Kevin Beisser, Senior Immigration Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, on the important topic of how international students can best make the transition, academically, to life on a U.S. college campus.

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Vibrant, welcoming, multicultural, convenient, quality

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

A: Academic Excellence and our graduate’s success.

Alumnus Satya Nadella the current CEO of Microsoft, who at the time was an international student from India, received his master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

A: UWM is home to Wisconsin’s largest online education program, with more than 850 classes and 40 fully online certificate and degree programs. The university is also home to the state’s largest collaboration of health sciences, nursing and public health programs through its Partners for Health initiative. It also boasts one of the world’s top film programs. Other major programs include business, engineering, education and information studies.

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/ How international is your institution?

A: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, & Iran. 

Q: How does your institution use an IELTS result in the Admission Process? 

A: The IELTS test is used as evidence of English Proficiency.  At the undergraduate level a student would need a score of 5.0 or better for full admission and at the graduate level a score of 6.5 or higher is required. 

Q: What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges? 

A: One common challenge is fatigue.  If you are a non-native English speaker, even if you are proficient in English, spending 24 hours using that language can be tiring as your brain is constantly working.  Combine that with the normal stresses of moving to a new environment and studying and you will be exhausted at the end of the day.  Hence, focusing on your health is crucial in your success at the beginning and throughout your collegiate career. Sufficient sleep, healthy eating and exercise are essential.

Q: How much time should students be studying for each class they have?

A: Generally, students should expect 2-3 hours of studying for each credit hour they are enrolled in. 

Q: How is the classroom style of professors so different in the U.S. from what most students have experienced back home? 

A: U.S. academic culture requires class participation which can be a challenge to many students who are not used to this style of education.  Classroom styles can also be more informal than what students are used to in their home countries.   

Q: How seriously do U.S institutions take cases of academic integrity violations (plagiarism, cheating, etc.) on campus?

A: Very seriously!  Taking credit for someone else’s work or cheating at all U.S colleges and universities will result in discipline ranging from failure of the course to permanent expulsion from the institution or system.  There are two common American adages that are the best advice I can give to students when it comes to academic integrity the first is: “Honesty is the best policy” and the second is: “When in Doubt ask questions”. 

Q: How can international students best prepare to avoid potential problems with adapting to their new academic environment on campus? 

A: My best recommendation is to be healthy as mentioned above and try to be involved as possible.  The more people you meet the more resources you will have to ask questions.  In addition, staying busy also helps you avoid the pitfalls of culture shock.  Make sure you ask a lot of questions, Americans are very eager to help others, but they typically wait to be asked rather than assume someone needs help.  The same goes for your instructors, they will all have office hours to help with any issues you may be facing in their course.  Make sure you utilize that opportunity to clarify anything that you do not understand. 

The View From Campus – How Do U.S. Universities Help International Students on Campus?

This month, we hear from Krista McCallum Beatty, Director of the International Students and Scholars Office, at Michigan State University, on the very timely topic of the ways international offices assist overseas students adjust to life on a college campus

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A Top 100 Global University

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

Michigan State University is known worldwide as a top research university, home to renowned scholars and scientists from around the globe and a vibrant and diverse community of undergraduates and graduate students. MSU has a legacy of collaborating with international partners to create new knowledge and explore innovative and practical solutions to the world’s most pressing problems—particularly in the areas of food and agriculture; education and capacity building; global health and nutrition; and water, energy and the environment.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad and grad)?

Michigan State University is ranked in the Top 100 universities globally. Individual academic programs ranked number one include:

  • Supply Chain/Logistics
    • Elementary Teacher Education
    • Higher Education Administration
    • Secondary Teacher Education
    • African History
    • Nuclear Physics
    • Industrial and Organization Psychology
    • Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Agricultural and Applied Economics Departments (Global)

In addition, Michigan State University has over 30 individual academic programs ranked in the Top 25, and many more academic programs ranked in the Top 100.

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

The countries with the most students enrolled at Michigan State are China, India, Korea, Taiwan and Canada.

Q: How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

Michigan State University uses IELTS scores to determine whether an international student whose first language is not English meets the university’s English proficiency requirements. Assessing English proficiency is essential in helping international students to be successful while studying at Michigan State.

Q: What is the role of an international student office on campus?

At Michigan State University, the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) is a comprehensive office, meaning we provide a wide range of support for international students and scholars. Examples of the support OISS provides include new student orientation, immigration advising, assistance with obtaining a driver’s license, individual support for students experiencing personal difficulties, lots of great social activities including trips around Michigan, leadership development programming, and a weekly Coffee Hour, that is a long-standing tradition.

Q: What steps do universities take to help international students feel welcome on campus?

Universities start helping international students feel welcome before they even arrive in the US. For example, at Michigan State new international students complete an online orientation program prior to traveling to the US. Once students are on campus, universities provide an orientation program that includes important information about classes and immigration regulations as well lots of information about student life, other laws and policies, and lots of great opportunities to meet other new students, both international and US. Universities also have many staff committed to helping international students feel welcome and part of the community. Many of these people work in a department commonly known as student affairs or student life. International student offices work very closely with student affairs offices to help international students feel welcome on campus. Examples include opportunities to be involved in student organizations, social events, trips, leadership programs, and campus traditions.

Q: How seriously do U.S institutions value having international students on campus? Give examples.

International students are highly important to colleges and universities. They enrich the campus in so many ways – through their academic work, their leadership, sharing their perspectives which may differ from domestic students, and the many informal and formal ways they contribute to all students learning about the world.

What advice would you give prospective international students considering U.S. colleges to help them understand what life would be like for them in the U.S.?

Do lots of research! The U.S. is a large and diverse country and there are many different colleges and universities to consider. Don’t make your decision based on rankings and cost alone. Those are important factors, but you should also consider the academic programs, size, faculty to student ratio, opportunities to get involved on campus, leadership programs and career development support, living arrangements, and opportunities for research. Whenever possible, try to talk with a current student and a graduate of the university to learn first-hand about their experience.  Alumni are a great resource not only to learn more about the university, but to network after graduation and stay in contact with your alma mater. Michigan State has a large and active alumni association with local chapters all over the world. In addition, the alumni association offers many opportunities for alumni ranging from social activities to career support and networking events to opportunities to mentor current students.

Q: What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?

International students will face challenges adapting to the US. However, international students face different challenges depending on their backgrounds and experiences. Common challenges include:

  • adjusting to being immersed in an American English language environment 24/7;
    • learning to eat new foods and at the same time find ways to get familiar food from home;
    • making new friends, often from around the world;
    • adjusting to different culture norms.

The best advice I have for meeting these challenges is to be patient. You will be in the US for several years, and with time you will adjust and thrive as a student here. You will be amazed at how much you learn studying in the US not only about your area of study but about the world and about yourself. My absolute favorite part of my job is talking with students about their experiences and listening to them reflect about how they have grown during their time here.

It is the end of the academic year at Michigan State University right now. This is a joyous time on campus when we celebrate our students, especially our international students. The campus is filled with students getting ready to graduate, and the commencement ceremonies are about to begin. Families and friends have travelled from all over the world to celebrate. Students are walking around campus taking photos in their favorite places, while reminiscing about their time here. They will carry their stories of the ups and downs of life as a university student with them the rest of their lives, knowing that they have grown and changed for the better.

The View From Campus: Why life on a U.S. college campus matters

This month we hear from Marty Bennett, award-winning international educator who has directed international student admissions and student services operations at several U.S. colleges and universities, worked with the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA network or advising centers around the world, and now consults with the British Council on U.S. higher education opportunities for IELTS test takers.

For many years I have asked new international students what has surprised them most about their time in the U.S. so far. One answer repeated more often than any other: “it’s not like what I’ve seen in the movies and on TV!” While there may be some appeal to living the life of a TV celebrity or movie star, this is not how the greater majority of people live.

When it comes to understanding what life will be like on a U.S. college or university campus, most international students have only what they’ve read or seen online. Very few have actually visited U.S. colleges before they enrol. As a result, many international students may rely on what the normal university experience is like in their home countries. To help give perspective on what it’s really like, I’ve been asked to respond to these five questions:

What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the environment at U.S. colleges?

Adjusting to the lack of formality in relationships is perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome. Not only do U.S. students have very informal connections with each other, but the student – professor relationship can have a really friendly and casual feel. This can be very hard to understand. There are many ways that international students experience a very different classroom environment that they may be used back home. From how well they participate in classroom discussions being a percentage of their grade, to how terms like plagiarism and academic dishonesty are defined will leave new internationals struggling to adapt.

How would you describe the life of an international student on a college campus?

Get used to most people you pass on campus saying “Hello!” “Hi, how are you doing?” and “Whassup?” and then keep on walking without stopping to have a conversation. This behavior is normal. Don’t be offended. In reality, international students at many colleges in the United States have access on campus to services, social events, advising, clubs, and activities that simply do not exist in most other countries.

How seriously do U.S institutions take the responsibility of providing for a great variety of students’ needs and interests while they live in and around campus?

For many colleges, they are the home away from home for their students, especially international students. As a result, U.S. institutions tend to provide a full range of facilities, activities, event, organizations, and services to their students. Unusual offices that help students with everything from resume crafting and interview training, counseling services for mental health concerns, to special interest clubs, to intramural sports, and dozens if not hundreds of service opportunities for students wishing to do volunteer work, U.S. colleges cater to the full range of students’ needs.

What do most international students find most surprising about what happens on campus outside of the classroom?

Other than the friendly “hi’s” and hello’s” they will get from most students on campus, the sheer scope of different events, activities, and clubs available to join is what is most surprising for international students.

What advice would you give international students to best prepare them for life on campus?

Perhaps the best advice I would give to students about coming to the United States for a college or university degree, is twofold: 1) keep an open mind – expect to be surprised by what you encounter, and 2) if at all possible, talk to current international students from your country or region of the world before you go, so you can get the perspective of someone who has been through what you are about to experience. Good luck!

Finding the Right U.S. College For You

Image courtesy of Wilson Hui via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

With thousands of U.S. colleges and universities to choose from, finding the right one for you can be a difficult task. Firstly, there’s huge choice in terms of type of institution, whether it’s private, liberal arts or big public colleges. But there are other criteria you should consider before applying as an international student.

 

Here are some of the ways you can narrow your search.

 

Find what’s important for you

Like with any major decision, some real thought needs to go in to what you want to get out of your university experience. It’s especially important for international students to think about this as you’re going outside your comfort zone for a few years in a new country.

Knowing what you want should apply to all aspects of your choice of college – not just the prestige of the institutions. Here are a few categories that you can use to make your list.

  • Your budget (for the duration of your studies, including holidays). It’s no use choosing a college that you won’t be able to afford. First, calculate your overall maximum budget and any scholarships/funding you might have.

 

  • College standing. It’s still important to go for the best college that you can, so include choices that you have the qualifications for (including IELTS band score), and will be noticed when you come to look for jobs.

 

  • Job prospects. Apart from the standing of the university helping your job prospects, there may be particular places in the U.S that are better than others for you. If you’re a software developer, you’re more likely to find a job close to you if you choose to study in California, rather than Wyoming.

 

  • Area. Do you want to live on a campus, or in a big city? It can make a huge difference to your life and options during the holidays. You may also want to see more of the rest of the country, so a place that’s too remote might not be for you. Make sure you’re clear about where you won’t go.

 

  • Extra-curricular. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside of the classroom too, so you should keep in mind your hobbies and interests and which colleges offer the most for you.

 

Once you’ve got your list you can get to work on researching colleges and narrowing your list further.

Refer back to our recent View From Campus post for more on researching U.S. colleges.

 

 

 

View From Campus: Adjusting to Life at a U.S. University

Susquehanna University, USA

 

This month, James Goonan, Director of International Admissions at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, USA shares his thoughts on the often overlooked topic of academic adjustment to life on a U.S. college campus for international students.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

  • selective
  • residential
  • national
  • liberal arts

 

For what is your institution best known overseas?

Susquehanna University ranks No. 15 among the top 30 most affordable colleges with the best study abroad programs in the nation, according to Great Value Colleges (GVC).  And, we are ranked #1 in PA and #9 nationally for getting a job after graduation.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

We are undergraduate only. Our top majors are Business (AACSB Accredited), Susquehanna has one of only two undergraduate liberal arts colleges in North America that have been accepted into the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Recognition program. The Publishing & Editing Major is one of the best in the US and ranks #9.

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

Saudi Arabia, China, Macao, Japan, Brazil.

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

IELTS is used to evaluate English language proficiency for applicants from countries where English is not the native language.  The normal entry requirement is 6.0 for degree programs.  IELTS is also used for placement in our English Language Learners program.

 

What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?

Cultural differences.  Our customs are different; school system is different, language is different, and students are expected to be more independent than they might be at home.

 

How much time should students be studying for each class they have?

We recommend that students plan to study 2 to 3 hours for every hour in the classroom.

 

How is the classroom style of professors so different in the U.S. from what most students have experienced back home?

Students on our campus are expected to be engaged and independent learners.  In addition, they are expected to participate in class, question their professors, and take responsibility for their own academic progress.  This atmosphere can be much different than their home countries, where instruction can be more lecture based there and students usually do not question their professors.

 

 

How can international students best prepare to avoid potential problems with adapting to their new academic environment on campus?

We recommend that entering international students participate in a pre-departure orientation in their home country.  These are provided by their local EducationUSA offices.  And, once on campus, the university offers a mandatory Orientation for new International Students.  The most important topics of concern and covered during the orientation.

 

 

The View From Campus: An American Welcome for International Students

Ohio University

 

This month, we hear from Vicki Seefeldt-West, Senior Assistant Director for International Recruitment, Undergraduate Admissions at Ohio University, how welcoming are U.S. college campuses to international students.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

  • Historic
  • Comprehensive
  • Research-oriented
  • Picturesque
  • Welcoming

What is your institution best known for overseas?

Ohio University has a global reputation for our wide variety of academic programs, excellence in teaching and research, emphasis on hands-on, practical experiences, and high-ranking programs such as journalism and business.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

Undergraduate: Biological Sciences, Journalism, Psychology, Media Arts & Studies, Nursing

Graduate: Health Administration, Recreation & Sports Pedagogy, Sports Administration, Industrial & Systems Engineering, Curriculum & Instruction

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

  1. China
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. India
  4. Iran
  5. Ghana

Ohio University admitted its first international student in 1895. Currently, over 1500 international students from more than 100 different countries call Ohio their second home.

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

IELTS is one of the few methods Ohio uses to evaluate students’ English proficiency, which is critical to their success in an undergraduate or graduate degree program.

 

How Welcome Are International Students? 

International students are most definitely welcome in the U.S. In fact, a group of U.S. congressional members recently issued a statement into congressional record supporting international students and scholars. As an international student, you will find that college campuses, in particular, are not only welcoming, but proud to be home to students from around the globe.

 

What steps do universities take to help international students feel welcome on campus?

Most universities make special efforts to welcome international students to their campuses. For example, schools such as Ohio University have groups of current international students available to answer questions before new students arrive, as well as act as mentors once the students are on campus. Admissions offices take extra steps to make certain international students are equipped with the specialized information they require. Many institutions like OHIO offer an international student orientation to make incoming international students comfortable in their new surroundings and to acquaint them with academics, student services, etc.

 

How seriously do U.S institutions value having international students on campus? 

Most institutions in the U.S. are very committed to having diverse student bodies which represent as much of the world as possible. One great example of this is the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, featuring videos produced by a growing number of U.S. universities, which is “…a message of welcome from U.S. higher education to international students around the world.”

Universities also demonstrate their dedication through the amount of resources they invest in bringing more international students to their campuses. At Ohio University, for example, representatives travel world-wide to inform students about the university and all it has to offer them. We have specialists in our admissions office who can work with international transcripts, and a dedicated office to provide support services to international students.

 

 

What is the role of an international student office on campus?

International student offices play a primary role in supporting international students at their universities. Generally speaking, it is the office that provides information and assistance on immigration matters. They may act as a liaison to other support offices on campus, and as a connection with the greater campus community. Additionally, they can serve as a link to public services outside the university. Basically, they are there to help support you in your transition to life at a U.S. university!

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