international students

The View From Campus: Finals in the USA

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

 

In this month’s edition, Dr. Mandy Hansen, Director of Global Engagement, at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, explains some of the more striking differences about academic life at U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Q. Describe your institution in 5 words?

A. Innovative, scenic, caring, safe, and inclusive.

 

Q. What is your institution best known for overseas?

A. We have strong innovation programs and community relationships that complement our academics. For example, UCCS collaborates with the government entities on the National Cyber Security Center and is involved in a unique project with the US Olympic Committee as Colorado Springs is the Olympic City.

 

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

A. Business, Engineering, the Arts and Sports related program (like a sports management program for golf and soccer)

 

Q. What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

A. India, Saudi Arabia, China, Spain, Canada/Kuwait are tied for fifth

 

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

A. IELTS is used for admission into our undergraduate and graduate programs. We have a baseline score that is required for admission into our degree programs. We use the test as a predictor for academic success in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These are skills that our students need for success and to feel comfortable with as many classes are focused on group work, note-taking, and interactions that require fluency on all levels.

 

Q. What is finals week at U.S. colleges and universities like?

A. It is a time that many offices on campus pull together to offer support to their students. Here at UCCS, we assist our students during this stressful time by having a free breakfast for students to make sure they are nourished and energized for their studies and keep the library open for longer. These are a pivotal effort to assist in the students’ success.

 

Q. How do finals exams differ from what most international students experience in their home countries?

A. Finals exams abroad are often the only contributing factor to a students’ grade. However, in the United States most classes give a final grade based upon a variety of activities ranging from group work, class attendance, presentations, exams, and papers.

The final exam, which may even be a final paper, lab report, or presentation, is one part of a student’s grade. Therefore, it is essential that international students attend each class and keep up with the assignments that are due throughout.

 

Q. Is it true that how well a student participates in classroom discussions is often a portion of a student’s final grade for a class?

A. The U.S. classroom often includes group work and interactions between the instructor and other students. This type of interaction is fostered when a student enters elementary or primary school as a child.

Collaborative activities and team projects are the norm and are often values that an employer will want from employees. Having confidence in speaking up, participating, and being involved is essential for success.

The View From Campus: The Application Essay

West Virginia University

 

This month, David Smith, Executive Director of Recruitment and Entrepreneurial Programs, at West Virginia University’s Intensive English Program, shares his thoughts about the significance of the essay or statement of purpose for international student applicants to U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

Public university. 150-year history.

 

What is your institution best known for overseas?

Energy-related programs of study, particularly petroleum engineering.

 

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

  • Energy Systems Engineering (G)
  • Environmental and Natural Resources (UG)
  • Finance (UG/G)
  • Forensic and Investigative Sciences (UG/G)
  • Mining Engineering (UG/G)
  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering (UG/G)

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Kingdom
  • Oman
  • Spain

West Virginia University has 2,300 international students, or about 6.5% of total enrolment. West Virginia University has many support programs for its international students, including a full Intensive English Program.

 

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

WVU accepts IELTS as one of two measures of English proficiency. IELTS seems to have been an acceptable measurement tool, and requires a score of 6.5 to be considered for admission.

 

Why do colleges and universities in the United States require essays or a statement of purpose as part of the application process?

Universities often cite “fit” as an important criterion for admissions, and schools that value this concept may rely on the essay to assess it. A more practical use may be that the essay can be a “tie-breaker” to differentiate among many students who might otherwise look virtually identical to each other, with nearly identical test scores and academic records.

 

How important is grammar, punctuation, and word choice in student essays?

The best answer may be “it depends.” Certainly, taking care to be perfect in terms of grammar and punctuation is important, and mistakes are likely to be noticed. That said, international students who are non-native English speakers are likely to get some tolerance for minor errors. Sometimes, an essay from a non-native speaker that is too perfect may raise some suspicion that it’s not the applicant’s own work.

 

Should a student personalize essay answers to the different colleges to which he/she is applying?

Probably, but that’s not always practical. It’s very important to be careful not to mention “how much I want to attend School X,” when writing to School Y. That’s a common mistake in cutting and pasting essays into multiple applications.

 

How creative can students be with their essays?

In most cases, creativity is probably a plus. Admissions staff read hundreds of essays, and they start to all sound very similar. One that’s different will attract attention—the important thing is that it be the right kind of attention. If an essay is remembered because it’s highly controversial, that’s not likely to be as positive as if the same point were made in a creative way without coming across as arrogant, belligerent or one-sided.

 

Is it okay to share a student’s successes and accomplishments in the essay if those are not accounted for elsewhere in the application?

Absolutely! Admission to good schools is competitive, and if students don’t mention things that could give them an advantage, no one will ever know.

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!

English tips to survive the Super Bowl

Photo courtesy of Josh Lackey

Photo courtesy of Josh Lackey

If you’re thinking of studying in the USA, you’re in for incredible opportunities, adventure, and first-class teaching. And the more you immerse yourself in the culture, the more rewarding your experience becomes.

For international students, the Super Bowl is an American experience not to be missed. Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, there’s something for everyone: the spectacle, the halftime show, the commercials, the chilli – it’s all to be savoured.

This Sunday, the New England Patriots take on last year’s winners the Seattle Seahawks, in a bid to lift the biggest prize in American sport.

So to help you get through the game with some idea of what is going on, we compiled a run-down of some of the unique English vocabulary that gridiron (American football) uses.

 

Audible: When the quarterback calls a last-second change to the play. It’s confusing for everyone, so you’re not alone! This has made its way into everyday speech in the USA, used when someone assumes responsibility. “Ok, the boss is away, so I’m calling an audible on this one.”

Blitz: When the defending team goes hell-for-leather to tackle the opposing quarterback. In other words, the big guys try to smash the guy with the ball before he can throw it.

Deflate-gate: The term coined for the conspiracy surrounding the Patriots’ last game, where they were accused of deflating the balls to gain an advantage. Top scientists have been explaining the physics of it to the nation for the past fortnight.

Downs: This is at the heart of the game’s rules. The team with the ball has four attempts (downs) to gain 10 yards, (the TV networks put a yellow line in for you). So, if you hear ‘3rd and 7’ it means it’s their third attempt and have seven yards still to gain. If they’re successful, the whole process starts again. If they’re too far away after three tries, they’ll usually punt (see below) the ball.

End Zone: The areas at either end of the field that are usually coloured and show the teams’ logos. Get the ball in there and you score a Touchdown.

Extra Point: After a touchdown is scored, that team can kick the football through the posts for an extra point.

Face Mask: No, this has nothing to do with beauty treatments. In football it is an illegal move when someone grabs an opposing player’s helmet to stop him. This incurs a penalty.

Fair Catch: When the guy returning a kick puts his hand in the air, he’s saying to the big guys about to tackle him: “Ok, I won’t try to run, just please don’t hurt me!”

Field Goal: A scoring option worth three points – kicking the ball between the yellow posts.

Fumble: When a player who has complete control of the ball drops it. There’s then a mad scramble for the ball, with everyone piling on top of each other.

Going for Two: Rather than kicking an ‘extra point’ after a touchdown, you can opt to run or pass into the end zone from the two yard line. The riskier option for sure, but worth two points.

Hail Mary: Desperate times call for desperate measures. A Hail Mary is when a quarterback throws the ball towards the end zone in the last seconds of the half or game, praying a teammate will catch it and win the game. When this works everyone goes berserk.

Interception: When the quarterback’s throw is caught by a player on the other team. This is about the worst thing that can happen for a quarterback.

Line of Scrimmage: The line where the ball was stopped. This is where the two teams face each other.

Pick Six: Ok, this is the worst thing that can happen for a quarterback. It’s when he throws an interception and the ball is returned by a defending player for a touchdown.

Pocket: The little space that the big guys make for their quarterback. From here he can look for the best passes up field.

Punt: A kick to the opposing team on 4th down

Quarterback: If you don’t know who this is by now, you’re better off just concentrating on the chilli and chicken wings.

Sack: When the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage. The tacklers often go for a little dance afterwards to show people how happy they are.

Snap: The start of the play when the ball is passed back to the quarter back (through the big guy’s legs).

Touchback: When a punt or kickoff is caught in the end zone.

Touchdown:  When a player takes or catches the ball in an opponent’s end zone, scoring six points. Then begins the excessive celebrations and choreographed dancing.

Unnecessary Roughness: It seems that roughness is allowed, but only where necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be penalised.

An all-nighter: If you’re one of the millions of people around the world staying up late to tune in to the big game you’ll be doing what’s called ‘an all-nighter.’ This is colloquial term which most students become familiar with at some point.

 

Enjoy the game! And follow @TakeIELTS1 for more tips on using English abroad. 

If you’re thinking of studying in the USA, and need an English test, click here.

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