The View From Campus – Academic Differences in U.S. Colleges
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This month we hear from Santosh Gupta, Managing Director at Vasyaa Certified Consultants in India, on the important issue of understanding the academic differences between U.S. colleges and universities and many other education systems around the world.
Q: Please explain your company’s role with prospective international students considering U.S. colleges and universities?
A: Vasyaa Consultants provides guidance regarding higher education in various countries such as USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Europe etc. Vasyaa is a one-stop solution since inception, for all international Higher education needs. We help our students to take the right choice with respect to the higher international education. We assist them individually in designing their career paths to suit individual profile within the available options.
Q: When explaining the U.S.-style of higher education in terms of academic environment compared to their home countries, how do you begin the conversation?
A: We basically do a SWOT analysis of the student and then we help them understand what the U.S. education system is like. To be more precise, the U.S. academic curriculum emphasizes practical applications and hands-on experiences more than any other education system.
Q: What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?
A: For international students, I would say the most challenging things students face is the open-book concept and out-of-the-box thinking, as opposed to most other national styles of education, one is used to textbook and professor notes. Whereas in US, student success is more dependent on the individual to do his homework and research about the subject.
Q: How much time should students be studying for each class they have?
A: It really varies from individual to individual. If the student is able to concentrate on the professor lecture, then after the class if s/he revises once, then s/he doesn’t need much time to study. Basically, American colleges say that undergraduates should study two hours for every hour the class meets each week. So, if a class meets three days a week for roughly three hours, a student should plan to study six hours for that class each week.
Q: How is the classroom style of professors so different in the U.S. from what most students have experienced back home?
A: In the United States, the professors’ way of teaching is something very versatile, compared to domestic way of teaching. U.S. professors’ style of teaching mainly emphasizes on the practical applications of theory.
Q: What role does classroom participation and discussion play in a student’s potential grade or performance in U.S. universities?
A: The discussions and active participation play a major role. The qualities which students develop during this participation will definitely help them in designing their careers, and also one can be able to work in a team or individually when they get into the corporate world.
Q: What kind of relationship should students expect with professors in an American college or university?
A: Based on my experience, relationships with professors are friendlier and more helpful than students might be used to back home.
Q: How seriously do U.S institutions take cases of academic integrity violations (plagiarism, cheating, etc.) on campus?
A: Of course, this is something followed very strictly. As we all are aware, most of the schools or colleges in US follow open book concept of exams, so there are chances of getting caught very easily if a student is doing such activities.
Q: How can international students best prepare to avoid potential problems with adapting to their new academic environment on campus?
A: Students must be able to do their homework on what will be expected prior to coming to the USA. At the same time, new international students should talk to their DSO (Designated School Official in the international students’ office) prior to arrival. Students also should read the orientation guide thoroughly. Most definitely, new students should not miss the orientation sessions, which usually start before the academic classes.