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Academic Support

Academic life for international students isn't easy! Classroom culture here may be very different from classroom culture back home. Teachers speak quickly, behave differently, and expect different things from you. Homework, project and group work expectations may be new to you. Teachers may ask you to speak or answer questions in class in a way you have never done before. And if English is not your first language, it can be hard to understand teachers and classmates, and writing and reading assignments can be difficult and time-consuming.

What can you do to meet these challenges? This page provides suggestions and resources to help you succeed academically at the University of Kansas. Read and follow these suggestions. Be sure to also look at the guides for academic success on the AAAC website. Also, remember this fact: research has clearly shown that academic success in a second language correlates much more strongly with confidence than with proficiency. This means that students who confidently use the second language, even if they don't speak it perfectly, are more likely to succeed. So . . .  be bold and don't hesitate to speak!

You can send us a message here if you are having academic problems. We will connect you with someone who can help!

Your Personal Life
  • Your personal life has a major impact on your academic success. Your mental, physical and emotional health can all increase or decrease your ability to do well in your classes.
  • Exercise regularly, eat healthy food, and get plenty of sleep. Go to bed at regular, reasonable times. University work is very stressful, so your body and your mind both need to be strong.
  • You may get lonely in a strange culture and may intensely miss your friends and family in your country. Homesickness and culture shock are normal, but don't let them win. Find friends here that you can talk to and be with.
  • Relationships impact your mental and emotional health. Be aware that pressure from family or difficulty in a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend can cause stress and depression.
  • Confidential counselors are available to talk to if you have problems in any of these areas. It really helps! And talking to a counselor does not mean that you are crazy or have some kind of mental illness. Go to the CAPS website (www.caps.ku.edu) to learn more. Need to talk to someone? Call them at 785-864-2277 to make an appointment!

Listening in Class
  • Complete all assigned work before class so that you will be able to follow the lecture and discussion more easily.
  • Keep a journal of new vocabulary related to the class content and practice saying those words so that you become familiar with the vocabulary of the course.
  • Ask your professors for permission to audio-record their lectures.
  • Make an appointment to see your instructor during office hours to go over any class information you don't fully understand.

Producing Written Work
  • Before you start writing, make sure you understand the assignment. If you have questions, ask the instructor in person or by email.
  • Plan ahead. Finish a first draft of your assignment several days before it is due so that you have enough time to revise it.
  • Once you have a draft of your assignment, take it to the Writing Center. Make sure to also take the assignment, class notes, and if possible, outside sources.
  • If the instructor provides examples or rubrics (key features your written assignments should have), make sure to compare your work to them.
  • Make sure to follow all directions about citation that the instructor has provided on the syllabus or in class. Citation is when you give credit to other authors for their ideas and words.
  • The norms for citation in the US might not be the same as norms for citation in your own country, so be sure to familiarize yourself with US standards for academic integrity and with the citation methods that your instructors prefer. KU's Writing Center has excellent information about academic integrity and citation on its website. Read them and stop by the Writing Center and ask questions if you have any.
  • Here is an article about the "10 most common ESL mistakes" that you might find useful as a guide to help you avoid making such errors in your own writing.

Reading Assigned Material
  • Keep a journal of new vocabulary words that you encounter as you read. Pay particular attention to vocabulary that seems to be closely connected to the subject matter of the course.
  • Preview the readings by looking at section headings (if there are any) to get an idea of the subject and the structure of the text.
  • Write a short outline and summary as you read. Academic texts usually put the main ideas in topic sentences at the beginning of a paragraph, so focus on the first sentences of each paragraph.

Speaking in Class
  • Don't be afraid to speak - it's ok if your pronunciation and grammar are not perfect! Research tells us that confidence (that is, willingness to speak and use your language even if it isn't perfect) correlates strongly with academic success.
  • If the class discussion seems to be moving too quickly for you to be able to make a contribution, you can raise your hand anyway and say that you would like to make an additional comment on an earlier point of discussion. Alternatively, talk with the instructor outside of class and say that you need a bit more time to formulate an answer and ask if there is s/he can think of a way to give you that extra time. Other students might benefit from that too!
  • Review content-specific vocabulary that is likely to be part of discussion before class.
  • Form study groups with your classmates and talk over the material outside of class. This will help you feel more ready to talk about it in class.

Participating in Group Work
  • Remember that all members of the group are expected to contribute to the final product.
  • Talk with other members of your group to work out a clear understanding of each member's assignment within the group and to agree on the deadlines for completing those assignments. If you are uncertain about your role, ask other group members or the instructor.
  • Do not hesitate to speak up and help with the group's decision making, and always ask questions if you are unsure of things.
  • Remember that all of the members of the group depend on the work that all of the other members do, so try to complete your part on time and in a way that it will be useful for the other members of the group. If you need to produce something in writing, this may mean that you need to plan ahead to give yourself enough time to complete a draft and revise it.

Interacting with the Instructor
  • Go visit your instructor during office hours! This is your opportunity to ask questions about the syllabus, the assignments, and the subject matter that is covered in class. It is also an opportunity for your instructor to learn a little bit more about you.
  • Your instructor is a resource, so do not hesitate to ask questions about course material.
  • Make a list of things that were discussed in class that you didn’t understand and ask your instructor to clarify those things.
  • You may eventually find that you need letters of recommendation from some of your instructors, so it is a good idea to give your instructor the opportunity to get to know you so that those letters of recommendation can be more detailed and informative.

Reading and Using a Syllabus (Course Schedule)
  • Read the entire syllabus (course schedule) on the day you get it. If you have questions about any part of it, ask the instructor.
  • Pay attention to due dates and make sure you know what is expected and when.
  • Use the syllabus to help you plan ahead. If, for example, the instructor has assigned a larger than normal amount of reading for a particular day, you may be able to plan ahead and complete some of the reading early in order to be well-prepared for class.
  • Many syllabi include directions for assignments and rubrics for those assignments. Read these directions and rubrics carefully so that you understand what is expected. If you have questions, ask the instructor by email or in person.

What is plagiarism and how can you avoid it?
  • Copying someone else's words without appropriately acknowledging the source is a serious offense in universities. The consequences for the student can be very severe if their work is plagiarized (inappropriately copied) from some other source.
  • You may find that citation standards in the US are different from the standards you are used to. Pay close attention to the instructor's directions about citation, when to use it, and what form to use. If you have any questions, ask the instructor.
  • The first place you should look for advice on citation and academic integrity is your course syllabus. If you are still unsure and have no time to consult the instructor, then look at the University of Kansas Writing Center website for information about academic integrity or citation. You may also find the two websites below to be helpful.
  • Click here for an excellent webpage from Indiana University that explains plagiarism and offers advice on how to avoid it.
  • Click here for another great webpage from Purdue University that may help you figure out when you need to cite a source.

Interpreting your grades
  •  The system of grading in the US may be different than the grading system that you are used to. For one thing, the average grades may be somewhat higher here than elsewhere. Familiarize yourself with the norms of the class and the discipline so that you can better understand what your grade means.
  • Your GPA may be used as a basis for admission to a major, to graduate school, or to an honors society, and you are required to maintain a minimum GPA to remain in school. Familiarize yourself with the GPA system so that you understand how GPA is calculated. A GPA of 3.0 is equivalent to a B average.
  • For graduate students in many disciplines, any grade lower than a B may indicate that you are not making adequate progress and may be understood by the professor as being a failing grade. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the grading standards in your department early in your program so that you understand how your performance compares to departmental norms.

What is academic probation?
  • For students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, if your cumulative GPA drops below 2.0, then you will be placed on academic probation. Some professional schools and departments have different standards and probation policies. For more information on academic probation, look at this page on the Undergraduate Advising Center website.

7 Study Tips to Ace Your Finals
  1. Keep your mind and body alert - sleep, exercise and nutrition are important to optimal academic performance.
  2. Get organized – find all notes, handouts, outside readings, study guides and texts. Put these in chronological order. It will make review easier.
  3. Create an exam study plan. Set reasonable goals – it may not be possible to cover a course in one night. Learning material in smaller bites will be more effective and far less stressful than cramming a few days before.
  4. Divide and conquer – by taking the chapters, sections, notes, outside readings, etc. and divide them by the days left to prepare for the exam.
  5. Plan for essay questions – create a working outline for the topics which will be included on the exam. Highlight the key elements. Most discussion questions will have 2-3 parts to answer. Decide what the main points could be and create paragraphs to support your answer. Writing these down is a great way to study and enhances recall.
  6. Attend review sessions – even if you feel you have the information down cold. Attending review sessions may further clarify your understanding of the material.
  7. Take deep breathes. Use visualization. Visualize taking the test, know the material, answering the questions and doing well.

Please send us any academic success suggestions or links to resources that have helped you. We'll include them on this page!


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