Academics


In many ways you will probably find U.S. higher education different from that in your own country. Academic standards and practices are influenced by culture. What is considered appropriate academic behavior in your home country might be different from what is appropriate in the United States. Therefore, it is important that you understand U.S. standards and practices. Not meeting these standards can result in charges of academic dishonesty and possible expulsion from the university. The U.S. definition of academic dishonesty is based on the cultural values of individualism, fairness, the idea that individuals must think and work independently, and a strong value of original thinking, creativity and invention. It is common in many countries for students to study and work together to prepare for exams. This is customary in the United States as well. However, once in the classroom, students are on their own for exams. Students cannot copy or discuss answers with each other during an exam. It is essential in the U.S. education system that each student be evaluated individually on his or her own work. "Cheating" is defined as copying someone else's work or taking prohibited information or tools to an exam.

You are expected to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the university, of the school or of the college in which you are enrolled and their major departments. For any of the academic requirements, you should consult your academic advisor.

Plagiarism
"Plagiarism" is defined as copying the work of someone else and not naming or giving credit to your source. In the United States, this will be considered an attempt by you to pass off the ideas or words of another person as your own. Plagiarism is one of the most serious violations of the standards of academic conduct in the United States. It can ruin your academic career.

Of course, when writing a paper you will research many sources and present or summarize other people's ideas. But you must name your sources and identify when you are using their words and ideas by these methods:

  • Name your sources in the text.
  • Put quotation marks around words and sentences that you copy from someone else's work.
  • Provide footnotes and endnotes (even when you are paraphrasing someone's words).
  • Include a list of references or a bibliography.

This also applies to the work of other students. Discussing ideas for a paper with friends is okay, but it is not acceptable to hand in papers that are the same as your friends' or to let someone else write your paper for you, even though the ideas are yours.

Education in the United States
The following characteristics can help you understand how U.S. cultural values influence behaviors and expectations in the classroom. The value placed on individualism, achievement, importance of time, work ethic and pragmatism are evaluated in the following section.
 

Characteristics of the U.S. Academic Environment

Classroom behavior differs from culture to culture. Some classes are very formal, while others are more relaxed. If you are to succeed academically, it is important that you know how to fulfill the expectations of your instructors.

The U.S. cultural values listed in the previous section shape the academic environment in the following ways:

  • Active classroom participation is expected.
  • Time pressure is high - often there are many small assignments due each week - and time management is an important skill to develop.
  • Critical thinking must be developed.
  • Independent thinking is highly valued.
  • Presenting ideas concisely in class is expected.
  • Assignments (reading, writing, homework, tests) are numerous.
  • Competition is a common mind-set.
  • Achievement and hard work are highly valued; the finished product is most important.
  • Students must be responsible for themselves.
  • Equality—all students should be treated equally.
  • Informality is normal.
  • Direct and straightforward communication is expected.
  • Friendship is usually based on doing things in common—sports, studying, etc.
  • Combining theory and practice—the practical application of ideas—is emphasized.
  • Problem-solving orientation—"If it's broken, we ought to be able to fix it!"
  • The scientific method and the use of logical proof are emphasized academically.

 

Basic Rules

  • Arrive on time and be seated before the scheduled starting time of class. Never be late for a class.
  • Listen attentively and take careful notes.
  • Attend class from the first scheduled day. Never miss a class!
  • If you are ill and must miss a class, always check with the instructor to see what work you have missed and how it is to be made up. The instructor may request to see a doctor's note if there is a long absence.
  • Prepare each assignment before the next class.
  • Tests in U.S. colleges are given frequently, so study regularly.
  • Ask questions and express your opinions. Instructors count on this! Do not be afraid to express a different viewpoint than your professor.
  • Should you not understand any assignment or material, talk to your instructor. Make an appointment to see him/her during office hours, or simply talk after class.
  • Understand and be able to use the material from the classroom instead of merely memorizing it.
  • Extra work in the library is usual. Term papers will be assigned in many classes.
  • Careful records of source material are essential.
  • Textbook material is usually supplemented by required library reading. Expectations in the U.S. classroom are generally based on the instructor's assumption that you are a serious student intent on mastering the content of your courses.


Course Numbers and Their Meanings
Courses in the 1000 series are primarily for freshmen.
Courses in the 2000 series are primarily for sophomores.
Courses in the 3000 series are primarily for juniors.
Courses in the 4000 series are primarily for seniors.
Courses in the 5000 series are open to qualified undergraduate/graduate students.
Course in the 6000 and 7000 series are open to graduate students only.

Classification of Students
By Work Load (full or part-time)
A student is a full-time student if he/she carries no less than the minimum credit load (12 credit hours per semester for undergraduate students and nine credit hours for graduate students).

By Year (number of credit hours completed)
A student is classified as either freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, depending on the number of credits that the student has completed in the course of studies leading to a bachelor's degree, or credits transferred into Armstrong.

Undergraduate students are classified according to the number of total semester hours of credit earned.
 

Hours Earned
1-29 Freshman
30-59 Sophomore
60-90 Junior
90-more Senior


Grading System

Grade Description Quality Points per Semester Hour
A Excellent 4.0
B Good 3.0
C Satisfactory 2.0
D Passing 1.0
F Failure 0.0
W Withdrew, no penalty 0.0
WF Withdrew, failing 0.0
I Incomplete 0.0
IP In Progress 0.0
S Satisfactory 0.0
U Unsatisfactory 0.0
V Audit, no credit 0.0
K Credit by Examination 0.0
NR Grade Not Reported 0.0


A student's Grade Point Average (or GPA) provides a measure of his/her cumulative performance on coursework attempted at the University. Generally speaking, an undergraduate student should maintain at least a 2.00 GPA and a graduate student a 3.00 GPA (on a scale of 4.00) for satisfactory performance. The University recognizes four categories of academic standing: good standing, good standing with warning, academic probation and academic suspension. In order to maintain valid visa status, it is advisable that international students maintain good academic standing throughout the duration of their stay.

To receive a bachelor's degree from Armstrong State University, a student must earn at least 120 semester hours of credit (more in some programs), with a 'C' average (2.0) or better as well as a 'C' average for all work done at Armstrong State University. Students must also meet all of the degree requirements of their respective schools. In order to graduate, all students must fill out an application for graduation in the Registrar's Office (Victor Hall).

Credit System
The University operates on the semester system; thus the unit of credit is the semester hour. Most non-laboratory classes meet one, two or three times a week and carry a credit of three semester hours. To receive a degree from the University, a student must accumulate a certain number of semester hours of credit, including specific courses and requirements of the department. Credit is only awarded for satisfactory completion of assigned coursework.

Immigration regulations require international students to be enrolled full-time. Full-time undergraduates enroll in 12 or more credit hours each semester, and full-time graduates enroll in at least nine credit hours. Since adjusting to a new school and environment is demanding, it is not recommended that students take more courses than required during their first semester. You must consult both your academic advisor and the Office of International Education before making any decision to drop or add any course work.

Scheduling and Advisement
There are more than 7,400 full and part-time students who attend Armstrong and must select courses. It is advised that you register as early as possible since classes fill up quickly. The process begins by becoming familiar with the Armstrong catalog. The catalog describes the different degree requirements for graduation within the different degree programs and provides other important information about the university. The Office of International Education will provide you with a catalog prior to your advisement appointment.

At Armstrong, each college at the undergraduate level and each department at the graduate level handle its own academic advisement. Academic advisors help you decide which courses to take and in which order to take them. If problems arise during the semester with a particular course, students are encouraged to discuss the problems with the professor for the class and/or the academic advisor.

International students at Armstrong come from a variety of backgrounds and are sometimes part of special programs (GRSP, exchange programs, etc.) If you are part of a special program, the Office of International Education will help you contact a specially assigned academic advisor who will help you plan your academic program and will authorize your registration.

Dropping of Courses
Courses may be dropped only during the officially scheduled drop/add period. You should also check with your academic advisor prior to changing your class schedule. Please check with your academic advisor, the schedule of classes and the academic calendar on-line for deadlines on dropping classes.

Withdrawal from Courses
Students should meet with the international advisor before withdrawing from a course if it will bring your course load below 12 credit hours. If your course load will not fall below 12 credit hours, you should first meet with the instructor of the class from which you wish to withdraw before withdrawing from a class. In most cases, students will receive a grade of "W" (unless the instructor has sufficient reason to assign a "WF").

Class Syllabus
The first day of class is very important because all instructors provide students with a syllabus. The syllabus is the plan or guide for that particular professor's course. Always read the syllabus carefully. It outlines the responsibilities of the student and the grading criteria of the specific instructor. Be sure to note dates of examinations and when papers are due. It is your responsibility to turn in assignments on time as listed in the syllabus. The instructor may or may not remind you of the due dates for assignments listed in the syllabus. If you do not receive a syllabus or the information is not included in the syllabus, ask the instructor. Not all professors teaching the same subject have the same syllabus, test, grading criteria or use the same textbooks.

Professors: What to Expect
Talk to your instructors. It is expected that students ask questions in class, after class and during office hours. Getting to know your professor will enhance your education. All professors have office hours when they are available for consultation. If they do not provide information about office hours in the syllabus, then ask them specifically for an appointment, particularly if you have some unanswered questions.

U.S. student/teacher relationships tend to be informal. In the classroom, students may speak without permission, interrupting teachers and fellow students. On the other hand, a professor may sit on his/her desk or use slang rather than standard English. However, there are limits to informality. It is best to patiently observe classroom behavior and withhold judgment.

The skills that most professors in the United States look for are related to analysis and synthesis. Students are encouraged to form and offer their own opinions, to ask questions and even to challenge presented course material.

Instructors will combine and use many methods of instruction in the classroom. The most common method is the lecture, where the instructor highlights the most important information or fills in information not covered in or related to readings. The next most popular method of instruction is discussion. This method relies more heavily on the students. Participation, which consists of asking questions and offering information, is vital. Occasionally, the instructor may even answer a question with "I don't know." Generally, the instructor will give you the answer at the next class meeting. The last widely used method is a laboratory, where theories are applied to practical problems.

It is important to preview and read assignments prior to class discussions. If you come to class with questions prepared, you will impress your instructor, learn more and better understand the material. The requirements of each of your classes may be different. Some courses require more reading and writing than others.

Lecture Courses
Regular attendance is always a good idea, but because of the amount of information that your professor will cover in a class period it is essential that you are there to take notes. Be prepared to take many notes on the subject. Lecture courses are designed so that the professor can often speak for most of the class period, only taking student questions at key times or at the end of the class. Your notes will allow you to ask good questions, and this will help with your grade much of the time.

Seminar Courses
Regular attendance is even more important in seminar courses than lecture courses because the professor will get to know each student very quickly.

Take notes on everything. Even comments made by other students can be very useful in understanding the material, and by paying attention to them you can learn the material faster (even if you disagree with what they say).

Be prepared to speak up. Even if the professor has not directly asked you to respond to a statement or question, your ideas may be just what the class needs to get the discussion started or get it moving in a new direction. You can get the professor's attention by raising your hand above your head and waiting for your professor to call upon you. Sometimes you may be in classes where students will start talking as someone else is finishing what they are saying. Don't be afraid to get into conversations in this way if you see it happening in your class.

Assessment Methods
Most professors will assess your knowledge through testing. Some types of tests you might encounter may include quizzes, mid-terms and final exams. These may consist of multiple choice, true or false, fill in the blanks, short answer, identification, matching and essay questions.

Tests are not the only way that instructors assess students. Homework assignments, term papers and class participation are also considered. Each instructor assigns a different value to these methods. You will find that information included in the class syllabus.

Term and research papers require full and careful preparation. Papers should be typed. Computer word processing programs are invaluable for saving time and effort when typing papers.

Armstrong has three computing labs with lab assistants on duty during normal operation hours that can assist you:

  • Solms Hall, Room 104 — PC and MAC workstations, dot matrix (free) and laser printers (first 110 printouts are free). Laser printers can be accessed by using your Pirate's Cove username and password.
  • University Hall, Room 112 — Used as both a general student lab and as a classroom. Can be accessed 24 hours a day by contacting campus police and showing a valid student ID.
  • Science Hall, Room 129 — general use
  • Lane Library Annex-  General use, PC and MAC workstations and more.

Detailed hours of computer labs can be located on the CIS website.

Math and Other Differences in the U.S. Academic System
Comma and Decimal Point (Period): In some countries, thousands, millions and decimals are separated according to a system which is the reverse of that used in the U.S. These systems are sometimes called the "English" system and the "European" system.

U.S./English System: $2,200.35
European System: $2.200,35
U.S./English System: 3,000,000
European System: 3.000.000

If you encounter other types of notation which are unfamiliar to you, do not hesitate to ask about their meaning.
 

Study Tips

Start Early in the Semester
It is very easy to let the first few weeks of a new semester pass by and surprise!—it's the middle of the term, and you're "hating life." Be sure to schedule enough time to study so that you'll also have enough time to enjoy yourself.

Form Study Groups
It can be very helpful to have a group of fellow students with whom you meet regularly. The regular meetings will encourage you to keep up with the readings and homework, and discussing the lectures and assignments will often help you to clear up points of confusion early in the semester. Early in the semester, introduce yourself to one or two students in each of your classes. Exchange phone numbers and find out if your classmate is interested in forming a study group. Phone numbers of classmates are especially useful if you miss a class and need to find out what work has been assigned.

Have Someone Read Your Written Work
It is sometimes very difficult to spot errors in your own work, even if the same errors would be obvious to you in someone else's work. Visit the Armstrong Writing Center in Gamble Hall room 109, to receive assistance with proofreading and the like.

Take Care of Your Body, and Your Mind Will Follow
If you're not healthy and happy, you will not be able to do your best work—and you certainly won't enjoy the work! So, eat well and sleep regularly, get some exercise, take a break now and then, learn to relax even when facing a deadline, and, most important, laugh a little!

Find Out about Office Hours
Check with your professor or class syllabus for semester office hours. Go to see your professors during office hours, even if you only need to ask a simple question or address a minor concern, and to get to know them.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you experience problems with a class, be sure to make an appointment to meet individually with your instructor. Don't hesitate - and don't be shy. Faculty members are generally quite happy to provide extra help and advice to students who demonstrate their willingness to work extra hard.

Academic Honesty & Social Behavior
International students need to be aware of the potential differences between the American educational system and that of their home countries. As members of the academic community at Armstrong, students are expected to recognize and uphold standards of intellectual and academic integrity. All students agree, upon admission, to adhere to the Honor Code and Code of Conduct. The Honor Code is published in the Armstrong Catalog. It is important that you read the code carefully so that you understand what constitutes cheating, plagiarism and dishonesty in your classroom behavior.

Regents' Exam
All undergraduate students must complete the Regents' Exam the first semester after earning 30 credit hours. If you do not pass the exam, you must take a preparatory course. Transfer students who have not taken (or passed) the exam, must take it before the end of their second semester at Armstrong. There are two sections to the examination: a reading section and a writing section. International students and non-native speakers of English can register for a special exam section, which allots additional time to complete the exam. Applications for the Regents' Exam are located in the Division of Student Affairs, and registration can be done online through S.H.I.P. You can consult a student affairs staff member you have any questions.

Advisors and Instructors: Asking for Advice
At the University you will have two main advisors: an international student advisor and an academic advisor. You will also be in contact with professors. Listed below are the types of questions and concerns that each can address.
 

International Student Advisor

  • Passport, visa, or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) matters
  • Legal matters
  • University policies, procedures and services
  • Transfers to other schools
  • Work permission
  • Government or agency scholarships or sponsorship
  • Travel outside the United States
  • Health insurance
  • Financial problems
  • International and intercultural programs
  • Academic concerns and problems
  • Career planning and job strategies
  • Personal concerns: adjustment, day-to-day living, relationships with family, friends, roommates, etc.
  • Social and cultural issues

 

Academic Advisor

  • How to read and interpret your class schedule
  • Which classes to take, advice on schedules
  • Detailed information on the registration process
  • Short- or long-term academic requirements or planning
  • Availability of graduate assistantships
  • Probation/suspension and help for poor grades
  • How to transfer credits
  • Majors or minors
  • Grading system
  • Academic calendar
  • Academic terminology

 

Professors

  • Course content
  • Course schedule, syllabus, and requirements
  • Exams, papers, and grading
  • Advice, assistance in comprehending course material, finding library resources, and assessing your progress