Keys to Academic Success

Keep these recommendations in mind as you begin your studies.

Allow yourself time to adjust.You will need a period of time to adjust to a new academic system before you will be able to demonstrate the best of your ability. Do not be discouraged if, despite your best efforts, your first semester’s work at Colby is not up to your personal standards.

Select your courses carefully.During your first semester do not take more courses than necessary. The result of taking too many courses may be discouragement and poor academic performance. Choose a combination of more demanding and less demanding courses, paying particular attention to the amount of reading required for each course. When arranging your schedule, talk not only with your academic advisor but also with experienced students familiar with available courses and professors.

Attend class regularly.American professors expect students to attend class. Class absences can contribute negatively to a final grade, not only because of the absence but also because students are expected to take notes on class lectures.

Work hard from the first day of classes.Unlike some other educational systems it is not possible in the United States to wait until halfway through the semester to begin studying. You may have quizzes or exams within the first few weeks of class and papers due throughout the semester.

Talk with your professors.U.S. professors expect students to ask questions in class or immediately afterward. They also expect, and reward, class discussion and student participation. They assume you will consult with them during office hours if you have questions or problems. If you do not speak up about your difficulties, the professor will think that either you are doing well in class or that you do not really care about the class. If you are confused by some aspects of your work in class or by the professor’s expectations of you, make it a point to see the professor after class or during office hours.

Organize your study materials.From your experience in your own academic system, you have certain expectations about how your field of study should be learned. You may assume, for example, that it is important to memorize large quantities of information to be reproduced during exams, or that the way to study your filed is to specialize on a very limited aspect in great depth. In the United States you may find that memorizing material is less important than analyzing and synthesizing ideas from several different sources. You may find that your professors require you to read the works of a large number of scholars. Try to keep your mind and your eyes and ears open to these and other perspectives that may seem strange to you.

Find out as much as possible about test formats.The types of exam most frequently given by professors are multiple choice, short answer and essay. Before a test, if you explain to a professor that you are unfamiliar with American college test formats and procedures, he or she will usually be willing to go over the type of test used in that particular class as well as his or her expectations. You may even be able to look at an old test as an example, but don’t necessarily expect this. What international students often find most difficult is the strict time limitations for completing tests, particularly essay tests. You may ask your professor for more time on an essay test and some will agree, but some may not, so don’t assume it will be granted, especially if you ask at the last moment. Try writing practice answers to possible questions before the test; ask your professor for help with this too. Be sure to ask the professor for clarification if you do not understand words or even the grammatical structure of a question (many American students have trouble understanding exam questions as well!). Budget your time carefully throughout any exam. If you are taking an essay

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