10 things American college students need to know


Working at both public and private universities in the US, first-class professor Ellie Phuong D. Nguyen shares 10 important things that contribute to the success of international students.

First-grade Professor Ellie Phuong D. Nguyen used to work at Denison University, part of the Liberal Arts College system, currently teaching at Oklahoma State University (OSU) of the public school system emphasizing research ( Research University). Other schools may be different because the US university system is very diverse, but all need some common criteria so that students can achieve good academic results, maximize their capacity.

1. Flexibility and freedom in specialized choice

Each American university, both public and private, usually has several hundred major majors (Majors) and optional minor (Minors) that give students the freedom to choose according to their preferences. Faculties in the school also divided into many options depending on career orientation that students target after graduation.

Like the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at OSU, if you enter, if the student is going to graduate, he or she will enter the School of Medicine / Pharmacy / Dentistry / Veterinary Medicine (the equivalent of a master's degree in the US, especially schools that want to apply to these fields usually require a bachelor's degree first), they will choose the direction called "PreVet / PreMed Option" and will choose to study subjects related to people and animals, rather than plants environment.

It is normal for students to change major and minor majors in the US, which can take place one or more times, from first year to last year. The procedure for changing majors is quite simple and gentle through the student's Academic Advisor.

So find out early and don't be afraid to explore different subjects in the first semesters. If necessary, you can boldly change to another field that suits you better, but do not transfer too much will extend the time of graduation and increase the cost of study. Remember the motto in America is never too late to pursue the job you really love.

2. Choose flexible subjects from low to high levels

Subjects in each major are often designed by the school in multiple sections to satisfy the requirements on three levels. One is the state's general requirement for all undergraduate students, regardless of their major, including the need to study math, history, English, natural sciences and social studies. Two is required by the university. Third is the requirement of the faculty for each specialty.

Main subjects also have teachers who teach different hours of the same semester so students can freely choose the appropriate time. Students often visit their Academic Advisor for advice on choosing a subject for the next semester and know when to register for the next semester.

You should register early at the first time, you can access the classes to have many options for the class and the optimal class time with your schedule, and choose the class that the professor teaches has good feedback from students. tablets. The later you register, the fewer options there will be because each class has a limited class size, so contact the teacher to request a waiting list if the class you need to take is full.

The length of time the student will graduate depends on the speed of completion of the required credits for the major and minor majors selected by the student. As at OSU, it is required to complete 120 credits for a major major before graduation, on average taking 4 years or 8 main semesters, taking about 30 credits each year for two semesters.

But at the beginning of the first semester you should not register more than 15 credits to not be overwhelmed and have time to better adapt to the pressure of studying in a new environment. Graduating early with a low score is not a graduation certificate on schedule or a bit slower with a high score. Because the resume and especially if your graduate school is also much more competitive, slow but sure, even faster, must be excellent.

3. Credit system and transfer between universities

Students can easily transfer credits (transfer credits) from one school to another in the US to save time without having to study again, even saving a lot of tuition. For example, you can move from a low-cost school like Community College, which teaches only the first two years of college (lower division) to a large university specializing in four-year training (Freshmen). , Sophomore, Junior & Senior) to complete upper division in the last two years and graduate with a degree from a large university.

One note is that if the scholarship is received, it is often conditional that students must take at least 12 credits a semester and need to maintain a grade (GPA, highest score of 4.0) at a certain level depending on the type of scholarship. If you want to skip a course mid-term because you are likely to get low marks (save for the next semester, you will study again), you must quickly contact your person in charge to help find another suitable subject instead of enough credits. just ask to not lose the scholarship after that period.

At OSU and some other schools, good students can apply for honors (Honor Credits & Honor Contract) in some subjects to increase competitiveness on transcripts and can graduate with honors. This requires students to work directly with the subject's professor to receive additional private assignments or research work other than the assignments assigned to them in the class, and must complete with a final grade of A or B (if getting C or D points, it will lose honor credits).

4. Contact the academic advisor (Academic Advisor)

In both the Denison University private school and the OSU public school I have been teaching, every student from the beginning will be assigned to a teacher or academic staff, called Academic Advisor, to follow and help students. tablets from entry to graduation. Therefore, you should contact the Academic Advisor immediately when you encounter any difficulties or unexpected events that may affect your study, so that you can receive timely advice and support.

Academic Advisor can access student transcripts and information about student's subjects at any time, but keep it completely confidential, even if the parents ask for it without the student's consent. Unless the student has signed an application to the school that allows parents to ask for a grade, the school will be allowed to provide it.

5. Building good images with professors

Professors in the US appreciate students who speak and actively contribute to questions discussed in class, or volunteering on the exam tables, and often come to the office to exchange questions about lectures, especially before every exam. When the professor has a good impression of you and remembers your name among a few dozen even a few hundred students in the class, it is very advantageous.

If only a few points are missing at the end of the term, you can move from B to A, or C to B, the professor can assign more exercises to help you improve your score if you ask (there is no problem asking for points). Later when you need a recommendation letter, the professor who has a good impression of you will be willing to write a letter with positive content to support you to graduate or apply for a job.

Honesty is greatly appreciated and is an important quality in the US so if you are found to be fraudulent, you will be suspended or zero points and report back to Academic Advisor. When writing essays, you absolutely do not copy each other or copy most of the content from the Internet without re-editing. Because professors will use the school's software to easily detect how much of your content is online from any source. If more than 20%, you will have problems and deducted points due to copy errors (plagiarism).

Another point to note is that when the email is exchanged with the professor, you should start with "Dear Professor X / Dr. X" to show proper respect, not the usual "Hi / Hello / Hey" , it's easy to get offensive from the first sentence. At the end of the letter, you should leave "Sincerely / Yours respectfully".

Students need to understand that the academic system at American universities is divided into three levels of professors according to their seniority, but most of them do research and teaching:

First-rate Professor: Assistant Professor is the position of professor at a university in the US for the first 5 to 7 years, in the category of candidate for payroll, also known as "tenured-track". If the translation is "assistant professor" is wrong with the real meaning very far because they are not assistant to any professor but an independent professor.

Level 2 Professor: Associate Professor has passed the review of the scientific council from the school level to the state level, and is admitted to the official staffing or "tenured" for the next 5-7 years.

Professor 3: Full Professor or briefly Professor after having passed the final review of the council, and maintaining the title of Professor until retirement, may apply to Emeritus Professor as Honorary Professor after reaching retirement age.

6. Proactively find opportunities for research and internships

After you are familiar with the learning environment, from the second year you can start actively seeking opportunities to apply for research laboratories if you study natural sciences, or find internship opportunities at Summer companies for all majors. When you make a good impression with the professor as mentioned in section 5, there will be many opportunities to be admitted to the lab to study, do research or introduce you to practice elsewhere.

In addition to regularly viewing on the university's recruitment website and career opportunities for students, you can go to the faculty's regular science seminars, or find out which professors' websites on their own. I am working on my favorite topic and I actively contact to apply to the lab to practice volunteering for a few hours a week. I used to accept many students of this type, after practicing one or two semesters at the lab and learning all the molecular biology skills I need, I will start paying them according to the working hours.

When students accumulate more research and internship experience to list in their resume, it is a bright spot in addition to good grades, when it is easy to graduate or apply for graduate scholarships at universities. good school.

7. Select extracurricular activities

Most universities in the US have many extracurricular clubs for students to join depending on their interests, career orientation, or simply based on skin color, ethnicity. So when you're in the first year, you will be overwhelmed by a series of extracurricular activities introduced, but be alert to choose 1-2 groups to join. The more clubs they join, the more they have to go to school and no more time to focus on their studies, leading to low scores.

But you should not just learn but do not participate in extracurricular activities or sports to help you relax after school and social interaction with international friends, or participate in volunteer activities for the community. This also helps to reduce stress very well if not involved excessively, and is also appreciated when included in the CV that shows the communication skills, leadership and collective experience of students.

Before going to the US to study, you can easily get acquainted with the group of Vietnamese students through Fanpace or email to ask for more information about accommodation, airport transfer. There are two groups, students from Vietnam to the United States usually belong to the VSA (Vietnam Student Association), and Vietnamese-American students from the VASA (Vietnam American Student Association) group of young people born or raised from childhood. America should probably have some cultural differences.

8. Scholarship opportunities and awards for students

Large universities often have scholarship funds to encourage students to participate in research, such as at OSU, students from the first year to the last year can find a professor to guide a small research project and use the topic. This is to apply for a scholarship of 4,500 dollars a year to cover living expenses and a portion of chemicals and laboratory equipment for the subject. Therefore, students who are interested in doing science should be brave to find teachers and apply for scholarships from the early years.

At the end of the school year, schools and faculties often have big, small awards and scholarships for students from the first year to the last year with good grades, and actively participate in research or community activities. Awards can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the place and certificate (Certificate) as an academic achievement to put on the CV. As in my department, professors (also part-time Academic Advisor) will sit together for a student nomination session for each award category. So the more students make a good impression on the professor as mentioned in section 5, the easier it is to be nominated.

9. Take advantage of school support

American universities have a lot of services and centers to best support the life of students in the school. Not only will the student's tuition be used to pay for enrollment credit, but it will also be used to pay for the operation of student support centers, whether or not you use them. Therefore, students should make the best use of this "free" support service when needed, as only a student ID card can be entered and there is usually no extra charge.

As the sports center (Recreational center) is where you should come regularly every week to exercise. There is a fully equipped gym, professional swimming pool, steam room, basketball court, volleyball, tennis, yoga, karate, dance programs ... In addition, there is a private center. Counseling and Release (Counseling Center) to meet and talk with psychologists whenever students experience mental stress need counseling.

In addition, there is an international student support center (International Center) that helps with visa issues, admission procedures, invites parents to visit their children or attend graduation. Health centers on campus students can make an appointment to visit. Career Centers help students find jobs on and off campus. Math & Writing Centers when you are writing essays and need Native Americans to read and correct. Free one-on-one programs for free math, physics, chemistry, and biology students can enroll by the hour or from the beginning of the academic year.

In addition, students can register for a free room in the library to study in a group or movie studio to do media topics, or borrow a camera, laptop, iPad from one to several days.

10. Preparing for graduation

When it comes to the final year and especially before the final semester, students need to remind the Academic Advisor to check that they have met the credit for the major / minor major and require a minimum score to have not graduated Then at the beginning of the last semester you will have to register early on time to have your name on the graduation ceremony at the end of the term.

If you want to invite parents, siblings to the graduation ceremony, a reason is very easy to apply for a visa to travel to the US, you need to go to the international support center (International Center) to request an invitation from the school to send to your family. Take the family to interview.

If you intend to request a letter of recommendation from any professor, please make an appointment to visit their office, ask for permission to include the professor's name and contact information in your resume, not so ask only via email because they may not remember your face if you have studied many previous semesters. The recruitment company will call the professor to ask for details about you.

Each semester, schools often hold a Career Fair and invite dozens to several hundred companies, large and small, to recruit graduates about vacancies, or to introduce internships ( internship) for sophomores and sophomores.

Before attending Career Fair, students need to prepare a few important things: Print a lot of CVs which briefly list their outstanding skills, strengths and experiences on an A4 page; Preview the list of participating companies to select the company you want to apply and give priority to talk; Dress formal and professional style when coming to introduce yourself to the business and leave a copy of your CV for them to contact again when needed.

Wishing you students successfully study abroad, make the best use of the modern university environment of the US to promote the best of their internal resources and passion. Remember that the study and working environment in the US values ​​talents and is willing to create the best conditions for you to work, devote your talents, as long as you strive hard and constantly strive to learn.

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