Preparing Indian Students For Success: Navigating U.S. Campus Culture Tips

Preparing Indian Students For Success: Navigating U.S. Campus Culture Tips

According to the Open Doors report published in November 2023, more than 260,000 Indian students are currently studying at U.S. universities.

Ryan PereiraUpdated: Monday, April 22, 2024, 08:32 AM IST
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Ryan Pereira | File

The U.S. continues to be a sought-after destination for Indian students to pursue higher studies.  According to the Open Doors report published in November 2023, more than 260,000 Indian students are currently studying at U.S. universities. While it is encouraging to see so many Indian students wanting to pursue their studies in the U.S., there are instances where some students join U.S. universities unprepared for campus life and all the opportunities it presents.

In my previous article, I discussed the flexibility of study programmes at U.S. colleges and universities, the classroom environment, and what students should keep in mind while applying to U.S. universities. In this part, I’ll discuss some other aspects of the academic environment on a U.S. campus and provide tips that Indian students should be familiar with before joining a U.S. university or college.

Be prepared to do your own work:

Professors at U.S. universities expect students to do their work by themselves. From taking notes during classes, and then visiting the library to refine their notes and understand the topic better, a student has to do it all. It is unusual for a professor to provide notes to study from for the exam, unlike in India.

When I joined a U.S. university, I was surprised to find that what I was taking was considered a full course load. As I had three to four hours of classes daily, I thought it would be easy.  However, I realised later that the extra time is provided so that students can better understand the lecture by making their own notes in the library. A general rule of thumb is that for every hour you spend in a classroom, you are expected to spend about three hours in the library understanding the material and taking your own notes. The U.S. emphasises students’ learning through a process that starts with them taking responsibility for their education and not just reproducing information given to them by the professors.

Tip:

Students should attend a reading and notetaking workshop offered by the U.S. university when they begin their studies. These workshops will provide students with skills to read more efficiently and to prepare notes to help them understand the material from class.

Academic integrity and plagiarism

Academic integrity is taken very seriously at U.S. universities. Colleges and universities in the U.S. generally have their policies on academic integrity and plagiarism on their respective websites. It will also be discussed during the orientation for new students. Students are expected to read and understand the policies and to maintain academic integrity while pursuing their higher studies. If a student is not sure about a particular aspect of the policy, or is unsure of what might be considered cheating, they should ask the professor or go to the writing centre on the campus to get help.

Tip:

Get organised and attend a time management workshop. There are two main reasons why students cheat: they either are under pressure to get a good grade, or they lack the time to do their own work required for a class. Attending a time management workshop will provide students with tips on how to make the most of their time, thereby reducing the risk of cheating in class.

Think beyond classroom learning:

Most students in India are brought up with the impression that doing well in school and scoring high marks on exams are everything. When many of them go to the U.S., they continue to focus on getting good grades and sometimes miss out on other opportunities that are available on U.S. campuses, such as academic and skill development activities beyond the classroom. There are several opportunities for students to develop skills that will help them in their respective careers that go beyond what they learn in the classroom.

These include opportunities such as study abroad, research projects and university-specific opportunities, such as the programme at Iowa State University’s innovation centre, where students can come up with a project and collaborate across disciplines to execute it, or Lehigh University’s Impact Fellowships, where students can spend one year designing, developing and executing an interdisciplinary project that can make a real-world difference locally or globally.  In addition, there are many clubs on a U.S. campus that provide opportunities for students to explore their interests.

While maintaining a decent Grade Point Average (GPA) score, students should also try to get involved in extracurricular opportunities that can develop skills and be an asset for the job search.

Think beyond the GPA:

Students spend a considerable amount of time trying to take easy courses so they can get good grades. They often consult with classmates and seniors to identify professors who give good grades. However, these students are ultimately cheating themselves out of a good education. Course selection should be based on the skills and knowledge needed for one’s career and not merely on getting good grades. Students should also push themselves by enrolling in challenging classes. A smart selection of courses while studying in the U.S. can help prepare students for their chosen careers.

EducationUSA helps students prepare to pursue higher studies in the U.S. Free events are scheduled in person and virtually to help students learn about studying in the U.S. EducationUSA has organised pre-departure orientations for students who have been admitted to a U.S. university and will start their programmes in August 2024. These pre-departure orientations will provide students going to the U.S. with more information to help them succeed on a U.S. campus and to network with other students going there. To get more information about these pre-departure orientations, please write to mumbai@educationusa.org.

For more information, please visit https://educationusa.state.gov, and for individual questions or direct counselling with an EducationUSA adviser, please write to USEducationQueries@state.gov

The author is the Regional Officer at the United States–India Educational Foundation,

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