International Student Academic Support & Educational Services
International students may be unfamiliar with US classroom culture and academic expectations. That’s where Shorelight academic support services come in! Shorelight’s academic support resources are designed to help international students navigate – and succeed in – their US university curriculum. Academic support services include working with students for course selection, English language tutoring, effective study tips, and techniques to adapt to new learning environments.
Shorelight academic support services assist international students like you in learning and developing the right skills to do well in your courses, so you can then be prepared for the career you plan to pursue. Academic support services create a pathway for you to accomplish your educational goals and make the most of your time studying abroad. Read on to learn about the academic support services available to take you through your journey in the US!
Academic Support for International Students
Shorelight’s international student support and educational services assist you in many areas of your academic journey in the US, from choosing your programs and classes to understanding the study techniques that work best for you, and so much more.
You are never on your own: Academic support services provide you with a point of contact, often a Student Service Advisor (SSA), so you always have a helpful advisor to reach out to during your time in the US.
All About Student Service Advisors
Student Service Advisors act as mentors to go over potential undergraduate degrees and graduate degree programs, as well as college application assistance and campus transition. Your SSA will be there for you from day one to support you in accomplishing your academic, personal, and professional goals.
An SSA may be able to assist with:
Arrival: Your SSA may organize your airport pick-up to get to your campus, help you settle into your dorm room, and clarify questions or concerns regarding your accommodations, meal plan, and key places nearby (e.g., banks, pharmacies, etc.).
Orientation: SSAs can brief you on your orientation program, course details, schedule, or even social activities at your university!
Academics: SSAs collaborate with you to determine your best degree program. You can discuss possibilities for majors and other qualifications you can work toward to achieve your educational and career goals. Your SSA can refer you to additional tutoring or language classes if needed.
Personal support: If you are overwhelmed with the newness of being an international student in the US, your SSA can recommend counseling services, peer groups, and other resources to adapt to campus life.
Career development: Work with your SSA to find resources that can build the skills and qualifications for your career, including registering for appropriate classes, finding a mentor, and pursuing co-ops and internships.
Having in-depth conversations with your SSA helps you understand your new academic environment and can make it easier to adapt to your new classes and curriculum.
Work with your Student Services Advisor or academic advisor to:
Choose a Major
Once students arrive at college, they are exposed to a wide range of opportunities and unique classes – and often discover new interests.
This is where your student service advisor comes in. Your SSA can make the process of choosing a major easier by helping you narrow down your options to choose the major that suits you the best. They can provide you with a range of tools: relevant websites, educational apps, aptitude tests, and even connect you with industry experts, lecturers, or upperclassmen studying in that degree program to develop a better understanding of what that major entails.
(And if you want to change your mind, don’t worry – you’ll be in good company! Approximately one-third of all students change their major within the first three years of college.)
Popular majors at US universities include:
Depending on the universities you are considering, this list can grow much longer and go into highly specialized areas of study.
While selecting your major based on career possibilities and earning potential is important, your SSA can work with you to answer important questions such as ‘what do you find interesting in this area?’ and ‘what skills do you need to succeed in this industry?’ The goal is to explore your desired career plan in depth and determine if the major you choose will get you closer to where you want to go after graduation.
Develop a Career Path
Developing a career path can be challenging as a first-year international student, and your SSA can make this process much easier by offering expert advice and connecting you to professional resources. They can also identify opportunities such as mentorship programs, career fairs and networking events, and available internships and co-ops!
Beyond academic support, student service advisors may offer career development guidance in the following areas:
Job search support — Work with your SSA to navigate job boards, skills workshops, self-study materials, and how to connect with recruiters.
Application assistance — Your SSA may show you how to prepare and maintain your resume, cover letter, and obtain other required documentation.
Interview guidance — Participate in mock interviews, know what to wear, and understand how to present yourself as a professional with advice from your SSA.
Understanding visa requirements — Go over OPT and CPT requirements, work and travel limitations, and any other visa-related concerns you may have with your SSA.
Apply for Graduation
Student service advisors are with you throughout your university experience, including one of the most exciting days— your graduation! Achieving this milestone is a great accomplishment and the final step of your academic journey in the US. Your SSA can guide you through the process of what you need to do in order to graduate, from ensuring you have completed the required credits, filling out paperwork, ordering your cap and gown, and making any final outstanding payments.
Your SSA may even stay in touch with you once you become an alum!
General Support During Your Time in College
While you are in college in the US, you will learn new things, meet new people, and pursue your professional goals. It’s an exciting time – but may also come with some challenges, especially during the first few months in the US. In addition to academic support, your SSA also provides general support for professional and personal concerns, including:
Extra learning opportunities (e.g., tutoring for subjects that you find particularly challenging)
Additional English-language support
Emotional support, including mental health counseling
Coping strategies for dealing with culture shock and other concerns with adapting to life in the US
As an international student, you may not be familiar with the process of choosing courses for your program. Academic support services can also guide you through the course registration process!
Course Registration Support
International students can find help for every step in the journey to studying in the USA, and this includes registering for your courses. Academic support services counselors can go over your options so you can choose what you want to study – and get a better understanding of which courses will qualify you for the career fields you would like to pursue. International student support services can also guide you in understanding your personal and professional motivations, making it easier to choose courses that match your interests and goals.
Academic support for course registration may involve:
Identifying which universities you would like to apply to and their specific course registration processes
Going over required exams, including admission exams, aptitude tests, and/or placement tests
Planning in advance for important dates and deadlines
Shorelight enrollment counselors can answer all your questions about the application process, required documents, program courses, and more.
In your home country, you may have received a pass or fail, score out of 100, or A, B, or C grades on your assignments and exams. Similarly, the US grading system offers two grade options that contribute to your individual course grades and overall grade point average (GPA) at university. They are:
A — 90-100%
B — 80-89%
C — 70-79%
D — 59-69%
F — below 59% (failing)
Every higher education institution will have a different scale (most use a 4.0 scale) for letter grades. It can be helpful to check with your SSA to know how the grading system works at your university.
‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ Grades
Pass/fail grading indicates whether you ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ the class. These classes typically do not count toward your GPA.
To graduate from a university in the US, you must successfully take the number of credits required in your degree program (e.g., complete the required classes with passing grades). A typical full-time, four-year undergraduate degree requires 15 credit hours per semester, 30 hours per year, and a total of 120 credit hours.
Credit hours awarded will depend on the major, laboratory time, and if they’re aligned with a co-op or internship. For example, in a given semester, one laboratory class may award four credits at completion, while a liberal arts class awards three 3 credits.
Completed credit hours have a direct impact on your final GPA score, so attending classes and submitting assignments on time will get you through your degree smoothly!
With more US universities integrating online learning programs into their curriculum, university international student support services counselors also adapt their services to reach students, wherever they are.
Shorelight universities that offer online programs include American Collegiate Live, a digital classroom experience. American Collegiate Live uses an innovative online learning platform that enables international students to begin their university program at home, then transfer to campus after the first year of study. With state-of-the-art interactive technology, along with nationally recognized faculty members, students can get a head start on their degree program – and more engagement with professors, advisors, and peers than in a traditional classroom setting.
ESL & Language Support
International students looking to improve their English language skills can take advantage of a wide range of language resources, including US English level test guides. Improving your English skills builds your confidence and makes it easier to adapt to your new environment and communicate clearly, in class and out.
Academic support services advisors can work with you to fine-tune your English language skills via:
In order to evaluate your reading, speaking, and writing skills, US universities may request standardized English test scores. The tests most commonly accepted are:
Cambridge Assessment English (CAE)
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
These exams are available at certified English language testing centers in your home country, and some may be available online. Academic support advisors can clarify any additional language requirements needed to apply to your preferred universities.
ESL Course Finder
Academic support is available through English language courses, even after you arrive in the US. Shorelight universities offering academic and general English programs include:
English language curriculum aligns with the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR), covering 20 hours of instruction in applied integrated skills and grammar in context.
Auburn’s General English course is designed to enhance international student understanding of US culture. Ten hours are dedicated to reading, writing, listening, and speaking, while another 10 hours focus on helping international students understand US culture.
University of the Pacific
Pacific’s General English curriculum is divided into two sections: upper and lower, covering presentation, conversation, and English for business skills.
Language Apps & Resources
Using language apps enables you to improve your English skills at your own pace – and can be very effective when combined with English language courses.
Here are a few language apps and/or online resources you can use for English language assistance:
DuoLingo is a free app helping you practice different languages. You can download and use it to translate difficult words and phrases and practice communicating with people from anywhere! Duolingo also administers the Duolingo English Test (DET), accepted at more than 1,000 institutions.
This grammar practice app has thousands of questions across multiple proficiency levels.
Memrise: Language Learning
Memrise is a language app that uses games to teach – activities include interactive quizzes, chatbot conversations, and more.
By improving your English language skills, you can communicate with your friends, instructors, and colleagues with confidence. Remember, you can always get in touch with a SSA or a Shorelight advisor for more support with learning English or for additional tutoring.
University curriculum is structured so students develop vital skills that qualify them for successful careers and to become productive members of society. As you progress in your studies, you may find certain courses to be challenging. In these cases, working with a tutor may help!
You can leverage academic support services for tutoring to improve your grades, build your overall study skills, or expand your understanding of a field that particularly interests you.
Essay Writing Assistance
At US universities, essay writing is important, no matter your major. Additonally, employers value good writing skills, which you may need at a future internship or job. If you are an undergraduate student, you may be completely new to writing academic essays for higher education.
Academic tutors focusing on essay writing can work with you in the following areas:
Understanding your essay topic
Researching and citing a range of sources
Creating an outline
Using appropriate language and tone
Tutoring by Subject
Your university’s international student support office, as well as Shorelight advisors, may offer tutoring based on specific subjects. Speak to your advisor to find the best options for tutoring based on your needs and learning style. Your subject-matter tutor will be an expert in their field and many are experienced in assisting international students, allowing you to learn in confidence.
Whether you have exams coming up or you want to stay on top of your coursework, making a study plan is important for maintaining good grades. Academic support services assist you in exploring different studying strategies, finding study tactics that suit your learning style, and offering tips on how you can study more efficiently.
The trick to studying well is to study smart! Your SSA or Shorelight counselor may suggest the following study strategies to help you focus and prepare:
Set realistic study goals
Choose the right study location to limit distractions
Join study groups
Use short notes for faster information absorption
Identify ways to stay motivated
When it comes to best practices for studying, plan in advance, take breaks, and ask for help from student advisors to make your academic experience manageable. Our guide, How to Study in the USA, offers additional details.
For STEM students requiring extra support for lab work, international students support services may provide flexible tutoring sessions. Depending on what your advisor recommends, you may have to put in more study hours at the lab after your usual classes, individually or with several classmates who may have similar needs.
Your professors can act as supportive advisors as well, identifying areas where you can improve, based on your performance in class or the lab.
Lastly, for language learning, many universities have language labs facilities, where you can put in extra study time for your foreign language classes, including working with language lab tutors.
There are many events and gatherings at your university that foster networking, awareness, and learning opportunities. Workshop events often focus on training or speaking sessions where you can learn from distinguished faculty, industry professionals, and even your peers.
Workshops for academic success often cover time management, study resources and tips, optimal use of study resources, communication strategies, and emotional intelligence. Some programs may even have workshops that align with course topics, covering industry applications, professional experiences, current trends, or similar.
Here’s a closer look at what could be covered in academic workshops at your university.
Time management organizes your day. It is a key skill that can reduce stress and keep you focused when studying, working, and managing your personal life. Time management workshops may cover:
Understanding the importance of time management
Why time management may be difficult
Changes to make in a sample day’s agenda
Apps, websites, and charts to monitor your timelines
Practice techniques to make time management a habit
Studying and research takes up the majority of your time in university – and can even be an important aspect of many careers. Workshops focused on studying and research can teach you best practices from a professional’s perspective, so you can start developing successful habits early in your university life. Study/research workshops may cover establishing study goals, avoiding distractions, the causes of procrastination and how to avoid it, and more.
Self-development workshops are an opportunity to connect with your emotions. They can teach you how to identify your strengths as a student and as a professional. Coaches may also teach you to identify your weaknesses, then view them as opportunities to improve, through positive thinking and changing your learning mindset.
Personal growth workshops can align your thoughts, feelings, and emotions so you are more aware of how you are managing your life as a student, your stress levels, and ways to grow personally and professionally. Emotional awareness exercises make sure you are not only working towards becoming a better professional, but also meeting your personal goals for the future.
Critical thinking is an important skill to develop: being able to objectively analyze situations and weigh both strengths and weaknesses allows you to find the best solution across many scenarios. US university curriculum emphasizes developing critical thinking and communication abilities as these are key skills that global employers expect in their employees.
Critical thinking and workshops may cover:
What critical thinking is
How critical thinking helps decision making
Practices to make critical thinking habitual
How critical thinking enhances creativity
Utilizing critical thinking in your studies and at work
Communication workshops may cover:
What it takes to communicate well
How to improve communication
Using appropriate forms of communication
Tools and techniques to improve communication
By taking advantage of these workshops offered through academic support services at your university, you can also get a head start on developing in-demand workplace skills. While developing employable skills is a large part of your university experience, universities in the US also give you many resources to support your personal well-being.
Many universities offer additional resources to aid in your transition to the US and help you experience campus life to the fullest. Other international student support resources you can find at Shorelight universities include:
Mental Health Resources
While living in an unfamiliar country, you may feel anxious or homesick. Many international students experience culture shock, and although culture shock doesn’t last long, it may lead to feelings of loneliness, homesickness, or even depression. Remember that there are mental health resources available at any time if you need help getting comfortable in your new home.
Many university students often experience stress, especially from exams, the ongoing pandemic, and/or social situations, among a variety of reasons. Many universities offer mental health counseling or therapy sessions that specifically address the many causes of stress and effective coping strategies. Always remember to reach out when you need help and speak to a friend or your advisor.
Depending on the university where you are studying, you can access a variety of campus resources that help you meet new people, try exciting activities, and/or grow your skills, such as:
Performance and live event spaces
Student-run organizations and clubs
Campus resources contribute to the on-campus experience and overall campus culture. Take advantage of your campus resources to explore, whether you want to expand your network, develop your skills, or just find a community.
US universities welcome people from all walks of life. It is because of this cultural diversity that American schools and universities stand out as places where creativity, development, and achievement flourish. As an international student in the US, it might be difficult to adjust to the new culture — but with the right cultural resources, you can discover ways to feel at home while simultaneously learning about different cultures and making new friends from across the world.
Cultural group outings will likely be a big part of your US university experience. You can try local cuisine, attend sports and entertainment events, visit tourist attractions, and more, often in guided excursions with your campus team and academic support centers.
Extracurricular activities – think intramural sports, music groups, culinary clubs, and more – enable groups of students to get together around a shared interest. Across US universities, you will find a number of activities and student organizations to join. Whether it is playing sports or developing a skill specific to your career path, through academic support services you can find the perfect campus activities to fit your interests.
Here are a few activities at Shorelight universities that may interest you:
Sports at University of Illinois Chicago — UIC provides recreational activities, from indoor cricket to arena football. This is a chance to enjoy time with friends – and engage in friendly competition.
Leadership programs at Florida International University — Learn how to be a leader at FIU, by developing critical skills that build your influence with peers and can make a difference on campus, in your community, and at the workplace.
Dance marathon at Auburn University — The annual 12-hour Dance Marathon gives students the chance to have fun while supporting the local community through raising funds and generating awareness for Children’s Miracle Network.
On-campus/Off-campus Living Resources
Accommodation options are plentiful for university students, both on campus and off. Campus centers for international student support can help you choose the best accommodation options while you are studying in the US. No matter where you live, you’ll get the chance to explore beautiful towns and cities, take part in cultural activities, and make friends in the community.
A variety of dining locations, cultural centers, and shopping options give you the chance to experience a rewarding and exciting student experience in the US. Many college towns have made “best of” lists for places to live because of their vibrant communities that emphasize walkability, green spaces, and creative arts, which attract students and recent graduates alike.
The support services at your university will provide assistance in evaluating your options for choosing living accommodations that suit your housing preferences and budget.
Financial Aid Resources
Studying in the US can be costly, and it is important to make sure you have the necessary funding to support your studies and daily life. Academic support can help you explore ways to receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, loans, and other sources to reduce your education costs.
Advisors will assist you in researching scholarships, including which documents you need and the processes you must follow to apply. They can connect you with international organizations that provide grants and scholarships along with any potential US Federal Student Aid programs available to international students.
Through using academic support services while studying in the US, it can be easier for you to adjust to your new home, while receiving the assistance you need to thrive in your classes and beyond.