International Students : Academics

While you are at Alfred University we want you to be able to explore every opportunity possible and succeed at what you do. Below you'll find information explaining the courses you can take while here, what academics are like at an American university, and how to seek help if you need it.

General Education Requirements

AU, like most American universities, has a general education requirement for all undergraduate students to help them become well-rounded students as well as allow them to take academic courses of interest outside of their main area of studies.  Each school within the college has its own requirements. 

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Programs of Study

Beyond your General Education courses, you have numerous programs of study to choose from. 

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Finding and Registering for Courses

Once you have determined what you want to study at Alfred, you will have to look for what classes you want to take.  To look at the courses available for you to take, go to banner web and then click on Class Schedule.  Next, you should choose which term you want to look at and narrow your search results by subject, day, time, or degree requirement.  Make sure to look under class schedule for the current semester’s offerings.  To register for classes you will have to speak to your advisor and receive a PIN from him or her.  You will be assigned an advisor and be given an opportunity to meet with him or her during orientation.

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Succeeding at an American University

You may find that Alfred University is quite different from your home institution.  Below you will find some information on what Alfred’s classes are like and what you may experience while here.

  • Course Structure: You classes at Alfred University may be very different from what you are used to back home.  The system emphasizes continual evaluation in the form of tests, projects, homework, essays, quizzes, and participation in class discussions throughout the semester, not only on an exam at the end of the semester.
  • Exams: While you may have taken lots of exams before, you may find that exams at Alfred are structured differently.  Depending on the professor, they can include essays, short-answer, multiple choice, true/false, matching, or a combination!  Memorization of material can be important, but in the United States professors are happier when students can actually use facts to solve problems in new, creative, or unique ways. In short, it is not necessary to memorize your books, but rather it is necessary to understand the concepts and be prepared to apply and communicate the concepts to real-life situations.  Your syllabus will tell you when your tests are and what subjects will be included in the examination.
  • Attendance: In the United States professors not only take attendance, but they are allowed to grade you according to it.  If you miss too many classes professors have the right to mark your grade down (even to failing), no matter what your scores on tests or written exams are. It is very important to come to class on time. The professor’s syllabus will typically provide detail on this, outlining how many unexcused absences are allowed before grades start dropping and how much of an impact absences have.  Some professors count late arrivals and factor that into the final grade as well. Of course, if you are sick or have an emergency, your absence may be excused. You should be prepared to give some written evidence for this, such as a note from your doctor, and talk to your professor ahead of time, if possible.
  • Participation: In the United States, students are encouraged to ask questions and to voice their own opinions, even if they differ from the opinions of the professor.  In fact, most professors give participation points which factor into a student’s final grade.  In the mind of an American professor, student comments and questions mean that the student is keeping up with the reading, paying attention to the class discussion, and thinking about the course material. However, keep in mind that it is important to disagree politely and to respect the knowledge and opinions of the professor and the other students in the class. Do not hesitate to raise your hand and ask a question about something you do not understand fully.
  • Homework: Professors may have you complete smaller assignments on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  These are expected to be completed before the class period in which they are due and often count for a small percentage of your final grade.  Topics for these assignments typically focus on what you just discussed in class or what you will be discussing next class to give you an idea of whether or not you are fully grasping the concepts.
  • Presentations and Papers: In some classes, you may be asked to prepare a short lecture or presentation to deliver to your class. Many such assignments are graded and some may count in place of a final exam, depending on the professor and course.  If you do have to do a presentation, you should practice it out loud to an audience of one or more, like your roommate or friends, for feedback. Besides presentations you may be required to write term papers and other essays while you are at Alfred.  These too may be in place of a final exam, depending on the professor and course. It is better – and often a requirement – to submit a typewritten paper, rather than a handwritten one. It is wise to complete papers well before their due date so there is time to ask another person or your professor for suggestions for improvement. Do not be afraid to ask your professor for clarification of his/her expectations for your term paper. Make an appointment with your professor during his or her office hours to discuss the topic if you do not understand. Be sure to carefully proofread and spell-check your paper before giving it to your professor.   If you are having difficulty writing papers and are looking for help, the Writing Center offers help for all stages of paper writing from developing a thesis statement to editing and proofreading.
  • Plagiarism: Originality and individual achievement are highly valued in America. This is reflected in the focus on original thinking in class discussions, research projects and papers. It is also reflected in the rules of academic honesty. The most important rule of academic honesty is that a student must be evaluated only on the basis of his or her own work. If students violate this rule by submitting the work of other people as their own, they are committing a serious offense called plagiarism.  Plagiarism may result in a student's dismissal from the University. Some cultures view issues such as plagiarism differently. It is very important for you to understand exactly what comprises plagiarism at an American university. If you are ever in doubt about whether you may be committing plagiarism by using someone else's words or ideas and claiming them as your own, ask your professor to clarify the matter immediately.

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Academic Assistance

Academic assistance is available for most classes at Alfred.  Group tutoring is available for many of the more common or larger classes (such as language and mathematics classes).  In addition, you can contact the services below for additional help.

  • Tutoring: Individual peer tutoring is available for many classes. Students interested in individual peer tutoring should contact the Tutoring Coordinator located in the office of Center for Academic Success. The Tutoring Coordinator will discuss students' concerns with them, review various campus resources, and attempt to arrange one-on-one tutoring, if appropriate.
  • The Writing Center: If you are looking for help with writing essays, the Writing Center can help.  The Writing Center provides free writing assistance to all Alfred University students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and support personnel. Our student tutors represent a wide range of disciplines, offering help with planning, drafting, and revising. 
  • Center for Academic Success: Center for Academic Success provides support services, consultation, and advocacy for students with learning, physical, and/or psychological disabilities. Services for persons with disabilities complement and support, but do not duplicate, the University's existing services and programs.

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English Language Assistance

Alfred offers a course in speaking and listening (ESL 401) during the fall semester to help non-native speakers of English gain practice and confidence in speaking English.  In addition, there is an informal, non-credit bearing conversation class offered in Herrick Library twice a week.  Help with writing in English is available at the Writing Center.

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