Important Tips on How to Succeed
in the U.S. College System
The following tips are to help new international and immigrant
students succeed in the U.S. college system. Some ideas will not be
new to all students, but all ideas are included because college
systems and classroom expectations are different in different
countries. Please read all of the recommendations carefully to see
which ones are new and necessary for you.
I. CHOOSING AND SCHEDULING YOUR COURSES
Tip #1: Attend one of
the scheduled college orientation meetings.
This is important because at this meeting you will meet with a counselor to learn
about classes and the requirements for degrees and
transfer and learn about the many student services provided by Grossmont College.
Tip #2: Choose courses
following the advice of a counselor or ESL instructor,
not a friend or family member.
If you have friends or family members who have taken courses at
Grossmont College, they will want to suggest certain classes or
instructors. This information can be helpful, but remember that they
may not have the same skill level, interests, or needs as you. You
should, therefore, rely more on the suggestions of a Grossmont
counselor or ESL instructor.
Tip #3: Before choosing a
course, read its description in the college catalog, check its
prerequisites, and visit the bookstore to look at the assigned
The description of the course will tell you whether or not you
have already covered or still need to cover this material. If the
course has a prerequisite class, you must complete it first or show
that you have completed an equivalent at another college. Looking at the text(s) will show you the level and
content of the class. If the text is too difficult, you might want
to take the class after you have studied more English. After you
have considered all these things, ask yourself, "Do I have the
English skills to be successful in this class?"
Tip #4: Follow the
recommendations of the math and English placement.
WebAdvisor will not allow students to enroll in math and English
classes that above their proficiency level, so take the math and
English courses in which you have been placed.
Tips #5: Take ESL or English
classes in the beginning.
If you do not have adequate skills in English, it will be more
difficult to succeed in your other classes. A strong English
foundation should be your first priority. It is also important to
take at least one English class each semester until you have
completed all of your English courses.
Tip #6: Enroll in no more than
12 units your first semester.
Schedule your time carefully. Think about the time required for
work, family, transportation, exercise, relaxation, and other
activities outside of school when you decide on the number of
courses to take. For every hour that you are in class, you need to
study for at least two hours outside of class. For example, if you
take 12 units, you will need to study or do homework for at least 24
hours a week. This means a minimum of 36 hours a week are needed for
your studies. In addition to these hours, you will sometimes need to
meet with instructors, other students, tutors, or do research or lab
Tip #7: Once you have
completed ESL 103, take some general education courses and
some courses in your major each semester.
After you have completed ESL 103, your English proficiency should
be high enough to enroll in certain general education classes and
classes required for your major. Meet with an academic
counselor to advise you on appropriate classes.
Tip #8: Soon after the
beginning of your first semester, make an appointment with a
counselor to set up your educational plan.
It is important to have an overall plan that shows which classes
you want to take each semester until you graduate or transfer to a
university. If you are on financial aid, this educational plan is
II. FOLLOWING ACADEMIC RULES AND POLICIES
Tip #9: Make your decisions
about adding and/or dropping classes before the end of the first two
weeks of classes (semester-length) or during the first week of
classes (short term).
If you drop a semester-length class during the first two weeks,
you can get a refund of your tuition/fees and the class will not
show up on your transcript (record of classes taken and grades). If
you wait until later than this, there will be no refund, and the
letter W (Withdraw) will appear on your transcript. When trying to
decide whether or not you have chosen the right classes based on
your English level, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I understand this teacherís speech?
- Can I find the lecture information in the textbook?
- Can I understand the textbook?
- Will I get the assignments far enough ahead to complete
- Can I finish the homework on time?
- Do I have to write a research paper?
- Will I be graded on class participation?
- Will I have to give an oral report or do a group project?
Depending on how you answer these questions, you may decide to
drop the class and choose something that is more appropriate for
your level and needs.
Tip #10: If you want to crash
a class (add a closed class), put your name on the class waitlist
using WebAdvisor. On the first day of class, show up early and sit in front where the
instructor can see you.
Many instructors will add more students to their closed classes
if there are seats available. You may have to be persistent but
polite to get the instructorís permission to do this. If the
instructor tells you to come back to the next class, do so and have
any homework prepared, even though you are not in the class yet.
Other crashers (students wanting to add) may get discouraged and not
come back, so your chance of getting into the class will improve. At
the same time that you are trying to crash classes, be sure to
continue attending the classes that you are registered in. You may
not get into the closed class.
Tip #11: If you want to drop a
class after the first two weeks, you can do so through WebAdvisor.
If you stop attending a class, do not expect the instructor to
drop you. It is your responsibility to let Admissions and Records
know that you have dropped. If your name is still on the class list
at the end of the semester, and you have stopped attending the
class, you will get an F or NP in the class.
Tip #12: Check the calendar in
the class schedule and drop a class before the deadline for
You cannot drop after the official withdrawal date. The
instructor must give you a grade if you do not remove your name from
the roster by this date.
Tip #13: International
students must see an international student counselor before dropping
If you drop below the required 12 units without approval, your F1
Visa and student status with immigration may be cancelled.
Tip #14: Students on financial
aid should check with their EOPS counselor or financial aid
counselor before dropping a class.
If you drop a class during the semester, your aid may be lowered
Tip #15: Repeat courses in
which you have earned a below-average grade as soon as possible.
You must repeat a course in which you have earned a "NP," "F" or
"D" grade if the course is required for graduation or for transfer,
or if the course is a prerequisite to another course. The new grade
will be used to determine your GPA, but the original grade will
remain on your transcript with a note. In some cases, it is not
necessary to repeat a course in which you have earned a "D." You
may repeat a course three times without special permission.
Tip #16: If you have an
"Incomplete" grade in a course, you must complete any missing work
by the end of the next semester.
You must meet with the instructor of the class as soon as
possible to plan how and when you will complete the course
requirements. An Incomplete Grade Contract must be filled out
and signed by you and your teacher. If you have an incomplete at the end of the
semester, you must complete the missing work by the end of the spring semester. If
the incomplete is for the spring semester, you have until the end of
the fall semester to finish the work.
Helen Liesberg, ESL Chair
Phone: (619) 644-7441