- Interlink language students (typically on F-1 visas) who are here primarily to get their English language skills up to the level where they can study for a degree.
- Degree-seeking students (typically on F-1 visas) who can be here as undergraduates or graduates.
- Exchange students (on J-1 visas) who come to us from one of our 40 partner universities. These students may be here as graduates or undergraduates. As undergraduates their transcripts will show no hours; however, these undergraduate exchange students are eligible for courses through the 500-level.
International students are (obviously) subject to all of the academic rules and regulations as domestic students. However, they are also subject to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations specific to their F-1 or J-1 student visa status. Outlined below is the key regulation that most affects their course registration and thus you in your efforts to assist international students. We have also included some "advising tips" that may help you as the advisor assist the student to maintain their immigration status while encouraging their success as a UNCG student.
All F-1 and J-1 student visa holders must maintain full-time enrollment throughout their student career.
INS recognizes "full-time" enrollment as whatever the university determines as full-time. Thus a UNCG F-1 or J-1 student must maintain enrollment of at least 12 hours (6 hours for graduate students). Failure to maintain full-time enrollment means the student falls "out-of-status" with INS and thus becomes an illegal alien. Granted, INS is not likely to deport an individual on the basis of a reduced course load, but the student does lose the privileges associated with F-1 or J-1 student status such as eligibility for employment or permission to request an extension or change of status
- If a student is experiencing academic difficulty in his/her first semester related to language or cultural adjustment, s/he may take a reduced course load. The advisor must put in writing that to enroll in a full-course load would place the student in academic jeopardy, and that it would be in the best academic interest of the student to take a reduced course load to drop to less than full-time. This letter from the advisor should be addressed either to the Director of International Student & Scholar Services (Michael Elliott) if the student is degree-seeking and to the Director of Study Abroad (Penelope Pynes) if the student is on exchange. It will be placed in the student’s file in the International Programs Center and is subject to audit by INS. This exception to full-time enrollment is allowed only once and only in the student’s first semester in the US.
- A student is not required to be full-time enrolled in their last semester prior to graduation if in fact the student needs less than 12 hours to complete the degree requirements. In their final semester, F-1 and J-1 students are required to enroll only in what is necessary to graduate.
This rule and its limited exceptions place international students and their well-intended advisors in a very tight position. You may feel the best advice for the student is to enroll in only 12 hours at the onset of the semester for a variety of reasons, but for the international student, this leaves no option to drop a course later should that seem the smart thing to do (unless the student meets one of the above exceptions). For this reason, international students may need more of your time in considering course selection. It is already challenging for most advisors to understand the academic background of international students making it difficult to determine appropriate course placement, this adds an additional layer of complexity to the process.
- Consider carefully the reading requirements of courses. Most non-native speakers of English struggle with reading and writing academic work. Two or more courses with substantial reading or writing requirements can be problematic for non-native speakers.
- Anticipate which courses may offer tutoring assistance through the department or the Learning Assistance Program to insure back-up support should that become necessary.
- Spread the day’s schedule out to allow students time to process or reflect on their notes between classes as opposed to having classes set up back to back. Even suggest students tape their lectures (with the approval of the instructor) so they can go back over their notes to assure they captured the key concepts, and to play back parts to consult with classmates as to the meaning of phrases they did not understand. Also, spread classes across all five days rather than having them all falling on two or three days to allow plenty of time to complete reading assignments.
- Suggest students initiate conversations with faculty members early and often if they are having difficulties or anticipate difficulties in one or more classes. International students have many varied expectations related to the faculty/student relationship. They are often reluctant to approach faculty to discuss their personal difficulties with a class. Reassure international students that it is encouraged, and in fact, highly regarded, for students to speak individually with faculty outside the classroom.
- Encourage international students who are here to get a degree to register for ENG 101N in their first semester if do not already have credit for English 101. This course will provide much support in writing. The ENG 101N section often fills up and there doesn’t appear to be any space available because students who don’t need the course sign up by mistake. International students should be encouraged to attend the first class in hopes of getting in. If ENG 101N has been taken or is unavailable, ENG 203W is offered in the spring semester and can be recommended to provide support in conversation and writing. It is best to delay recommending literature courses until after ENG 101N has been completed. (This is not the case for exchange students since they are normally here for either a semester or year).
- Some international students have had a strong background in math in their home country. If degree-seeking students have done well on the math placement exam, a math course in their first semester will balance out the reading and writing requirements of other courses and boost their confidence in their potential for success in the US educational system.
- Many international students enjoy either Non-Western AULER/CLER category or GEC Global Non-Western marker courses because they can find courses that relate to their own culture. Suggest such a course for the same reasons as the math, to boost their confidence and give them a good start.
- Remind international students of their full-time enrollment requirement by INS at the time of advisement. This places them in the know at a time when it counts.
Obviously, these are all suggestions that most all students could benefit from, however, these ideas are critical for international students. The most basic ideas can be revolutionary for new international students. All of these points are covered during the orientation program for new international students, but timing and delivery is everything. You represent the authority on academic issues. Your words during an advising session will have a greater impact than what is said during an orientation program that is trying to cover everything from "how to get a driver’s license" to "bribery is not a good idea."
If you have specific questions relating to advising international students feel free to
contact our office.