In The Classroom

In the ASC ClassroomAttendance
Regular class attendance and participation is expected of Agnes Scott College students. Each professor provides specific requirements, which are usually detailed on the course syllabus.

Course Syllabus
Always read the syllabus carefully. It outlines the responsibilities of the student and the grading criteria of the specific instructor. Be sure to note the dates of examinations and other course related deadlines. It is your responsibility to turn in assignments on time as listed in the syllabus. The instructor may or may not remind you of the due dates for assignments listed in the syllabus. If you do not receive a syllabus or the information is not included in the syllabus, ask the instructor. Not all professors teaching the same subject have the same syllabus, tests, grading criteria, or use the same textbooks.

U.S. Professors: What to Expect
The skills that most instructors in the United States look for are related to analysis and synthesis. Students are encouraged to form and offer their own opinions, to ask questions, and even to challenge presented course material. This is sometimes called "critical thinking." International students may find that being able to memorize material is less important than being able to synthesize material from many sources.

Talk to your instructors. Understand that teachers expect students to ask questions in class, after class, and during office hours. Getting to know your professors will enhance your education. When you graduate, you may ask some of your professors to write a letter of reference for you. All professors have office hours when they are available for consultation with students. If they do not provide information about office hours on the syllabus, then ask them specifically for an appointment, particularly if you have some unanswered questions. Questions about the syllabus, course material, tests and papers are important.  

Asking questions demonstrates that you are interested. U.S. student/teacher relationships tend to be informal. In fact, you may find student classroom behavior informal to the point of seeming disrespectful. For example, students may speak in class without permission, interrupting teachers and fellow students, or eat in class. You may find teacher behavior informal to the point of seeming unprofessional. For example, a professor may sit on his/her desk or use slang rather than Standard English. However, there are limits to informality. It is best to patiently observe classroom behavior and withhold judgments.  Some international visitors to the United States have the impression that Americans are rude and loud – the stereotypical “ugly American." You may find some examples of this stereotype on campus, but probably not many. It is true that Americans are often less inhibited than other socially than other people from other cultures. It is equally true that directness—or saying what one thinks—is acceptable behavior. Americans value honesty and frankness. They are generally not embarrassed or angered by being told they are wrong, as long as the criticism is stated in a friendly and respectable way. They would generally prefer an honest argument or refusal to polite but insincere agreement.  The definition of “rudeness"  varies widely from one culture to another. Do not jump to hasty conclusions about the intention behind someone’s words or behavior that may seem very rude to you.  Someone who says you have done something wrong, including your professor, is probably trying to help you, not embarrass you.

In the classroom, instructors will combine and use many methods of instruction:
  • The most common method is the lecture, where instructors highlight the most important information or fill in information not covered in or related to your readings.
  • The next most popular method of instruction is discussion. This method relies more heavily on the students.  Participation is vital. Participation means asking questions and volunteering information. Occasionally, an instructor may even answer a question with, "I don't know." Generally, the instructor will give you the answer at the next class meeting.
  • The last widely used method is the laboratory, where theories are applied to practical problems.
It is important to preview and read assignments prior to class discussions. If you come to class with questions prepared, you will impress your instructor, learn more, and better understand the material. The requirements of each of your classes may be very different. Some courses require much more reading and writing than others. Do not underestimate the effect a change in language or a change in classroom style can have on your performance. In general, U.S. students have a lot of experience in test taking and at expressing their opinions in class. You may come from an academic system that does not emphasize those skills. Interact with your professors. They are willing to give extra help if and when they can.

Quizzes, Examinations and Homework
  • Quizzes—short tests on assigned materials—and “pop quizzes"—unannounced tests—are used most frequently in language and mathematics courses.  Almost every class will have a final exam that will cover all the material in the course.
  • Homework assignments are usually given in a course syllabus as weekly reading assignments.
  • Research papers are an aspect of academic life that may seem overwhelming. Some students are unable to express themselves clearly or eloquently in written English; others do not know how to use the research tools in the library; and still others may be unfamiliar with U.S. academic writing styles and conventions. Many American students share these problems, and help is seldom far away.  The Writing Center at Agnes Scott provides student tutors to help out with writing assignments.

International students are sometimes surprised by the amount of daily and weekly reading assignments, and by the fact that grades are based on these assignments, and not just the final examination. 

Coursework evaluation will be based on class attendance and participation, tests, examinations, papers and special assignments.  Each instructor assigns a different value to these methods. Tests and exams may consist of Multiple Choice, True or False, Fill in the Blank, Short Answer, Identification, Matching, and Essay questions. Also note that papers should be typewritten.

Agnes Scott College uses the following grading system:

Excellent A A- B+
Good B B- C+
Satisfactory C C- D+
Marginal D D-
Failure F

I - Incomplete; E - Conditional Failure; W - Withdrawn; MED - Medical Withdrawal

Transfer Credit
Academic credits from previous college work may be transferred and added to your Agnes Scott College credits after a credential evaluation process. The Office of Academic Advising handles all transfer credits.

Class Standing
Bachelor's degree students are called undergraduates and/or:
First-year - 0-27 semester hours of academic credit with a cumulative GPA of at least 1.6 at the end of first semester
Sophomore - at least 28 semester hours of academic credit with a cumulative GPA of at least 1.8
Junior - at least 60 semester hours and cumulative GPA of at least 1.95
Senior - 92 semester hours and a GPA of at least 2.0

As you near graduation there are many things to consider. If you are writing resumes and cover letters for a job search, then visit the Office of Career Services in Alston Center. If you are applying for graduate school or post-completion practical training, you should be in contact with both your academic adviser and the international student adviser (Clementine Hakizimana).  You may ask professors and others you have worked with to write letters of recommendation.

Purchasing Textbooks
This document is designed to help students save money on books. When shopping online, copy the ISBN from your course information and use that to search so that you will buy the same edition of the book your professor expects you to use in class.