Many students in the U.S. get into trouble for what is called "cheating" or "plagiarism." "Cheating" means getting help that a student is not supposed to get on an assignment, quiz, or examination. "Plagiarism" refers specifically to the practice of copying from a book or other publication and not acknowledging that the words used are someone else's, and not your own. Plagiarism is considered a kind of lying (because you are claiming you wrote something you did not actually write) and a kind of theft (because you are taking someone else’s “intellectual property” without saying you did so).

What Is Considered "Cheating"?

In general, students in the U.S. academic system are expected to do their own academic work without getting excessive assistance from other people. This does not mean that you cannot ask other students to help with class work. It is permissible and sometimes even advisable to seek help in understanding what is happening in a class and what a specific assignment is about. It is not considered proper, though, to have someone else do an assignment for you, or to copy answers or information from a publication in a way that makes it appear that the answers are ones you devised and composed yourself. That would be considered cheating.

Here are some other things that are considered cheating:

  • Copying other students' assignments, answers to examination questions
  • Allowing another person to copy your answers to examination questions
  • Allowing other parties to assist in the completion of your quiz, exam, homework, paper, or project when not permitted 
  • Taking notes or books to an examination and secretly referring to them for assistance while answering examination questions
  • Misrepresenting your contribution to a group project
  • Collaborating with others on a take-home examination when instructed not to do so
  • Purchasing a paper someone else wrote and presenting it as your own
  • Having someone else take an online course, or portions of an online course, for you

Please see more examples of offenses against the Code of Academic Honesty from your academic college. 

What Is Considered "Plagiarism"?

According to the University of Iowa Academic Policies, all forms of plagiarism are considered academic fraud. This includes, but it not limited to:

  • Presentation of ideas from sources that you do not credit;
  • Use of direct quotations without quotation marks and/or without credit to the source;
  • Paraphrasing information and ideas from resources without credit to the source;
  • Failure to provide adequate citations for material obtained through electronic research;
  • Downloading and submitting work from electronic databases without citation;
  • Participation in a group project which presents plagiarized materials;
  • Taking credit as part of a group without participating as required in the work of group;
  • Submitting material created/written by someone else as one’s own, including purchased term/research papers, artistic works, photography, and electronic media. You should also note that this list is not all inclusive. Plagiarism occurs whenever someone else’s work or idea is presented as your own.

Possible Consequences of Cheating or Plagiarism

Some students cheat and are not punished for it, either because the cheating is not detected or because the faculty member in whose class the cheating takes place prefers not to take any action against the student. In most cases, though, cheating and plagiarism are detected and have negative consequences for the student. These consequences might be:

  • A failing grade for the assignment or examination on which the cheating took place;
  • A failing grade for the course in which the cheating or plagiarism occurred;
  • Expulsion from the course; 
  • Expulsion from the university.

Here are the codes of Academic Honesty from different colleges:

Immigration Consequences of Academic Misconduct

Engaging in academic misconduct may also impact your legal immigration status in the U.S.  If the university suspends or expels you because of misconduct, you are no longer upholding the terms of your student visa and your SEVIS immigration record may be terminated.

The General Idea

Depending on whether you are planning to purse professional career or further education here in the United States, or in your own country, there are things that you can do while you are a student here to help realize your career aspirations.

Pursuing a Professional Life in Your Home Country

Personal Orientation

Have clear goals for your studies and other activities in the States. The goals might include the idea of preparing for a variety of types of jobs.

Stay in touch with home, so that you do not become isolated from people or events in your own country.

Remain aware of American values as compared to the values that prevail at home. Remember that you are temporarily accommodating yourself to the way people behave in the US, and that you will have to re-accommodate yourself when you get home.

Anticipate some difficulties upon your return home, since going home requires many readjustments that can be difficult to make. One of the difficulties you can anticipate is people’s prejudices (whether positive or negative) about people who have studied in the U.S.

Cultivate patience and be non-judgmental. These two personal characteristics will help you interact constructively with people whose ideas are different from yours.

Avoid dependence on country-specific or specialized equipment, such as some computers programs or laboratory supplies, unless you are certain that you will have access to such equipment at home.

Academic Work

Insofar as you can, select courses that relate to your interests or to the general demands relevant to the field in the country where you hope to work in the future.

Take courses in leadership, management, social change, and comparative studies if you can possibly do so.

Insofar as you can (mostly for graduate students), select an academic adviser and instructors who seem interested in working with students from abroad and who understand your wish to prepare for a career in another country.

Whenever possible, choose research topics that relate to your own country.

Learn research methods that you can use in other settings besides Iowa and the University.

Extracurricular Activities

Get leadership and management experience through student organizations, professional associations, participation in voluntary service activities, etc.

Get fund-raising and proposal-writing experience in any way you can. Student organizations, cooperation with a faculty member on a project, and volunteer in community organizations that might afford these opportunities.

Improve your English. People at home will assume that a person who has studied in the U.S. will be highly proficient in English. Those who use English well have better opportunities for professional advancement.

Profession-Related Activities

Get practical experience in your field. Through volunteer work, employment arranged under “cooperative education,” or through practical training in business, industry, or education, get as much practical experience as you can. Most prospective employers want someone who has practical experience as well as theoretical understanding of a subject.

Join and participate in professional organizations on campus and elsewhere. Ask your academic advisor or in your departmental office about professional organizations students in your field can join.

Network with fellow professionals and co-nationals. Get acquainted with people in your field or study and with people from your country, since you may want to call upon them after you get home. Americans use the term “networking” to refer to establishing relationships with people who can help you in your professional life.

Build a personal library of books and journals that can help you after you return home.

Pursuing a Professional Life or Further Education in the U.S.

Professional Career


  • Explore career choices within your field of study. You can meet with a Career Advisor (mostly undergraduate students), or your faculty advisor (mostly graduate students) to discuss career interests/options. You can also explore career possibilities using “What Can I Do with A Major in …” or using assessments.
  • Visit your Academic Advisor to discuss courses that you could take to help you gain additional skills for the career that you are interested in.
  • Consider taking some leadership and/or professional development courses to gain additional skill sets.
  • Conduct class projects/research in the topics that you are interested in exploring, which also align with the career path that you are interested in.
  • Consider study abroad opportunities as well as virtual international experiences and global internship possibilities.

Personal/Cultural Orientation

  • Learn about the work values that are important to Americans.
  • Determine the work values that are important to you.
  • Learn how informational interviews with professionals can provide additional insight into careers and industries you are exploring.
  • Attend Life in Iowa Career Series workshops to learn more about preparing for a professional career in the United States.
  • Visit ISSS website to read the information about Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Come to discuss with an ISSS advisor during walk-in hours when you are planning on registering CPT or OPT.

Extracurricular Activities

  • Participate in academic/honors, employment, fraternities & sororities, intramurals & sports clubs, leadership, multicultural activities, performing arts, student organizations, or volunteering opportunities.
  • Join programs, events, or trainings that help you develop leadership skills, communication skills, or other transferrable skills.

Profession-Related Activities

Pursuing Graduate or Professional School

If pursuing an advance degree in graduate or professional school is your personal goal, you might want to invest more time into how to navigate the planning, researching, applying process. The Pomerantz Career Center provides a great outline of this process, and also resources that you can refer to.

General Education

The American academic system, as a whole, is intended to provide a broad education for as many people as possible. There is no screening examination that directs a student, at an early age, into an academic or non-academic area. A high proportion of the population completes secondary school--and secondary school is not as challenging as it is in countries where access to education is more limited. A significant proportion of the population attempts some kind of post-secondary education--and post-secondary study, at the undergraduate level (but it is not free of challenge. At a large, public university such as the UI, only about 51.1 per cent of the undergraduate students who enrolled in 2009 graduated).


The American educational system also produces specialists, people who have studied a limited range of topics in depth. Specialization comes later in the U.S. system than it does in most others. It is not until the second (“sophomore”) or third ("junior") year of undergraduate work that students concentrate on their "major" field. There is further specialization in graduate work, especially as students undertake research for a thesis or dissertation.


It is considered important here to evaluate the work that students do in each class. Therefore, there is a "grading system", which is used to rank and compare students' academic work. A student's grades receive considerable attention in competition for scholarships and assistantships, for admission to universities and graduate schools, and for jobs.

Conflicts of Goals

There are many conflicts among the educational goals. For example, there is pressure for earlier and greater specialization as opposed to pressure for broader "humanistic" or "liberal arts" education. Some people consider the grading system is to be incompatible with developing a true appreciation of learning. As a result of the existence of these conflicts, there is constant discussion of the rules, procedures, and practices of the academic system.

The American academic system differs from all others in the world. To succeed in it, you will need to learn how it is organized and how it works. You will need to understand what is expected of students. Listed below are some ideas and suggestions to keep in mind as you begin your studies. You will learn more of the informal rules for academic success as you take courses and talk with experienced students in your field of study. The more you talk with experienced students, the sooner you will be able to develop a helpful understanding of the way your academic department functions.

Understand Academic Assumptions & Expectations

In the U.S. educational system, education is viewed as a productive activity. It is a process of acquiring more information about and a better understanding of things that are not necessarily known or completely understood by anyone. Therefore, being able to synthesize (that is, bring tougher and mix in a new way) materials from many sources and to develop your own ideas and viewpoints are especially important if you want to achieve academic success.

In addition, understanding what is expected for each of your class is important. You may find different types of classes and different instructors will have completely different expectations. For example, for a class that all the points are earned by examinations, you will need to study harder for the exams in order to get a good grade. On the other hand, in classes that participation takes up a bigger portion of the grade, you will need to actively engage in classroom discussion in order to succeed in that class. At the beginning of the semester, each instructor will distribute course syllabus. The syllabus will offer general introduction to the course, how grades are distributed, proportion of each assignment, policy for the class and college, as well as the schedule for the whole semester. Make sure to review your syllabus to know the expectations of each course at the beginning of the semester.

Seeking Help

Seeking help proactively is essential to academic success in the U.S. academic system. While there are a lot of resources available on campus, it it your responsibility as a student to use those resources, and to ask for help when (or even before) you encounter difficulties. Therefore, seeking help is a sign that you are taking responsibility for your own study. Don't wait until the last minute to ask for help. The earlier you start the process, the more likely you are to succeed.

Develop New Study Skills

Because of the different assumptions and expectations in the U.S. educational system, you might need to develop some new study skills to cope with your academic challenges. Depending on your class, you might need to develop critical thinking skills, reading skills, note-taking skills, or writing skills in order to success in your classes.

Get to Know the Policy

Knowing the policy of the class is another element to help you succeed academically. For example, you might want to know what the policy for absence is if you are sick and cannot go to class. Learning about plagiarism, and how to avoid plagiarism, is another important topic for academic success.

Talk to Your Instructors

Each professor and Teaching Assistant (TA) will have designated time as office hours to answer students’ questions. Let the instructors know if you are having difficulties with your classes. Visit the office hours with your questions ready.

Evaluate Your Expectation

Keep in mind that a period of adjustment to a new educational system is necessary before you will be able to perform the best of your ability. Although you might have an initial expectation coming into a class, it is good to reevaluate your expectation after a week, or a month into the class, so that you can set more realistic goals for the class.

Time Management

You want to manage your time effectively so you can achieve in all or most of your classes. Usually, it is recommended two spend 2 hours outside of class to study for every hour in the classroom. Therefore, for a 3 semester-hour class, you will need to spend 6 hours outside of class to study. If you already have an A in one class, and you are having a C+ on the other class, you might want to spend a little more time for the class on C+ to get your grade-point-average (GPA) up. You will also want to set aside time for exercise and rest in order to stay healthy to continue your study.

Utilize Academic Support Resources

If you are experiencing difficulties with your classes, go and seek help. There are plenty of resources on campus that can help you get back on track. You can go to the office hours of your instructors; there are help labs and free tutoring for some classes; there are workshops to coach you develop skills you need to succeed academically; and there are also online resources, as well as people you can chat with to figure out what will work the best for you. For undergraduate students, please visit the Tutor Iowa website for more information on supplemental instruction, tutoring, and other academic support resources. For graduate students, please talk to your instructors and academic advisor if you encounter difficulties with your study. Be proactive to seek and utilize the academic support resources available on campus.


The most common method of instruction here is the classroom lecture. The lectures are supplemented by classroom discussion (especially when classes are small), by "discussion sections" (especially in large, undergraduate classes where graduate teaching assistants aid the professor who presents lectures), by reading assignments in textbooks or library books, and perhaps by periodic written assignments.

It is important for the student to contribute to the discussion in the classroom. In some societies it is "disrespectful" for students to question or challenge the teacher. In this country, by contrast, questioning or challenging the teacher is viewed as a healthy sign of interest, attention, and independent thinking. In many classes your grade will be determined in part by your contribution to class discussion. If you sit in "respectful" silence, the instructor may assume that you are not interested in what is being said in the class, or that you do not understand it.

When classes are too large for questions and discussion, or if for some other reason you do not have the opportunity to raise questions in class, you can visit privately with instructors during their office hours or make an appointment to see them. Instructors usually announce their office hours at the first meeting of the class. The office hours will also be on the syllabus. In the case of large, undergraduate classes, there are usually graduate teaching assistants (TAs) who are available to answer questions.


A seminar is a small class, typical at the graduate level. It is likely to be devoted entirely to discussion. Students are often required to prepare presentations for the seminar, based on their independent reading or research.


Many courses require work in a laboratory, where the theory learned in a classroom is applied to practical problems.

Term Papers

In many courses you will be required to write a "term paper" (often called simply a "paper"). A term paper is based on study or research you have done in the library or laboratory. The grade you receive on the term paper may constitute a significant portion of your grade for the course. It is wise to start the term papers so you have time to ask another person to review your paper and suggest revisions before due dates.

There are books and online resources that explain the format of a term paper, including the use of footnotes and bibliographies. If you have questions, discuss them with your instructors.

Both in preparing term papers and in doing assignments for your classes, you are likely to use the library more than you have in the past. It is essential to learn how to use the library, InfoHawk, the web-based computerized library service, and online database. Each library on the campus has trained employees who are happy to answer your questions about the library's organization, the location of specific materials, bibliographies, and so on. For more information, please visit the library's website


You will have many examinations. Nearly every class has a "final examination" at the end of the semester. Most have "mid-term examination(s)" near the middle of the semester. There may be additional "tests" or "quizzes" given with greater frequency, perhaps even weekly. All these tests are designed to assure that students are doing the work that is assigned to them, and to measure how much they are learning.

You should not look at other students' papers during an examination. To "cheat" on an examination by getting answers from other students or from materials illicitly brought to the test can result in a "zero" grade for the examination, an "F" grade in the course, and disciplinary action.

There are two general types of tests, objective and subjective. An objective examination tests your knowledge of particular facts. Five different kinds of questions commonly appear on objective examinations. You will want to learn to deal with each of them:

  1. Multiple choice - You choose from among a series of answers, selecting the one (or more) that is most appropriate.
  2. True and false - You read a statement and indicate whether it is true or false.
  3. Matching - You match words, phrases or statements from two columns.
  4. Identification - You identify and briefly explain the significance of a name, term, or phrase.
  5. Blanks - You fill in the blanks left in a phrase or statement in order to make it complete and correct.

Sometimes called "essay questions," subjective examinations require you to write an essay in response to a question or statement. This kind of examination tests your ability to organize and relate your knowledge of the subject.

The Semester System

The academic year at this university is composed of two semesters of approximately 17 weeks in length. In addition, there are summer sessions of various lengths. While many U.S. universities use the semester system, some divide the academic year into shorter periods, either "quarters" or "trimesters."

Semester Hours

The quantity of academic work a student does at the University is measured in "credits" or "semester hours (s.h.)." The number of semester hours a course is worth usually depends on the number of hours per week that it meets. A "3 s.h. course," for example, will meet three hours weekly for one semester. It might meet for three fifty-minutes sessions, as undergraduate classes normally do, or for one three-hour session, a fairly common pattern in graduate classes. At the end of the semester, the student who has achieved a passing grade in the course has earned three semester hours.

A student must earn a specified number of semester hours in order to graduate. This number varies for undergraduates and graduates. Information about graduation requirements can be found in the University's General Catalog.

The Grading System

The quality of a student's academic work is measured by means of "grades." There are four "passing" grades, A, B, C, and D. There is one "failing" grade, F. (At the graduate level, only A and B are considered passing grades.) The grading system in some colleges includes "plus" and "minus" grades. Each grade carries a designated number of "points" per credit. Fore majority of the colleges, each letter grade represents the following grade point average from the chart below. However, some college (such as College of Law) might have their own grading system.


Points per Semester Hour



























A student's grade-point average (or GPA) is calculated by dividing the number of semester hours earned into the number of grade points earned. For example, if a student has taken three courses, each for three hours of credit, and the grades include one A, one B+, and one C+, the GPA would be 3.22. The calculation is like this:


Credit x Points

Total Points










Grade Point Average (GPA) = (12+9.99+6.96)/9 = 3.22

You can also see the Office of the Registrar’s GPA Calculator, or the GPA calculator in ICON or help computing a grade point average or predicting a future GPA.

The "cumulative GPA" is the GPA a student has earned for all studies undertaken. There is a difference of opinion as to whether plus-minus grading will hurt or help a student's overall grades. The plus-minus grading system is intended to allow finer distinctions in evaluating academic work.

There are some other grades that may appear on your transcript, or permanent record. However, they will not affect your grade-point average (except for the second grade only option).


Audit Successful


Audit Unsuccessful


In Progress










Honors course




No grade reported






Grade not included in GPA


Changed grade

Please see Grading System from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for more detailed information.

In particular, you should know when it is possible for you to take a course on a "pass-fail," "satisfactory-fail," or "satisfactory-unsatisfactory" basis. Students use these optional grading systems to protect their grade-point averages. Here is the way it works: In a class that is being taken on a regular grading system, a student must earn an "A" or a "B" in order to have what are generally considered "good grades." If a student earns only a "C" or a "D" his grade is considered marginal and his grade- point average suffers. Grades of "P" (for "pass") and "S" (for "satisfactory") are not included in the computation of a grade- point average. A student can get a "P" or "S" grade in a course where they do not expect to perform well and his or her grade average will not suffer as a result. (Failing grades in courses taken under these optional systems are taken into account in calculating grade averages.)

Each instructor at the University has his or her own philosophy and methods of grading. Some use fixed grading scales, whereby each assignment or examination that is graded can receive a fixed maximum of points (for example, 10 or 100), and the number of points accumulated at the end of the semester is converted into a letter grade (for example, 450-500 points is an A). An alternative to this method is that of "grading on the curve," whereby a formula is used to assure that there will be a certain number of A's, a certain number of B's, and so on. Under this system, the students in the class are competing with each other for high grades. It is helpful to learn about the philosophy and method of grading that each of your teachers uses.

Second Grade Option

Some colleges may accept up to three courses taken at The University of Iowa for a second grade. Under the second-grade-only option, both grades are visible on the permanent record, but only the second grade is used in all GPA calculations and as hours earned. Please note that different colleges have different second-grade-only policies which govern their courses. Here are some second grade only policies:

Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements specify the number of semester hours you must earn, the minimum GPA you must achieve, and the distribution of courses you must have from among different departments or fields of study. In addition, it is necessary to "apply for graduation" when you near the time that you will be completing your graduation requirements. Since graduation requirements vary among various divisions of the University, you should consult the General Catalog and your current Schedule of Courses for information. Questions can be addressed to your departmental office or to your academic advisor.

Academic Advisor

Undergraduate Students

Your academic advisor is a faculty or staff member who helps you plan your program of studies in a way that will best enable you to fulfill your graduation requirements and at the same time tailor your studies to your interests.

Most Liberal Arts undergraduate students at the University of Iowa are initially assigned an academic advisor at the Academic Advising Center (AAC). AAC advisors are not faculty members; they are "professional advisors" whose only job is academic advising. They receive thorough training concerning the complexities of graduation requirements. Once students enter their major, they will be assigned an academic advisor specific to their field of study. Some of them might be professional advisors, and some of them might be faculty advisor. The College of Business and the College of Engineering also have professional advisors for many undergraduate students. Only a few majors will stay with Academic Advising Center for all four years.

Newly-arriving undergraduates get information from orientation telling them who their initial academic advisor will be. Each semester, you will need your advisor to authorize registration and change in registration.

Graduate Students

For graduate students, academic advisors play a crucial role in academic life. If you are a graduate student, you may be dependent on your advisor for many things, including grades, financial support, help in forming an examining committee, and letters of recommendation. If you are a graduate assistant, your advisor might also be your "boss."

Ideally, you will want to form a "mentor relationship" with your academic advisor, whereby your advisor introduces you to your chosen profession and enables you to develop within that profession by introducing you to other researchers, helping you attend professional conferences, helping you find periodicals in which to publish, and generally taking a keen interest in your progress as a student and as a young professional.

Unfortunately, the “mentor relationship” is not the norm. In an Institute for International Education (IIE) study, mentoring relationships between the graduate student and his advisor were found . . . to be the exception rather than the rule. And this was true whether the student involved was foreign or American. (Mentors and Supervisors, p. 60)

When we examine the situation of a typical academic advisor, it is easy to understand why this is the case. Professors in American research universities are under great pressure to attract funding for, carry out, and publish the results of research that contributes to a body of knowledge. Their professional futures and reputations are at stake. They generally are not rewarded financially or professionally for being good academic advisors. Sometimes, because of the preoccupation with funding, research, and publishing, professors may seem abrupt or insensitive to students' needs. They are likely to wait for students to take the initiative in discussing coursework, research issues, or academic progress. Students thus need to exercise some initiative in their relationships with their advisors.

This is not to say that there are no "good" academic advisors, or that no student has a rewarding relationship with the advisor. Certainly there are many faculty members who have a genuine interest in their advisees and who are willing to devote considerable time to them.

Different academic departments have different procedures for assigning academic advisors to graduate students. In some departments, either the chairman or the head of graduate studies serves for at least the first semester as a new student's advisor. Then the student selects an advisor, based on shared academic interests.

In other departments, a new student is assigned a faculty advisor based on some system of distribution of the department's "advising load." Later, students may have the opportunity of selecting the advisor they prefer.

In any case, new graduate students can learn who their advisors (or temporary advisors) are by visiting the departmental office for the information.

Selecting an Advisor

How does one find a suitable academic advisor? Probably the best way is to talk with other students who have more experience in the department than you do. Ask about the personalities of faculty in your department, their research interests, the amount of funding they receive, and any other details you believe might be pertinent, such as scheduling, upcoming sabbaticals, etc. When you have narrowed the possibilities, make appointments with potential academic advisors and talk with them about your respective research interests and schedules. This will give you an opportunity to determine whether you and the potential advisor are personally compatible.

Personal compatibility is a big factor in selecting an advisor. Naturally, your research interests and methodological preferences should coincide with those of your academic advisor. Your schedule may also play a large role in selecting an advisor. It is important to select someone who is available for consultation when you need it.

Sometimes graduate students want to change academic advisors. A variety of reasons might account for this wish, including differing research interests, incompatible schedules, or interpersonal discomfort. It is fairly common in American graduate education for students to change academic advisors. In most--but not all--cases, faculty members expect changes to happen, and are not troubled when they do.

Changing academic advisors is not necessarily an indication to your current advisor that you are dissatisfied with his or her work. Because of the reasons mentioned above, professors at U.S. colleges and universities understand that students' research interests may evolve during their studies, and that another faculty member in the department may be better suited to guide a particular student's research.

You may want to talk to other students with more experience in your department to find out whether you should expect any special difficulties. Before talking with your current advisor, interview prospective new advisors and select one who (a) seems suitable to you and (b) is willing to take you as an advisee. Ask that person's advice as to how best to approach your current advisor on the subject of making a change.

If you determine that you want to change your academic advisor, here are some suggested things you can say to your current advisor to make the transition smoothly: "Professor X's research interests are more in line with my interests." "Professor X is more available for consultation than you, because of your busy schedule." If you need assistant with conflict resolution or advocacy, Office of the Ombudsperson is a great resource.


You must "register" for the particular courses you "take" each semester. Before you can register, you must meet with your academic advisor, reach agreement on a "course schedule," and get your advisor's approval for your plan. Students can register in person by accessing MyUI through the University’s web site. MyUI is an interactive computer program through which UI students can communicate with administrative offices. Information about each semester's registration schedule and procedures appears in the Schedule of Courses and on MyUI. Make sure you are aware of all registration deadlines, especially deadlines before which you may discontinue a course without penalty (usually called “drop dates”).

Remember that the U.S. educational system rewards students who can study a large amount of material concerning a broad range of subjects, who can synthesize material from many sources, and who can take examinations effectively. These activities require skills that can be learned. Some of these skills are mentioned and briefly discussed here. The University Counseling Service and Tutor Iowa offers study-skills assistance.

Organizing Your Time

You will have a large amount of work to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it. In this situation, you need to use your time effectively. A good way to do that is to make yourself a weekly study schedule. Allot specified periods of time each day for studying. (A good general guideline: Undergraduates can assume they will need to spend at least two hours studying for each one hour they spend in class. Graduate students can assume at least three hours, and perhaps more.) Look at the course outlines (or "syllabi") you get at the opening of the term and notice how much you will need to read and how many things you will have to write for each class during the semester. Fill in your study schedule accordingly. Then follow the study schedule. If it appears later that your schedule is out of balance, with too much time devoted to some courses and not enough to others, modify your schedule and follow the new one. The University Counseling Service also have tips on planning a better schedule.

Reading Effectively

When you see the length of the reading lists your instructors give you, you will realize that it is not possible to memorize all of your reading materials for the semester, or even to study them in reasonable depth. That is not what you are expected to do. Instead, you are expected to familiarize yourself with the main points from each reading and often to be able to relate what one writer has said to what another writer has said. To draw the main points from a large number of readings, here are some things you can do:

Steps of the SQ3R Method (from Effective Study, by F.P. Robinson, New York, Harper’s 1961)

  1. Survey the chapter. Determine the structure, organization, or plan of the chapter. Details will be remembered because of their relationship to the total picture.
    1. Think about the title. Guess what will be included in the chapter.
    2. Read the introduction. This is where the main ideas are presented.
    3. Read the summary. Here is the relationship among the main ideas.
    4. Read the main heads. (bold-face type)
  2. Question.
    1. Use the questions at the beginning or end of the chapter.
    2. Formulate questions by changing main-heads and sub-heads to questions. Having in mind a question results in: (1) a spontaneous attempt to answer with information already at hand; (2) frustration until the question is answered; (3) a criterion against which the details can be inspected to determine relevance and importance; (4) a focal point for crystallizing a series of ideas (the answer).
  3. Read. Read to answer the question. Move quickly. Sort out items and ideas and evaluate them. If content does not relate to the question, give it only a passing glance. Read selectively.
  4. Recite. Answer the question – in your own words, not the author’s. then:
    1. Write the question (on a sheet of paper to contain all the notes for this chapter – so, keep it brief – use abbreviations whenever possible).
    2. Write the answer using only key words, listings, etc., that are needed to recall the whole idea.
  5. Review. Increase retention and cut cramming time by 90% by means of immediate and delayed review. To do this:
    1. Read your written questions.
    2. Try to recite the answer. If you can’t, look at your notes. Five to ten minutes should be enough time for a chapter.
    3. Review again after one week.

Deriving as Much as Possible from Classes

Since attending and participating in classes is such an important part of the academic system here, it is wise to try to gain as much as possible from your classes. Here are some suggestions that will help you:

  • Read in advance. If you have reading assignments that relate to a lecture you will hear in a class, do the reading before the class, so you will understand the lecture better. From the reading you might have questions to ask in the class.
  • Take notes. Write down the main points that the lecturer makes. Many lecturers will use phrases that will help you identify the points they think are important and that you should therefore note.
  • Review. After the class, go over your notes. Fill in things you left out. Mark things you still have questions about. Before class, spend ten to fifteen minutes reviewing your notes from the previous class. This helps you retain information and makes last-minute studying less necessary.
  • Get help if you need it. If you have specific questions or if you are having general difficulty understanding what is happening in a class, get help. Talk to the instructor or the graduate teaching assistant. Try to find another student in the class who seems to understand better and who is willing to answer your questions. If you are having serious difficulties, consider going to the office of the appropriate academic department to see if they can help you identify a "tutor," that is, a person you can hire to work with you privately on the material that is being covered in the class.
  • Try not to be discouraged. International students, especially new ones, will inevitably have some difficulties understanding what is happening in at least some of their classes. Many things contribute to this: The instructor talks too fast and/or does not give well-organized presentations; fellow students' comments are incomprehensible because they use so much slang; the entire setting seems strange and confusing. As time passes and you have more experience, these difficulties will diminish. Be patient.

Preparing for Quizzes and Examinations

Here are some suggestions that can help you cope with the many quizzes and examinations you will have at the University:

  • Keep up to date on your studies. If you fall behind on your reading or assignments, you will have difficulty preparing adequately for tests.
  • Schedule time to review. Before the test, go over your notes from lectures and readings. Try to anticipate what the instructor will ask on the test by recalling the points that were emphasized during lectures.
  • Rest before the test. Most people perform better on tests if they have had adequate sleep the night before.
  • The University Counseling Service (UCS) offers several handouts with many more helpful suggestions on preparing for examinations.

Academic Services and Support

Academic Advising Center

The Academic Advising Center provides academic guidance and support to majority of first year entering students as they enter and make their way through the university. 

Academic Support and Retention

The Academic Support and Retention office provides services and programs which create a seamless transition for new first year and transfer students, leading to student academic success. It develops communication tools to inform students of campus resources and programs to support student success. It also maintains open communication with faculty, staff and parents about issues and resources pertaining to student retention.

CLAS Office of Academic Programs & Student Development

The Academic Programs and Student Development office can answer College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) students’ questions about fulfilling academic potential and graduating on time.

Honors Program

Honors at Iowa enriches the educational experience of academically-talented undergraduates by engaging them in the process of intellectual growth and self-discovery. Honors students acquire a broad and interdisciplinary knowledge base; they also develop skills through learning by doing, with emphasis on mentored research and creative work. Students as a result grow professionally and personally in a way that contributes to their success in a diverse world. The accomplishments of Honors students are formally recognized by the University of Iowa.

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR)

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) promotes undergraduate involvement in mentored research and creative projects at the University of Iowa. ICRU exists to help students find the right fit and to make sure that its best utilize the skills they learn through their research. 

Pomerantz Career Center

Pomerantz Career Center assists Hawkeyes to become leaders in their careers and communities. The center provides information, inventory, and counseling for students who want help in identifying career interests. It helps students in the "job search" - writing resumes and cover letters and improving their performance in interviews. It also assists students in gaining professional experience with outside organizations through a type of volunteer work or employment called an “internship”.

Additional Career Services Offices on campus include: Engineering Professional Development, Graduate & Postdoctoral Career Services, College of Law Careers, and MBA Career Services.

Writing Center

The Writing Center helps all in the University community improve their writing, including attitudes and self-confidence about writing. We also assist with reading. The Writing Center programs are free! All you contribute is time to benefit your writing. Any writers who want feedback on any aspect of writing could use the services of the Writing Center. You would especially benefit from the Writing Center if you are feeling insecure about your writing, if you are anxious or apprehensive about writing, if you are dissatisfied with your skills, or if you find yourself procrastinating. An instructor might also recommend that you come to the Writing Center.

University Libraries

The University Libraries consist of the Main Library and eight departmental libraries--Art, Business, Engineering, Health Sciences, Law, Music, and Science library. The libraries house over three million volumes and provide a variety of reference and information services. The Main Library also contains microfilm reading rooms, listening rooms for recorded materials, seminar and study rooms, computers for student use, carrels for qualified graduate students, and learning commons. To effectively use the resources of the University of Iowa’s library system you need to become familiar with the computerized database system known as “InfoHawk.” Library information sheets are available at the Main Library or at any of the eight departmental libraries. Questions about the University Libraries may be directed to the Information Desk, Main Library, 335-5299, or to a departmental library. The locations of the departmental libraries are given in the “About the Libraries” and in the “Locations” section of the library web page.

UI students can borrow materials from the library with their student identification cards. Non-students who are residents of Iowa may borrow from the library if they have a UI library permit. To obtain a permit you must provide proof of identification and residence (driver's license and checkbook), then fill out an application at the Information Desk.

Study Rooms and Lockers

The Main Library offers a variety of study rooms and lockers to be used. Please see the Main Library Assigned Study Rooms and Lockers website for specific criteria to apply for study rooms and lockers. 

Student Disabilities Services

The Student Disability Services works with students, faculty, and other resources of the university to coordinate accommodations for which students are entitled under federal legislation. Support for students who have disabilities as well as the education of the larger community about disability related concerns allows SDS to facilitate the elimination of barriers regarding students with disabilities.