Education: Values and Expectations

Cultural Notes

1. During the first two years of an undergraduate education in the United States, a student must take some required courses, which are usually not part of the major. An undergraduate in engineering, for example, is required to take general courses in history, sociology, and other fields. Undergraduates generally begin to specialize in the third year, although they may have taken prerequisite courses in their major during the first two years. Students are required to take general education courses so that they become "well-rounded." Students are expected to graduate with knowledge other than that in their area of specialization.
2. The grade-point average, or GPA, is usually based on a numerical system in which:
A (excellent) = 4 points

B (good) = 3 points

C (fair) = 2 points

D (poor) = 1 point

F (fail) - no points

Students begin to accumulate their GPA during their first semester or quarter. If students let their GPA drop in the first few semesters of college, it is difficult to pick it up and maintain a high average. It is important to keep a high GPA in order to be accepted to graduate schools; some employers also want to know a student's GPA.
3. Professors decide on their own method of grading. Some instructors use the "curve" grading system, which is based on a formula that calculates a certain number of A's, B's, C's, D's, and F's. In other words, a professor knows what percentage of the students will receive each grade. A student's score is calculated relative to those of the other students.
4. Academic counselors are available to help students choose classes and majors, and to arrange schedules.
5. International student advisers can help with specific problems concerning immigration, visas, other such issues.
6. A student having difficulty with course content may see a professor during his or her office hours, which are usually posted on the office door. Professors have to limit their time with students because they have non-teaching responsibilities such as administrative work and publishing. If professors want to have a permanent position, they are obliged to publish a certain number of articles or even books. For this reason, students having difficulty at times must try to find alternative ways of seeking help.
7. Early in each quarter or semester, students sometimes take the initiative to form "study groups" in which informal learning and peer teaching takes place. It is best if this happens in the first or second week of class, as students can become lost quickly in a challenging course. Occasionally; if asked, professors and instructors may assist students in forming study groups. Generally, however, it is up to the students to do this.
8. The following are common abbreviations related to the university:
A.A./A.S.: associate of arts/associate of sciences (given by a two-year college.
B.A./B.S.: bachelor of arts/bachelor of science
GPA: grade-point average
M.A./M.S.: master of arts/master of science
Ph.D.: doctorate
Prof.: Professor
econ.: economics
phys. ed (P.E.): physical education
math: mathematics
chem.: chemistry
bio.: biology
poli.sci.: political science
psych.: psychology
soc.: sociology


Conversation Notes taken from: Beyond Language by Levine and Adelman. Prentice Hall 1993.