First year experience: Academics

First year experience: Academics

Hi everyone! My name is Yaashna and I recently completed my first year of college at NYU! It’s been an extremely exciting endeavor, but somewhat intimidating at the start. If you’re still in college and anxious about what it’s like as an international student abroad, surrounded by completely new people and immersed in a culture you barely know, let me help you out! Welcome to my series ‘The First Year Experience’ which covers everything that you need to know before going for your first year abroad.

One of the most stressful aspects of college is of course the academics. As an Indian student, the transition to college-level academics was definitely challenging. A little background on my education, I was in CBSE till grade 10 and transitioned to CIE, which is an international board, in grade 11. Having experience from both sides, I can tell you that no matter which education board you were in, the college will still be a major change. However, I want you to keep in mind that this is my personal experience, and specific to US universities.

One of the biggest differences between high school and the university is the grading. Unlike high school where grades were primarily determined by end of the year exams, colleges don’t follow the same pattern. Grading differs from class to class, but most of them will have different weightage for different things. They’re usually based on attendance, class participation, projects (which are given throughout the year), midterm, and then your final exam. The final exam usually holds the highest weightage, but if you don’t do well in the other aspects you are unlikely to get a high grade. College requires you to be academically involved throughout the year, so be prepared to put in the effort the entire semester.

I think for specifically CBSE students, my biggest advice would be to be prepared to write shockingly long papers. In my A-levels we were required to write answers of more than 900 words, so I was slightly accustomed to writing a lot, but college papers were still a challenge in the beginning. Most of your papers will be around 8-10 pages, more than 4000 words. Definitely don’t put this off till the last minute, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in writing long papers. I would also suggest briefing yourself on the paper formats and MLA citations. College papers have a whole list of how the document needs to be submitted, 12-point, double spaced, Times New Roman font style, 1-inch margins, and idents after each paragraph. If you’re still confused, schedule office hours with your professor, most of them are super understanding and are aware that international students may not be that well versed in American paper formats.

As for final exams, you will most likely not get a date sheet as we do in school. The colleges are exactly concerned with you getting time to prepare between each exam, so you might even have exams overlapping. I had three back-to-back exams in my second semester, and it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I’ve had friends who’ve had 2 or even 3 exams on the same day. It’s a huge challenge to memorise the content of three subjects at the same time, and it’s not like the amount of coursework is lenient either. That’s a big reason to be active throughout the semester, pay attention in class and give your best effort in projects and assignments, even if you didn’t do particularly well in the final exam, the other aspects will cover it. In one of my classes, I got a B- on my midterm but managed to get it to an A+ eventually, because I was actively participating in class and worked extremely hard on my papers. Also, just as a warning, some subjects have like 3 midterm exams, so yeah, be prepared for that. I personally have projects instead of exams most of the time. In my first semester, I had no exams whatsoever and had to submit projects for all of my classes. Even though this might seem easier, I have spent probably double the hours on projects than exams, but this differs from subject to subject.

In conclusion, I would say to not be extremely stressed about your grades 24/7 and give up your college experience for it. Remember, C’s get degrees. Most jobs don’t even ask for your GPA, except in fields like engineering. I don’t want to discourage anyone from putting in effort in academics though, if your academic performance drops below a certain level you can lose your scholarship, or if you fail a subject, you might not graduate on time and need to stay an extra semester, and we definitely don’t want to incur the costs for that. I would say, try to maintain a balance between everything, your academics, social life and extracurricular activities. It’s not the end of the world if you get a B, I promise. Give your best and things will sort themselves out.


This blog has been contributed by Yaashna Gupta, an alumna of PPRO EED and now a student of New York University.

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