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Preparing for College: What Professors Want in Students

March 23, 2017

Most IEC@DVC graduates attend a U.S. college or university. Even with all the academic preparation IEC@DVC gives students, going from IEC to an American college can be intimidating!* Follow these tips for preparing for college and you’ll better understand what professors want in students. Remember this when you are heading off** to college!

*intimidating = scary (because it might be difficult)

**heading off = a phrasal verb meaning “leaving one place and going to another”

Preparing for College: What Professors Want in Students

#1: Understand class lectures

The lectures professors give help students understand the course’s main ideas. Always attend class, arrive on time, and listen carefully to the lecture. Do not use your phone during class.

#2: Think critically

American college and university courses do not just give you facts to memorize. Instead, many classes make you think in a completely new way. Don’t just take notes, read, and attend lectures: think about the course materials, how they relate to your life (and the world), and why the professor chose these concepts.

#3: Ask for help from professors

Remember that professors are here to help, but students must ask for it. Go to the professor’s office hours, and have some prepared questions. Office hours are an excellent opportunity to speak to your professor one-on-one and receive some extra help with things you do not understand.

#4: Read and comprehend the textbooks

The textbooks and lectures support all of the course’s ideas. Make sure that you understand the readings (and give yourself a lot of study time to read). Use all of the tools you were taught at IEC@DVC to help you read and understand the texts: read critically, take notes, and summarize!  If you don’t understand something, ask your professor for clarification.*

*clarification (noun) = something that makes something more clear

#5: Read all of the assigned material

Professors will often give additional reading materials, such as articles from academic journals. These are as important as the textbooks: read and completely understand the articles and how they support the ideas you’re learning in class.

#6: Manage your time

Reading and studying will always take more time than you expect, so plan for this. A good rule is to plan for two hours of study for every hour of class. For example, a class that meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for one hour (three hours total of class time each week) will probably need about six hours of study each week.

#7: Understand the connections between lectures and readings

Your professor chose the readings for a reason: be sure that you understand the material and also how it fits into the bigger picture* of the class concepts. A good idea is to always ask yourself, “Why did my professor ask me to read this?.” If you cannot answer this question, then you probably need to visit your professor!

*fits into the bigger picture = the most important facts about a situation and the effects of that situation on other things

#8: Ask questions in class

In some cultures, the professor speaks and the students take notes. In the United States, this is different: professors often expect students to ask questions and speak in class. In fact, with some smaller classes, classroom participation (speaking in class and asking questions) can be a part of your grade!

#9: Take notes

Research shows that students who take notes (with pen and paper, not with a computer) will remember ideas better than students who do not. During class, take notes; later, use them as study materials.

#10: Write short answers on exams

A short answer is not an essay. Short answers are challenging because the professor wants you to explain something using very few words. Try to be concise* and informative.

*concise = clear and short


Do you have any other tips for how to succeed in college? Let us know on the IEC@DVC Facebook page!


This article’s information is from the TESOL 2015 presentation, “Needs Analysis of Language Skills for International Students” by Dr. Adrian Wurr.



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