University of Minnesota

Experiencing Academic Difficulty

Identifying the Problem

Sometimes international students experience academic difficulties, even though in their home countries they have been highly successful academically. They may face the same types of academic difficulties that U.S. students face, e.g., test anxiety, difficulty with concentration, time management. (See also Academic Difficulty). Or the difficulties may be related to their unique situations as international students.

Type of Difficulties Specific to International Students:

  1. Differences in the education system in the U.S. compared to their home country education system, for example: academic writing style, test formats, amount of student participation expected in the classroom, large and small group discussions, and note-taking practices. Differences in academic relationships: instructor-student, T.A.-student, adviser-student, administrative staff-student, and student-student.
  2. Differences in help-seeking behaviors: for example, in many countries, it is not the individual student's responsibility to ask for help, but rather it is the responsibility of the instructor to offer assistance.
  3. Differences in understanding of plagiarism and group work assignments.
  4. Immigration requirements: in order to maintain their legal status in the U.S., international students must maintain a full-course of study each semester and make continuous academic progress.
  5. Most international students are away from their usual support systems, including family and friends.

How to Respond:

  • Let the student know that you are concerned and would like to help. Sometimes just having the opportunity to talk about the situation will be great relief to the student.
  • Ask the student what he or she thinks is the cause of the difficulty.
  • Help normalize the situation and feel that they are not alone by letting them know that other students experience similar difficulties.
  • Explain to the student that it is OK to ask for help.
  • Explain the role of the instructor and the T.A. in assisting students with difficulties, and tell them how to reach and meet with the instructor or T.A.
  • You can call ISSS (see below) to consult with a counselor about how to handle the situation.
  • Make a personal referral for the student (see resources below). Call ahead to get information so that you can help the student know what to expect when they arrive at the referral office. If possible, refer the student to a specific person.

University Resources:

  1. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)
    190 Humphrey Center
    Phone: 612-626-7100

    Ask for a counselor. ISSS works with international students (on non-immigrant visa only) on academic difficulty. ISSS has specially trained counseling staff who work with the student to assess and explore the difficulties, and come up with solutions.

  2. Learning & Academic Skills Center, University Counseling & Consulting Services
    109 Eddy Hall
    Phone: 612-624-3323
  3. Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
    419 Morrill
    100 Church St. S.E.
    Minneapolis, MN 55455
    Phone: 612-624-9547

    To consult about and/or report possible discrimination or systemic barriers to equal access.

  4. The Student Conflict Resolution Center
    211 Eddy Hall
    Phone: 612-624-7272 e

    The Student Conflict Resolution Center offers informal and formal conflict resolution services to resolve students' campus-based problems and concerns.

Twin Cities Campus: