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At American universities, students are solicited like in no other country. Universities and colleges see themselves as service providers and students as their customers. Students’ satisfaction is a top priority and a quality feature of the universities in the USA.
Students studying at an American university should be able to feel comfortable on campus right from the start and quickly connect to the community. The comprehensive advisory and service offerings of universities in the USA make a significant contribution to this.
The pronounced service concept and the special flair of US universities make the appeal of studying in the USA to many international students. They are impressed by the intensive support, the first-class equipped campus facilities and last but not least by the incomparable campus life in the USA. They are prepared to pay higher tuition fees for this comprehensive service.
International students are particularly welcome at universities in the USA. The American universities and colleges generally attach great importance to the fact that their students come from many different countries and advertise with a multicultural study atmosphere.
Almost every American university has special facilities and services for international students. The International Office, also known as the International (Student) Center or Center for International Affairs, is the most important contact point for students from other countries.
The International Student Advisers are contact persons for all matters concerning international students. They advise on the following topics:
- Study options at the university
- course selection
- Preparation of the timetable
- application requirements
- Financing of the USA studies
- health insurance
- Visa and entry requirements
- Working on campus / Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- apartment search
In addition, the International Student Advisers ensure that international students are quickly connected to academic, cultural and social life at the university. They organize the Welcome Week and often organise events on campus during the semester as well as excursions and leisure activities.
Some of the International Office’s services also include so-called Mentorship / Mentoring Programs and Buddy Programs. As a rule, both local and international students can apply as mentors. They support newcomers from abroad in their everyday studies. They often take over the collection service from the airport, guide students around the campus, help with finding an apartment or organise film and games evenings.
Student Union / Students’ Association
One of the most popular meeting places for students on campus is the Student Union. The term is commonly used in the USA to refer to the building that serves as the student center. Some universities also talk about student commons or student centers.
The structure of the Student Union differs from university to university. Typical are cafés, lounges and meeting rooms. At many universities, however, the equipment is much more comprehensive. There are various shops, food courts, sports facilities and game rooms. In the game rooms, students can expect numerous entertainment activities such as game consoles, billiards and table tennis, and sometimes even bowling alleys and cinemas.
The Student Union also often has its own bookstore. However, this cannot be compared to an ordinary bookstore. Students can purchase lecture notes, buy, borrow and sell specialist literature, but there is much more than just books. The offer includes merchandising articles of the university, occasionally also PC accessories and furnishings for the room in the dormitory.
More rarely, the term student union is used in the USA for a student-run non-profit organization on campus. It is committed to the interests of all students and represents the political interests of the student body. The student council, also known as the Student (Government) Association, often has offices in the building of the same name. At some universities, the Student Union is also responsible for organizing student activities and establishing and managing student clubs.
Especially at large universities there is a separate student representation for undergraduate and graduate students. This also applies to individual subject areas such as medicine or law, which are traditionally strongly positioned at some universities.
Advisory services for students in the USA
Thanks to the comprehensive range of services offered at universities in the USA, students are not left alone with their questions and problems. Whether it’s academic issues or personal problems – there is a single point of contact for everything, if not a separate institution.
The concept of academic supervision is firmly anchored in the American system of study. In the USA, it is common practice for every freshman to receive an Academic Advisor.
Usually it is a faculty member, some students also take part in university advisory activities in the higher semester. An Academic Advisor usually has the following tasks:
- Help with choosing a course
- Clarification of the study requirements
- Advice on the choice of major and minor subjects in the bachelor’s degree, if necessary
- Drawing up a schedule for studying and reviewing academic progress
- Definition of personal career goals in cooperation with the student
- Create a plan to achieve these career goals
The Academic Advisor has more than just an advisory function. In his role as mentor, he helps first-year students gain a foothold at the university and encourages them to participate in clubs or other campus activities. In some cases, academic supervisors introduce the students to faculty members or refer them to the Career Center or Counseling Service.
How do you usually build a paper in the USA? Who can check their homework for linguistic errors and how can they improve their own time management? Students can find answers to all these questions at the Student Learning Center or Center for Learning Resources.
The services offered by the Student Learning Center vary from university to university. However, there are usually both subject-specific programs and offers to acquire general study skills. In the Writing Center, students can have their term papers checked linguistically and stylistically and get general tips on scientific writing. On the other hand, they acquire basic maths knowledge in the context of a Math Tutoring Lab and receive help with their homework.
Depending on the programme and the institution, there is a choice between individual interviews, group peer tutoring and workshops. The latter are available on all kinds of topics: from creative writing to GRE preparation and presentation techniques.
In some cases, drop-in hours are common at colleges and universities. During this time it is possible to visit a tutor without registering in advance. The drop-in service is used, for example, to obtain feedback on individual aspects of an essay or to discuss strategies for improving an essay.
Time and again, it happens that students experience the stress of their exams. They don’t know how to provide proof of performance in time or are afraid of upcoming tests. Other students are simply homesick or have a personal problem. For this reason, there is a Counseling Center or Counseling and Psychological Services at American universities.
The services offered by universities in the USA in the field of psychological counselling are very comprehensive and are aimed at students as well as university staff. The range of services includes classic one-on-one and group discussions, couples’ therapies, workshops and support groups for specific target groups such as LGBTQ. Some universities also have their own relaxation centre or have a therapy dog.
For health problems and illness, there is also a health center at practically every university in the USA. The basic medical care is partly free of charge for students.
American universities and colleges attach great importance to well-educated graduates. In university rankings such as the U. S. News Best Colleges Rankings, the employment rate of graduates is a separate indicator. As many students need help with career planning, there is a separate Career Center at numerous colleges and universities.
The scope of a Career Center often includes
- vocational counselling
- Advice on graduate studies
- Support in preparing and reviewing application documents
- Fictitious job interviews and assessment center
- Job offers / Job search help
- Placement of internships
- Company visits and lectures by representatives of individual companies at the university
- Job fairs.
Other services offered by universities in the USA
Certain target groups, such as students with children or students with disabilities, require special support in their everyday studies. This is why more and more universities in the USA are establishing service points for these groups of people.
The Children’s Center or Child Care Center often arranges family-friendly accommodations or at least helps in finding accommodation. Many universities also have their own nursery school. A childcare place at a nursery school owned by the university is usually comparatively inexpensive for American conditions.
The staff of the Center for Students with Disabilities supports students with disabilities before and during their studies. Depending on their needs, they organise alternative forms of examination, provide technical aids or try to find a writing assistant or sign language interpreter for students.
In addition to these two contact points, further examples of services offered by universities in the USA can be found:
- Residential services for all questions about living on and around campus
- IT Support / IT Solution Center as contact point for all IT questions
- Financial Aid Office for information on financial assistance for studies in the USA
- Recreation Center as contact point for sports and leisure activities on and off campus
- Campus Police / Campus Security to improve security on campus. The campus police often offer escort services for students and university staff.
- Commuter services for university commuters who do not live on campus, such as student lounges and car parks for commuters.