After gaining admission into Berea College, it is important to understand how the education system works, and the requirements to have a successful education at the institution. Berea College is a liberal arts private college, and some of the required criteria is different from an average state school in the United States. If you understand how the United States college education system works, then you might easily understand the points below. However, if you come from a different educational background, then it would be good to read my other posts about Berea College, and what to know as an international student in the USA. In Berea College, there are different important academic requirements to know as an international student. Although this is relevant information for domestic students too, it is more important for international students as it helps them create a path to success early in their studies. Some of these requirements include:
- 32 Credits needed for graduation: Unlike other schools, Berea College counts a full semester class as a one credit (you can read more about it here). This means that in Berea you need about 32 classes or more to qualify for your graduation. This is doable, since your scholarship covers about 8 semesters. This totals up to 4 classes for each semester.
- 20 Credits Outside your Major: As a liberal arts college, Berea values knowledge in different aspects of humanities. This means that even though you might be a Biology, Chemistry, Business or Computer Science major, you are required to take 20 credits (which is eventually 20 classes) outside your major. This can be frustrating for someone who wants to take as many classes as they can in their major. However, since Berea is not a school for specialization, the 20 credits apply. Ways to bypass this is by taking more credit each semester, but that too comes with its burdens. You can also take classes during the summer. My advice would be to take the classes required for your major as early as possible, and let other classes fall into place. Usually, there are requirements to take upper level classes, and if you do not have the required classes for your major as a junior, it can backtrack your graduation.
- Skipping Classes: In a big college with about 200 students per class, professors hardly care about attendance and students can get away with skipping classes. This is not the case with Berea College. As a small school of about 1600 students, each class has an average of 15 students. The professors know every student and absence is hardly allowed. Most professors have a policy that you can only skip their class three times a semester before getting penalized for consequent absences. This means that you need to plan yourself well. There is usually 15 weeks in a semester, and most classes are held three times a week. This means that with a class that has an attendance of 45, 42 of those are required.
- Keeping up with Your GPA: This is not just a requirement for Berea College alone but for other Colleges/Universities in the United States. You need to have a GPA of 2.0/4.0 and above to still be enrolled in the college. Anything less than a 2.0 puts you in Academic probation which could lead to suspension. As an international student, this is something to be aware of, as a suspension leads to your status being revoked and a requirement to leave the country.
- 10 Hours Work Week: It is common to see people work and school in the states. In Berea College however, students are required to work a minimum of 10 hours a week. Students are paid about $5 an hour which is less than minimum wage. As an international student, you are still taxed on the little income you make. It is important to maintain your hours and make sure your work hours are on track as the semester progresses. Once you are unable to complete your labor contract for the semester without a good reason, you could get on a labor probation.
- The Grading System is Different: This point is mostly for international students who are used to a different grading system. In Berea College (and the American Education System in general) the grading system is more rigorous. Unlike in other countries where an A is a 70, the reverse is the case. An ‘A’ starts from a 94% and a 90–93.99 is an A-. A ‘B+’ starts from 87 to 89.99 and a ‘B’ is from 84.99–86.99 and so on. In other countries, attendance might not count, and the requirement for good grades could be just a test and a cumulative exam every semester. This is not the case, as attendances, quizzes, assignments, group projects, midterms and finals all count towards your grades. This implies that at every point in the semester, you are diligently working to have a near perfect or perfect grade in whatever assignment you have due, as they all count towards the final grade. I detailed this in my post about culture shock in America.
Studying in the United States is a blessing, but a rigorous blessing. Studying in Berea College itself comes with even more obligation as it has different requirements from the average institution. However, Berea College can brag of what other colleges cannot — free tuition. As an international student, this is not an everyday opportunity. Therefore it is important to make plans, understand how the system works and be sure you are always in good standing.