Academic Differences

The American higher education system will most likely be somewhat different than you have been used to in your home country. Some characteristics of the American classroom include: 

  • Classroom participation in encouraged in most classrooms and required in others
  • Students are encouraged to contact their professors outside of class if they are having problems
  • Attendance is often mandatory. Your grade may suffer if you have more than two unexcused absences
  • Many professors will give regular assignments or quizzes that will be evaluated for a grade, in addition to tests and papers.

University Core 39

USI’s University Core 39 prepares individuals to live wisely in a diverse and global community by helping students acquire both discipline-specific competence and broader knowledge and skills that reach across disciplines. Students can choose from a selection of courses in each of the following categories below.

Foundation Skills (14 hours)

  • Composition, 6 hours
  • Communication, 3 hours
  • Mathematics, 3 hours
  • Physical Activity and Wellness, 1 hour
  • First Year Experience, 1 hour

Bachelor of Arts or Science (13 hours)
Bachelor of Arts

  • World Languages, 9 hours
  • Natural Science with Lab, 4 hours

Bachelor of Science

  • Natural Science including 1 lab, 7 hours
  • Social Science, 3 hours
  • World Languages and Culture, 3 hours

Ways of Knowing (12 hours)
Students choose 4 classes from the 6 different Ways of Knowing categories below.

  • Creative and Aesthetic Expression
  • Historical Inquiry
  • Moral and Ethical Reasoning
  • Scientific and mathematical Inquiry
  • Social Inquiry
  • World Languages and Culture

Embedded Experiences (4 courses)

  • Diversity, 1 course
  • Global, 1 course
  • Writing Intensive, 2 courses

USI Grading System

Letter grades indicating the quality of course work completed, and for which the credit hours earned can be applied towards graduation requirements, generally can be interpreted as follows:

  • A, excellent
  • B+ and B, good
  • C+ and C, average
  • D+ and D, poor
  • S for satisfactory
  • P for pass
  • DP for developmental pass

The letter grades assigned for unsatisfactory course work are F for failure; U for unsatisfactory; NP for no pass; DNP for developmental no pass. No credit toward graduation is granted for these grades.

The designation “IN” (incomplete) also may be used in special circumstances. An incomplete grade (IN) may be given only at the end of a term to a student whose work is passing, but who has left unfinished a small amount of work (for example, a final examination, a paper or a term project) which can be completed without further class attendance. The student must act to remove the IN grade within one calendar year. If action is not taken, the IN grade will revert to an F. In the event the instructor from whom a student receives an incomplete is not available, the disposition of a case involving an incomplete grade resides with the appropriate dean.

A withdrawal (W) is given when a student officially withdraws or is administratively withdrawn from a course during the automatic W period (see Schedule changes and/or Withdrawal from the Semester/Term sections).  AW also is given if the student is passing at the time of a drop/withdrawal after the automatic W period has ended. A W means the student cannot receive credit for the course under any circumstance without re-enrollment in the course.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

Your GPA is obtained by dividing the number of quality grade points earned by the number of quality hours attempted. This average is computed at the end of each term, both of the term and on cumulative basis. 

  • A = 4 points of each credit hour
  • B+ = 3 ½ points
  • B = 3 points
  • C+ = 2 ½ points
  • C = 2 points
  • D+ = 1 ½ points
  • D = 1 point

No points are recorded for an F, although the hours attempted are included in the computations. No points are recorded for a P or NP, DP or DNP, S or U, IN, IP or W, and the hours attempted are not included in the computations.

NOTE: A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 is required for graduation.

Good Standing

An undergraduate student who meets or exceeds the following standards is in good academic standing:

  • GPA of 1.6 for 6-31 quality hours attempted
  • GPA of 1.8 for 32-62 quality hours attempted
  • GPA of 2.0 for 63+ quality hours attempted

NOTE: Transfer students must meet the standard which corresponds to the sum of the total transfer hours accepted and the total quality hours attempted at the University

Academic Progress

Prior to the priority registration period, any undergraduate degree-seeking student with a cumulative USI grade point average less than 2.0 will have a registration hold placed on his/her record. A student receiving this registration hold must consult with an academic advisor prior to registering for the next semester to formulate a plan for improving academic performance.

Academic Probation

Students who fail to meet the preceding minimum standards will be placed on academic probation for one semester. During that semester, the student should make use of available University resources to improve academic skills and performance. Failure to meet the preceding required GPA levels at the end of the probationary semester will result in academic dismissal from the University. At the discretion of departments, students on academic probation may be subject to some or all of the following requirements:

  • Change to the schedule of classes chosen during priority registration, to ensure prerequisites and necessary skill levels are in place
  • Approval by academic advisor of all changes to the schedule of classes
  • Limitation to 12 credit hours
  • Repetition of certain classes
  • Use of campus resources for academic support
  • These advising guidelines seek to provide maximum support and guidance during the critical period of establishing renewed academic good standing.

Student Academic Honesty

Academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, cheating, submitting another person’s material as one’s own or doing work for which another person will receive credit will subject a student to disciplinary action which may include dismissal from the University. The benchmarks of any great university are high academic standards for both faculty and students. For this reason, truth and honesty are necessary to a university community. The University expects both students and faculty to adhere to these principles and to foster them daily. Put simply, this expectation requires each student to do his or her academic work without recourse to unauthorized means of any kind. Both students and faculty are expected to report instances of academic dishonesty. Faulty should explain the special hazards regarding academic honesty in their discipline. Faculty also should plan and supervise academic work carefully so honest effort will be encouraged. Definitions of academic dishonesty also apply to the use of electronic, photographic, internet-based and other media for intellectual and artistic expression. See section 3.0 of Students Rights and Responsibilities: A Code of Student Behavior for academic dishonesty definitions and sanctions. See the Deans of Students’ website for a procedural description of the process.

Assistance from Academic Skills

Peer tutoring – ED Center 1111
Academic Skills offers free peer tutoring in a variety of subjects including mathematics, accounting, chemistry, English, reading, study skills, and other subjects available. The schedule for tutors for each subject will vary.

The Writing Center – ED Center 1111
Writing tutors are available to assist students with any writing assignments for any course offered by the University. Assignments do NOT have to be related to an English course. If you are having problems with writing or grammar, tutors can provide assistance.

Online Writing Lab
If you are unable to make it to the Writing Center, you can email your paper to a tutor at and a tutor will respond within 48 hours (with the exceptions of papers submitted on Fridays or weekends). There also are a number of resources including guides to writing style, grammar and MLA style resource citing available online for your convenience. Visit the Online Writing Lab website for more information.

Academic Calendar

The USI Academic Calendar lists important dates.  For immigration purposes, all international students must be enrolled in a full-time course load (12 credit hours for undergraduate, 6 for graduate) by the end of the first week of classes.  Failure to register for a full-time course load could result in the termination of your F-1 or J-1 status.


International Programs - Main office

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