Advising International Students

Each year, hundreds of international students choose to continue their education at WSU. Based on average GPA, international students perform as well academically as their domestic counterparts do.

However, advisors do need to take additional factors into consideration when advising international students.

The tips and information below will help you be better prepared when meeting with international advisees. These tips for advising international students (PDF) are also available for download.

If you are concerned about an international student, have any questions or need advice, contact International Student & Scholar Services at or 507.457.5303.

International students generally fall into one these classifications:

  • Degree seeking-- in residence for anywhere from 1 to 4 years depending on when they enter
  • Visiting or exchange-- admitted for one or two semesters and mainly juniors. These students transfer WSU credits to their own institutions.

Here are some common acronyms that would be helpful to know when advising an international student:

  • CPT/OPT – Curricular Practical Training/Optional Practical Training
  • DSO – a Designated School Official is an employee dedicated to assisting and overseeing students who are studying at a U.S. institution on a student visa.
  • PDSO –a Principal Designated School Official is a DSO with added responsibilities
  • F-1 – The type of visa most international students receive to study in the U.S.
  • SEVIS – Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and it handles all matters related to international students and visitors.
  • SEVP – Student and Exchange Visitor Program. WSU is a SEVP-certified school. 

International students may need more direct advising during their first semester. At this stage they will still be learning about the differences in educational systems, including how to register for courses. New international students register last and courses they need may not be available.

Visiting/exchange students will not have a DARS. The advisor will need to look at the student’s transcript to determine if the student has the pre-requisites needed.

It is important to clearly articulate expectations and to ask clarifying questions.

Help international students understand the grading system, the importance of submitting assignments on time, and concepts such as academic warning and suspension.

Be aware of how clearly you speak; limit the use of acronyms, abbreviations, jargon, colloquialisms, and idioms.

Cultural differences may cause challenges in communication. Long silences, shaking the head for no reason or repetitions can indicate that the student is not understanding. Assume that cultural differences are at play. Don’t assume the student is ignorant or incapable.

A helpful text is "Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education"(S. Shapiro, R. Farrelly, Z. Tomas; TESOL Publications, 2014). It is short yet very informative for university faculty and staff.

For additional support with advising an international student contact the International Student & Scholar Services at or 507.457.5303.

Here are some important factors to consider when meeting with international students.

Academic Background

International students meet WSU admission and language proficiency requirements. They are usually strong performers at home but may not be familiar with U.S. classroom culture or academic discourse.

Knowledge of the U.S. Education System

International students may be unfamiliar with key concepts in the US education system such as electives, core curriculum, declaring a major, and classroom norms. In India, for example, there is a set curriculum; students cannot select the courses they wish to study. Some may not have flexibility to change majors; their declared major may be required by their sponsor or parents.

Academic Integrity

Definitions of cheating and plagiarism are culturally dependent. Knowing what is common knowledge in a new culture is challenging. Sharing work or copying an expert’s work may not be considered cheating in their native culture. International students may struggle with these issues.

Cultural Adjustment

International students are not only adjusting to a new institution, but an entire culture. They’re experiencing culture shock related to food, health, weather, loneliness and conversational norms we take for granted.

Financial Factors

International students may run into financial difficulty due to unforeseen circumstances such as changing exchange rates, which may cause them to register late.


New international students are usually the last group to register, so there are significant course availability challenges, in addition to dealing with a new culture, and educational system.


International students have limited options after graduation. These include applying for OPT, applying for a graduate program, transferring to another institution, or leaving the country within 60 days. They do not have the flexibility with incompletes, repeats or in-progress courses that domestic students do, and they need to meet with ISSS immediately if they will not be graduating in the term planned.

International students do not receive work study funds, but are allowed to work on campus a maximum of 20 hours per week during the semester and 40 hours during the summer. Many are employed by Chartwells.

International students are not allowed to work off campus unless they are participating in one of the following authorized Practical Training experiences:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows an F1 student to engage in a work opportunity that is an integral part of an established curriculum. At WSU, this means an internship or practicum that is a required component of their degree, and/or is credit-bearing.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is “temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study” for one year following completion of their program of study.

Most international students study on an F-1 visa. They must meet specific requirements in order to maintain legal status in the U.S. including:

  • Must always be enrolled as a full-time student (UG=12 credits/semester; GR=6 credits/semester). Exceptions must be approved by the Designated School Official (DSO) in International Student & Scholar Services
  • May take only one or no online courses (may vary – check with International Student & Scholar Services). An online course cannot be taken as the last class toward program completion.
    Cannot change their major or minor, or shorten or extend length of program without official DSO approval
  • Must obtain prior authorization from the DSO before starting an internship or practicum (CPT)
  • May study abroad, but must confer with International Student & Scholar Services to adjust immigration documentation
  • Must leave the U.S. if they are suspended from school