Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Graduate Students' Academic Performance: What Are the Influencing Factors?

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Graduate Students' Academic Performance: What Are the Influencing Factors?

Article excerpt


International graduate students have been a sizeable segment of the student body in the U.S. higher educational system. However, this student population has not completely been understood by higher education administrators and faculty and their diverse needs have not been met by existing services on campuses. This study examined factors associated with the students' academic performance in the United States. The findings indicated that factors associated with masters and doctoral students' academic performances were greatly different. This study suggests policies, services and programs to meet this population's unique needs and to assist in their academic success in the United States.

Key Words: academic performance, international students, graduate study

The United States is one of the major host countries to international students. According to the Open Doors report (2011), 723,277 international students studied in the United States in the 2010-2011 academic year, highest number in the history. This number was 5.7% higher than the previous year. In total, 296,574 international graduate students studied in American higher educational institutions in the 2010-2011 academic year (approximately 12% of graduate enrollment in U.S. higher educational institutions). The total number of international graduate students in the 2010-2011 academic year was 24.4% higher than the 2000-2001 academic year (Open Doors, 2011). International students are responsible for bringing a multi-cultural environment to the American campus (Wood & Kia, 2000). They increase awareness and understanding of diverse cultures, values, beliefs, religions, customs, festivals, and political issues for American students. In addition to cross-cultural campus environment, international students made more than a $20 billion economic contribution in 2009-2010 (Open Doors, 2010).

International graduate students often play important roles as teaching and research assistants. In addition to teaching courses, they provide office hours to assist students in labs and to assist students outside of class. As research assistants, international graduate students often work hand-in-hand with faculty researchers in funded projects, patent and grant applications and in the development of publications.

Despite their ubiquity, international graduate students on American campuses have been understudied. Only a few researchers have studied international graduate students as a separate group (Trice & Yoo, 2007; Nelson, Nelson & Malone, 2004; Poyrazli, Arbona, Nora, McPherson & Pisecco, 2002).The majority of the research on international students' academic performance has focused solely on undergraduate students or it did not distinguish between undergraduate and graduate students (Abel, 2002; Light, Xu & Mossop, 1987; Selvadurai, 1998; Xu, 1991). Due to the unique admissions requirements of U.S. universities for international students, the specialized nature of graduate level study, and the critical contributions they make to the U.S. institutions, international graduate students deserve to be studied in isolation (Poyrazli et al., 2002).

International graduate students encounter many of the same common problems that American graduate students confront (Gajdzik, 2005). Many graduate students face what may be termed a "double load." Indeed, these students must deal with academic adjustment-getting familiar with departmental and graduate norms, exploring areas of emphasis (college major) and understanding degree requirements (Weidman, Twale & Stein, 2001). They also deal with life-changing events such as changing social relationships and changing lifestyles and often learning to live within an environment functioning in a foreign language (Gajdzik, 2005). Graduate students with a teaching or research assistantship may have additional stress in preparing course materials or research projects (Polson, 2003). All of these changes and responsibilities may crucially impact their academic experiences and grades. …

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