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Academic Advising

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Advising International Students


As a faculty adviser, you will at some point advise international students who bring diverse cultures, perspectives, and goals to the advising conversation. Because of US government regulations, most international students also have special academically-related considerations, even constraints. Although you typically will not know an advisee's immigration status, many of our students have the same classification, thus we're providing information below that should be generally helpful in your role as adviser.  Please refer students to the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) for regulatory advising.  You may also call us for clarification.

Most of our non-immigrant students (180+) hold F-1 status1 and are subject to reporting through SEVIS2. The following issues will impact academic decisions F-1 students make:

  1. A student’s declared major will impact employment options after graduation, if the student elects to stay in the US.  For example, Pre and Post-completion employment options for F-1 students are limited to work directly related to the student’s major.  In addition, students with S.T.E.M.3 majors benefit from access to a longer post-completion employment benefits (17 additional months, subject to specific conditions).  Visa renewal can also be impacted by a student’s major field of study, depending on their home country and U.S. relations with that nation.
  2. F-1 students must maintain full-time enrollment (a minimum of
    12 credits) with limited exceptions.  Any drop below full-course-load
    must be documented and approved by the OISA (and entered into SEVIS)
    prior to the reduction of courses.  Potential exceptions include: academic
    / linguistic difficulties in the first term; mis-advising; documented
    medical conditions; or if fewer courses are needed during the final
    academic term.
  3. F-1 students must make ‘normal progress’ toward degree completion.  A program extension requires regulatory approval, processed through the OISA.
  4. F-1 students may typically participate in off-campus study or internships abroad. There may be unique visa and employment issues to consider, so advanced planning is very important.
  5. F-1 students may hold an on-campus job, working up to 20 hours
    per week during the school year. They may
    work "full time" on-campus during breaks or over the summer.  They may
    not hold a student employment position during the summer following their
    commencement. (note: There are some international students, holding other visa classifications, who are not allowed campus employment.)
  6. F-1 students may not accept employment (internships or research) that results in payment (wages, stipends, fellowships, housing, etc) from a source other than Grinnell College, without first securing employment authorization.  The primary options are Optional Practical Training (OPT4or CurricularPractical Training (CPT5).  Both require that the employment be “directly related to the student’s major field.”  Students must consult with the OISA well in advance of needing employment authorization.  Summer internships that are funded entirely through Grinnellink or Grinnell’s grant fundingare ideal for our F-1 students, since the stipends for these educational experiences come solely from the College and Employment Authorization will not usually be required.  Unpaid experiences (with no wage, stipend, housing, etc) may not require Employment Authorization, however, the work-site may have a different interpretation of this scenario.  Working closely with the OISA is advised.
  7. All F-1 students are required to file a Federal Tax Return, even if they don’t have taxable income. The OISA provides basic support (or referral) for students to comply with this immigration regulation.
  8. Criminal arrests, even misdemeanor charges, can have very serious consequences for non-immigrant visitors.  The OISA can advise students on these matters, or can refer them for consultation with area attorneys who specialize in immigration and/or criminal law.  We also caution non-immigrant students about participation in political activism.
  9. F-1 Seniors receive guidance from the OISA about their next steps through a Senior Packet, group information sessions, and individual appointments.  They typically have the following options: 1) “transfer” their SEVIS record to a graduate program in the US; 2) apply for employment authorization through Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT); or 3) leave the US within an authorized grace period (60 days).  F-1 students who remain in the US for OPT or for the 17 month STEM Extension maintain F-1 status and are required to report through the OISA during the post-completion employment period.  We provide handouts on these options, tips on presenting their status during employment interviews, basic information about the H-1B6 petition, and we also speak about Re-Entry Shock Theory for those who will return home.

If you receive related questions from students, please refer them to the OISA (specifically they may wish to speak with Brenda Strong or Karen Klopp Edwards or call ext. 3703).  Faculty should feel free to contact us as well!

Advising Students With Disabilities


Students with documented disabilities are accommodated at Grinnell College. Not only is this required by law, but it is fair practice for students who need it. All students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must contact Joyce Stern, Dean for Student Student Success and Academic Advising, so that she may meet with them, review their documentation, and make decisions about appropriate accommodations. This is the procedure the College has adopted to allow for consistent practice and thorough review of each student's request. Grinnell students with disabilites have a wide range of limitations that need accommodation in order to allow equal access to their education. Since every disability is unique to each person, accommodations are always individually-tailored to the student. Some typical kinds of accommodations include books/texts in an alternate format, note takers, recorded classes, and extra time on exams.

As the student's adviser, you also have an important role to play in supporting a advisee with a disability. With the student's permission, the student's adviser is invited to a meeting with the student and with Joyce that has a four-fold agenda:

  1. The meeting serves as the final step in the procedures for determining appropriate accommodations at Grinnell.  At this meeting the three of them will discuss the student's disability and how it affects the student, the student's past history of accommodations, and necessary accommodations for their time at Grinnell.
  2. At this meeting advisers can clarify what role they feel comfortable playing in terms of advocacy for that student. For example, occasionally it may be opportune for you to help the student navigate a difficulty in one of their other courses with receiving a required accommodation. By talking with the instructor of that course - with the student's permission - sometimes a difficulty can be easily resolved. Joyce plays this role also, but students often like to have faculty talking with faculty.
  3. The adviser, in partnership with Joyce, can explain the variety of resources on campus that may serve to function as a sort of accommodation. Examples of this include writing coaching at the Writing Lab, or subject-specific tutoring at the Math Lab, Science Learning Center or through Academic Advising, visits to an instructor's office hours, or use of helpful technologies. Because these resources are open to all students, students with disabilites don't have to be stigmatized when asking for assistance. Although use of these resources will not be listed on the official Academic Accommodations Form, students should be encouraged to utilize these resources when appropriate to their disability or learning challenges.
  4. The student and adviser should discuss how the disability might impact the "big picture" of a student's time at Grinnell. For example, some students need to take an average of 12-13 credits each semester due to a disability and will need to use summers to transfer in credit to reach 124 credits by graduation. Other students need to select courses carefully based on the student's strengths and weaknessed to strike a good balance. This is a conversation that will last over time and exceeds the boundaries of this one meeting.

Advisers are brought into a very small circle of people who are aware of the student's disability and are expected to maintain the student's confidentiality, making every effort not to disclose this information to other students or faculty except with the student's express permission.